As a very advanced 19-year old, the Angels might have their starting shorstop of the future in Jose Rondon. Having now established himself stateside, the question for Rondon is what will he do in his first year of full season ball?
Position: SS Highest Level: Rookie
Bats: R Throws: R Height: 6'1" Weight: 160
Age: 19 Born: 3/3/1994
2013 Rank: 13
2013 Season Stats
Rookie: 316 PA, .293 AVG, .359 OBP, .399 SLG, 22 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 50 RBI, 31 SO, 13 SB, 8 CS, .319 BABIP, .347 wOBA, 98 wRC+
Contact = A
Despite being a longer, leaner infielder, Rondon’s path to the ball is rather straight forward. If you watch him, you’ll also notice Rondon doesn’t merely put the barrel on the ball like so many young hitters with contact ability, he swings through the ball as well as anyone, very similar to new Angel Grant Green. There’s no muscling the ball anywhere, he finishes his swing nicely and doesn’t get into a rush or throw off his own mechanics. A-Rod and Griffey were probably the best I’d ever seen do this and Rondon is similar in that aspect, though I must emphasize I am not calling Rondon the next Griffey.
Power = C-
Though Rondon doesn’t have much power to speak of right now, most everyone that watches him agrees that he will in the future. What manifests as doubles right now has a possibility of becoming home runs later on. A lot of this is because Rondon is still growing and is quite young. When he was signed as a 17 year old, Rondon was 6’0 and 150 pounds soaking wet. As an 18 year old, he was listed at 6’1 and 170 and this year as a 19 year old, Rondon looks more like he’s 6’2 or 6’3 and 190 pounds. By the time Jose is 22 or 23, he’ll likely fill out even further and show considerable power.
Discipline = A
This is what has everyone so excited with Rondon. His maturity and makeup at just 19 years old are outstanding. He already has an in-depth understanding of what pitchers are trying to do and what is and isn’t a strike. Rondon still chases some pitches out of the zone early in the count but he actually becomes more selective with one or two strikes, which makes him less susceptible to the low and away breaking ball.
Speed = B-
As far as middle infielders go, Rondon’s speed is above average. He should be able to swipe 20+ every season, but it seems logical that if he continues to fill out, he will lose a step in the future. But for now, he has top of the order type of speed.
Arm = B+
The only reason this doesn’t grade out as an “A” is because I reserve those grades for what are considered “good” at the major league level. Rondon has more than enough arm for shortstop right now and it would certainly be considered solid at the major league level as well. But until it’s in a class with elite major leaguers the best I can give him is a B+.
Fielding = C+
Rondon’s ability at shortstop reminds me a lot of Erick Aybar when he first came up with the Angels. Very raw, but also potentially outstanding. Rondon will muff what should be routine throws and plays, and at the very same time make some plays that no average shortstop would have a chance at. I think this will improve with experience though as it did for Aybar.
Range = B
Rondon has above average range for a minor league shortstop, especially going up the middle. Some scouts believe that as Rondon continues to grow however, he will lose some of this range, in which case he’d either grade out as a fringe shortstop or more likely be moved to third base. Personally, I think he has a great chance at remaining a shortstop because while he is filling out, at no point do I envision him ever being to heavy to move around at short. Plus when you’re over six feet and 150 pounds soaking wet, your weight really has nowhere to go but up.
Performance = A
Rondon was so far beyond the competition he faced in the Pioneer League this season, you really have to question the Angels decision to keep him down. Jose likely should have been in Burlington this season and in high A Ball as a 20 year old. In fact at this point, the right thing to do would be to have Rondon skip over A-Ball and move straight into the Cal League just as Taylor Lindsey did when he dominated the Pioneer League.
Projection = A
He’s young, advanced, plays a premium defensive position, has physical projection left in his frame, and may hit for power. Really what else is there to ask for? I envision Rondon making it up to the big leagues around age 22 and if he reaches his ceiling, the Angels could be looking at a legitimate starting shortstop.
Grade as a Prospect = B-
The Angels have a lot of prospects that grade out relatively similar to what every organization has. But not every organization has a Jose Rondon in their depths. While he’s raw in many aspects, his makeup is off the charts and there’s really no telling what he might do. Keep an eye on this one.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date = 2016
If the Angels plays this one aggressively, he should be challenged in the Cal League in 2014 as a 20 year old, AA in 2015 as a 21 year old, and if he makes the necessary adjustments, he should be ready to make the big league jump sometime in 2016 as a 22 year old. But with Eric Stamets in the system, the Angels may choose to play this one conservatively in which case 2017 or 2018 would be an accurate estimate. Still, I don’t see this being the case because once the Dipoto regime replaced the much-maligned Reagins era, the Angels became considerably more aggressive in their prospect promotions.
2013 in Review*
In 2012, Rondon made his debut in the United States and the results were a bit underwhelming, yet understandable given his youth. But in 2013, Rondon really stepped up his game. Though he is still listed at 160 pounds, reports are that he is closer to 185 now and that physical growth manifested itself on the field.
Rondon still doesn't hit with, well, any power, but he wasn't getting the bat knocked out his hands either. Rondon actually showed a very advanced ability to make good contact. It doesn't matter what level you are at, if you strikeout just 9.8% of the time, you are doing something very, very right. But unlike fellow shortstop prospect Eric Stamets, Rondon doesn't sacrifice discipline for the sake of contact, walking in 9.5% of his plate appearances. For a 19-year old international prospect, that is something special.
The additional bulk didn't slow Rondon in the field, at least this year. There is a general concern that he'll eventually outgrow shortstop and have to head to third, but he isn't there yet. In fact, his defense received positive marks across the board. He isn't a guy who projects to win Gold Gloves in the future, but he is still good enough to be a positive contributor.
Up next for Rondon is full season ball. That could be in Burlington if the Angels bring him along slowly, but it could be in Inland Empire since he already has such an advanced approach at the plate.
Wherever he goes, Rondon will continue to work on his body. He'll also be tasked with putting that additional bulk to real use now. Rondon should be able to hit for some power given his additional mass and his innate ability to square up the baseball, but he needs to learn how to drive the ball. That means pulling the ball when he can and not settling for spraying it all over the field. It also means lifting the ball. Only 26.1% of the balls he put in play last season were outfield flyballs. It is kind of hard to hit for extra bases when you do that.
With another strong season of development, Rondon should be a consensus top 5 prospect in the system. He doesn't ever figure to be a star as he lacks elite tools, but he does just about everything pretty well. If he learns to tap into his power, there really won't be many holes in his game. Between Stamets and Rondon, the Halos should be in excellent shape at shortstop when Erick Aybar's contract expires after the 2016 season.
*As we do every year, the scouting reports and grades are provided by Scotty Allen while Garrett Wilson provides the 2013 in Review and Looking Ahead sections.