Player Profile: Hector Rondon

“One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.”

Cubs closer now and for the future?

Cubs closer now and for the future?

Benjamin Disraeli

As the quote implies, a chance to succeed in the majors can be fleeting, just ask Scott Carroll of the White Sox who won his first game as a 29 year old rookie. In the off-season the Cubs signed Jose Veras to be a bridge at closer until another pitcher emerged. After watching Veras implode with a 15.88 ERA and two blown saves, there were whispers about a committee in Chicago until Veras returns. Pedro Strop was given the next save opportunity but like his predecessor, lost the lead and gave up four runs (1 earned) in a loss to the Diamondbacks. In his two appearances since then Strop has had clean slates. However, yesterday may have given a preview to the next “closer” for the Cubs during Jason Hammel’s sparkling start in Milwaukee.

After tossing seven shutout innings, Hammel was lifted for Strop in eighth and Hector Rondon pitched the ninth with a 4-0 margin meaning no save opportunity. But what a ninth inning it was as Rondon struck out the side preserving the shutout and victory for Hammel. This is important because it hopefully previews who manager Rick Renteria is leaning towards using in future Cub save chances. So who is Hector Rondon and is he worth adding to a roster?

Rondon is a former starter in the Indians organization and had a breakout 2009 as a starting pitcher and in May of 2010 he had to have reconstructive surgery on his elbow (Tommy John). During his rehab in 2012 he only logged ten innings returning from surgery and was selected as a Rule 5 draftee by the Brewers in December of 2012. There were scouting reports saying that Rondon was throwing with great velocity in Venezuela during winter ball and the Cubs took the former prospect who was rated as high as seventh in the Indians prospect lists. The pick was lauded by Ben Badler and Jed Hoyer who is quoted below:

“If you go back and look, he was a really good prospect,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “We’ve been watching him in Venezuela this winter. He’s been throwing the ball really well. He’s got a great arm.

“We felt we could capitalize on the fact that he’s healthy now and throwing really well. Hopefully he can re-capture what made him a . . .  top prospect.” Hoyer

After a tough first half, it is interesting to note how much he improved in the second half for the Cubs in the bullpen:

  • Rondon’s 1H: 29.1 IP, 23 K’s, 15 BB, 6.14 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 16.6 K%, 10.8 BB%
  • Rondon’s 2H: 25.1 IP, 21 K’s, 10 BB, 3.2 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 20.4 K%, 9.7 BB%

Being intrigued, I decided to dig a little deeper and went to BrooksBaseball.net to see what his velocities and arsenal look like. I was surprised to see he can throw five pitches though he does feature a fastball and a sinker. Here are their velocities and usage percentages:

Pitch MPH % Thrown BAA Whiff/Swing
Fastball

95

36

.268

17.65

Sinker

95

27

.262

25

Slider

82

17

.200

54.55

Cutter

91

17

.133

22.22

What is not shown on the chart is that Rondon pitches left handed and right handed batters differently. He uses the cutter ahead in the count against lefties and counters with his slider against right handed batters. It is way too early to throw out any comparisons but Mariano Rivera was a converted starting pitcher who moved to the bullpen during the Yankees rise to prominence in 1995 and became an anchor in the bullpen during their championship in 1996 pitching the seventh and eighth innings as the bridge to John Wetteland. Rondon is no Rivera but he features more pitches and if he can utilize the cutter against left handed hitters he can have a promising future as a relief pitcher. As of today, Rondon uses his cutter 46% of the time when he is ahead of left handed batters while preferring to use his sinker when ahead of right handed hitters. It is well known that teams prefer relievers who can induce ground ball outs. Rondon’s cutter has been timed at 91.76 mph this year so far and Mariano Rivera’s cutter averaged 92.44 since 2007 according to BrooksBaseball.net, food for thought.

The important question for fantasy owners right now is can Rondon hold on to the job? If given the chance I believe he can do so. I have added him in my FSWA and any other league he was available. Here are his adjusted statistics going forward courtesy of Steamer and ZiPS:

Hector Rondon W S IP K ERA WHIP
Steamer (R) 3 21 30 27 3.70 1.29
Steamer (U) 3 22 43 41 2.84 1.20
ZiPS (R) 1 55 52 3.56 1.27
ZiPS (U) 1 68 66 3.04 1.21

Both systems believe that Rondon is outperforming his past, which is true. If Rondon is truly given the chance to close I believe he could get the 22 saves that Steamer projects but I think the ZiPS projections are a better guide as to his innings and strikeouts going forward though the K total could be low. If Rondon is available on the wire, it may be a good time to stash him and find out if he can reach his prospect potential as a reliever, it has happened before. Good luck is when hard work and opportunity meet. Rondon may have that with the Cubs.

Greg Jewett is a staff writer for Roto Analysis and you can follow us on Twitter @RotoAnalysis and @gjewett9

Hector Rondon picture credit: http://www.zonadeportiva.net/cms/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/2013-mlb-hector-rondon-

Rondon Article credit about Rule 5: http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2012/12/cubs-select-rhp-hector-rondon-in-rule-5-draft-lose-starling-peralta/

Statistical Credits:

Fangraphs.com

BrooksBaseball.net

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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