GIF Breakdown: Grayson Rodriguez’s MLB Debut in 27 GIFs

A breakdown of Grayson Rodriguez's MLB debut.

Today is a fun day for me. It’s a fun day for two reasons: 1. I enjoy doing these GIF breakdowns of top prospects when they make their MLB debuts, and more importantly 2. As an Orioles fan, I’ve been waiting for Grayson Rodriguez’s debut for a long time.

Before we dive into his debut, a little bit of background. Rodriguez was drafted with the 11th pick of the 2018 MLB Draft and since roughly then, he’s been considered the best pitching prospect the Orioles have.

Last year, he dominated the minors, spending most of his time in Triple-A, and pitching to a 2.62 ERA with a 13 K/9 over 17 starts and 75.2 innings.

Many people thought, myself included, that Rodriguez was all but a lock for the Orioles’ rotation this year, especially given how MLB-ready he looked in the minors. But a difficult spring in which he pitched to a 7.04 ERA over five starts, gave the Orioles enough reason to send him back down to the minors.

But now that Kyle Bradish has been hurt and the Orioles needed a starter in Texas, the team decided it was finally time for Rodriguez to come up, and man is that exciting.

When it comes to pure stuff, Rodriguez has it in spades. He features a fastball that can hit triple-digits, a mid-80s slider and a mid-80s changeup that both work beautifully as strikeout pitches, and a low-80s curveball. If there’s been one knock against Rodriguez, it’s a lack of consistent control. In Triple-A last year, Rodriguez posted a 7.7% walk rate which, had it been in the majors, would’ve been the eighth-highest walk rate in all of baseball last year.

So enough background, let’s dive into Grayson Rodriguez’s MLB debut!


First Inning


As always with these GIF breakdowns, I love seeing what a pitcher chooses as their first pitch in the major leagues, and unsurprisingly, Rodriguez went with a fastball.


G-Rod’s pumping gas right from the get-go, tossing his first MLB pitch in there for 98 MPH (although for a ball) to Marcus Semien.

Rodriguez went for another fastball that Semien fouled off, and then we got our first look at Rodriguez’s slider.


It’s a nice pitch with great movement, though that one was just a bit outside for a ball.

But then, we get Rodriguez beautifully dotting a fastball right on the outside corner for a strike.


Chef’s kiss that was beautifully done, 97 MPH right on the black.

Unfortunately, after that, we got a slider outside, and then another fastball outside to put Semien on first base with a walk:


There’s a sneak peek at what’s going to be a recurring theme in this game—control problems. Adley Rutschman sets up middle-high for this fastball and Rodriguez launches it way above the zone to issue his first major league walk.

Next up was Corey Seager who gets a first-pitch fastball for a strike in around 98 MPH followed by two changeups inside off the plate for a ball, another fastball he fouled off, and then a changeup over the heart of the plate that he luckily hits into the ground to Ryan Mountcastle for an out.

Now, if you’re thinking to yourself, “whoa, hey there Ben, slow down, you just mentioned Rodriguez’s changeup for the first time, where’s the GIF? WHERE’S THE GIF BEN????”

Well, great question. You see, I was using Mid-Atlantic Sports Net’s game stream for this, and given that MASN is such a small, mom-and-pop organization owned by billionaires, the stream cut out. But don’t worry, there will be plenty more GIFs.

Anyways, next up was Nathaniel Lowe, who fouled off a first-pitch fastball before we got our first look at Rodriguez’s curveball.


Not exactly the location you’re looking for on the curveball but you know what? I like this pitch. It’s got nice, sharp movement on it and I can definitely see this being a nice complementary pitch to Rodriguez’s slider.

After that, Lowe fouled off a fastball, and then we got our first look at Rodriguez’s cutter.


It’s not the best look at it since it was way up and in, but looks like it has a slight bit of movement and comes in around the low-90s, could be an interesting fourth pitch depending on how he decides to use it.

After fouling off a slider, Rodriguez threw a changeup (which you actually get to see now) down the middle of the plate.


Pretty nice having a major league defense behind you, and especially having Jorge Mateo at the shortstop position. That ball was hit 99.2 MPH with an xBA of .630, so Rodriguez is very fortunate that turned into an out.

Next up was Adolis García who fouled off a first-pitch fastball. Then, Rodriguez showcased more of his control problems.


Adley set up for that slider around low-middle of the zone and it ends up being a wild pitch that hits the opposite batter’s box, allowing Semien to advance to second base.

But on the very next pitch, we get a look at just how nasty Rodriguez’s slider can be.


