From Photobucket, by Tony Lastoria

Cleveland Indians 2013 Top Prospects No. 9: Ronny Rodriguez

If there’s one prospect I’ve been overly critical of, its Ronny Rodriguez. The reason for that is Rodriguez is a very polarizing prospect.

If I told you that the Indians have a shortstop with 20/20 potential, you would get excited right? Then if I told you the Indians have a top prospect who could potentially hit .230/.290/.450 you would wonder how the hell that guy is a top prospect, right? That’s what I see in Rodriguez: An athletic shortstop who would be lucky to get an OBP over .300, but has the ability to hit 20 home runs and swipe 20 bases if given a full-time job.

When evaluating prospects, many choose tools as the leading factor in their rankings, which makes Rodriguez an easy choice in a thin Tribe organization. For me, I love tools, but I’m a Moneyball guy to the core, and Rodriguez’s slashline makes me queasy.

So my question, as always, is: What is Rodriguez’s future? Does he harness his tools properly and hit enough over the fence and swipe enough bags to force himself into a big league job? Or will he flame out as he faces stiffer competition because he can’t get on base? I could see either happening, but 2012 did show signs of the former being more likely.

First, Rodriguez improved his slashline from .246/.274/.449 in 2011 at Single-A Lake County to .264/.300/.452 at High-A Kinston. Improving his slash across the board despite a jump in competition shows growth and maturity in Rodriguez, and some team would be willing to give him a chance if he could replicate his 2012 slashline in the majors. Rodriguez cut down his strikeouts at Kinston as well—he struck out only 88 times in 2012 after striking out 83 times in 2011 in close to 100 fewer plate appearances.

Rodriguez isn’t impressing anyone with his defense, and a move is likely mostly due to the depth at the position in the Tribe’s system. Rodriguez already played 45 games at second base in 2012, and made an appearance at third. I think the latter position is more likely, and his bat could play there better than the other middle-infield prospects Cleveland has. This is assuming he makes his way to the majors with Cleveland, I think his most likely scenario is as trade bait at some point in the next couple years.

A 20-year-old shortstop who hits 19 home runs is nothing to scoff at, and thats exactly who Rodriguez is right now. I will always be hard on Rodriguez since he’s the type of player I have trouble rating highly, but his tools are impressive enough that he’ll be a common name on prospect lists over the next few years.

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