Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2011 Top Prospect List: #14 Henry Rodriguez, 2b

Henry Rodriguez
Height 5-10, Weight 150, B/T: S/R, DOB: 2/9/1990
2010 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: N/A

Henry Rodriguez is one of many intriguing prospects that the organization has begun to stockpile out of Latin America. The Reds signed Henry as an international free agent out of Venezuela on March 27, 2007. Building a top flight farm system requires an organization to both draft well and sign international talent. The renewed efforts in international scouting have already begun to pay off with the emergence of Johnny Cueto, but the next wave of talent is in the pipeline. Henry Rodriguez is one of the more interesting international signings the organization has made in the past few years.

2010 Season

In 2010, Rodriguez made his first appearance in full season professional ball at the age of 20. He spent almost the entire season at low-A Dayton, where he logged 514 ABs in which he compiled a .307/.337/.473/.810 to go along with 37 doubles, 3 triples, and 14 homeruns. He also posted a 70/22 K/BB ratio and was a legitimate threat on the bases, as evidenced by his 33 stolen bases in 46 attempts. His component stats largely support his production, as he hit line drives at a 19% clip and had a fairly reasonable BABIP of .333. So, he might have been a touch lucky, but by and large he earned what he produced in 2010.

The Reds saw enough to bump Henry up to high-A Lynchburg to finish out the season. For the Hillcats, Rodriguez played in 6 games and logged 24 ABs. A very small sample size, but for the record he hit .250/.250/.250 with 6 singles and 4 strikeouts.

Henry should be heading back to high-A for a return engagement in 2011.

Swing Mechanics

After a bit of a dry-spell, the Reds have found a few switch-hitters of note, including Tucker Barnhart, Yasmani Grandal, and Henry Rodriguez. All three are looking like legitimate MLB prospects and their ability to hit from both sides will add a nice bit of versatility to the lineup.

So, we have to do double-duty on his mechanics, so let's start with Henry's righthanded swing. Despite being a player who is smaller in stature, Henry generates surprisingly good pop. To do so, he uses a lot of lower body action. He starts with a slightly narrower than shoulder-width stance, which gives him a very upright look to his pre-pitch stance. He holds his hands next to his right ear with a high back elbow. As the pitcher gets ready to deliver, Henry picks his foot well up off the ground and uses a long stride towards the mound.

His stride effectively cocks his hips by rotating them inward during his stride. In fact, he almost seems to slightly wrap his front leg around his body when he strides, which really helps him generate power with his hip rotation. In tandem with his stride, he begins to draw his hands back into proper hitting position.

The higher leg kick operates as a timing mechanism, but one of the drawbacks of it is that crafty pitchers can successfully upset his timing with offspeed pitches by getting him out on the front foot too early. When that happens, his bat-speed necessarily slows down, typically resulting in an arm-swing and a weak ground out. Ideally, Henry would be able to generate good power without having to resort to such an active lower half, but in this case the impressive power production may be a fair trade off for a bit of inconsistency. When the timing is right, Henry has a quick bat and a fairly direct path to the ball. He gets good extension out through the ball and generates surprising power for his size.

Here's a look at Rodriguez hitting from the right side, courtesy of coreybrinn on youtube:

From the left side, Henry uses a very different stance. Interestingly enough, very few switch-hitters actually use an identical swing from both sides of the plate. Henry uses a wider than shoulder width stance that is somewhat open before the pitch is delivered. He holds his hands up high, almost over his head, with the barrel of the bat pointed down at the ground.

As the pitcher gets ready to deliver the pitch, Henry starts his two part stride. First, he brings his foot in towards the plate to close up his stance, but then moves it forward towards the mound. The first part of the stride looks like a toe-tap before he strides toward the pitcher to effectuate the weight transfer. As his stride is in motion, Henry brings his hands down into hitting position, which necessarily results in the barrel of the bat moving up into a 45-degree angle.

As with his righthanded swing, his stride from the left-side allows him to cock his hips. The first part of his stride closes up his stance and rotates his hips inward, which again allows him to generate power. His swing has a slight uppercut to it, which helps him generate loft on the ball.

Not surprisingly, Henry's swing seems a bit more fluid and natural from the left-side of the plate, but his swing is solid from both sides of the plate. Given his swing mechanics, he should avoid a significant platoon split and remain a viable option from both sides of the plate as he climbs the ladder.

