Scouting Report: Francisco Rodriguez

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Latest in a series of weekly scouting reports provided to by the network of former scouts, players, coaches, and executives at the Baseline Group.

Current: Elite

Categorization Scale

• Elite: Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan

• Premium: Billy Wagner, Trevor Hoffman

• Good: Francisco Cordero, Scott Shields

• Average: Brandon Lyon, Kevin Gregg

• Key role: Ron Villone, Pedro Feliciano

Rodriguez has been one of baseball's best relievers in all six of his Major League seasons. He has three plus pitches (fastball, slider and change-up) and all the characteristics of a championship-caliber closer:

• High strikeout rate

• An outpitch (slider)

• Keeps the ball in the park (low home run rate)

• Consistency

• Wants the ball in crunch time

Rodriguez is just 26, but he's already headed for free agency after debuting at the age of 20. And it's good timing. He's on pace to break Bobby Thigpen's single season record for saves -- and to cash in big in the offseason. Signing a reliever to a big contract is usually a mistake (see the Reds' signing of Francisco Cordero as an example) or at best a risk, but a premium or elite closer can be worth it for a contending team.

• One of the best sliders in the game

• Deceptive delivery

• Nightmare for right-handed hitters

• Fastball command can be inconsistent

• Trouble with throwing accurately to bases

• Slow leg to the plate with runners on base

• Trouble fielding come-backers because of his off-balance follow-through.

• Movement: Rodriguez's fastball has small tail to his arm side. His four-seamer to his glove side of the plate has plus velocity and life through the zone.

• Command: He has just average command of his fastball. He has better command to his arm side than glove side.

• Plan: He'll look to get ahead of the hitter with his fastball. He'll elevate the ball inside off the plate to right-handed hitters.

• Movement: His slider has above average break with plus depth. He has the ability to increase the break with two strikes.

• Command: It's above average. He does a good job of keeping his slider down in the zone and out of the middle of the plate.

• Plan: It's his best pitch, and one of the best in baseball. He uses it for strikes in early and middle counts and throws a harder slider with plus depth with two strikes to get the hitter to chase. He can use it to both sides of the plate and will do so at any time. He can overthrow his slider at times, and his misses can be so bad that hitters won't offer at them.

• Movement: Rodriguez's change-up has small tail and sink to his arm side of the plate with above average arm speed.

• Command: It's above average. He has the ability to throw it for strikes down in the zone; it's best when thrown to his arm side of the plate.

• Plan: He has a lot of confidence in his change-up. He's able to use it effectively as both an out pitch and when he is behind in the count.

Rodriguez is a below average fielder because he doesn't finish in a good fielding position. He is also slow to the plate and doesn't hold runners on well.

• Best: Right-handed hitters looking to pull the ball

• Worst: Left-handed hitters who don't swing at pitches out of the zone and who like to hit in deep counts.