Paco Rodriguez went 3-4 with a 2.32 ERA last season. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
PACO RODRIGUEZ, 22, reliever
Final 2013 stats: 3-4, 2.32 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, .164 opponent batting average, 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 76 games (54 1/3 innings).
Contract status: Under team control.
The good: For a 22-year-old who had barely dipped his toes into the minors, he had a remarkable year. During the middle of the season, he was almost unhittable. He had an amazing 23-game stretch where he did not allow a run.
Through the heart of the season, in 52 appearances he posted a 1.31 ERA, held opponents to a .196 batting average and went 3-1.
Was much more than just a left-handed specialist. Although he held left-handers to a .131 batting average, right-handers hit just .202 against him. Went 3-1 with a 1.57 ERA at home. With runners in scoring position, held opponents to a .146 batting average.
The bad: Started slowly, posting a 4.23 ERA in his first 13 games. After his phenomenal stretch, ended season like he was another pitcher. In his last 11 games, he went 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA, with opponents batting .333 against him with three home runs.
He made two appearances in the division series against Atlanta, but it was more of the same (four hits, including a homer, and two walks in two-thirds of an inning).
What’s next: The plan is for years of outstanding relief. When he pitches like he did for most of the season, he can be either a left-handed specialist or a set-up man.
The take: Rodriguez clearly, and understandably, ran out of gas. He was pitching at the University of Florida last spring, and although he built extraordinarily on his strong rookie half season, he had thrown only 26 1/3 professional innings until last season.
Until September rolled around, however, he was better than anyone had the right to expect. Way better. His funky delivery and strong command made it look easy. He frustrated hitters and was almost stupidly consistent.
He was simply overused, and assuming it did not cause any unknown injury, Rodriguez should come back next year stronger. He doesn’t turn 23 until April, so his future is beyond bright.