Phew. That’s a beautiful slider breaking off the plate and García offered a half-hearted swing that ended up being called a strike swinging. If Rodriguez can consistently locate that slider, it’s going to be a nasty pitch.

But on the next pitch he did the exact opposite, once again burying the slider in the dirt for a ball, before delivering this pitch:


That’d be a fastball right down the middle of the plate, which García has no problem smacking into right field for a double, allowing a run to score.

Next up, we’ve got Josh Jung who starts off with a slider way off the plate for a 1-0 count. Then, Rodriguez throws another fastball down the middle but luckily for him, gets a big ol’ whiff from Jung.


I could feel the breeze from here, Jung almost swung out of his shoes. Clearly he saw that fastball coming down the middle and was very excited to launch it onto another planet before very much missing it right here on our planet.

But that’s okay, because after Rodriguez misses the zone with another slider and Jung fouls off a changeup, Rodriguez throws a low and away changeup that Jung is able to poke into the outfield, allowing another run to score.


Here’s the thing—I don’t think that’s a bad pitch by Rodriguez. That’s a well-located changeup low and away. Jung just did a fantastic job reaching out and making good contact with it. So while there are plenty of things to knock Rodriguez on in this start, that isn’t one of them.

We’re still in the first inning folks! And Rodriguez is 28 pitches deep! Not great!

Next up was Robbie Grossman who watches a fastball for ball one before finally giving Rodriguez some reprieve.


Groundball (on a poorly-placed fastball) to Adam Frazier, Grossman is out, and Rodriguez can finally breathe because after 30 pitches, his first MLB inning is over.


Second Inning


I’ll be honest, after that first inning and the fact that the Orioles originally sent Rodriguez down to the minors out of Spring Training because they didn’t believe he was ready for the majors yet, there was a part of me that was wondering if they’d just take him out, say “hey, you tried,” and put Austin Voth in or something.

Luckily, they didn’t, and I credit the Orioles and Brandon Hyde for having faith in Rodriguez.

Mitch Garver was first up in the second and after getting two fastballs to get to a 2-0 count (one of which that should’ve been called a strike), we get another look at Rodriguez’s cutter.


Much better location, low and away, causing Garver to hit a swinging bunt that Rutschman is able to grab quickly and throw over to first for the out.

Next up, it’s Jonah Heim who starts out 0-2 after swinging and missing at two fastballs (one of which that was right down the heart of the plate Grayson). After fouling three more fastballs, Rodriguez switches it up and throws a curveball.


It was an absolute hanger, but luckily for Rodriguez, it jammed Heim up and he ends up grounding out to first.

Next up we’ve got Ezequiel Duran, and I’ll just go ahead and let the GIF do its thing.


Three pitches, three strikes, and Grayson Rodriguez has his first major league strikeout.

Now, I don’t love the high and away slider, but hey, sometimes high breaking pitches can work (even though I’m fairly certain that was unintentional). But that’s easy to forgive after a nice fastball up and in and an absolutely gorgeous low and away slider for the strikeout. If you want a snapshot of Rodriguez’s potential, there it is.


Third Inning


After a much-improved second inning, Rodriguez was out for the third and faced Marcus Semien once again to lead things off.

On the very first pitch, Semien offered a check swing on a slider that he accidentally made contact with.


Gunnar Henderson made half of a beautiful play at third. It’s just unfortunate the other half was him tossing a YOLO ball way past Ryan Mountcastle at first base, allowing Semien to get to second. Whoops.

Next up we get Corey Seager who swings and misses at a first-pitch curveball, then gets two more fastballs, both for strikes.


And Rodriguez has his second major league strikeout.

Next up, it’s Adolis García who fouls off a first-pitch fastball, then watches a slider for a ball, before getting this nasty pitch.


There’s that slider I know and love. Again, filthy, a great slider low and away that totally fools García.

After that, Rodriguez spiked a slider in the dirt but then tosses a low changeup that’s hit back to Gunnar Henderson.


Who luckily for Rodriguez, handles the ball just fine and tosses it to first for the out, inning over.


Fourth Inning


Kicking off the fourth, we’ve got Josh Jung who very quickly flies out on a first-pitch fastball inside, which then bring up Robbie Grossman.

Grossman also gets a first-pitch fastball, though this one is inside for a strike, before getting a slider in the dirt and a fastball he’s able to foul off. Then, Rodriguez tries to do something cool, but doesn’t succeed.


