The Indians don’t have an overwhelming quantity of power hitters in their minor league system, though there are certainly a few bats to keep an eye out for in the coming seasons.
One such hitter is Lake County’s Nellie Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was a 15th-round draft choice of the Indians in the 2012 draft from George Washington High School in New York — though he isn’t the first hitter from that school drafted by the Indians (the other is some guy named Manny Ramirez).
He has tons of raw power, and is currently hitting .258/.335/.475 at Single-A. He’s also added 16 home runs and 52 RBI — both marks that currently lead Lake County (he has 10 more RBI than the next best player, infielder Grant Fink).
It seems that Rodriguez is strictly a first baseman, though his bat is what will make or break him anyway. But his bat is pretty good. Bleacher Report’s prospect expert Mike Rosenbaum recently labeled Rodriguez as the Indians’ “hidden gem” prospect that most fans haven’t heard of.
Rest easy, Nellie. We’ve heard of you.
Rosenbaum agrees that offense will be what carries Rodriguez up the Tribe’s minor league latter, but there’s not a problem with that.
Rodriguez is a very patient hitter, and has already drawn 37 walks in just 364 plate appearances for the Captains this season. He won’t come without strikeouts (92 this season), though he seems likely to improve in that category as he continues working on his approach and learns to use the whole field.
As a right-handed hitter, Rodriguez pulls a lot of pitches, as shown in this spray chart.
— Todd Paquette (@IndiansAccounts) July 15, 2014
Rodriguez isn’t struggling, but continued work on his approach (as Rosenbaum said) could make his bat that much more dangerous. Still just 20 years old, he has plenty of time to learn, and it’s far from uncommon for young hitters to have somewhat of a raw approach at the plate. But that’s okay — such issues can be taught and learned over time. Rodriguez already has huge power, and he knows how to manage the strike zone. That’s a pretty good start.
He’s already been making adjustments so far this season, and is currently on an incredible hot streak.
LC 1B Nellie Rodriguez named Tribe MiL POTW. Riding a 14-game hit streak dating back to 6/29; has collected a MWL-best 7 homers over streak.
— Cleveland Indians (@tribeinsider) July 15, 2014
I don’t care how talented you are — that’s impressive. Over his 14-game hit streak, Rodriguez is hitting .383 (23-60) with 7 long balls and 21 RBI. He’s added 4 doubles, and has scored 16 runs over that time.
That sound you just heard was my jaw hitting the ground.
It’s certainly fair to wonder if a promotion to Single-A Advanced Carolina is in his future. If so, it would help get Rodriguez one step closer to the majors, a goal he set to honor his deceased father (who played professionally as well).
Rodriguez learned a lot from his father, as he remembered in an interview with The News-Herald. He’s taken what he learned, and he plans on making it to the majors in his honor of the man who taught him what he knows.
When I was a baby, my dad gave me a glove and a bat. As I got older, we’d go to the park and he’d help me practice. [...] I’m determined to be the great player he once was and make it to the big leagues.
He also knows that he isn’t the only player the Indians have drafted from George Washington.
From the time I finished eighth grade and knew I was going to George Washington, I had the dream to follow in Manny’s footsteps and make it to the big leagues.
Rodriguez has a lot going for him, and it’s easy to tell that he wants to make it in Cleveland. He’s a hard worker, and his work has shown in the ridiculous numbers he’s posted at Lake County.
For now, a promotion to Carolina seems likely in the near future.
But don’t overlook an eventual promotion to Cleveland, either.