Here's a look at Rodriguez hitting from the left side, again courtesy of coreybrinn on youtube:

Speed, Defense, and Positional Value

In addition to his solid power, Rodriguez also runs well, as evidenced by his 33 stolen bases. He needs to continue to work on reading the pitcher and getting good jumps, but that typically comes with experience and maturity. When that happens, his success rate should improve and make him a more valuable asset on the basepaths. Recent statistical studies reveal that a player needs to be successful around 75% of the time for the extra bases to outweigh the cost of the times he is caught stealing. If the player's success rate falls below that threshold, then he's doing his team more harm than good by trying to steal bases.

Rodriguez's good speed also serves him well in the field, as he possesses good range. He also has solid defensive fundamentals. In 552 chances at Dayton, Henry made 14 errors, which was good for a .975 fielding percentage. Ideally, he can cut down on that number as he climbs the ladder, but it's not too shabby for a young player in his first full season of professional baseball.

All in all, there is good reason to be optimistic about his defensive play, which will only help drive up his prospect value. If you are an above average defensive player at a premier defensive position, then you don't have to provide all that much with the bat to justify your spot on the 25-man roster. And, his early work in the professional ranks support the notion that Rodriguez is already on his way to being an above average defensive second baseman. In fact, if the Reds didn't have so many legitimate options at shortstop, then Rodriguez might have gotten a legitimate look at the 6 position. However, as it stands, he's settling in rather nicely on the other side of the bag.

Final Thoughts

Rodriguez is an interesting prospect with a nice set of tools. His ceiling is somewhat limited by his smaller stature, but he still manages to generate good power. Rodriguez does have one significant drawback that has derailed many a career. The big red flag on Henry is his inability to effectively control the strike zone. That's usually a big minus in my ledger, but for now Rodriguez is showing enough positional value, power potential, speed, and defensive skill to land at #14 on the list. I'd love to see him develop his ability to control the strike zone, but more realistically he should probably focus on becoming an impact early-count hitter with limited strikeouts and walks.


  1. rodriguez has a really nice ceiling but i just get the feeling he will only ever be a good utility man if he makes the majors. A good season next year however could propel his name to possibly a top 5 guy

  2. Smitty,

    You may well be right. I'm skeptical of hitters who lack the ability to control the strikezone. I think that's something of a red flag, but it gets a bit more tolerable when it comes from an up the middle position. Add in his power, speed, and switch-hitting ability and he's got quite an intriguing future ahead of him.

    And, even if he tops out as a versatile utility player at the MLB level, then I suppose you'd have to be pretty happy with it from your #14 overall prospect.

    It'll be interesting to see how he does at high-A next year, especially since Bakersfield is reported to be a substandard playing field. It might not be the best situation, but he'll have to persevere.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!


  3. Is this the same Henry Rodriguez that made SportsCenter's top ten plays (at shortstop) for Venezuela today?

  4. Yes vottofan, that was the same guy :]

  5. Well, hell, I missed it! I don't suppose you guys have a link to it online, do you? Thanks!! Anyway, back to my next write-up.

  6. sorry lark i dont :[

  7. Thanks, Smitty.

    Maybe you can give me a brief description or your impression. Just how good was the play???

  8. unfortunately i also didnt get to see it, they were talking about it over at redreporter when it happened which is how i knew about it

  9. I saw it. He made a diving stop at SHORTSTOP, and threw the guy out at first. It was only good enough to get number 9. I wouldn't have cared unless I heard that name.

  10. Smitty & VottoFan,

    Thanks for the heads-up. Nice to see him making the plays at shortstop. Bodes well for his career if he can be above average at an up the middle defensive position. Add in his switch-hitting ability and his sneaky good power and we may have something here.

    Thanks for the comments!


  11. Is Henry any relation to Henry Rodriguez, the longtime major league catcher?

  12. Anon,

    To my knowledge, there is no relation between this Henry Rodriguez and any other MLB Rodriguez. Of course, I could be wrong, but I haven't seen any information indicating otherwise.

    In fact, I didn't even know there was an MLB catcher named Henry Rodriguez. I know there was an outfielder by that name and that during his time in Montreal they used to throw O'Henry candy bars on the field in his honor. But, I don't think there is any relation.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!