He tried to backdoor his curveball, which I think can be a really effective approach for him against lefties. Unfortunately, the curveball caught a bit too much of the plate and Grossman was able to drive it for a base hit.

Next up, it’s Mitch Garver who sees a first-pitch slider low and outside for a ball before seeing Rodriguez dot another beautiful fastball on the outside corner.


That’s 97 MPH right on the black, a gorgeous fastball and virtually nothing Garver can do with it.

Garver eventually works to a full count before Rodriguez decides to try another fastball on the corner.


Fastball, right on the black again, and Garver is out as home plate umpire John Tumpane shows off his sickest karate chop.

And we cut to Grayson Rodriguez’s dad who is stressed out folks.


Next up we’ve got Jonah Heim who also works to a full count (sorry Grayson’s dad) before foul-tipping a high-middle fastball for the strikeout.


And we’re on to the fifth.


Fifth Inning


Now, as I was watching the first inning, I would not have guessed Rodriguez would still be pitching by the fifth, but he settled really nicely and was out to start the fifth inning, hoping the Orioles could net him his first major league win.

First up, it’s Ezequiel Duran, who works to a 2-2 count before Rodriguez almost gets another strikeout.

Beautiful slider, that would’ve been a really nice strikeout, but Duran was able to just poke it out there to Adam Frazier at second for the first out of the inning.

Next up, it’s Marcus Semien who grounds a first-pitch cutter right to Gunnar Henderson for the second out of the inning.

Then, it’s Corey Seager, who works to a 1-2 count before Rodriguez decides to end his first-ever major league start in style.


By striking out Corey Seager on a 97 MPH fastball and his 82nd pitch, which proved to be Rodriguez’s last of the game.




Final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 82 pitches


The debut of Grayson Rodriguez has been long-awaited by both Orioles fans and just general baseball fans alike. He’s had a lot of hype, much of it deserved given how well he’s dominated the minor leagues.

Let’s start with the good: Rodriguez’s stuff is legit, it’s as advertised. He’s got a lively fastball that I guarantee could hit 100 if he wanted it to, he’s got a nasty slider, a pretty curveball, a nice changeup, and a workable cutter. He’s got the stuff you’d expect a top-tier pitcher to have, and that’s fun to watch.

But the problem? It’s control. If you looked at Rodriguez’s line score and nothing else, you’d think he did a pretty good job with controlling his pitches given he only gave up one walk, but he was sort of all over the place in this start.

Now, a lot of the worst problems were in the first inning, and I’m more than willing to chalk a good portion of that up to nerves (Brandon Hyde did during an in-game interview). Rodriguez is pitching in his first-ever MLB game in front of his family in his home state, that’s nerve-wracking, and it’s understandable that he’d be doing a bit more throwing and a little less pitching.

But once he got settled in, he looked pretty darn good. Raw, needing a bit of refinement, but good. The control issues are still there, and I think he definitely could be a Cherry Bomb this year, tossing out a start where he pitches five innings with nine strikeouts and then another with two innings, seven runs, and four walks.

But again, the stuff is there. The stuff is there and it looks good. The real question is, what happens once Kyle Bradish comes off the IL and the Orioles have six starters again? Will they stick with Rodriguez? I sure hope so, because he looks MLB-ready, he just needs some time to work things out, and the best way to do that is experience.

So for fantasy purposes, I’d imagine Rodriguez is owned in your league, I can’t imagine too many people drafted him and then immediately dropped him since the consensus was that he’d be back up pretty soon. But if he’s out there, I’d grab him, but just be aware that he’s going to have some really good starts and he’s going to have some pretty darn bad ones, that comes with the territory with a guy like Rodriguez. But man, he looks good.

Ben Palmer

Senior columnist at Pitcher List. Lifelong Orioles fan, also a Ravens/Wizards/Terps fan. I also listen to way too much music, watch way too many movies, and collect way too many records.

2 responses to “GIF Breakdown: Grayson Rodriguez’s MLB Debut in 27 GIFs”

  1. Marcelo says:

    Hi Ben, great article.

    On the at bat against Duran on the 2nd inning, I’m with you that the first pitch is not the best. But Rodriguez was showing only fastballs in that inning (except the pitch prior), that makes me think Duran was seating on fastball. So the choice of the slider was great, execution not the best.

    What I loved was what happened next, Rodriguez throwed a fastball inside up that looked very similiar to the beginning of the slider. Nothing to do Duran there.

    • Ben Palmer says:


      And agreed! I like the slider on the first pitch, just don’t love the location, which clearly wasn’t intentional, he just wasn’t able to command the slider like he wanted to

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