Grayson Rodriguez walked Marcus Semien to lead off his MLB debut on Wednesday, later in the first inning gave up a wild pitch, a double and a single to give up two runs. The Orioles right-hander then settled down to go five innings with five strikeouts and one walk, leaving the game tied 2-2 against Jacob deGrom and the Rangers.
The 23-year-old threw 83 pitches, 53 for strikes, sitting 95-98 mph with his fastball.
Rodriguez was surprisingly demoted coming out of spring training, where he struggled with a 7.04 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP, and struggled in his one start by walking four in four innings with three runs (two earned) allowed. He was called up after Kyle Bradish was placed on the IL with a bruised foot suffered on a come-backer. Now Rodriguez looks to hang onto the rotation spot when Bradish returns, maybe pushing Tyler Wells back to the bullpen.
Drafted in the first round in 2021 out of Central Heights High School in Texas, he impressed in his pro debut with a 1.40 ERA for had a decent pro debut in rookie ball at the Gulf Coast League. Rodriguez has been stellar at every level – Low-A Delaware in 2019 (2.68 ERA, 129-36 K in 94 IP), High-A Aberdeen in 2021 (1.54 ERA, 40-5 K-BB in 23.1 IP), Double-A Bowie in 2021 (2.60 ERA, 121-22 K-BB in 79.2 IP) and Triple-A Norfolk in 2022 (2.20 ERA, 97-21 K-BB in 69.2 IP). He came into spring training expected to make the Orioles, with the only risk being that Baltimore could decide to play games to get an extra year of team control by sending him down if he struggled, which came to be.
So what can we expect from the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder in his rookie season? Looking at his ATC projection, Rodriguez is expected to post a solid 3.74 ERA with an excellent 1.17 WHIP and 114-35 K-BB in 107 innings. We’re betting that if Dodd gets to 140 innings, it will be because he’s stayed healthy and in the Baltimore rotation, so something like a 3.50 ERA with a 1.15 WHIP is a reasonable expectation.
The worry is that the rustiness that appeared to be there in spring training coming off last season’s lat injury returns and he can’t hold onto a rotation spot in Baltimore, although he undeniably has too much talent to keep down. There’s also the concern that the Orioles will want to keep his innings down, so he could get skipped a few times and he may not go five innings or more often enough to pile up wins.
As for the long-term future, Rodriguez could become an elite ace, complete with high Ks and a low WHIP. Rodriguez has a deep arsenal, led by 70-grade fastballs and sliders as well as a 60-grade slider and an above-average curveball. All that stuff combined with a pitcher-friendly park on a team that is on the rise makes for one of the most exciting young pitchers in baseball who could soon be challenging for Cy Young awards and All-Star teams.