Popular belief across baseball is that the Detroit Tigers would prioritize signing a free agent closer on the open market this winter, particularly after watching the struggles of Jose Valverde throughout the 2012 Postseason. The team has been linked most prominently to former Yankee Rafael Soriano, but speculation has also linked them to having interest in Joakim Soria, Jonathan Broxton (before he re-signed with the Reds), and even in bringing Valverde back for another go-around (which never seemed likely). The team could also look to Phil Coke to fill the role, instead adding some support pieces around him. Now, it would suddenly appear that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski is telling reporters, including Lynn Henning of The Detroit News, that the team intends to give prospect Bruce Rondon “every shot to win the job” in Spring Training.
Rondon developed a name for himself this past season, throwing 53.0 innings across three levels in the Tigers organization. He posted a 1.53 ERA on the year, adding a 1.094 WHIP, 11.2 K/9, and 4.4 BB/9. Upon being named to the World roster for this past summer’s Futures Game, Rondon was one of the more talked about prospects slated to appear in the game (he’d pitch to just two batters in the game’s final inning, as the World team was losing a lopsided game against the US squad).
The soon-to-be 22 year old Rondon has been impressive across his minor league career to date, though scouts appear to have mixed feelings about how his abilities will translate at the Major League level long term. He’s a hard thrower with a high strikeout potential, posting 9.8 K/9 over five minor league seasons. However, control has also been a concern – as it is with many pitchers of this nature – as he’s walked 5.1 batters/9 in that same span. The combination has reminded many of a former Tigers hurler Joel Zumaya, who’s stuff was so electric that many expected him to accomplish big things. Zumaya’s career was severely derailed by a series of freak injuries and he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the Major Leagues since the 2010 season, but like Rondon, his strikeout rates were largely overshadowed by poor walk rates throughout his career.