The New York Mets recently purchased the contract of Vineland resident and star baseball pitcher Joe Joe Rodriguez, who had been playing for the Trenton Thunder of the MLB Draft League. The Draft League consists of college players and serves as a showcase for draft-eligible prospects and undrafted players who are out of college eligibility.
Rodriguez, a 2017 Vineland High School graduate, is expected to imminently report to the St. Lucie Mets, New York’s Single-A minor league affiliate in Florida. This is Rodriguez’s first professional contract. He was 2-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 10 starts for the Thunder. His fastball hit 95 mph, according to MLB scouts.
The Cincinnati Reds originally took him in the 20th round of the MLB draft in 2019 out of Cumberland County College, now Rowan College of South Jersey. The under-recruited right-hander joined the Dukes pitching staff in 2018 looking to prove the doubters wrong. Did he ever!
The fireballer developed into a force for the Dukes balancing roles as a starter and closer during the 2019 championship season. Rodriguez would go 8-2 on the season with 54.1 innings pitched and 65 strikeouts. He would pitch a crucial 2.1 innings to earn the win in the winner’s bracket final against Rowan-Gloucester at the World Series, holding the Roadrunners last efforts to tie the game.
Rodriguez and the Dukes went on to win the 2019 National Championship. Follow the draft, Rodriguez declined to sign with the Reds and opted to play for three years at St. John’s University instead. When he went undrafted this year, he was chosen by MLB to continue his career in Trenton.
The Draft League serves as a showcase for players like Rodriguez, who, despite not having a great college season, can reintroduce himself to scouts. Even with the MLB Draft shortened to 20 rounds, players like Rodriguez, who don’t have any amateur eligibility remaining, can often play their ways into deals as undrafted free agents.
Rodriguez is the third Duke in five years who has been signed by the New York Mets organization. In 2016, the Mets signed Joe Zanghi after being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2015 MLB Draft. Zanghi is currently with the Syracuse Mets (AAA). In 2019, Dan Goggin 17’ was drafted by the Mets in the 17th round after a successful career at James Madison University. Goggin is currently rehabbing from injury, but has reached Double-A Binghamton prior to the injury. He is the ninth former Duke to sign a professional contract since 2014.