Saturday, June 22, 2013

Paco Rodriguez and the 82nd Overall Pick

Paco Rodriguez was drafted by the Dodgers in the 2nd round out of Florida as a left-handed reliever in 2012, and quickly became the first player in the 2012 draft to make the Majors, appearing in games before the season ended. He also made the team out of spring training meaning that he currently has 32 big league innings versus just 19.2 minor league innings. So far in the big leagues, he has been effective, with a high strikeout rate, low home run rate, but a high walk rate. Rodriguez has been used somewhat in the left-handed specialist role, with a 52% platoon advantage, which isn't quite Rapada or Choate like, but similar to Boone Logan.

Justin Hampson and John Parrish provide the best release point comparisons, neither big names obviously, but guys who had some success in the big leagues. Hampson had big platoon splits, while Parrish didn't. Paco also throws slightly harder than either of him, though his fastball averages below 90 MPH. Perhaps because of this, Paco is a pretty extreme low ball pitcher:



That graph also shows that he is a glove side pitcher for the most part, with a fastball that is pretty straight up, and the change isn't used a lot. His most effective pitch by far has been the curveball, while his fastball has had some issues, playing well below league average. I think this shows in his swinging strikes versus contact average locations (with fastball averages included as well)

Paco is the odd pitcher that actually gets more whiffs when he throws the fastball down than up. While MLBAM tags insist he doesn't really throw a sinker, the Brooks Baseball tags have him throwing a sinker the majority of the time, which makes sense to me based on the locations. The more he works glove side, and the more he works low, the better he pitches, at least that is how it has been so far.

Because of his fastball velocity, and apparent inability to start, Paco's ceiling is probably what we are seeing right now, effective but not dominant pitching out of the bullpen facing mostly left-handers. Out of the 2012 2nd round of the draft, only he and Alex Wood have even reached AA or higher (both of them have made the Majors obviously). So while there is no high ceiling for Paco, there is the floor that is hard to dispute with. Out of the Dodgers 56 all time 2nd round picks, Paco is already the 12th best according to rWAR, and that is if you include Chase Utley, who didn't sign and Lee Lacy, the second best WAR, who had the majority of his success elsewhere. The average WAR for the Dodgers 2nd round picks is 2.28 and the average rWAR of players picked 82nd overall is 1.09, including Phil Nevin, who didn't sign. Paco, barring some kind of injury, should blow right past this. This year's 82nd overall pick is a pitcher that looks like he will be a reliever, didn't start pitching until the last year, and only throws 90 MPH.

In the end, you need high ceiling guys, you can't draft all LOOGY's every year and build a team, and you have to find cheap controllable super stars to succeed as well, and the best way is via the draft. At the same time, when evaluating draft picks, especially beyond the first few picks, you have to take in consideration not only the odds of making the Majors and contributing as well, but also the amount of time it takes in the minors for a player to develop. Drafting guys that appear to be very close doesn't always work out (Marcus Stroman and Danny Hultzen seem to be examples of guys that were already expected to be up in the Majors but aren't), but when it does like with Rodriguez, I don't think you can knock the Dodgers for taking a player that can contribute on their roster six more years before free agency.

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