by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It’s been an interesting ride with Fernando Rodney over the past few weeks, hasn’t it? Let’s just run down the thought process/rumor mill:
- Seemingly a lock to be dealt by July 31, Rodney ended up staying with Minnesota through the deadline
- Speculation that the Twins could still look at other closing options with an eye towards 2019
- Rumors that the Twins were going to keep Rodney for 2019, seemingly locking him into role for the remainder of 2018
- Rodney is suddenly traded to Oakland late Thursday evening
Obviously Rodney isn’t about to supplant Blake Treinen as Oakland’s closer and he likely is also behind Jeurys Familia, meaning he s a safe drop in most formats. Where this leaves the Twins is a different story:
The veteran figures to get the first opportunity to fill the void, and while he has a history of strong performances that simply hasn’t been the case in 2018. Part of it could be injury related, but he currently owns a 4.74 ERA over 43.2 IP.
His control has been solid, as usual, with a 2.68 BB/9, but after that things go off the rails. His velocity is down, averaging 91.1 mph on his fastball, and that likely has helped to a pedestrian 7.83 K/9. He has also failed to generate groundballs, with a 29.0% groundball rate, and that has led to a bloated 1.65 HR/9.
It’s hard to get excited about those numbers and the only reason he is even in the discussion is because of his track record and experience. Chances are one of the younger options step up and emerge.
If you had asked us two weeks ago it would have been an easy answer as to who would assume the role. Hildenberger was breaking out and appeared primed to claim the role for 2019 and beyond. Unfortunately things have completely fallen apart.
In 10.0 innings since the All-Star Break opponents are hitting .370 against him as he owns a 9.90 ERA and 1.90 WHIP. He has managed to continue with a strikeout per inning and he isn’t giving up walks (1.80 BB/9), but he hasn’t been able to keep the ball in the ballpark (4 HR) and his Hard% sits at 41.7%.
If he turns the corner again he could get a September look, but he is certainly going to have to earn it.
Being left-handed could work against him, but meet the man who has been Minnesota’s best reliever. He has incorporated a slider into his repertoire this season, and that has helped to a career best 10.2% SwStr% and 10.46 K/9. Couple that with solid control and groundball stuff and it’s easy to see why he has had success.
While a 3.80 ERA isn’t going to blow you away, both his .325 BABIP and 68.9% strand rate should improve. The key is going to be him proving he can get right-handed hitters out (.479 SLG) because if he can he has the chance to be an ideal sleeper for saves.
He has only thrown 3.2 innings in the Majors this season, but 7 K vs. 0 BB is going to grab your attention. We aren’t about to draw any conclusions, but keep a close eye. If he continues like this for another week he is going to earn an opportunity to close out games and could emerge as the best reliever of the bunch.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our Midseason Prospect Rankings: