Baseball America recently named Orioles prospect Grayson Rodriguez the top pitching prospect in the game, but don’t tell Rodriguez that it means a whole lot.
“I’ve got to go out there like I’m the worst pitching prospect in baseball and [try] to prove myself each outing,” Rodriguez said on Glenn Clark Radio June 22. “From a player perspective, you can’t really worry about things like that. You’ve got to control your emotions and how you throw in the game.”
Since being assigned to Double-A Bowie early this month, the 2018 first-round draft pick has posted a 1.82 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 36 strikeouts in 24.2 innings. While pitching for High-A Aberdeen earlier this year, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Rodriguez recorded a 1.54 ERA, 0.69 WHIP and 40 strikeouts across 23.1 innings, earning him High-A East Pitcher of the Month honors for May 2021.
While pitching for Low-A Delmarva in 2019, Rodriguez posted a 2.68 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 129 strikeouts across 94.0 innings. Rodriguez’s work earned him a variety of honors, including being selected to participate in the 2019 Futures Game.
The 21-year-old made his home debut with the Baysox June 15 in front of about 5,000 fans. Having grown up cheering for the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros, Rodriguez is familiar with seeing ballparks filled with fans cheering on their team and carrying out various traditions.
Whether it be yelling ‘O’ during the national anthem or sporting the black and orange, the right-handed pitcher enjoys Baltimore’s energetic fan base, calling the fans “something different.”
“It’s something cool to be a part of. [To] see that down in the minor leagues too, like in Bowie this past week, you know it’s something pretty special,” Rodriguez said. “You know a lot of people [are] coming out to watch you before you’re in the big leagues. I’d say it was a blast.”
The crowd’s energy helped light a spark in Rodriguez, as he threw a pitch clocked at 103 mph on the stadium radar gun. He does not usually know the velocity with which he throws the ball, adding that a 96 mph pitch and 103 mph pitch aren’t that dissimilar.
But in his next start June 20, Rodriguez broke Baysox catcher Adley Rutschman’s glove with a fastball:
“During the game … I wasn’t too focused on it. It was kind of like, ‘Let’s finish the at-bat,'” Rodriguez said. “After the game, it was actually pretty funny. I [had] never done that before in a game.”
The top pitching prospect is grateful to have Rutschman by his side to help him improve, calling him a “very good communicator.” While coming off of the mound, Rutschman always meets his pitcher on the line and asking him what he may have liked or disliked about his pitches.
“It’s definitely a good thing,” Rodriguez said. “He does it with every pitcher, every pitcher that he’s ever caught. I think that’s a big plus a lot of people don’t realize.”
Aside from his relationship with Rutschman, Rodriguez attributes his success to the relationships that he has built with his coaches and teammates and the strong leadership present within the minor leagues.
“Under Mike Elias and this new regime, I think they do a lot of character-building stuff and things like that here in the minor leagues, and I think that’s pretty huge,” Rodriguez said. “It’s really not a competition now. It’s everybody building and feeding off each other. Obviously you can see how that’s working up and down the ladder in the minor leagues with everybody winning and things like that. Everybody is having a good year.”
For more from Rodriguez, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: William Vaughan/Bowie Baysox