Jeremy Rhoades: 1 and 0, 1.00 ERA, 14 K/3 BB over 9.0 IP. 29 swinging strikes.
The Halos took Rhoades out of Illinois State University in the fourth round last year. For me, he was just one of an endless stream of marginal college arms that the Halos have drafted over the past two years, and with only a decent debut, he didn't really register as a guy to know. My bad.
Other folks were more attentive (here, and especially here). Rhoades had pitched extremely well in his sophomore and junior years in college, first as a reliever and then as a starter. In his final undergrad campaign, he put up a 2.35 ERA over 76.2 innings pitched with a 92 to 25 strike out to walk ratio. Good stuff.
All of the scouting reports, including Baseball America and mlb.com, touted Rhoades' plus slider. However, an ugly, high effort delivery, average MLB velocity, come-and-go FB command and lack of a credible third pitch all pointed towards a ceiling of solid middle reliever. That's a nice find for the fourth round, certainly, but not one that screams impact.
Two starts into the MILB season, and Rhoades ranks second on the Halos' farm in swinging strikes, and not all of those are resulting from the slider. The only other guy in the system to accrue more whiffs is Salt Lake Bee change-up specialist Nick Tropeano, who is suddenly looking like an apt comp for Rhoades upside.
In his televised start against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers last week, Rhoades showed not only flashes of that MLB-caliber bender, but also a series of good change-ups. Really, really good change-ups. Plus change-ups in fact. And plenty of them, more than the breaker even. They featured speed differential, plenty of fade, and induced some confused swings from lefties and righties alike. The suddenly notable third pitch already jumps out in the numbers: Rhoades has fanned 45% of opposing lefties in 2015, limiting them to a meager to .158/.200/.358 slash overall.
He's faced the Timber Rattlers both times so far this season, and that club, a Brewers affiliate, is having all sorts of issues making contact. Mostly against good Bees pitching so far, but still, they might prove second rate competition over the season. Also, while Rhoades has also improved his mechanics substantially, he's still prone to dragging his arm and losing his release point. The resulting weak fastball command has made him fairly hittable. It's just too early to tag this a breakout.
But a new plus offering could be just the thing to ignite one.