#4 - Fernando Rodney

It's rare that a player projected to be a major league club's closer can ever be considered a prospect, however, that is precisely the case with the Tigers and RHP Fernando Rodney. Rodney's minor league production coupled with a nasty repertoire make the Tigers believe he can be the closer for many years, and starting now.

Fernando Rodney was originally signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1997 as what was thought to be a young, promising 16-year old flame-thrower. Seven years later, Rodney has aged 11 years (one of the many players that got older after scrutiny increased on entering the country. Rodney's challenge has never been displaying talent, but rather getting hitters out at the major league level.

Rodney spent the 2003 splitting time between Detroit and Toledo. While he was absolutely dominant with Toledo (1-1 with a 1.33 ERA and 23 saves), he was less than spectacular with the Tigers, going 1-3, with a 6.06 ERA, 3 saves. For Rodney, his problem hasn't been anything that can really be pinpointed. Rather, Rodney for whatever reason struggles to get big league hitters out despite being rather dominant in his minor league stops.

Rodney is projected to be, well . . . the job that he's been handed. Rodney projects to be a closer, and that's currently where he is sitting with the Tigers. However, while most other prospects have time to develop into their role, Rodney has more-or-less past that stage. This will be his third season making an appearance with the Tigers, and it will be imperative that he show he can get big leaguers out with regularity if he expects to hold onto the job he's been groomed for.

Rodney only uses two pitches, but both of the pitches are of the highest caliber. Rodney's out-pitch is a devastating change-up, which is set up with a fastball that regularly sits at 98 MPH and can hit 100 on a good day. Some people are concerned that Rodney only has two pitches, and that he'll be extremely ineffective if either pitch falters. In any case, you won't find many pitchers with a better 1-2 combo than Rodney.

As mentioned before, Rodney looks to be the Tigers' closer this season. He does still have options left, however, if all goes according to plan, they shouldn't be needed. Even if Rodney can't hold the closer role, it'll be expected that he stay up with the Tigers unless his obvious struggles in the majors continue.

The Tigers aren't nearly as reliant this season as they were last season on youngsters that have more promise than production, but a few remain, Rodney being the most notable. He has the stuff and the minor league résumé to be a very good closer, but in both of his major league appearances, he has struggled mightily. However, expect Rodney to put everything together this season and show the Tiger front office that their confidence in him was warranted.

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