Grayson Rodriguez, a prep right-handed pitcher from Central Heights High (TX), is soaring up MLB Draft boards this spring.
One reason the 6-foot-5, 240-pound hurler is generating an increased buzz from professional scouts is because of the uptick in his fastball velocity.
After his fastball sat in the low-90s during the 2017 Area Code Games, Rodriguez dedicated his offseason to getting stronger, working out at APEC training facility in Tyler, Texas. He added 25 pounds to his frame.
He also worked with respected pitching coach David Evans on three different occasions in January. Evans, who’s instructed highly-touted draft prospects Tyler Kolek and Shane Baez in the past, helped Rodriguez with creating more power in his delivery with his back (right) leg.
This dedication to improving his craft in the offseason helped his fastball velocity increase to as high as 98 mph this spring, which has brought swarms of MLB scouts to each one of his starts in preparation for June’s draft.
“The first game I was a little on the nervous side, but after that it’s almost like they’re fans,” said Rodriguez on the scouts. “You can’t pay too much attention to them because otherwise you might get too caught up in what’s going on around you and not focusing on the game.”
Rodriguez has made six starts this spring, consistently racking up double-digit strikeout performances, despite undergoing surgery on his right hand in August.
“Everything has been working this spring,” he said. “My fastball velocity increased so that’s helped me get a few more strikeouts. I fine-tuned my mechanics, which opened up some opportunities with my breaking ball. I just feel like I’ve gotten them down right where I want them.”
Rodriguez relies on a four-pitch mix. He throws a four-seam fastball, circle changeup, slider and spike curveball.
A spike curveball, which is also called a knuckle curve, is where a pitcher places their index finger into the seam of the ball and their knuckle points out towards their target. The pitch creates a sharp downward action.
His mid-to-upper 90s fastball and two above-average breaking pitches are key to Rodriguez’s success.
“Right now my biggest strength is my fastball and being able to throw it for strikes,” Rodriguez said. “Also, the curveball and slider. I’ve had a lot more success with strikeouts because I’m able to throw those pitches early in counts, rather than just later.
“Another strength for me is being able to throw a curveball or slider on a 3-2 count when guys are sitting fastball.”
Committed to Texas A&M, Rodriguez has been an Aggies fan his entire life, as his mother received a degree from the university.
But with his success this spring, there’s a chance Rodriguez doesn’t step foot on campus as a student-athlete this fall. If he’s able to continue his dominance the remainder of his high school season, he’ll have a shot at being a first-round pick in the 2018 draft.
“I try not to pay attention to the draft because I don’t want to get caught up in what’s going on around me,” said Rodriguez, who’s goal is to improve his command in the next two months. “I just try to not think about it too much.
“It’s obviously on my mind, but I’m just trying to stay focused on my team and going out and winning some ball games for my team.”
Find more 2018 MLB Draft profiles here.