The San Francisco Giants are just four games out of first place in a competitive NL West and may have just added an impact arm to their roster. As Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic reported yesterday, the team has called up right-hander Dereck Rodriguez from Triple-A Sacramento. Rodriguez, 25, is the son of Hall of Fame catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.
In a corresponding move, lefty DJ Snelten was designated for assignment.
Rodriguez should have quite the opportunity playing in San Francisco, but no clear decision on his role with the team has been announced. Despite that, this young man is someone to watch as he gets his first taste of the major leagues.
A Hall of Fame pedigree
Rodriguez’s path to the majors has been an interesting one. Unlike a majority of MLB players, he grew up in the game as his father was putting together a Hall of Fame career. In a 21-year career spent with six different teams, Pudge Rodriguez ended his career with a .296 lifetime batting average, 2,844 hits, 311 home runs, and 1,332 RBI. Rodriguez was also named to 14 All-Star teams and won an eye-popping 13 Gold Gloves and won a World Series ring with the Marlins in 2003. In 1999, after batting .332 with 35 homers, 113 RBI, and 25 stolen bases, he was named American League MVP.
Simply put, like so many second-generation baseball players before him, Dereck Rodriguez has some big shoes to fill.
The younger Rodriguez
Dereck Rodriguez's path to the majors has been an interesting one. The Minnesota Twins drafted him in the sixth round of the 2011 Draft, except Rodriguez was an outfielder then. After failing to crack the starting lineup in Minnesota's system, the organization made him a pitcher in 2014. That season, playing for Rookie-level Elizabethton, Rodriguez posted a fine 1.05 ERA in 17 games.
The following year, Rodriguez debuted as a starter at Elizabethton and went 6-3 with a 2.85 ERA in 12 starts and finally got his first taste of A-ball. The Twins opted not to keep him after the 2017 season though Rodriguez went 10-6 with a 3.27 ERA in 24 starts across High-A Fort Myers and Double-A Chattanooga, and the Giants were quick to ink him to a minor league deal.
And Rodriguez answered the bell in the San Francisco system, making the most of his opportunity. In nine starts at Triple-A Sacramento, before his promotion to the main roster, Rodriguez was 4-1 with a 3.40 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He struck out 53 hitters in 50.1 innings, and those numbers are all despite a less than average FIP of 5.39 and 4.26 xFIP and ground ball rate (GB%) of just 37.1%.
What to expect in SF
What's interesting about Rodriguez's promotion to the major leagues is the Giants have given no sign what their plan is for their young right-hander. Just for comparison's sake, the Cleveland Indians already announced pitching prospect Shane Bieber would make his debut on Thursday.
That said, the Giants would be wise to give Rodriguez at least one start. San Francisco ranks 23rd in MLB with a staff ERA of 4.55 and is still waiting for ace Madison Bumgarner to return from a broken hand. The Giants also rank 17th in quality starts, and the team's starting pitchers only have a collective WAR of 7.4. The only starter to post a sub-4 ERA is veteran righty Johnny Cueto (0.84), and he is out until July at the earliest as he rehabs an elbow injury.
That said, though the team hasn't confirmed this yet, the Giants are almost certainly planning to give Dereck Rodriguez a chance as a starter. His numbers at Sacramento make him worthy of such an opportunity and given how he grew up learning the game from a Hall of Famer in his father, the results could turn out promising.
Hopefully, his time with the Giants is more than just a cup of coffee.
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