I should clarify here first. The Henry Rodriguez that I am talking about isn’t the fire-balling relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals, that is being linked to Baseball Reference here. Though, come to think of it, I think the Tigers could do well with him also. I am talking once again about a young 2nd baseman that the Tigers could look to for the long term. Currently, the Rodriguez of interest for this article is residing in the Cincinnati Reds farm system, where it looks like he is about to get blocked. Brandon Phillips and the Reds are making progress on a longer deal. Not to mention that, higher priority player, Billy Hamilton is lurking a level or two below Rodriguez. So to me, that looks like a trade target.
Rodriguez is a 21 year old swith hitting 2nd baseman. He has played some SS and 3B, but ultimately, he fits more as a number 4 on the diamond. He is a guy that I came across, as I was perusing the minor leagues back in 2010. In 2010, Rodriguez was a Dayton Dragon, and he was hitting .300 with some good pop. Given his smallish frame at sub 6 feet and 160 lbs, seeing a guy that size hit 14 home runs in the Midwest League is impressive. The Midwest League isn’t exactly conducive to power numbers. For a point of reference, Tigers big time prospect Nick Castellanos hit just 7 home runs. Rodriguez was 20, and Castellanos was 19.
That isn’t a knock on Castellanos, that is just a point of reference for the type of hitter Rodriguez has shown to be at an early stage of his career.
In 2011, Rodriguez split time between hitting paradise high Class A Bakersfield, and Southern League Carolina in AA. I’m going to give you the numbers between both levels, but want to point out something first. Rodriguez’ BB/K ratio actually got better when he made the jump. This would indicate that a 21 year old in AA wasn’t overwhelmed in the least. As for the other numbers, he hit .320 on the year, with 13 homers and 81 RBI. Rodriguez stole 30 bases in 40 attempts, and his percentage got better again at the AA level. His OPS was .841, and even if the hitting paradise in Bakersfield inflates that, his OPS in Carolina was .799. Not bad at all for a smallish 2nd sacker.
We can’t just talk about his numbers though. With prospects, you have to talk scouting reports. And this is where it can get a little dicey for Rodriguez. I have watched some video on him as well as seeing him live, and everything from the right side looks good. His left-handed swing however, looks like it could be an issue. He holds the bat high, and actually kind of does a small lean and shoulder turn while the pitcher is winding. That kind of set-up can tie up a hitter when pitchers pump good fastballs on the inside of the plate. It’s easy to get out of sync with something like that, much like a high leg kick. That being said, when he does get set, he gets the bat through the zone with a short path and good bat speed. Rodriguez has good hand-eye coordination, and uses the whole field, showing off power to the pull field on occasion. Despite his 30 steals, Rodriguez probably isn’t a 30 SB a year guy when he gets to the majors. Just don’t see that kind of speed in him, but he does show off pretty good instincts.
Defensively, Rodriguez is less impressive, but not bad. He does have solid range and a solid arm, but isn’t the most instinctual defender out there at this point. Though that could be a function of him having moved around at this point. With improved footwork around the bag, he should turn double plays fairly easily. He doesn’t profile as a shortstop, and his bat would rate as above average at 2nd, making it the most logical position for him on the infield.
Because Rodriguez is a minor leaguer at this point, and is going to be blocked, or surpassed by Billy Hamilton, I am sure that he could be dealt for. He isn’t a premium prospect, but a good one, and even made Seedlings To Starts Top 100 list recently at #99.
The more I look at Rodriguez, the more I can’t help but think of another compact offense first 2nd baseman in Cleveland Indians Carlos Baerga. Baerga was more stocky and enhanced so to speak, but Rodriguez’ profile and swing from the right side reminds me of him.
If Rodriguez could be close to the player that Baerga was for a few years, I am sure the Tigers would take that. But again, prospects are far from a guarantee.