Name: Randol Rojas
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: September 28, 1990
Acquired: 2008 International Free Agent
When the amateur international signing period began in the summer of 2008, right-hander Randol Rojas wasn't a big name. In fact, he was far from it.
Rojas didn't sign with Texas until December 22 that year, when the club was looking for an extra arm to fill out its Dominican Summer League roster. The then-18 year old hurler received a signing bonus of less than $5,000.
After entering the Rangers' Dominican program with a low-to-mid 80s fastball, Rojas was put on an arm-strengthening routine aimed at improving both his velocity and durability. By the end of the summer, he was flashing an upper-80s heater with good sink. And perhaps more importantly, he was also having lots of success.
The Venezuela native earned Co-Dominican Summer League Pitcher of the Year honors with his 2009 performance, posting an 8-0 record with a 0.80 earned-run average over 67.1 innings. He surrendered just 42 hits while walking eight and striking out 48.
Rojas made his state-side debut last season, pitching at Extended Spring Training before shipping out to short-season Spokane. The prospect was not only polished enough to skip past the rookie-level Arizona League, but he also stood out amongst the older Northwest League competition.
Making 15 starts for the Indians last summer, Rojas showed remarkable consistency, yielding two earned runs or fewer in 13 of the outings. Overall, he logged a 2.79 ERA with 77 hits allowed, 20 walks, and 40 strikeouts in 77.1 frames.
With a 6-foot-0, 188-pound frame, Rojas lacks the projectable body most scouts like to see in young starting pitching prospects. But he has some things working in his favor, including a clean arm action, repeatable delivery, and a potential deep repertoire.
Rojas got his first state-side experience in 2010, and he will make his full-season debut in 2011. His overall polish could let him move through the system quicker than most pitchers of his age and experience level.
Also See: Rangers Minor League Notes (March 15, 2010)
Breaking down the Spokane Indians (June 14, 2010)
Rangers 2010 breakout prospects (December 23, 2010)
Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
Fastball: Rojas consistently works between 88-90 mph, touching 91 at times. He throws a two-seam fastball with good arm speed, helping create lots of late sink and armside run. He's also an athletic pitcher that can repeat his mechanics and arm slot with relative ease. His 6-foot-0, 188-pound frame doesn't lead to much velocity projection, though he could end up sitting a slight tick higher.
Perhaps the biggest downside to Rojas' game is that––while he releases the ball at a good angle for his 6-foot-0 height––the ball remains on a similar plane to the hitter. Still, Rojas mostly works down in the zone and projects for plus command and control. His sinker helped him log over two groundouts per flyout at Spokane last season, and he yielded only two round-trippers in 77.1 innings.
Other Pitches: The right-hander's best secondary offering is a mature 76-79 mph curveball that earns present 50 grades (average) from scouts despite his youth. Projecting as a plus offering, the breaking ball plays off his fastball well, with tight spin, late break, and good depth. Rojas also has an advanced feel for a changeup that could become a solid-average offering, if not better. The pitch has good shape and some deception, with similar fading and sinking action as his fastball. Sharpening the command of the changeup will be key, but it's already a fairly advanced pitch.
Projection: Rojas' perfect-world ceiling is that of a number three starter, but he's most likely a back-of-the-rotation guy. His polish with a potential deep repertoire gives him a better chance of success than most hurlers his age. In last year's state-side debut, Rojas also earned high marks from scouts for his competitiveness and feel for pitching. Although he projects as more of a plus command and control ground-ball pitcher, his excellent curve and solid changeup should lead to a better strikeout rate (12.7% last season) as he matures.
2011 Outlook: The 20-year-old should be joining the Single-A Hickory rotation out of camp this season. While Rojas could spend the entire year with the Crawdads, his overall polish could also allow him to pitch at High-A Myrtle Beach at some point during the second half. If he has early success in Hickory, it'll be interesting to see how the club handles his first year of full-season ball.
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