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Roddery Munoz: Braves Pitching Prospect First Impressions

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Roddery Munoz came into the season an unknown, but showed promising raw stuff and one of the highest ceilings in the Braves system in his first start in the United States.

Baltimore Orioles v. Atlanta Braves

It was Sunday afternoon, and I was just chilling around the house kind of keeping up with the minor league games and getting caught up on housework. I checked into the Augusta score, and saw this guy Roddery Munoz who had pitched three scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Seeing as I knew nothing about Munoz as he had only ever pitched in the Dominican Summer League, I figured why not tune in for an inning get a quick look and see if he’s a guy I want to dig into more. On the third pitch I saw, I messaged the Talking Chop group chat “big dude” and then “WHO IS RODDERY MUNOZ? WOW” and told them y’all are going to want to see this. So THAT is how quickly he made a first impression.

I will excuse you if you don’t know the name Roddery Munoz, because we haven’t ever talked about him and for fairly good reason. Munoz signed on June 11, 2018 as an international signing, then already 18 years old. His first season in the Dominican Summer League was a mess, as he struck out his fair share of batters (17 in 17 innings pitched) but walked the world with 14 free passes. Year two was a vast improvement for Munoz, as he moved into the rotation and upped his innings count to 62. In that time, he cut his walk rate drastically to 4.2 BB/9 and struck out more (9.7 K/9) which all led into a 3.77 ERA and 3.64 FIP. These are solid numbers, but for a 19 year old in the Dominican Summer League, it’s not that impressive and we normally would have seen him last season but the minor league season was cancelled. So, the 21 year old right hander was completely off of our radar until Sunday afternoon.

Munoz made a massive jump up to Low-A, and while he isn’t young for the level, he is still early in his developmental path and thus the age relative to the league doesn’t tell his entire story. Munoz is, as I stated, a “big dude” standing at 6’3 and an athletic 190 pounds inspiring confidence in his ability to stay healthy and eat innings. He looks the part of an MLB starter out there and he throws like one, too. Roddery’s first full season start was a masterpiece from the jump, as he came out shredding the opposing lineup by striking out the side in the first inning. He didn’t even use offspeed pitches to do it, his fastball was so overwhelming that the Fireflies didn’t have a chance against it. He had trouble settling in to his second inning and gave up some decently hit batted balls for the first two outs, but carved up the sixth hitter going fastball-changeup-fastball to get three swinging strikes. Through two innings the Fireflies had swung at 14 pitches and come up empty on 8 of them. Check the replies of the following tweet for the entire fourth strikeout sequence.

He got a quick swinging strikeout in the third and then a routine fly out on a 2-0 pitch in the third before the nine hitter broke through in the hit column by doubling on the first pitch. Then, Roddery struck out the next guy and all was right in the world again. His stuff and command deteriorated as he moved through that third inning and through the entirety of the fourth it was clear he was getting gassed. He still did effective work with a couple of quick pop outs to Vaughn Grissom at shortstop before walking former Braves prospect Juan Carlos Negret on a tough 8 pitch at bat that I’ll talk about later. With a runner on, Roddery had no trouble escaping by striking out the final batter on a slider that he had no chance on. One of the most dominant appearances I’ve seen from a pitcher, and one of a very, very limited number of players who can jump significantly in prospect rankings off of one start. He was that good.

Let’s start out with the obvious thing to like above Munoz, and that is the electric fastball. I have no reservations about saying that it’s the best fastball in the system as it consistently sat 98-99 mph. The ball explodes out of his hand like few pitchers in baseball, and it has significant jump to it as it gets to the plate. He located at the top of the zone quite well early in the game, and Low-A hitters just are not capable of hitting a 99 mph fastball put where he was putting them.

There is nothing these batters could do against him, and if he can put the ball on the glove like this for the remainder of the year he won’t stick long at this level as there’s simply nothing there to challenge him.

