When considering the wealth of pitching talent in the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ farm system, reliever Jacob Rhame usually takes a backseat to the higher profile hurlers; yet his regular season debut in the Dodger bullpen could arrive sooner than many think.
Born in 1993 and growing up in Denton, TX, Rhame’s early path was somewhat similar to that of Tulsa Drillers‘ teammate José De León. Undrafted out of high school, Rhame’s fastball velocity was enough to earn him a scholarship at the University of Oklahoma. After only one year with the Sooners, Rhame gained over 40 lbs. and found that his arm speed dropped dramatically. His career at Oklahoma was over as quickly as it began.
Getting cut from the OU baseball program may have provided the motivation that he needed to regain focus. In 2012 with limited options, Rhame latched on with the Anchorage Bucs in the Alaska Summer League and never looked back.
Thanks to a strict conditioning program and a careful diet, Rhame was back to his normal 190 lb. body weight in no time. For the 2012-13 academic year, he enrolled at Grayson College — a junior college located in Denison, TX, which is commonly recognized for its baseball program.
Recording a 2.16 ERA in 75 innings of work at Grayson was enough to earn Rhame a scholarship to Division 1 Texas State for the 2013-14 school year; however, college ball became irrelevant when the Dodgers selected him in the sixth round of the 2013 draft.
Rhame was quickly ushered to Ogden of the Pioneer league that same year and made 20 appearances, all in relief. In 19 innings of work, he posted a not-so-impressive 4.58 ERA with 21 strikeouts and nine walks. Despite the rocky debut in rookie league, Dodgers scouts remained very impressed with his arm’s electricity and his sound mechanics.
After an exhausting 2013 campaign, Rhame spent the entirety of the 2014 season with the Great Lakes Loons in the Midwest League. His performance was outstanding — in 67 innings pitched, he worked to a 2.01 ERA and 0.925 WHIP, while recording 90 strikeouts and allowing only 14 walks.
Last season, Rhame started out with High-A Rancho Cucamonga, but was quickly promoted to the Double-A Tulsa bullpen after five shutout appearances for the Quakes. His combined numbers for 2015 resulted in 57 innings of work with a 2.68 ERA, 0.982 WHIP and a 11.1 K/9.
Scouts remain very impressed with Rhame, as he has earned the status of a non-roster invitee to spring training with the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, which is only a few weeks away. With the big league bullpen still relatively young and raw, solid opportunities for advancement exist over the course of the upcoming campaign.
Rhame’s strongest pitch is his four-seam fastball which sits at 95-98 MPH and peaks at 100 MPH. He equally mixes a cutter in the low 90s that offers plenty of movement. He also throws a really hard slider, which is recognized more for its velocity than break. He’s currently working on a change-up as a weapon used primarily against left-handed hitters.
Rhame will wear #79 for the Dodgers in 2016 Cactus League play.
Pitchers and catchers report on February 19.
(Photo Credit: David Minton/DRC)