Washington Nationals: Command woes haunt Jefry Rodriguez in 2018
By Blake Finney
In our next 2018 Report Card, we look at Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jefry Rodriguez and his up-and-down rookie season in the majors.
Our 2018 Report Card series continues as we review the seasons of each member of the Washington Nationals. Jefry Rodriguez is next and his rookie season showed promise, but his command issues were too much to overcome.
Rodriguez’s MLB debut came in emergency duty against the Atlanta Braves on June 3rd after Jeremy Hellickson left the game injured. Then after a few different stints with the big league club, he finished the year with a 3-3 record and a 5.71 ERA in 14 games with the Nats.
He ended up making eight starts, and six appearances out of the bullpen, and it’s unsure which role he was best in. We take a look at what went right, and what went wrong for the lanky right-hander.
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The Positives for Rodriguez
In terms of raw stuff, we saw Rodriguez exhibit two extremely good major league pitches in his fastball and his curveball. His fastball averaged 95.7 mph last season, and the curveball was downright filthy while averaging 81.1 mph. He also showed a nice changeup but used it sparsely, so if he can harness that arsenal, he definitely has a chance to stick in the rotation.
The right-hander was them able to utilize his plus stuff by excelling the first time through the order. Hitters facing him for the first time in a game slashed just .181/.302/.300 compared to a slash line of .263/.411/.535 every other time through the order. Management noticed this and were able to manage his exposure to the other team’s lineup, just as they had done with Hellickson, to have a few successful outings in 2018.
Areas for Improvement
Quite simply, Rodriguez’s command was awful in his stint in the big leagues. He issued 37 walks in just 52 innings, which equates to a 6.40 BB/9 that was the third highest among pitchers who pitched at least 50 innings in 2018. He even walked more than struck out as a reliever, with nine walks compared to seven Ks, suggesting there’s a lot more work to be done on that front.
Despite the high 5.71 ERA, some of the game’s more advanced metrics suggest that Jefry Rodriguez may have been a touch fortunate. His FIP finished at 5.97, and his xFIP was 5.91 at the end of the season, which is likely a result of all the walks. The BABIP against him was also low at just .240, when the league average was just below .300 in 2018. This indicates that there could be regression looming in his future.
The Final Grade
Overall, despite the flashes of potential this year, the results were well below what would be expected. Added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft before the season, you could tell he needed more development before being ready to step up.
Now moving into 2019, it’s tough to predict Rodriguez’s role, as he could conceivably move to the bullpen. But unless he can fix the command issues that he displayed throughout his big league career so far, it’s going to be tough to justify a roster spot for him. D+
Remember to keep an eye out for more Washington Nationals 2018 Report Cards during the upcoming weeks here at District on Deck.