photo: Angel Rondón (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
Born: 12/1/1997 (23)
Hits / Throws: R/R
Acquired: IFA – 2016 (Dominican Republic)
Rule 5 Eligible: On 40-Man
Click on the above photo to be taken to his player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
2021 individual rankings – Brian Walton #9, Matt Thompson #13
Prior top 50 rankings – 2017-2019 not ranked, 2020 #9
Matt Thompson’s scouting report
Physical Description: Ideal pitchers frame. Long limbs with athletic build. Former OF prospect converted to pitching very early in his professional career. He led the Texas League in innings pitched and has the type of stuff to succeed as a starter or play up out of the bullpen.
Mechanics: High effort delivery with a lot of moving parts. Mechanics remind me a bit of former Braves righty Julio Teheran. Starts high during delivery but gets very compact with a high leg kick and slumped upper half. Long arm action as he drops and drives towards the plate. Drives over front leg very well, but inconsistent stride length can lead to mechanical issues at times. Will alter delivery to mess with hitters. Has some added deception as he hides the ball behind his body during delivery.
Fastball: Sits around 93 with the fastball, can get an extra 2-3 MPH if he needs it, but 93 is enough especially with added deception from long arm stroke that is essentially behind his body. Pitch has some arm-side movement, making it tough to square up. Works it primarily up or away; would like to see him go inside more with the heater. He does also cut the fastball, offering a different look. Grade: 55
Curveball: Rondón features a power curveball, which should play well in the modern game. It plays well due to its late break, and its vertical break allows it to get groundballs as well as miss bats. He commands it just as well as he commands the fastball, and it might be his best overall pitch. Grade: 55.
Changeup: Rondón actually is tougher against lefties than righties, and it’s because of his secondaries. Rondón’s changeup looks just like the fastball coming out of his hand, and that is evident by the types of swings it gets. The pitch has late downward action with some fade. He will set up the fastball with his changeup, especially low in the zone against lefties. He will get a fastball for strike one, typically up, then throw a changeup low for a chase pitch. The hitter recognizes the change and how it tumbled below the zone, but then Rondon beats them with a fastball at the knees in a 0-2 or 1-2 count. Potential plus pitch. Grade: 55.
Control/Command: His delivery will never allow him to have pinpoint control, but he is around the zone enough and will fill it up with all three pitches. He will miss in the zone too often though, and did give up 11 homers during his time in Double-A. More often than not, the late movement saves him but he does need to be better at hitting the glove. 55 Control 45 Command.
Overall: Rondón has been the organization’s best pitcher in the minors the last few seasons and was rewarded by being added to the 40-man this winter. It was a bit surprising he wasn’t called up in 2020 with the Covid-19 outbreak because he had to be added to the 40-man this winter anyway and had seemingly earned it due to his strong 2019 production. I do expect him to play a role on the 2021 staff, and should be a long term rotation piece for the Cardinals.
Future Value: 45
Role: Backend SP
Brian Walton’s environmental impact report
After tearing through the High-A Florida State League with a 2.20 ERA in eight starts, earning an unused mid-season All-Star berth, Rondon was promoted to Double-A in mid-May. It was only 10 calendar months after he had left short-season ball behind.
For Springfield, the then-21-year-old made history, delivering one of the best single-season pitching performances among pitchers with at least 20 starts since the S-Cards were created 15 years earlier, in 2005.
The Texas League ERA champion’s 3.21 mark was the third-best in team history, behind only Lance Lynn (2.92 in 2009) and David Kopp (3.05 in 2010). Rondón also capped his breakout season with the franchise’s fourth-lowest WHIP ever (1.23). That trailed only Seth Maness, Austin Gomber and Randy Leek.
Rondón was a quality-start machine for the S-Cards. He went at least six innings or more and allowed three or fewer earned runs in 10 of his 20 starts at Double-A.
Along with his Texas League ERA title, Rondón also ranked among circuit leaders in opponent batting average against (.230, first), strikeouts (112, 10th) and WHIP (second).
