The Tigers have optioned right-hander Bruce Rondon to Triple-A Toledo and selected the contract of highly touted relief prospect Joe Jimenez, the team announced Monday morning. The Tigers have three open spots on the 40-man roster, there’s no corresponding move necessary to bring Jimenez to the Majors.
It’s been a brutal start to the season for the 26-year-old Rondon, who has made three appearances but recorded just four outs. Rondon has been roughed up for six runs on four hits and three walks with just one strikeout in this season’s brief sample. With Rondon in Toledo to get back on track, left-hander Justin Wilson will become the team’s primary setup option to closer Francisco Rodriguez, manager Brad Ausmus tells reporters (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Jason Beck).
Rondon has been heralded as a potential closer in Detroit, and the fanfare he’s received is understandable. Though he’s never put everything together in the Majors, the right-hander has averaged 98 mph on his fastball and punched out 10.4 hitters per nine innings pitched in his Major League career (97 1/3 innings). That said, Rondon’s brief career has been marred by inconsistency as well as a 2015 incident in which the Tigers sent him home early for the year due to his “effort level.” Last season looked to be a turning point for Rondon, as he logged a 1.80 ERA with a 33-to-9 K/BB ratio across his final 25 innings, but he’ll now again look to rediscover his top form in the minors.
As for Jimenez, the 22-year-old will head to the Majors and make his MLB debut the first time that Ausmus calls him into a game. There’s no doubt that the Puerto Rican righty earned his promotion; in 53 2/3 innings across Class-A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A last season, Jimenez logged a ridiculous 1.51 ERA with 13.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 34.3 percent ground-ball rate. He rated between fourth and sixth among Tigers farmhands according to Baseball Prospectus (subscription required), MLB.com, ESPN’s Keith Law (subscription required) and Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen.
Jimenez is touted as a potential closer and a definite candidate for a high-leverage relief role, thanks to a 70-grade fastball and an impressive slider. Law notes that both his command and slider took steps forward in 2016, which bodes well for his long-term outlook.