Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2009 Top Prospect List: #17 Yorman Rodriguez, OF

Yorman Rodriguez
2008 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: Not Ranked

Yorman Rodriguez joins Juan Duran to give the Reds a pair of top flight, young international prospects. The Reds signed Yorman Rodriguez on August 15th for ~$2.5M, which was the largest signing bonus ever for a Venezuelan amateur player. In the modern game, signing top notch international free agents to supplement the prospects acquired in the amateur draft is essential in building a top notch farm system. Years after Marge Schott gutted the scouting department and destroyed the farm system, the Reds are finally rebuilding prospect pipeline that will generate a steady flow of prospects for the MLB roster for years to come.

Yorman made his professional debut in Liga Paralela, which is essentially a minor league for the Venezuelan league. The league gives younger Venezuelan players an opportunity to play in their home country during the winter. For comparison sake, the league averaged 4.9 runs per nine innings with a league OPS of roughly .715. In 2008, Yorman hit .268/.339/.357/.696 with 1 homer and a 20/5 K/BB ratio. Overall, it's hard not to be impressed with that kind of performance by a 16 year old. He held his own against older competition, which speaks volumes about his polish and skill-set.

Again, the scouting reports are instructive for Yorman, who was widely considered the most athletic player available among the 2008 international free agents.

Yorman Rodriguez has been touted as the top position player in this class for some time. His selling point is a rare combination plus-plus speed and plus-plus raw power. He’s a five-tool talent with an outstanding frame, athleticism, and defensive tools, but like most July 2nd hitting prospects, he gets a wide range of reviews on his ability to hit.

The common refrain on a raw bat are heard with Rodriguez: lunges at the ball, trouble identifying breaking pitches, trouble with high level stuff, questionable approach, and 5 o’clock power (batting practice only). Some players grow out of it, some never adjust, so the team that gets Rodriguez believes in his ability to make adjustments.

He has all the elements of a star centerfielder. He’s been compared to Miguel Cabrera for his powerful bat and Venezuelan bloodlines, but more athletic comparisons like Cesar Cedeno, Eric Davis, or a right-handed hitting Carlos Beltran seem more apt. That being said, Rodriguez, or any of the hitters below him, could go to the GCL and hit .180 for three seasons and make everyone look stupid, but those kind of comparisons let you know why teams will pay him and that the tools are for real.

As eye-popping as the Dave Winfield comparison is for Duran, the very mention of Eric Davis as a comparison for Yorman probably fires up the entire Reds nation like no other comparison. E.D. possessed an unbelievable blend of power and speed, so if Yorman is anything close to E.D., then he has tremendous potential. Much like Duran, Yorman is still a bit of a mystery man, but here is a video clip of him in action from the Instructional Leagues.

Again, not much to go on, but here are my first impressions. First, Yorman looks much more comfortable at the plate than Juan Duran. He has a free and easy swing, but you can see where he may have a tendency to lunge at the ball and get out on the front foot. Second, given his swing and size, he seems likely to have less power than Duran. Third, Yorman has a long stride and an easy gait. It's not hard to see why scouts rate him as having plus speed, as he has a bit of electricity in his stride. My initial impression is that Yorman has a better chance to stick in centerfield than Juan Duran, whose 6-6 frame will likely will fill out and force him to play a corner position.

Even so, it is almost impossible to project out what a 16-year old prospect will do as he climbs the ladder. He is still maturing physically, mentally, and emotionally, so while he has great tools, he also has a great deal of developing left to do. There are a lot of wrong turns on the way to the majors, but hopefully he doesn't take any of them.


Like Duran, I just don't feel comfortable rating Yorman any higher without seeing more. That said, he could easily skyrocket up the list with a strong showing in 2009. Still, he's all projection at this point, though the sky is the limit on his ceiling. At this point, my gut tells me that he's a bit more polished than Duran, so he gets the higher ranking. Even so, the Reds did a fantastic job adding both to the organization, as both have impact prospect potential. For now, Yorman checks in at #17 on the list.

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