Name: Henry Rodriguez
Position: Second base
Notable 2011 Statistics: .340/.378/.513 with 17 2B, 8 HR, 35/14 K/BB, 12-for-19 SB in 58 G with Bakersfield (High-A);
.302/.367/.432 with 19 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 43/25 K/BB, 18-for-21 SB in 69 G with Carolina (AA);
.320/.372/.469 with 36 2B, 1 3B, 13 HR, 78/39 K/BB, 30-for-40 SB in 127 G overall
Why He’s This High: Like #100 prospect Tyler Pastornicky of the Braves, Rodriguez is a small middle infielder with an impressive ability to hit for average. His numbers this season speak for themselves, and are extremely impressive for a 21-year-old second baseman; he was young for his levels in 2011. Unlike Pastornicky, he’s hit well before–in 2010, he put up a .307/.337/.473 batting line in Low-A Dayton.
Sure, Bakersfield is a Cal League team, and his numbers were no doubt inflated there, but he’s hit over .300 with gap power in less friendly environments in both Low-A and Double-A. It looks like his bat is for real.
The big flaw with Rodriguez’s offensive game looked to be plate discipline after he amassed a 70/22 K/BB with Dayton last year. However, he took steps to fix that issue in 2011. Sure, his 35/14 mark in High-A was only marginally better, but Rodriguez’s walk rate improved dramatically upon his promotion to Double-A, from 5.5% to 8.0%, all while keeping a constant 13.8% strikeout rate. His walk rate improved as his time in Double-A wore on, too, as he had a 16/4 K/BB in June, 10/6 in July, and 17/15 in August.
Rodriguez’s stolen base success rate also took a turn for the better at the higher level, and the increase in walks and steals offset the drop in power and BABIP that came with his promotion out of the Cal League.
While he’s not a physically intimidating player, the switch-hitting second baseman looks to have a rather complete offensive game, especially for his age, and could be a .285/.340/.415 hitter at second base, which holds quite a bit of value. He’s also played some third base and shortstop, so he has some defensive flexibility, although one would hope that he hits well enough to stick at one defined position.
It’s not difficult to envision Rodriguez becoming a quietly above-average regular at the keystone, all told.
Why He’s This Low: Also like Pastornicky, Rodriguez is a fairly small guy who doesn’t have a ton of physical projection. At 5’10″ and not that much above his listed weight of 150 lbs., he’s not suddenly going to morph into a 30-HR player (well, I suppose he could, given the weirdness of MLB career paths, but there’s no reasonable way to predict that happening).
Rodriguez gets the nod over Pastornicky because he’s hit better over a longer period of time, but he’s also on the other side of the second base bag, which nearly gives those offensive advantages away. At that, scouts aren’t particularly thrilled with Rodriguez’s defense at second. He fielded .964 there this season (.955 in High-A and .972 in Double-A). His range and arm are playable at second, but look to make a long-term future at short or third unlikely. Even if he were to master third, his merely average power wouldn’t make him an ideal fit there; with the current crop of MLB third basemen thin, he could make for an acceptable stopgap, but certainly not the sort of guy who would merit inclusion on this list.
He looks fairly normal in his setup as a righty hitter (see here), but his lefthanded stance looks like he spent too much time watching Tony Batista as a kid (see here). He does show good bat speed from both sides, but some wonder how his odd setup as a lefthander will play as he gets closer to the bigs; perhaps he’ll get overpowered by fastballs on the inner half because it takes him so long to get his body in hitting position. Indeed, he hit far better against Double-A southpaws (.333/.373/.538) than righthanders (.290/.364/.390).
Conclusions: Rodriguez has a complete offensive game, which is a rarity for a 21-year-old middle infielder. The lack of projectability in his body does give him a fairly low ceiling, and concerns over his defense and lefthanded hitting mechanics are legitimate if fairly minor quibbles. At his age, he has years to work on his fundamentals at second and adapting his hitting mechanics to upper-level pitchers. The Pirates’ Neil Walker hit .273/.334/.408 at second base this season while playing slightly below-average defense and was worth 3.0 WAR; I see Rodriguez evolving into a similar, and perhaps slightly better, player.
Previous installments in the Seedlings To Stars 2012 Top 100 Prospects:
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