10 words or fewer: A tale of two seasons. Upside as starter or reliever.
Position: SP | Age (2016): 23
Throws: R | Bats: R
Height: 6’4″ | Weight: 225
2015 Rank: 22
Fastball – B+. Upon being drafted, Jeremy’s fastball would top out at 94, but for the most part, he sat 91-92. This past season we saw Rhoades fastball creep up to 93-94 consistently, and this was as a starter. Not bad at all.
Off-speed Pitches – B. Rhoades seemed to have eliminated the cutter from his arsenal from what I saw this season, but took a step forward with the change up. What used to be a “show me” pitch that he could get over turned into a decent pitch. It isn’t in the plus range like Mike Morin or Nick Tropeano’s change up, but it’s good enough to be used consistently in the game. Rhoades does still have a very good slider. Through he struggled to throw it for strikes in the games I saw, most reports indicate he threw them for strikes. Three above average pitches is a good place to start.
Control – B-. As Jeremy’s BB/9 goes, so does his season. In Burlington his BB/9 dropped down to a level lower than even college, to a miniscule 2.0 per game, which would generate an “A” grade. Upon being promoted to the Cal League, his BB/9 crept up to 3.2, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t like he pounded the strike zone the way he’s capable of. Still, Rhoades has above average ability to hit the strike zone.
Command – C+. I liked the command I saw in the Midwest League, but admittedly, I think the park factors helped him out here and there. But once he reached the Cal League, even when he missed his spots by only an inch, he was punished for it.
Mechanics – C. This might be the biggest difference maker between 2014 and 2015. In 2014, his delivery was a mess, but he got away with it because a solid fastball and very good slider. Over the offseason and early on last season, Rhoades’ began standing more straight and landing on balance. The fastball velocity climbed, the control improved, and he went from certain future reliever to someone we can envision staying in the rotation with a couple breaks.
Performance – B-. The big thing here is that Rhoades successfully transitioned into a starter this past season, and looks fully ready to resume such a role in the future. His dominant numbers in Burlington garnered much attention and a promotion (probably much sooner than he actually got it). But the Cal League numbers are also a mirage in and of themselves. His road starts were brutal, his home starts weren’t much better, but the ball was just flying out of the park on him, and thus I think he tried to get too fine with his pitches and begun missing the corners. He also appeared to be throwing the ball even harder, in order to try and generate less offense. As a result, he strikeouts of course were up, but the walks continued to rise.
Projection – B-. I think Rhoades has topped out in terms of his velocity. He’s already a big boy and likely won’t grow too much more, so as a starter, throwing 93-94 with a very good slider, decent change up and good control of the strike zone, he could grow into a 3-4-5 starter, and a workhorse at that. Many still see him as a reliever, and I can see where they’re coming from there. If he focused on just two pitches, his velo may climb up to 95 and that slider could do some damage in the bullpen. He’d also come with an inherent advantage over most other relievers, the ability to consistently throw strikes. So he might turn into a very good middle or back-end reliever someday too.
Estimated Time of Arrival – 2017/2018. I think as a starter, we’re looking at a more traditional three year climb through the upper minors, putting him in the majors around age 25. But if for some reason the Angels didn’t like what they saw in the Cal League and moved him to reliever immediately, he could be in the Angels bullpen by late next year, but more likely the year after that.
What to expect in 2016 – Rhoades performance in the Cal League was an unmitigated disaster, but his performance in the Midwest League was the exact opposite. Much of that was bad luck, some of the other was just a bad environment. I’d expect things to normalize for Rhoades next year, but if it doesn’t, a move to the pen could be in order in 2017 But I really do believe he’ll be fine as a starter next season.
Most Likely Scenario – Rhoades continues to iron some things out and climbs the ladder as a starter, eventually becoming a decent swingman in the majors.
Grade as a Prospect – C. The upside makes him not tantalizing but certainly noteworthy. The fact that he looks ready to work in any capacity definitely boosts this grade as well. It certainly seems Rhoades has all the makings to become a major leaguer, we just aren’t sure of the role yet.