HEIGHT: 5-8 WEIGHT: 200 B/T: S/R
After doing these write-ups for a number of years, it becomes very clear that if you are a one-dimensional player, then it had better be a helluva dimension. To reach the majors, you really need a diversified skill set. If you have just one real value-driver, then it's a steep uphill climb to the majors.
At this point in his development, Henry Rodriguez is looking very one dimensional. At best, he's looking like an empty batting average type player. Earlier in his career, it looked like he might provide some speed and average glove-work, but those components have tailed off, maybe because of injuries.
Rodriguez has endured some significant injuries, including a broken ankle late in 2011 and a broke thumb, which cost him a month-and-a-half, in 2012. At the very least, those injuries didn't help his development and may have dragged down his physical tools. In that spirit, it may be telling that he stole 33 bases in 2010 and 30 in 2011, but only 8 in 2012, his first season back after the ankle injury. As a prospect, Rodriguez was already marginal in a number of areas and, whether or not injuries played a part, his development has stalled.
In 2012, Henry piled up the frequent flier miles, making stops at the rookie Arizona League, double-A Pensacola, triple-A Louisville, and a quick cup of coffee at the major league level.
He logged only 18 PAs in the Arizona League, a stop made as part of his rehab for the broken thumb. For double-A, he hit .348/.385/.439/.824 with 2 homers and an 18/9 K/BB ratio over 144 plate appearances. His performance level took a hit when he reached triple-A, as he hit .244/.264/.333/.597 with 3 homers and an atrocious 35/6 K/BB ratio over 221 plate appearances. Regardless, it earned him a cup of coffee in the majors, where he posted a .214/.313/.285/.598 line with a 2/2 K/BB ratio over 16 plate appearances.
Overall, it was an uneven season for Rodriguez. He seemed to hit the wall between double-A and triple-A, which is somewhat surprising given that the jump to double-A is usually considered the most difficult and he handled that one well. However, triple-A is frequently populated by older players with MLB experience, so maybe it's not surprising that his K/BB ratio plummeted when facing more experienced pitchers who have a greater understanding of how to exploit overly aggressive hitters.
Rodriguez is a switch-hitter. His mechanics are solid from both sides of the plate, which when paired with his good hand-eye coordination gives him a solid hit-tool and the ability to consistently put the barrel on the ball. Even so, the problem that Rodriguez faces is twofold. He doesn't support his hit-tool with on-base ability and his smaller stature limits his ability to generate power, leaving him as something of an "empty batting average" type hitter.
Pre-pitch from the left-side, Rodriguez has a very open stance and holds his hands up high by his left ear. He actually uses two variations of his stride. In one version, he uses a two-part stride. The first part is a step towards the plate, landing on just the toe, to close up his stance, before striding forward to transfer the weight and meet the pitch. In the other version, he uses one continuous motion for his stride. Using more of a leg-kick stride, he draws his front foot back, lingering in the air for a moment, before striding forward to meet the pitch. The former leaves him less susceptible to being fooled by offspeed pitches, while the latter likely generates a touch more power.
Pre-pitch from the right-side, Rodriguez again uses an open stance, but holds his hands lower than he does from the left-side. His stride is similar to the one continuous motion stride he uses from the left-side. He uses leg-kick type stride, drawing his foot back, lingering in the air for a moment, before striding forward to transfer the weight and meet the pitch.
From both sides, in order to generate load, he draws his hands back and down into hitting position and turns his front hip inward as he strides forward. At his best, he buries his back elbow in close to his back hip until reaching the point of contact and generates sufficient lower body rotation to drive up on his back toe, getting good extension despite a fairly compact swing. At his worst, his high leg-kick stride gets him out on the front foot, leaving him with minimal lower body rotation in his swing and forcing him to reach for the pitch with nothing more than an arm swing.
Rodriguez doesn't have plus bat speed, but his swing path is a slight upper-cut which should maximize the size of his contact zone. He uses his hands well in the swing, allowing him to make consistent, hard contact. However, his smaller stature and shorter levers make it difficult for him to generate leverage and power. His swing is more fluid and natural from the left-side, but more powerful from the right side. Overall, he's solid from both sides of the plate, which would should enable him to avoid a significant platoon split and remain a viable option from both sides of the plate.
Here's a look at Rodriguez courtesy of RedsMinorLeagues on YouTube:
At the Major League Level, the Reds could use another professional hitter or two. Players with plus hit-tools in the mold of in their primes Placido Polanco, Martin Prado, or Billy Mueller. The former two never brought much OBP to the table, but they more than made up for it with very strong hit-tools that allowed them to post consistently high batting averages. Unfortunately, despite several seasons of .300+ batting averages, it looks like Henry's hit-tool and production are going to fall short of that level, which makes his limitations in other areas all the more glaring.
DEFENSE AND POSITIONAL VALUE
The Reds have a choice with Henry Rodriguez. Play him at third where he's a tick below average. Or, play him at second where he's well below average. Whichever they choose, he just doesn't generate much defensive value.
|Courtesy: Christian Petersen/Getty Images|
At second, Rodriguez just doesn't have the necessary range, nor does he acquit himself well around the bag. At third, his range is less of a problem, but his arm isn't great. Given his solid speed, it's surprising that it hasn't better translated to his range in the field.
In fact, it's surprising that he isn't a better defensive player overall, as he does have good athleticism. But, his instincts aren't great, leading to poor reads off the bat and underwhelming range. Further, his hand actions aren't great, as his conversion rate on the balls-in-play that he reaches isn't strong. Over his minor league career, he has a lackluster .971 fielding percentage over 1619 chances at second base and a .932 fielding percentage over 380 chances at third base.
Some scouts have questioned Rodriguez's focus in the field and openly questioned whether his defensive problems are more the result of questionable makeup than a lack of athleticism.
At one time, Rodriguez looked like a potential league average starter at the MLB level, but his positive attributes have fallen off, while his negative attributes haven't improved. It's not too late for him to improve, especially if lingering injuries are causing the decline in his performance level, but at this point his ceiling is looking more like that of a utility infielder than a legitimate MLB starter.
The Reds could use another player with a pure hit-tool, as their MLB lineup is lacking in that area. At one time, Rodriguez was on a development path that would have landed him in the majors this year, but his development has stalled, calling into question whether he'll be able to regain his footing and reclaim an MLB career.
For now, he checks in at #23 on the list.