Name: Yorman Rodriguez
Position: Right field
Notable 2011 Stats: .254/.318/.393 with 10 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 84/25 K/BB, and 20-for-28 SB in 79 games with Dayton (A)
Why He’s This High: Rodriguez could end up being a stereotypical All-Star right fielder.
He has good bat speed, and his build and swing promise to bring plus power as he ages. He’ll likely lose some athleticism as he fills out, but he should retain enough to still be a good defensive right fielder, and he has a plus arm.
He held his own in full-season ball despite playing most of 2011 at just 18 years old, and he’s shown statistical dominance before (.339/.361/.456 in the Pioneer League as a 17-year-old in 2010). While his stats have never looked great except for that one (batting-average driven) year, the mere fact that he didn’t have a Juan Silverio 2010-esque transition to full-season ball is encouraging. Much of Rodriguez’s value, as a right fielder, is wrapped up in his power potential, and it’s foolish to say that we should write him off because he didn’t deliver on that potential at age 18.
After walking just 4.3% of the time in 2010, Rodriguez upped that rate to 8.1% in 2011, a sign that he’s starting to get a better sense of the strike zone. That’s something that will prove vital for him as he moves up the ladder.
Why He’s This Low: Obviously, most of Rodriguez’s value is based not on what he is, but what he could become, and it’s hard to eschew trepidation with a player who’s simply never broken out, young age or not.
Rodriguez’s strikeout rate jumped from 16.3% in 2010 to 27.1% last season, which nearly offset his walk rate gain. Given that Rodriguez was working deeper counts and facing more difficult pitchers, it shouldn’t be cause for extreme alarm (especially when considering his age), but he’ll need to cut down on the whiffs quite a bit to become a productive big leaguer.
Much of Rodriguez’s present value stems from his athleticism, and it’s an open question as to how much of that he’ll retain in the long run. He stole a base basically every fourth game this season, and saw 34 games in center field, but it’s fairly unlikely that either stealing bases or playing center will be a viable part of his skillset when he reaches the big leagues. That, of course, puts the pressure squarely on Rodriguez’s bat, which has never shown contact, discipline, and power at the same time–in fact, he’s really never hit for power at all.
Conclusions: Rodriguez’s youth can be viably used as an excuse for all his statistical struggles, and he showed hints of a broad offensive game in full-season ball as an 18-year-old, which is an extremely positive sign. He has a lot of time to grow into his wiry 6’3″ frame, and the power should come at that point; he also has plenty of time to work on recognizing breaking pitches and improving his plate discipline.
Still, until his tools show more than just hints of turning into skills, it’s tough to rank Rodriguez in the elite tier of hitting prospects. After all, as a right fielder, he’s going to need to hit, something which he hasn’t done with any consistency. His .139 ISO last year was a career high, as was his 84/29 K/BB ratio (roughly .3). Needless to say, both figures will need to dramatically improve for Rodriguez to fulfill his potential. Then again, it is quite encouraging that Rodriguez established career highs in both K/BB rate and ISO while making the jump to full-season ball at such a young age.
Overall, he epitomizes the “prospect to watch.” Rodriguez is very, very far from a sure thing, but if he makes further improvements with a promotion to High-A next year (and yes, I know the California League awaits), he’s going to be moving more and more toward a top-tier hitting prospect. His ceiling is quite high, and if he continues to stride toward it, his ranking will rise as his downside lessens. Rodriguez’s upside is still somewhat nebulous since he’s mostly projection at this point, but a Corey Hart-like career as an athletic right fielder with power would seem to be a reasonable place to start.
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