Recently I had the exciting opportunity to speak with an up-and-coming pitcher in the Angels system, Chris Rodriguez. Rodriguez has received a lot of attention for his interesting delivery and devastating fastball. MLB.com ranked Chris #6 on the Angels top 30 prospects list, noting “Rodriguez has the chance to have a useable 4 pitch mix at his disposal when all is said and done, [with his fastball] averaged around 95 mph in 2017 and touched the upper-90s at times with good movement.”
Rodriguez also landed a spot on Six Man Rotation’s first ever top-150 prospects list, at #137. SMR Co-founder Connor Kurcon was particularly fond of the Angels right-hander, placing him in the top 100 at 93. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Chris Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was drafted 126th overall by the Angels in the 2016 Amateur draft and has elevated through the ranks ever since. Chris recalled his experience as a professional baseball player thus far. “I would describe it as a dream come true. You’re playing baseball every day for a living. However, it is a learning experience, you really learn about yourself, you learn what type of player you are, and you really learn how important the mental side of the game is.”
While some players take the game too seriously, Chris Rodriguez tries to look at the game the way most people are taught to. “My approach is to just have fun and compete. [I try] not let the little things like broken bat hits get to me and just have fun. I know what I can do just got to show it.”
One of the most impressive aspects of Rodriguez’s game is his blistering speed. His fastball, which MLB.com noted for its good movement, sits around 95 MPH and sometimes hovers in the upper-90s. Most people don’t have the velocity that Rodriguez possesses, but his approach is similar. “[The best way to harness high velocity is] not thinking and trying to be as consistent as possible.”
Besides his velocity, Rodriguez is also known for his distinct windup. His more animated setup and delivery has caused some debate on whether it should be adjusted or not. Through it all, Rodriguez knows what works for him. “[My mechanics] kind of just came along. I don’t try to look pretty; I’m just trying to throw hard and throw strikes. However it has gotten a little cleaner as pro ball goes on. [When] I gain weight and muscle, things become easier.”
Last season, Chris made some adjustments but maintained his ability to hit the zone. Despite his 6.16 ERA over 57 innings in 2 levels looking rough on paper, the experience, and control he had made it a productive season for him. “I threw well this season. Like I said though, you can’t control the broken bat hits and the little things. I was throwing strikes and that’s all that matters. I didn’t get hit very hard; I only gave up 2 homeruns, so overall I felt good and I’m healthy, so I was happy with last season.” Pounding the zone paid dividends as well, as he punched out 56 batters, while walking 14.
In the age of new technology and resources, it’s difficult to block out what people are critiquing or suggesting. Despite this, Chris doesn’t let the media influence his career too much. “If I see [articles] I’ll read it. If not, [I] don’t care for it. A bunch of guys are gonna say different things so I concentrate on what the Angels tell me.”
Along the way, though, the people around him have been big influences. Some of the credit, Rodriguez says, he owes to his family and his coaches along the way. “My whole family has really been there for me from the beginning they’ve been a huge support group. And every coach I’ve had so far has been amazing.” When I asked what staff specifically have helped him, he added, “There have been a lot of coaches that have been great. Matt Wise has been great, Jon Van Eaten has been great with his intensity, [and] Jim Hotter has been great in putting positivity with everything.” The advice he best remembers from them? “Just have fun!”
When asked about his favorite memory as a professional player, Rodriguez recalled, “Clinching playoffs was probably the best memory for me. The atmosphere in the clubhouse was crazy.” The clinching he is referring to was in 2017, where the Orem Owlz (Angels affiliate in the Pioneer League) secured a playoff spot. He didn’t continue the season with them, as he was promoted later in the season.
The winning season combined with adding Jo Adell, Matt Thaiss, Shohei Ohtani (technically still a prospect), and Kevin Maitan has shifted the Angels system up quite a bit. Moving from 30th to 14th in MiLB’s rankings, Rodriguez notes, hasn’t changed everything. There is though, a steady improvement, and a commitment to winning. “The players are just getting better, but everyone’s attitude is still the same. We all want to compete and win the organization a ring.”
While Rodriguez didn’t have a specific role model in the majors, he admires the work ethic of his peers. “[All big leaguers] are role models because they went through this whole process and are successful.” I also asked who the toughest hitter he faced was. He wasn’t sure if he could pinpoint one specific player, but he is glad he doesn’t have to face a particular teammate in the Angels organization. He quickly answered, “Brandon Marsh for sure. [I’m impressed by] approach at the plate and he just can flat out hit. He doesn’t like to strike out so he’ll [always] put something in play.”
As Rodriguez continues his minor league career, he has a goal set out on what he wants to do. “[My goal is] to keep progressing and get better everyday. And try to help win games wherever I go.”
I would like to extend a huge thanks to Chris for taking all the questions. I, along with the other writers at Six Man Rotation, wish him the best of luck going forward. He has great stuff and the right mindset to be successful.
If you liked this interview, make sure to check out my other 3 that I’ve done with Athletics pitcher/mustache extraordinaire Daniel Mengden, Mariners catcher Michael Marjama, and Angels minor leaguer Jared Walsh.
Image via (twitter.com/MiLB)