Pittsburgh Pirates: Examining Potential Free Agent Target Yariel Rodriguez

The Pirates are likely going to pursue Yariel Rodriguez, but what does he bring to the table?

World Baseball Classic Quarterfinals: Australia v Cuba
World Baseball Classic Quarterfinals: Australia v Cuba / Gene Wang/GettyImages
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The Pittsburgh Pirates reportedly had scouts at Yariel Rodriguez's workout. What could the righty potentially bring to the team?

The Pittsburgh Pirates reportedly have scouts in attendance for one of Yariel Rodriguez’s tryouts. Rodriguez has spent his entire pro career in international leagues, spending the first handful of years in Cuba, then heading to Japan. He has since become one of the best professional international pitchers, and was recently let go by the Chunichi Dragons to pursue a career in Major League Baseball.

The Pirates have shown that they may potentially be willing to heavily pursue some of the pro international free agents heading to the United States this off-season. But what does Rodriguez bring to the table? Is it worth the Pirates’ time to pursue the right-hander?

Rodrigez was primarily a starting pitcher throughout his time in Cuba, and in his first few seasons in Japan. But the right-hander moved to the bullpen in 2022, and posted phenomenal numbers, the best of his career.

In 54.2 innings, Rodrighez owned a 1.15 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 3.33 K:BB ratio. Rodriguez struck out 27.5% of opponents with a quality 8.3% walk rate. But the most impressive part about Rodriguez’s season was his ability to keep the ball in the park. He allowed zero home runs over the course of his season.

Rodriguez did not pitch in 2023, reportedly defecting to the Dominican Republic. While the right-hander did not pitch in 2023, his stuff looked great in his recent showcase. Rodriguez was sitting mid-90s with nearly 2600 RPM of spin on his four-seam fastball. His slider comes in around the mid-80s with around 2900 RPM. He can take a lot of velocity off his curveball, as it averages out in the mid-upper-70s with 2700 RPM. He throws two off-speed pitches, including a splitter (upper-80s, ~1700 RPM) and change-up (mid-80s, ~1650 RPM).

With that kind of arsenal, it’s undecided as to whether or not he’ll be a starting pitcher or relief pitcher. While his best seasons have come as a relief pitcher, he’s not a terrible starter. 2021 was the last time he was starting games semi-regularly. He was still decent with a 2.95 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and 2.06 WHIP, along with a 25% strikeout rate, 12.1% walk rate, and 0.95 HR/9 throughout 94.2 innings. But those numbers pale in comparison to his 2022 stats.

Rodriguez turns 27 in March, so he’s still on the younger side of things. While he hasn’t started games semi-regularly since 2021, the team who signs him will likely give him a chance to start. Rodriguez is certainly a pitcher I would not be upset with if the Pirates decided to pursue him this winter. This year’s international free agent class is fairly deep with professional level talent. We shall see how the Pirates approach this year’s off-season regarding starting pitching, but Rodriguez is one name to keep in mind.

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