Francisco Rondon, a hard throwing lefty out of the Dominican Republic, was signed by the Yankees way back in 2006 as a 16-year-old international free agent. Rondon was signed as a starting pitcher, but transitioned to the bullpen in 2010 and, aside from a few starts in 2013, has worked exclusively out of the ‘pen in the last four years. After spending several years quietly climbing the bottom rungs of the minor league ladder, Rondon finally made himself noteworthy in 2012, striking out 26% of the batters he faced (10.1 K/9) over 71 innings, mostly in double-A Trenton. Rondon’s shown that he can fool hitters with his stuff, but controlling that stuff has always been an issue for him. Few pitchers have any type of big league success while walking as many players as Rondon did — 14% or (5.3 BB/9). Still, the Yankees saw enough promise in Rondon to add him to the 40-man roster last off-season in order to protect him in the rule 5 draft.
Between double-A and triple-A: 33 games (7 starts), 82.2 IP, 3.92 ERA, 4.35 FIP
Rondon spent most of the season in Trenton save for three appearances in triple-A Scranton. Overall, his 2013 looked a lot like his 2012 — a good amount of strikeouts (23%, 9.3 K/9), but just too many walks (15%, 5.9 BB/9). Although the Yankees see Rondon as a reliever long-term, they had him break camp in Trenton’s rotation in order to stretch him out a bit. The results weren’t pretty. Rondon posted a 7.16 ERA over six starts, striking out 22 while walking 17. He was booted from the 40-man roster shortly thereafter. Rondon fared a little better upon returning to the ‘pen, but continued to struggle with his command, posting Carlos Marmol-esque walk numbers.
Rondon will head to either Trenton or Scranton this year to once again try to parlay his raw stuff into on-field performance. If things go particularly well, he could end up in the Yankees bullpen as a second lefty reliever at some point. The Yankees look a bit thin in the bullpen this year, so someone like Rondon could get a look. Even in his relief appearances, Rondon has often thrown three or four innings, which makes it seem like the Yankees are grooming him to be a long reliever. I guess they’re hoping he can become something like a left-handed version of Ramiro Mendoza or Alfredo Aceves. That would be great, but I wouldn’t count on it happening anytime soon. Rondon’s easy to dream on — throws hard and happens to be left handed, but until he improves his command, he’s not someone who’s of any use in a big league team.
This post was originally featured on Pinstripe Alley.