With more starts like the one he turned in on Tuesday, Dereck Rodriguez will have a compelling case for a spot in the San Francisco Giants 2020 starting rotation.
Signed off the scrapheap to a minor league deal, the son of Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez made his MLB debut on May 29, 2018.
He quickly emerged as a staple in the starting rotation, going 6-4 with a 2.81 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 89 strikeouts in 118.1 innings for 2.5 WAR. There were some red flags, including his 3.73 FIP and low strikeout rate, but he was still expected to hold down a rotation spot in 2019.
Instead, he was demoted to Triple-A Sacramento after posting a 5.05 ERA over his first eight starts. He returned a few weeks later in a relief role and spent June pitching out of the bullpen before returning to the minors.
He turned in a solid spot start at Coors Field in the second game of a doubleheader on July 15, then rejoined the rotation full-time at the beginning of August.
The 27-year-old has been hit-and-miss in five starts since returning to the MLB rotation, but he’s tossed a pair of gems along the way.
On Aug. 15, he allowed just three hits and one walk over seven shutout innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks on the road.
Then, in his most recent start on Sept. 3, he limited a red-hot St. Louis Cardinals team to five hits and one run while striking out seven in another seven-inning outing.
“I think it could be important for him as he goes into the offseason to pitch well this month,” manager Bruce Bochy told reporters. “It’s been an up-and-down year for him, and that’s including going from here to [Triple-A] Sacramento. I’m sure he’d like to finish strong. I think it’d be big for him. And he looked very determined tonight. It was a good bounce back off a tough start. He really pitched well.”
There are a lot of question marks surrounding the 2020 starting rotation, and if Rodriguez can string together a few strong starts down the stretch, it would go a long way toward cementing his place on next year’s staff.
Madison Bumgarner is headed for free agency and both Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz already playing elsewhere, Jeff Samardzija is the only veteran penciled into a spot on next year’s staff.
Rookies Shaun Anderson and Tyler Beede have both seen significant time in the rotation this year, while Logan Webb, Conner Menez and Andrew Suarez have also made starts at the MLB level.
Expect the Giants to be active on the free-agent market, whether it’s a signing similar to last year’s buy-low on Pomeranz or a bigger fish.
Now that the San Francisco Giants have fallen out of the postseason race, the final month of the year will be dedicated to player evaluation. Dereck Rodriguez is right at the top of the list of guys with the most to prove in September.