Across the Cardinals system in 2019, Rondon placed in the top four in ERA (third), wins (11, tied for second), strikeouts (159, second), innings (160, second), opponent BAA (fourth) and WHIP (tied for third). Another measure of his durability is his admirable total of zero injured list days over his first four professional seasons.
As such, it was not surprising that he was named the organization’s Pitcher of the Year for 2019. Earlier, we had given Rondón our similar honors here at The Cardinal Nation.
Based on his tremendous 2019, Rondón went from a relative unknown to a prime prospect. One indication is that his first-ever appearance on The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 was as an honorable mention in August 2018.
Still unranked prior to the 2019 season, Rondón was targeted as my “Deep Sleeper” pick in that preseason’s The Cardinal Nation Top Prospect Guide. It was a prescient choice, if I may take a quick bow.
During 2019, Rondón climbed to number 35 in April, and to 26 in May. After a break in our monthly rankings for the draft, the right-hander continued his in-season ascent, to no. 22 in July and finally up to our 18th-ranked prospect in August. 12 months ago, he vaulted to no. 9.
2020 recap – Assignments
- January instructional camp – yes
- St. Louis’ spring training camp – yes (non-roster invitee)
- St. Louis Summer Camp – yes
- Springfield alternate camp – yes
- St. Louis – no
Coming off Rondón’s breakout 2019, it is not surprising that he made a clean sweep of camp invitations in 2020. However, not only was it his first big-league camp (as a non-roster invitee), it was also his first-ever stint in instructional camp – to open his fourth season in the US and fifth as a professional.
However, Rondón was unable to leverage it as well as others. He was among the few pitchers in the alternate camp to have played extensively at Double-A during the year prior to not be called upon to help out the beleaguered St. Louis staff during the grueling run of doubleheaders in 2020.
For example, take Johan Oviedo, who spent most of 2019 alongside Rondón in the Double-A Springfield rotation. The former threw 113 innings in the Texas League that season, with Rondón right alongside at 115 frames. As noted, Rondón was ranked no. 9 here last winter, with Oviedo placed at no.14.
Yet it was Oviedo who made his major league debut for the Cardinals in August, going on the make five starts for St. Louis, while Rondón remained in the alternate camp. However, we have no way who was healthy in Springfield and who was not; who was playing well and who was not.
Regardless of the reason, Oviedo clearly passed Rondón during the uneven 2020 season.
Even so, it seemed a lock for Rondón to be added to the organization’s 40-man roster in the fall of 2020. While it did occur just ahead of the November deadline, the circumstances were odd.
Catcher Ivan Herrera received his coveted spot one day before Rondón’s similar move was announced, creating 24 hours of expectations in between that the right-hander would almost certainly be lost to the Cardinals organization in the Rule 5 draft.
Rondón continues to pitch this winter, currently starting for Las Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League. (Members can follow his exploits and those of over a dozen Cardinals prospects playing winter ball right here at The Cardinal Nation.)
It is reasonable to assume Oviedo and Rondón will again open 2021 as rotation mates, but this time with Triple-A Memphis. Given his 2020 MLB indoctrination, Oviedo has to be considered to be ahead in the call-up pecking order, but Rondón can change that with his Pacific Coast League performance, his 40-man spot in hand. Jake Woodford is another who should be in that same hunt.
The good news for all of these St. Louis rotation hopefuls is that the major league club will not be able to get through the entire 2021 season with just five starters. Still, more experienced starters like Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon may be first in line.
But it would not be the end of the world if Rondón had to break in as a reliever during his first season up. He would hardly be the first future member of the rotation to do so.
As Matt explained, Rondón appears to be a future long-term starter with St. Louis. The main question remaining seems to be “when?”
Among the Cardinals rotation members who may be leaving in a series of wholesale changes following the 2021 season are Adam Wainwright (again?), Carlos Martinez and Kwang-hyun Kim.
In other words, even if Rondón cannot crack the 2021 starting five, with continued progress, his time in the biggest spotlight every fifth day could begin in 2022. He won’t displace Jack Flaherty at the top and may not have the ceiling Martinez once did, but if he could simply be a Kim replacement, it would be a pretty good outcome.
MLB debut: 2021
Our 2021 Top 50 series continues
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