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The Street Return: Jose Rondon

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A closer look at the youngest prospect returned in the Huston Street trade.

Lisa Blumenfeld

When reading about how the Huston Street trade is FRESH! there is a tweet that stands out when it comes to Jose Rondon:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>I wouldn&#39;t have dealt Jose Rondon for two months (plus an option) of Huston Street straight-up.</p>&mdash; keithlaw (@keithlaw) <a href="https://twitter.com/keithlaw/statuses/490342155454402560">July 19, 2014</a></blockquote>
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At 20 years old and playing in High A ball, the positive sentiments about Rondon by Law have a lot to do with the shortstop's upside. To start the season Law ranked Rondon behind Taylor Lindsey, but made a comment about how Rondon (and a couple other very young players in the system) are the glimmers of hope in the system. Rondon has been backing up that hope by, according to Law, showing he is a legit shortstop (as opposed to a prospect playing SS who will need to move for defensive reasons) and hitting lots of singles. For his minor league career he is hitting .300 and this season was hitting .327 with Inland Empire of the California League.He sprays a few doubles and legs out some triples, but has only hit 2 professional HRs in his 4 years in the minors.

Let us move on from Law and the raw numbers and look at what others are saying. Here is what Baseball Prospectus said about his strengths and weaknesses before the season started:

Strengths: Advanced player; clean actions in the field; smooth; arm is solid-average; can make the throws; has instincts for the game; quick hands at the plate; can drive the ball; has some pop; good approach; not a burner but can run.

Weaknesses: Lacks high-end tools; arm isn’t a weapon; more polish than projection; range could be an issue at short; could grow out of the position.

The outlook from that scouting staff does not paint quite the same picture that you could paint from Law's sentiments. Seems like to them his value is in being very advanced for his age. He lacks the experience to truly excel on the teams he has been on, but the skills he have are much more polished that ones you would find for players at his age or playing at his level. The basic idea being that he is low risk. You give him enough experience playing the game and he will be a major leaguer someday, but probably just an average one. That's a solid prospect.

Marc Hulet of Fangraphs paints a similar picture:

The Scouting Report: Just 19, Rondon put forth a solid season in advanced rookie ball in 2013 and looks like a future No. 2 hole hitter. He makes outstanding contact — almost to a fault — because of his solid hand-eye coordination. He doesn’t have a ton of over-the-fence pop but he got stronger last year and hit more balls into the gap. He doesn’t have blazing speed but he’s a solid base runner capable of stealing bases in the double digits. Defensively, Rondon has a chance to be an above-average fielding shortstop with a strong arm and good actions.

The Career Outlook: The young Venezuelan may not be more than an average hitter with the bat but his defensive work could earn him a regular gig.

That report seems to point to better defense than what Baseball Prospectus outlined. John Sickels over at Minorleaugueball.com agrees on that point:

Venezuelan infielder is renowned for his excellent defense, and he showed some solid contact hitting skills in the Pioneer League. Doesn’t have any power yet, but has improved his plate discipline and doesn’t turn 20 until March. There’s some chance he can exceed expectations offensively.

He issued a more elaborate report earlier today:

He makes contact and does the little ball things like bunting very well for his age. He seldom strikes out and has performed well against older pitching this year, but he lacks strength and power and could also stand to add more patience at the plate. Although scouts rate his range and arm strength as only adequate for shortstop, he has great instincts and makes fewer errors than most infielders in his age group. He would be an excellent defender at second base and isn't bad at shortstop, making him an ideal utility infielder candidate, though it is plausible that he can develop enough offensively to start at some point, given his youth.

At this point we have enough reports to feel like we are over-scrutinizing the poor 20 year old. All the reports seems to conclude that this is a player with future major league potential. That is a nice piece to get back for a Major League relief pitcher.