From Photobucket, by Tony Lastoria

Cleveland Indians 2013 Top Prospects No. 7: Luigi Rodriguez

Luigi Rodriguez joins the ever-expanding list of guys I was wrong about on my top prospects list last year, but Rodriguez made me pretty damn happy I was wrong. Last year, my criticism of Rodriguez was as follows:

Rodriguez has shown he can hit and get on base enough to take advantage of his speed, so the question becomes: Can he hit for power? According to his numbers to date—he has only five home runs in 122 games—not at all. The fact that his slugging percentage (.311) was lower than his on-base percentage (.320) at Lake County last year concerns me. Stats like those bring Juan Pierre to mind, but Rodriguez isn’t as fast as Pierre.

So what did Rodriguez go and do? Find a power stroke just to discredit me. Repeating Low-A Lake County and spending the full season there, Rodriguez managed a .268/.338/.406 slashline with 21 doubles and 11 home runs.

Now, let’s not go boarding the hype train and start predicting 20/20 seasons just yet. Rodriguez’s power isn’t exactly bountiful, it could be described more so as respectable (his .406 slugging percentage isn’t exactly wowing anyone). The added emphasis on power also cut down on Rodriguez’s contact ability. His strikeout rate jumped from 21 percent to 25 percent in 2012, dropping his batting average from .304 to .268. He’s still a guy with 70 speed that is best served getting on base and using it. Rodriguez shouldn’t be driving in runs, he should be the one crossing the plate.

All this being said, Rodriguez is still a guy to keep an eye on. His speed will always play well in center field and as the former infielder gets more coaching there some predict him to have a plus glove. The switch-hitter could be a mainstay at the top of the lineup if he cuts down on the strikeouts, but its hard to predict if he will be able to do so.

While I retract my Juan Pierre comparison, I still say my initial prediction for Rodriguez stays. If everything pans out, he’s a solid every day centerfielder or a top tier fourth outfielder. But the floor still remains high— I see him as an Ezequiel Carrera with a little extra pop. For a low-cost international signing, that’s a pretty good guy to have.

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