It seems like the Pirates really want Yariel Rodriguez. They have been heavily connected to Rodriguez all off-season, and it seems like the right-hander’s market is heating up. According to fellow staff writer Kody Duncan, the Pirates are in the lead for Rodriguez. That may suggest they’ve upped their pursuit efforts, as the Toronto Blue Jays were rumored to be the leading destination for Rodriguez at the start of January.
Rodriguez last pitched in 2022 for the Chunichi Dragons of the NBP. All 54.2 of his innings pitched were out of the bullpen, but he was outstanding, working to a 1.15 ERA, 3.33 K:BB ratio, and 0.92 WHIP. He struck out 27.5% of the batters he faced with an 8.3% walk rate. His walk rate was slightly below league average in the NBP that season. But he made up for it by allowing zero home runs.
But there are questions about how he would look as a starting pitcher. He hasn’t started games semi-regularly since 2021. While his career numbers as an SP aren’t bad, they aren’t good either. He’s consistently been good at limiting home runs but has an unimpressive strikeout and walk rates in seasons when he starts. For what it’s worth, Rodriguez started two games for Team Cuba in the World Baseball Classic in 2023. He struck out ten batters and allowed just two ERs in 7.1 innings, but he also walked six. That might seem like he was pulled because of his struggles, but Shohei Ohtani was the only pitcher to pitch over a whole game’s worth of innings.
Rodriguez held a showcase in October where he was averaging out in the mid-90s with his fastball. All of the other offerings he showed off had good spin as well. Rodriguez has a great fastball and slider, but his other offerings sat at an average at best level the last time he pitched professionally.
I think Rodriguez is the Pirates’ best option at this point in the off-season. His showcase was definitely promising, and even though it was only a bullpen session to show off his stuff, one could still theorize that he put in enough work in the last year to improve his stuff and become capable of starting games semi-regularly at the very least.