Rodriguez, 23, burst on to the scene as a starter in the A's organization. At age 20 in 2007, Rodriguez was pitching in the full-season Midwest League and used his power stuff to finish with a 3.07 ERA in 20 games, 18 of them starts. In 99 2/3 innings, he struck out 106, though he walked 58. He spent one more season as a starter and went to the All-Star Futures Game in 2008. The following year, the A's turned him into a reliever, a role many felt suited him because of his strong arm and issues with command. He made his big league debut at the end of the '09 season.
Rodriguez made huge progress in 2010, posting a 1.69 ERA with 11 saves and 31 strikeouts (against nine walks) in 21 1/3 innings in Triple-A. He held Pacific Coast League hitters to a .133 batting average against. He also saw considerable big-league time, logging 27 2/3 innings while striking out 33. Strikeouts have never been a problem for the flame-thrower: Rodriguez has an 11.9 K/9 ratio throughout his Minor League career.
His fastball has always been a plus, plus pitch and he's hit triple-digits, especially in a relief role. His biggest improvement has come in his secondary stuff. His slider is now a plus offering that can be a put-away pitch. If he can continue to show improved command, he's got the kind of arsenal that will fit very well in the back end of a bullpen in the very near future.
Brown, 25, was a supplemental first-round pick (59th overall) of the A's in 2007, taken out of Oklahoma State University, and is coming off the best year of his career. Between Double- and Triple-A, Brown hit a combined .283/.370/.466 with 44 extra-base hits and 22 steals.
He's shown that power-speed combination in spurts throughout his career. He hit 30 homers and stole 16 bases in 2008, though he also struck out 168 times. He only played 66 games in 2009 due to a knee injury. He made up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League in 2009, hitting .333/.397/.619 in 105 at-bats, clearly using that as a springboard to his 2010 campaign. He cut his strikeout rate considerably, with 129 strikeouts on the season.
Now 100 percent healthy, Brown's toolset reminds some of Jeromy Burnitz, with the ability to hit for power and steal some bases at the highest level. He also has the ability to play all three outfield positions, though a corner spot might make the most sense full-time. Like with Rodriguez, the Nationals got another player who's just about ready to make a big-league contribution and it wouldn't be surprisng to see Brown taking over from Willingham in left field in the near future.