We just crossed the midway mark of our annual top prospects list and so far there has been much to like about Toronto Blue Jays farm system. It’s one of the deepest in baseball and is full of young, raw, high ceiling talent especially when it comes to the pitching corps.
One of Toronto’s quiet moves this off-season was an exchange with the Philadelphia Phillies that sent reliever Brad Lincoln to the city of brotherly love in exchange for catcher Erik Kratz and LHP Rob Rasmussen. Much of the little attention given at the time was paid to Kratz, which was probably rightfully so given the Blue Jays mess behind the plate in 2013.
However lost in the ruckus was Rasmussen, who we didn’t bother re-ordering our top 30 for (and not saying he even would have made it) but as a new member of the organization I figured the well-travelled 24-year-old deserved a bit more of an introduction.
Name: Rob Rasmussen
Position: Left-handed Pitcher
Date of Birth: 4/2/1989 (24)
Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia Phillies
High School: Poly HS (Pasadena, CA)
Height/Weight: 5’9″/160 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Ranked Florida Marlins #10 prospect after the 2010 season (Baseball America)
- Ranked Miami Marlins #7 prospect after the 2011 season (Baseball America)
- Ranked Houston Astros #19 prospect after the 2012 season (Baseball America)
Stats and Analysis:
|A (1 season)||A||1.35||5||0||6.2||6||2||1||0||2||4||0||1.200||8.1||0.0||2.7||5.4||2.00|
|A+ (2 seasons)||A+||3.74||44||43||236.0||223||127||98||16||107||193||10||1.398||8.5||0.6||4.1||7.4||1.80|
|AA (2 seasons)||AA||3.45||27||24||135.2||118||56||52||11||46||120||4||1.209||7.8||0.7||3.1||8.0||2.61|
|AAA (1 season)||AAA||6.46||12||10||54.1||64||42||39||10||32||37||3||1.767||10.6||1.7||5.3||6.1||1.16|
Rasmussen was drafted by Florida Marlins in the second round of the 2010 MLB Draft and signed for $499,500 as a college senior. Midway through his second season at High-A, he was traded to the Houston Astros in June 2012 as part of the Carlos Lee trade and immediately advanced to Double-A. He was flipped again in December that same year to his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers, which was a thrill for the young California kid at the time.
He appeared in twelve games with the Dodgers Double-A affiliate before he was moved up to Triple-A midway through the 2013 season. He struggled with the adjustment and was moved back down but finished the year with three strong starts for the Chattanooga Lookouts.
The Philadelphia Phillies acquired the young lefty in exchange for Michael Young after the minor league season ended and the Phillies added him to their 40-man roster prior to the 2013 Rule 5 Draft.
Aside from his brief stint in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Rasmussen has put up solid numbers coming up and pitched to a 2.55 ERA in 81.1 innings at Double-A last season. He struck out 76 batters while walking only 28 to make for a tidy 2.71 SO/BB ratio. His WHIP of 1.082 was phenomenal and opponents batted only .203 against him but he was partially aided by a .256 BABIP, which is very low especially for a minor league pitcher.
Video Credit: Baseball Instinct
Standing only 5’9 with a slender frame, Rasmussen generates good velocity out of a compact and efficient delivery. He throws from a high 3/4 arm slot with a high release point, which helps give the small lefty slightly better plane from the mound. He works quickly and has a fluid, repeatable arm action.
Pitch Arsenal Breakdown
Rasmussen’s fastball sits in the 89-93 MPH range and will touch 94 with good sink. His command isn’t great and he’s known to nibble with the heater at times. His slider flashes plus and Baseball America once rated it as best in the Marlins’ organization. It has plenty of horizontal and vertical movement and I’ve also heard very good things about his curveball, which has tight rotation and late break. He’s not afraid to go to the breaking ball during fastball counts. His changeup is fringe-average to average but he has excellent arm action and as he continues to develop feel for the pitch it should pan out as at least average. His control is improving but still needs work. His makeup receives high grades and his high-tempo pace makes hitters feel uncomfortable each at bat.
Risk, Outlook and ETA
After I had initially brushed off Rasmussen due to his well-travelled past, I’ve since realized there’s still quite a bit to like about the young southpaw. However he will be 25 by the time next season starts so is quickly reaching the point when we will no longer be able to refer to him as a “prospect”.
His command still needs refinement and although he’s been as durable as they come in the minors due to his height he’s been slapped with the reliever tag by many. His repertoire and makeup profiles as a back-end of the rotation starter but his small build means the risk if high he won’t be able to realize that ceiling.
Rasmussen has yet to taste the Show and it will be interesting to see how the Blue Jays choose to deploy his services. He’s currently taking up a spot on the 40-man roster so will likely start the season with Triple-A Buffalo.
He was an effective starter at Double-A but the Blue Jays look to have a loaded rotation in Buffalo. Rasmussen may need to be moved to the bullpen just to get playing time but as a reliever with options on the 40-man, that means there’s a good chance he will be called up to Toronto in 2014 if he pitches well for the Bisons.