Scouting Yanks Prospect #48: Francisco Rondon

Rondon has great stuff

The Yankees signed left-handed pitcher Francisco Rondon in 2006. Despite spending two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and parts of five seasons in the short-season leagues overall, he has begun to move a bit quicker at the higher minor league levels because of his plus stuff across the board.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Francisco Rondon
Position: Pitcher
DOB: April 19, 1988
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 185
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

What a difference a year makes. He began the 2011 season in short-season Staten Island and a year later finished his 2012 campaign all the way up at the Triple-A level, thanks in large part to steadily developing his overall pitch-ability and making better use of his special arm.

"He has made quite a bit of progress," Thunder manager Tony Franklin told PinstripesPlus.com earlier this season. "He has a great arm and when he has command of his pitches, you can understand exactly why everybody in this organization thinks that this guy has a chance to pitch at the Major League level.

"He has a good arm with good stuff and it is just a matter of if he can do all that consistently."

Consistency had never really been his strong suit coming up through the lower minor league levels but his plus fastball-plus slider combination was more than enough to get him out of jams. While he did show a bit more consistent strike-throwing ability in 2012 -- posting a 3.96 ERA and striking out better than a batter per inning pitched in Double-A Trenton -- he proved his stuff is legit even at the higher minor league levels.

"For my slider, I try to make sure that when I'm releasing, I do it accurately and that I keep my front side closed," Rondon said through the help of a translator. "I want to make sure I am releasing it out in front of me.

"I have always had confidence in my changeup. It has been pretty standard since I got here. [However], I am most comfortable with my fastball. I love it. As for my fastball command, I am doing a lot better. It is a process but I'm getting better every day."

It sure has been a process for him over the years, more slow and steady than rapid changes. It's because of that reason that many outside of the game haven't fully taken notice of just how effective he can be.

"I see improvements in a lot of these guys and what they can do," Franklin said. "And be it that it is not as consistent as it can be, it's the baby steps of the progress that these guys need to make.

"Very subtle - do you take progress in big leaps and bounds and before you know it they've struck five to six to twelve innings together, nobody has gotten a hit or scored any rides. Rondon has done a good job so far. He has a great arm and has made quite a bit of progress."

There's still more progress to be made going forward, especially with limiting his walks, but scouts are beginning to notice the "what if" factor that comes with his plus stuff.

"He can be his own worst enemy at times," one National League scout said. "If he throws strike after strike consistently like I've seen him do on several occasions and not walk guys so much he has the chance to be a dynamic left-handed option out of the pen someday."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2012

Scranton

0-0

0

2.1

4

1

2

11.57

2012

Trenton

5-0

1

63.2

56

39

70

3.96

2012

Tampa

0-0

0

5.0

2

1

8

0.00

2011

Charleston

2-3

0

34.2

26

21

42

4.67

2011

Staten Island

1-0

0

6.2

3

6

12

0.00

2010

Charleston

1-2

1

11.2

12

7

16

7.71

2009

Staten Island

3-2

0

54.1

38

33

48

2.32

2008

GCL Yankees

2-1

0

36.1

31

13

34

3.22

2007

DSL Yankees1

4-1

0

44.1

38

32

45

3.65

2006

DSL Yankees2

1-3

1

43.2

32

24

27

3.09



Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. What makes Rondon so special is his plus fastball. It not only sits primarily in the 93-96 mph range, but it gets really good tailing action on the outer-half of the plate to left-handed batters. There's positives and negatives with that; it makes it difficult to barrel for hitters because it gets such good movement but it also makes it harder for him to consistently command within the strike zone.

Other Pitches. Rondon not only has had a plus fastball at his disposal over the years, he's also had a plus slider too. It's a hard slider in the 83-85 mph range and it gets late biting action. Where he's made the most progress over the years is with his changeup. Like his other pitches it gets really good movement, showing good sink and fade, and that's really big for him now because in his younger days it was more of a straight batting practice fastball.

Pitching. Rondon has two plus pitches with his fastball and slider, and an average to above average changeup depending on the day that he can attack batters with regularity. His pitches get so much movement though and his mechanics can be spotty enough that his command can evade him for long stretches, and the walks can pile up. His walk totals are not a product of a lack of confidence, quite the contrary in fact. He has a good pickoff move and he is quite athletic on the mound, allowing him to field his position well when he keeps his focus.

Projection. For Rondon the game can be very easy for him when he is in the game mentally at all times and has his mechanics down. Once thought of as a potential dark-horse left-handed specialist candidate in his earlier days, the development of his changeup into a quality big offering now gives him the ceiling as a potential left-handed set-up man, one who can attack batters with three above average to plus pitches. In fact he held lefties to a .235 average in Trenton this past season and right-handers hit just .236 against him. He'll always be a guy who walks more batters than he should but he also has the kind of special strikeout stuff to limit the damage as well. In a lot of ways he's a left-handed relieving version of Ivan Nova when he limits the walks, possessing that kind of raw ability and stuff, and demeanor on the mound.

ETA. 2013. Three years ago we tabbed Rondon's eventual big league arrival time at 2012 but he missed most of 2010 with an array of injuries. He finished the 2012 season in Triple-A Scranton, most likely his starting point in 2013. If he could he shave even a few more walks off of his line he could be a very tempting addition to the big league bullpen later in the season.

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