Rodriguez, 23, is a former first round draft pick, having been selected by the Orioles 11th overall in 2018. As he’s moved up the minor league ladder, he’s also climbed prospect lists. Baseball America has considered him one of the ten best prospects in the league, regardless of position, in each of the past two years.
He seemed on track to make his MLB debut last year, as he began the season in Triple-A. However, he suffered a lat strain in June that kept him out of action until September. He still finished the season with a strong 2.62 ERA over 75 2/3 innings, striking out an incredible 36.6% of batters faced.
He was added to the club’s 40-man roster in November to protect him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft and the club seemed to be quite open to Rodriguez making his debut at the start of the 2023 season, with general manager Mike Elias stating as much in January. However, the youngster hasn’t exactly forced the club’s hand here in spring, as he’s posted a 7.04 ERA in five starts, allowing 17 hits and seven walks in 15 1/3 innings. He did strike out 19 batters in that time, but it seems his overall performance wasn’t enough to nab him a spot on the roster out of the gate.
Since Rodriguez is on the 40-man roster, he could very easily be recalled to join the big league club early in the campaign, especially if an injury creates a need. Teams never go through an entire season using just five pitchers and Rodriguez will likely get a shot to make his debut at some point. How much time he eventually spends in the minors could have service time implications, as it could prevent him from earning a full year. A baseball season is typically 186 days but a player needs to spend only 172 of them in the bigs to earn a full “year” of service. Even if they come up short of that, they can get bumped up to the one-year mark if they meet certain conditions. Any player with less than 60 days of MLB service coming into the season who placed on at least two preseason Top 100 prospect lists at Baseball America, ESPN or MLB Pipeline now receives a full year of service time if they finish in the top two in Rookie of the Year balloting, per the latest collective bargaining agreement. This already happened last year, with Adley Rutschman being awarded a full year despite missing the first few weeks of the season. Rodriguez is on all three of those aforementioned prospect lists and could potentially follow the same path as Rutschman.
For the Orioles, their rotation without Rodriguez figures to consist of Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer and Tyler Wells. Rodriguez will be in Norfolk, looking to be the next man up, though he’ll be competing with DL Hall, who was recently optioned and will be building up to a starter’s workload.