Scouting Report: RHP Bruce Rondon

Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

As we inch ever closer to Spring Training and, eventually, the 2013 season, I figured now would be as good a time as any to write up a scouting report on Bruce Rondon, especially since so many are expecting him to come in and seize the closer job in Detroit's bullpen.

Prospect Profile

Name: Bruce Rondon

Position: Right Handed Relief Pitcher

Date of Birth: 12/9/1990 (22 years old)

Drafted/Signed: Signed out of Venezuela--First action came in Venezuelan Summer League (VSL) in 2008

Statistics:

-2011 (Class A-West Michigan): 2-2, 2.03 ERA, 40 IP, 22 H, 34 BB, 61 K, 19 Saves, 1.40 WHIP, .164 BAA

-2012 (Combined A+, AA, & AAA): 2-1, 1.53 ERA, 53 IP, 32 H, 26 BB, 66 K, 29 Saves, 1.09 WHIP, .172 BAA

Statistical Analysis: Obviously, we see the power arm at work here by the high strikeout totals and the low BAA numbers, but what strikes me is that from 2011 to 2012, Rondon was able to decrease his BB/9 from nearly 4 all the way down to under 3. This tells me that while his command may not have improved, his control did, which, as we all know, is a nice thing to see in a future closer. Rondon's BAA and H/9 increased slightly in 2012, which can be attributed to 1) his being around the plate a bit more than he was before, and 2) the fact that he was a 21 year old that climbed all the way to Triple A.

Scouting Report

Barebones Projection (BBP): Dominating closer. Potential to be perennial all star in the closer's role. Shut down profile.

Basis of Report:

-Personal Observation (2011 with West Michigan, 2012 with Toledo)

-Film Study

-Compilation of other reports

-Personal observation of other scouts

Body/Frame: Rondon is a mammoth human being. When you think of "dominating closer", Rondon is who you would picture, both from a body perspective and a stuff perspective. He stands 6'2" and weighs a lot. I'd throw a number of about 265 on him, but reports vary about what he actually weighs. Has some bad weight on him, but he's conditioned well over the last couple years, and his body has responded. Absolutely enormous.

Makeup: Some concerns over work ethic and overall drive. Have heard reports of surly and lazy attitude. Speaks little English, which may lead to some communication breakdowns with teammates and coaches, and could contribute to attitude issues. Has seemed to take to conditioning, resulting in better body, however.

Mechanics/Delivery: Delivery is full of effort, but that can work to his advantage at times. Effort can inhibit his strike throwing ability. He's just not very smooth. Throws from a very low 3/4 arm slot that he actually drops to sidearm at times. Good leg drive. Uses his weight well. Overall it's a rough looking delivery, but it works for him.

Fastball: The pure definition of "dominating"...consistently sits in the upper 90's...clocked as high as 105 (reportedly)...up to 102 in the Futures game...dominating movement/life...tremendous arm side run that gets in on the hands of right handers and just runs away from left handers...I personally witnessed him hit 100 no less than 6 times in a single inning in Toledo...just a truly elite pitch...

Current Grade: 80

Projection Grade: 80

Slider: Effectiveness hinges on his feel and velocity...when he throws it in the 86-88 MPH range it shows great, two-plane break...when thrown harder (89-91) he loses any semblance of command and it loses movement, straightening out...cannot throw the pitch for a strike (as of now)...with advanced command of pitch, has above average potential...dominating to right handed hitters when thrown off the plate...more horizontal than downward break, but still potentially lethal when set up with fastball...

Current Grade: 45

Projection Grade: 55

Changeup: Better pitch than slider as of right now...throws it consistently in the 88-91 range...throws with same arm speed as fastball, which increases effectiveness and deception...I did notice a couple of occasions when he changed his arm slot to throw the change, but since he occasionally changes arm slot on fastball, it's not a huge concern...excellent arm side fade...has shown ability to get some sink to the pitch in addition to fade...

Current Grade: 50

Projection Grade: 60

Control: Does have issues throwing strikes at times...delivery often inhibits strike throwing ability...often misses high and to the arm side, which results from shoddy mechanics...occasionally overthrows to the point of pure wildness...not as bad as his command, but still well below-average

Current Grade: 30

Projection Grade: 40

Command: Terrible...has massive issues locating anything...cannot throw his slider for a strike at all, using it only as a chase pitch...cannot throw it where he wants at all...saving grace is the pure awesomeness of his stuff, which allows him to still be dominant with zero command...I have yet to see him locate anything where he wants it...rarely hits catchers glove directly...may have a tiny bit of room for improvement if he can learn to elevate the fastball in 2 strike counts, but I have yet to see it

Current Grade: 20

Projection Grade: 25

Summary: Despite his lack of control/command and his reported makeup concerns, Rondon is still one of the few absolutely dynamic shutdown closer prospects in baseball, simply due to his raw stuff. Very, very few relievers have 3 average pitches, while Rondon has the potential for 3 above average to plus pitches, with his fastball being among the, if not THE best fastball in the game. Will be given a chance to win the closer's job in spring training, but I don't think it would be wise to hand it to him right away. Call me old school, call me an idiot, call me whatever, but I'm a believer in warming someone up/getting their feet wet before throwing them to the fire. My course of action would be to start the season with a veteran closer (be it Dotel or someone else) while Rondon pitches a set up role (assuming he makes the team), and then hand him the closer's job after he's been in the majors for a couple months and accumulated 20 innings or so. Regardless of how I feel, however, I am not Dave Dombrowski or Jim Leyland, so for all I know, Rondon may be called upon to close on Opening Day. He certainly has the stuff to do so, but the other variables are equally important.

Reminder: You can follow the Detroit Tigers Prospect Report on twitter @TigersProspects and my personal account @B_Sakowski.

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