He had a ton of arm side run on his fastballs and they explode up in the zone. Munoz has fantastic location to multiple parts early in the zone, though he had a handful of complete slips like the first pitch of the second that went over the head of the batter and the first of the third that went well behind the batter. His stuff backed up a bit around the 30-35 pitch mark with his velocity backing up to 95-97 and his command suffering immensely. He wasn’t able to put the ball where he wanted late in the start and had to relay more on his offspeed stuff. He didn’t get the same quality of swings and misses as he did early, but he still ended the game with 7 strikeouts and a 46.9% whiff rate. Overall, not worried about the drop in velocity and command as it’s early in the season after a long layoff and he’s not used to pitching deep into games. Once he builds up his stamina, he has the body and delivery to be able to pitch deep in games and then we’ll really get to see his offspeed more and get a better feel for that.

Munoz’s slider was flashy but inconsistent, with the ball tending to drift arm side. He had a handful that looks sharp and whipped away from right handed batters and others that were poorly located and just spun around the zone. That said, most of his offspeed pitches were thrown late in the start when he was already tiring so it’s hard to judge when we don’t know exactly what his slider looks like fresh. I’m bullish on the potential of the slider to be an above average pitch given how the ones he located down and away generated swings and misses, but I’m going to reserve judging or grading it at this stage until we see it utilized more frequently. His fastball is honestly good enough to get him to the major leagues, so showing an above average slider is quite the cherry on top of that package.

The gifs following this paragraph are going to be the two changeups of the very few he threw in the game. Not a lot to go off of, but I really liked the shape of the pitch and depth of the fade he gets. He has a feel for the changeup and the proper arm action and both of them were well located, it’s just a matter of seeing it more often and seeing whether he actually commands the pitch or if he just happened to get those two in there. Check how they fade off at the end in comparison with the jump his fastball shows, and that comes him throwing it in the low 90’s for about an 8-9 mph velocity difference. It’s not an elite pitch, but good enough and the movement will play up in conjunction with how nasty the fastball is. If he can throw the changeup like he threw those two right there that’s another average major league offering and you’re looking at a player who can stick in a rotation. There were a handful that stuck too low, but it’s important to note he didn’t seem to miss up which is a great sign. It’s too small of a sample to make a final judgement on especially in a game where he was pitching at his absolute best, but there’s real reason to believe he can have three MLB starter quality pitches and not be one we have to question his viability as a starter. The fastball may be good enough to get left handed batters out without needing a changeup with the amount it runs away from left handed hitters.

Both of his offspeed pitches play well off of his fastball, and they all play up because they move in different directions. His offspeed usage in game one was very low, but hopefully the Braves will give him the Touki treatment and force him to develop those pitches beyond just going fastball heavy and striking out Low-A hitters that don’t know what to do with velocity like that. There are no major flaws in his delivery and his arm speed is absolutely tremendous, so while you can’t throw an “effortless” 99 mph fastball, he does keep himself under control and has the athleticism to locate it. It’s as easy as it gets and it’s consistently there. It’s way too early to call his command, but he was able to move his fastball vertically in the zone and he only left two sliders up to my count, though he did tend to miss arm side with it. His major flaw is the inconsistency of that slider and the low usage on both of his offspeed pitches, because both really need to develop into major league offerings if he is to stick as a starter.

We need to see him work deeper into games and see how he goes through a lineup twice and three times to understand how guys adjust to him. As a reliever, it’s clear to see how he could play at the major league level as a guy with an elite fastball and two offspeed pitches would be dynamite in short outings. It’s impossible to provide long term projection for a guy after just one start, especially when I don’t even have the information for the exact pitches he throws, but Roddery Munoz is one of the most exciting prospects to watch this season. I will be keeping a close eye on him and updating my opinions as needed to bring a full report on him once I do have the information I’m in need of. This pitcher could legitimately be a Top 10 guy in the system by the end of the season. If you have one pitcher you get to watch this season, you might want to make it Roddery Munoz because he is electrifying on the mound.