Following the news that former closer Jose Valverde is not expected back next season, Detroit Tigers pitching prospect Bruce Rondon appears to be one of the many players to be afforded a crack at the gig in 2013, according to a report by Chris Iott of MLive.com.
The 21-year-old Rondon was named Detroit's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2012, and was recently tabbed as the organization's No. 3 prospect by MLB.com. Rondon has yet to pitch an inning in the big leagues in his career, but Tigers' general manager and team president Dave Dombrowski couldn't stop raving about his young pitcher on Tuesday to the media.
"This guy is a special potential closer with the makeup of a closer," Dombrowski said. "There are not many arms like this. He's a rare talent. You would not believe the number of clubs that call me about Bruce Rondon."
Sporting one of the most electric fastballs at any minor-league level in the country, Rondon suited up for games with Single-A Lakeland, Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this past season. The 6'2 hurler fanned 66 batters over just 53 innings across all three levels of competition with 29 total saves, and closed out the year by holding opposing Triple-A batters to a meager .167 average over a promising nine-game stint.
Considering his severe lack of experience at the big-league level, Rondon still faces an uphill battle in order to lay claim to the team's ninth-inning duties. The best chance for Rondon to slide into his future role, as noted by Jason Beck of MLB.com, may be for a closer-by-committee approach to arise with Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel and Rondon all factoring into the mix at varying times during the season.