Closer Jose Valverde became a free agent earlier this winter, and it looks like the Detroit Tigers are going to try to fill his spot from the inside.
Here is the message courtesy of Lynn Herring of the Detroit News:
Just got off phone with Dombrowski. Made it clear Tigers are NOT shopping for a closer. Will go to camp giving Rondon every shot to win job.— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) November 29, 2012
For any of you who are not familiar with the Detroit Tigers organization, you might be wondering who this Rondon is?
Bruce Rondon signed with Detroit when he was 17 years old in 2008 and pitched in the Venezuelan Summer League. Interestingly, he started 13 games that season and had a decent amount of success (3.86 ERA). However, he was not destined to stay in that role for much longer.
His career really began to take off in 2010, when he made the transition to the bullpen. That season, while pitching between rookie ball and Advanced-A, he posted a combined 0.84 ERA.
With a WHIP of 0.897 and an average of more than a strikeout per inning, it became increasingly obvious that he was on the fast track to the major leagues. Those types of numbers do not happen by mistake.
Fast-forwarding one more time to 2012, Rondon was once again impressive. He pitched everywhere between Advanced-A and Triple-A and overwhelmed all of his opponents.
How safe do you feel with a rookie as a potential closer?
Over 53 innings pitched, he issued 26 walks. Issuing a walk almost every other inning is far too high and could definitely become problematic. He made up for that by not issuing many hits, but when he hits the major league level, he cannot be allowing runners on base for free.
His overwhelming stuff will not demolish major league hitters like he was able to in the minors.
Speaking of his stuff, let me give you a few excerpts of what different scouting sources say about Rondon.
Not a huge pitcher, Rondon nonetheless gets plenty of action on his heavy fastball, which can reach 98 mph but usually clocks closer to 94. He adds deception with a low arm angle that's near-sidearm, and his sometimes-wild slider has more movement than it really needs thanks to the arm action. He displayed an occasional change back in 2009, but that's nothing he'll be needing in the bullpen, so it's probably best to consider it retired (Scouting Book).
A true power guy, he has a quick arm with a fastball that works 88-92 and an above-average curveball with excellent bite. Change-up has flashed as average and could progress further (Scout.com).
There will be a new closer in Detroit next season, and Rondon definitely has the inside track to grab that position. If he comes to spring training with his arm under control, there is no reason that he should not be successful next year.
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