While the Diamondbacks are preparing to host their first World Series game in over twenty years, they’re already thinking about the future. The team claimed right-handed pitcher Chris Rodriguez off of waivers from the Angels, according to his player page on MLB.com (and as first reported by Robert Murray of FanSided). Rodriguez spent the entire 2022 and ’23 seasons on the injured list following shoulder surgery.
When he last took the field, Rodriguez was a promising young arm with a high-velocity fastball and a nasty curve. Entering the 2021 season, Baseball America ranked him as the No. 3 prospect in the Angels system, praising his “wicked stuff” and “tantalizing four-pitch mix.” Across 15 games (2 starts) in his rookie campaign, he posted a 3.64 ERA, 3.50 xERA, and 4.29 SIERA. His 11.2% walk rate was cause for concern, yet he made up for it with an excellent 54.7% groundball rate. Even then, however, health was a problem for the righty. He missed all of the 2018 season and most of 2019 with back injuries before his shoulder started to cause problems in 2021. He would need capsule repair surgery, ending his rookie season, and he has not returned to a major league mound since. In addition to his long rehab for his shoulder, Rodriguez also dealt with a setback related to his back in 2023, reports Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register.
Despite all his injury trouble, it’s easy to see why Arizona was interested in Rodriguez. Still just 25 years old, he’s not so far removed from all the potential he had in his prospect days, although he has to prove he can stay on the field long enough to rediscover what made him such a highly-regarded talent. The Diamondbacks, for their part, have done well to help their pitchers thrive in recent years. Zac Gallen has become one of the best pitchers in baseball since he was dealt to D-backs in 2019. Merrill Kelly became a reliable MLB starter in his thirties after several seasons in the KBO. Kevin Ginkel, a 22nd-round pick, has blossomed into one of the better relievers in baseball. Most recently, the Diamondbacks raised Brandon Pfaadt from fifth-round pick to top-100 prospect to postseason hero. Arizona’s pitching coach, Brent Strom, is widely considered one of the most knowledgeable pitching gurus in the league.
It’s a little harder to see why the Angels would let Rodriguez go. They will surely need pitching depth in 2024, and with the possible departure of Shohei Ohtani, it’s difficult to picture this team in the thick of the playoff race next season. Nevertheless, they seem to have decided that Rodriguez’s 40-man roster spot was too valuable to use on a player who hasn’t pitched in over two years. The 25-year-old has spent most of the past two seasons on the 60-day injured list, but there is no 60-day IL during the offseason, so the Angels would have had to add him back to the 40-man after the World Series, thereby giving them one less open spot for potential offseason additions.