Age: 25 (Turns 26 on 2/16/2014)
Acquired: International Free Agent, 2006
Player Profile & Career Summary
Jorge Rondon has been given a fantastic write up on these pages before. AndyB83 profiled Rondon back in November of 2012 when he was added to the 40 man roster and coming off of a stellar 2012 splitting time at Springfield and Memphis. Rondon features a plus fastball, regularly hitting 96-98 and touching 100 occasionally, as well as a slider labeled "best in the organization" by Derrick Goold when dissecting the orgs top tools for Baseball America prior to last season.
Strikeout stuff like Rondon's leads to, what else, strikeouts. Across three levels in 2011 and 2012, the righty struck out 8.5 hitters per nine innings, but like many other dominant fastball/slider pitchers walks have been a problem: 5.5 BB/9 over that same time period. Rondon's stuff is so good he has trouble commanding it at times and goes through periods where it looks like he has nearly no idea where the ball is going. You can see both the good and bad on display in this clip, starting with a filthy slider to strike out a hitter at the 30 second mark, an even better one at 1:15, but lets a fastball get away inside at 2:00, drilling a right hand hitter right on the hip. See if Rondon reminds you of anyone...
Is it just me or am I looking at Eduardo Sanchez 2.0? Wicked slider with sharp, late break and a fastball with good life but inconsistent control.
Prior to 2013, one could make the case that Rondon was what former skipper Tony La Russa would term "effectively wild" -- you're not going to dig in too deep against a guy who might drill you in the ear accidentally with a 99 mph fastball. But the wheels really fell off the wagon last year, leaving everyone on it nearly dead from dysentary: BB/9 went up slightly to 4.79 but his K/9 fell to 5.59, a reduction of over 3 K's per 9 innings.
Rondon made Maikel Cleto expendable...and then turned into a less dominant version of Maikel Cleto. Hrmph.
Attempting to recover some of the mojo he sported in AA/AAA in 2012. Guys with two plus pitches don't come around all that often (unless you're the Cardinals from 2006-2014 and are growing them in a lab somewhere). You'll find a guy who can get the ball up into the high 90's in just about every organization, but when that's paired with a slider that breaks late and falls off the table you may have a special reliever on your hands. With the Cardinal bullpen being so deep, it's hard to see how Rondon sees big league action unless there's a rash of injuries (crosses fingers/knocks on wood/rubs rabbit's foot) but a depth guy with his stuff is nothing to sneeze at, especially if he can find a way to tone down the walks to an "effectively wild" margin.
Minor league relievers with control problems don't have a ton of value, but if Rondon can find a way to tame the walks even a little bit, he'd be a solid B prospect in a multi-prospect trade at the deadline. In reality, he's probably got more value to the organization if that happens, however, so in that case I'd expect them to hold on to him.
1. Competing against Keith Butler this spring for the closing role at Memphis and losing.
2. Setting up for Keith Butler at Memphis.