MLB is a complex, ever-evolving landscape that thrives on talent, strategy, and a dash of unpredictability. Every season, a new crop of free agents enter the market, each with a unique set of skills and potential. While big-name players usually grab the headlines, a savvy observer knows that the real treasures often lie under the radar. Today, we will focus on three underrated 27-year-old free agents just hitting their prime. These players have flown somewhat under the radar, but could make a significant impact on the right team.
Yariel Rodríguez: The Cuban Crossover
First on our list is Yariel Rodríguez, a right-handed pitcher hailing from Cuba. Rodríguez's journey to the Major Leagues has been anything but conventional, with stops in Cuba's National Series and Japan's Central League. But now, at age 27, he's ready to showcase his talent on the biggest stage.
Early Career and Cuban Stint
Rodríguez kicked off his professional career in Cuba, playing in the National Series from 2015-2020. His performance during this period was solid, but it was his move to Japan that brought him to the attention of MLB scouts.
Dominance in Japan
In 2022, Rodríguez joined the Chunichi Dragons in Japan's Central League and quickly made a name for himself. He posted an impressive 1.15 ERA and a 27.5% strikeout rate in 56 appearances, establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with on the mound.
Transition to Major Leagues
After representing Team Cuba in the 2021 World Baseball Classic, Rodríguez chose not to return to Japan, instead setting his sights on the major leagues. The Chunichi Dragons granted him his release in early October 2022, opening the door for his move to MLB. More than half of the league's teams attended his first showcase, signaling strong interest in the Cuban pitcher.
Potential Fits and Market Value
Given Rodríguez's skill set and recent performance, teams like the Padres, Yankees, and White Sox could be potential fits. The Braves might also be interested in adding a fresh arm to their bullpen. Reportedly, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Boston have been involved in the chase to some degree. With his unique journey and proven track record, Rodríguez is a fascinating prospect and an exciting name to watch this offseason.