Francisco Rondon has been quite the enigma over his career. The hard throwing lefty out of the Dominican Republic looked to have the raw talent to be molded into a future starting pitcher for the Yankees. Eight seasons later, he finds himself in Tampa once again trying to find a role.
Rondon was signed back in 2006 at the young age of 16. Scouts gushed over the 6’0″, 190-pound lefty’s ability to throw rockets as a starting pitcher. Due to control issues, however, coaches moved Rondon to the bullpen in 2010 in hopes of converting him to a left-handed specialist or even a closer with his lightning-fast arsenal. Rondon still struggled, somewhat from recurring injuries, but mostly from control problems. In 2012, he finally made his first appearance above Single-A. With Trenton. Rondon made the most of his opportunity recording a 5-0 record with one save while posting a 3.96 ERA with 70 Ks over 63.2 innings. He did not fare well in a late 2012 call-up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, allowing 3 runs in his lone appearance. The following season back in Trenton, Rondon was given another chance as a starter. The results were less than stellar as he posted a 7.16 ERA over 6 starts with 22 Ks and 17 walks.
Striking batters out has never been an issue for Rondon. He possesses a mid-90s, hard fastball and a slider that comes across in the mid-80s. It is controlling his pitches that has plagued him throughout his entire career. In 2012, he owned a 10.1/9 strikeout ratio but a startling 5.3 BB/9 ratio that went along with it. In 2013, things did not improve as his strikeout ratio declined (9.3) and his walk ratio increased (5.9). He has also yet to harness a third pitch as he struggles in mastering a change-up. In order to become a starting pitcher in the bigs, he is going to need more than two pitches.
That’s not to say there isn’t hope for Rondon. Despite the obvious control issues, he has the natural ability to confuse hitters and miss bats. Spending so much time as both a starter and a reliever could help in finding a niche as a long reliever/swingman in the mold of Ramiro Mendoza in this evolving Yankees’ bullpen. Rondon will have to make the most of his Spring Training invite in Tampa to be on the Opening Day roster, but if he could harness his talent, we could see him in pinstripes in the future.