The Detroit Tigers Minor League affiliates seasons are now officially in the books. With another season completed, the time has come for me to announce the 2011 MCB Down on the Farm All-Star Team.
In an effort to reward less talked about prospects, only players that did not receive a call-up to Detroit this season were eligible. While you may recognize some of the names, remember these awards aren’t a pronouncement of the Tigers top prospects. The awards were based heavily upon the best overall statistical season per position.
Similar to previous years, the breakdown of the roster will consist of one player per position, a designated hitter, five starting pitchers and five relievers.
2011 MCB Down on the Farm All-Star Team: RHP Bruce Rondon
TEAM: CLASS-A West Michigan Whitecaps
STATS: 40 IP 2-2 2.02 ERA 1.40 WHIP 5.0 H/9 7.6 BB/9 13.7 K/9 0 HR
Bruce Rondon was signed by the Detroit Tigers as a non-drafted free agent on Sept. 12, 2007. He stands 6’2″ tall, weighs 190 pounds, and throws right-handed. The now soon-to-be 21-year-old is yet another young Tigers prospect hailing from Venezuela.
Rondon came stateside in 2010 and logged 32 1/3 innings between the GCL and FSL. He was moved from the rotation to the ‘pen and several changes were made to his mechanics and delivery. The changes yielded positive results; a solid 0.84 ERA and over a strikeout per inning.
In 2011, Rondon was assigned to Class-A West Michigan where he was the closer for the ‘caps.
Rondon now throws from a quirky, low, almost side-arm delivery. He can become erratic at times and is often more of a thrower than a pitcher. There is plenty of time for development though and his raw ability is impressive enough to keep me interested in the flame thrower.
Now that he’s a reliever, Rondon is essentially a two pitch guy, but both are noted as potential plus pitches. His fastball features solid sinking movement and sits regularly in the mid-90s. Scouts note that his “heavy” fastball generates weak contact and registers as high as 98 mph. He compliments his fastball with a late breaking slider that falls off the table and generates a good number of swing and misses.
BEHIND THE NUMBERS:
The strikeout ratio (13.7K/9) is obviously enough in itself to get you interested in Rondon as a prospect. Unfortunately he continued to struggle with control, flirting with walking nearly a batter per inning. Opposing batters hit just .164 against him and he didn’t allow a home run all season though. A sore shoulder ended his season in late July but nothing about the injury seems to serious moving forward. Honestly I can’t help but wonder if the control problems were magnified by the injury. Despite missing the final month of the season, Rondon finished third in the Midwest League with 19 saves.
Moving forward Rondon needs to simply limit walks to continue to be considered a top prospect. It’s easy to to say and a bit harder to “simply” do that though. He will likely have Mike Maroth as a pitching coach next season which could help him iron things out. Overall I was more than impressed with what the twenty-year-old accomplished last season though. He’s young and the positives continue to outweigh the negatives so I’m still high on Rondon.
At 21-years-old, Rondon will still be relatively young for the FSL next season. With that in mind I’d expect Rondon to open the 2012 season in Advanced-A Lakeland, unless the often aggressive Tigers decide to push him in AA-Erie. Moving him through the system one step at a time would definitely help him tighten things up a bit.
Congratulations to Bruce Rondon for an outstanding 2011 season!
2011 MCB Down on the Farm All-Stars
Next Up: The Bullpen