In 2009, Hector Rondon was named the minor league pitcher of the year in the Cleveland Indians organization. He was poised to have an even better year heading into 2010, but then his career took a turn for the worst.
After Rondon made seven starts to begin the 2010 season, he was sidelined with soreness in his elbow, and was then advised to have Tommy John surgery after the injury was not healing properly.
Two years later, the major league baseball Rule 5 came around and the Chicago Cubs decided to take a chance and draft Rondon, who was once a top pitching prospect for the Indians. Ever since the Cubs have taken Rondon in the 2012 Rule 5 draft, the odds have been against him, and yet he has been able to succeed.
Going into spring training last season, the Cubs did not anticipate Rondon making the club, but he did. Not only did Rondon make the team, but he was able to pitch well enough to stay on the big league roster for the entire season which may not have been expected of a Rule 5 pick.
Heading into this season, Rondon was not going to be looked at to play a major role in the bullpen, but that has changed and for the better. After early season struggles from former Cub Jose Veras, and an injury to the thought-to-be incumbent, Pedro Strop, the closing duties fell to Rondon. Since becoming the closer full-time, Rondon has taken the job and run with it to solidify a bullpen that has been much better this year.
Rondon has been able to regain the velocity that made him a top prospect and seems to be throwing even harder this year. At times this season Rondon has been clocked throwing 99 mph. His elite velocity and good breaking ball have led the way for a very successful season to date.
Rondon has converted 17 of 21 save opportunities with an ERA of 3.23. A staple of Rondon’s recent success has been the ability to control all of his pitches as he has not issued a walk since July 10th, a span which includes 14 appearances. Rondon has also done a good job of keeping the ball in the ballpark and has given up only one home run all season long. In comparison, last season in 45 appearances (three fewer than this season), Rondon gave up six home runs.
Being that Rondon is only 26 years old, the Cubs may have found a long-term solution at the back end of their bullpen. Whether he remains as the closer in the future remains to be seen, but one thing that is for sure, Rondon has proved that he belongs at the big league level and he has what it takes to sustain success.