After signing with the Detroit Tigers in Sept. 2007, Bruce Rondon spent most of the next two seasons pitching in the Venezuelan Summer League. Even though he’s always boasted a big-time, plus-plus fastball, it took the right-hander several years to gain a feel for the strike zone.
It wasn’t until the 2012 season that Rondon’s career truly took off, as vastly improved command of his heater and devastating slider quickly put him on the fast track to the major leagues. So after a dominant start to the season in the High-A Lakeland bullpen, the 21-year-old ultimately posted similar numbers at both Double-A and Triple-A.
Regarded as the Tigers’ future closer, it seems as though the organization prefers to take a chance with Rondon rather than tolerate (and pay) Jose Valverde for another season. Aside from the right-hander’s video-game-like statistics, there are numerous attributes that lend to his projection as a big league closer.
First of all, the 6’2”, 190-pounder’s fastball sits in the upper-90s with late life, and he’ll routinely reach back for some 101-102 mph. He’s certainly not afraid to let it rip and challenge opposing hitters. His slider has developed into a slightly above-average offering that should continue to improve. More importantly, Rondon is able to induce whiffs with both pitches.
While his overall command clearly improved this past season over three levels, his career 5.1 BB/9 rate in 196 innings leaves something to be desired. Regardless, he appears to be the Tigers’ best option to close games in 2013, but at the same time, Rondon could stand for additional experience in the high minors.
But you never know; with GM Dave Dombrowski’s willingness to promote prospects ahead of schedule, the job could be his out of spring training.