SAN PEDRO DE MACORIS, D.R.--The rosters at Thursday’s Nations Baseball Showcase in the Dominican Republic mostly featured Venezuelan players, but a 15-year-old Cuban pitcher was the star.
Cuban righthander Osiel Rodriguez, who turns 16 on Nov. 22 and will be eligible to sign on July 2, 2018, put on a brief but dazzling performance. Rodriguez faced five hitters, striking out three and retiring the other two on groundouts. His fastball sat at 95 mph and touched 96 twice, with one at 94 and another at 93 mph. Rodriguez threw 13 of his 17 pitches for strikes with a mix of nine fastballs and eight curveballs at 75-78 mph. Three of those curves got swings and misses, while another froze a hitter for a called strikeout.
A 15-year-old pitcher who can throw 90 mph is a power arm for his age group. A pitcher in Latin America who can reach 93-94 mph is at the top of his international signing class in terms of velocity. Yesterday's outing was only a quick look in which Rodriguez didn't have to hold his stuff over multiple innings, but Rodriguez also has a good track record for his age.
Rodriguez left Cuba too young to ever pitch in Serie Nacional, but he did play in the country's national 15U league in 2016--and dominated. He led the league with a 0.39 ERA in 69 innings, ranked third in strikeouts (127) and walked 27.
After the season, Rodriguez pitched in August that year in the 15U World Cup in Japan, where in two starts he had a 1.50 ERA and a 14-3 K-BB mark for Cuba's gold-medal team. At the time, Rodriguez was 14 and throwing in the mid-80s.
Now, Rodriguez looks like one of the best pitching prospects in the 2018 class and potentially the top international pitcher overall.