As I'm sure you all have heard by now, Bruce Rondon is coming up to the big club. He's replacing Octavio Dotel, who has been put on the 15-day disabled list with elbow trouble. Now that the Rondon era is upon us, what can we reasonably expect from the big right-hander?
Take a minute to refresh yourself with Rondon's scouting report, written by our very own large-man aficionado, Brian Sakowski. To recap, Rondon throws really, really fast. Like, 80-grade fastball, 100-miles-per-hour all-the-time fast. Remember the turtles from the Comcast commercials? He's their worst nightmare. His fastball also moves, a lot. Sometimes, it's too much for Rondon to control. He's got a sharp slider, that features tight spin and two plane break at times, which is not surprising, but has trouble throwing it for strikes (also not surprising). Rondon also offers a changeup, but I'd expect more fastballs and sliders until he gets comfortable throwing strikes in the big leagues.
Pitching coach Jeff Jones has taken extra time to work with Rondon, and I'd be surprised to see that change while he's in Detroit. If the Tigers can harness Rondon's ability, he's got the potential to be a shut-down closer. In terms of raw stuff, he's in the league of Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel. If he can throw the ball over the plate, there is no doubt in my mind that he will be that shut-down closer. The problem, however, is his inconsistent release point, that goes along with potential makeup concerns. Thankfully, those concerns seem to have died down in the past year or two as he's matured. Hopefully, he is willing to continue listening to Jeff Jones, who has done an excellent job honing the Tigers starting staff in his tenure.
In terms of projecting statistics, it's really hard to say. If Rondon throws the ball over the plate, he could probably work himself into the closing role in 10 innings. I'd expect his K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) rate somewhere around 10, with his BB/9 (walks per nine innings) rate somewhere around 4.5. Batters have always had trouble squaring the ball up against him, so I wouldn't be surprised to see his BAA (batting average against) below .200. Like I've said before, it's not between Bruce and the batter, it's between Bruce and the catcher. If he throws the ball over the plate, he's going to have success. If not, he'll be back in Toledo trying to iron out his mechanics. It's really that simple.