September is right around the corner and unfortunately the standings aren’t exactly in favor of our beloved Redlegs. While there is still a chance to make a run into the playoffs, the odds aren’t very good. There is something to look forward to in the final month of the regular season though. In one of baseballs strange rules, the rosters expand for the final month of the year and teams will often call up young prospects to fill out the bench and bullpen. Last year we saw Billy Hamilton come up and become a true weapon off of the bench in the running game. This year we won’t see anything like that, but there could be an exciting young player coming up with loads of talent to work with.
Way back in August of 2008 the Cincinnati Reds signed a young Venezuelan outfielder to a $2.5M signing bonus, which was a record for Venezuelan players at the time. That player was Yorman Rodriguez. He has played stateside in the farm system every year since 2009, having both his ups and his downs along the way. The Reds have pushed him through the system, at times more aggressively than I believe they should have, but for the most part he has been able to hold his own at each level, though he hasn’t found a season where he has been very good yet either.
He has always been very young for the levels in which he was playing though and a good example of that is that from 2009-2011 he didn’t face a single pitcher that was younger than he was. For 2012-2014 combined he had 26 total plate appearances against pitchers that were younger than he was. Rodriguez turned 22-years-old 11 days ago. He is already in his second option year because of how early he signed and when he needed to be added to the 40-man roster, meaning that 2015 will be his last option year and he’s never actually put on a Major League uniform.
Rodriguez started out the season well in Double-A Pensacola, hitting .325/.361/.442 in April before he went down with an oblique injury that cost him a little more than two weeks. He returned later in May and it seemed like it was too soon as he hit just .139/.184/.208 on the month after returning. That poor month has really hid all of the good that he has done this season. Outside of May we are looking at a .292/.361/.437 line from a player who is among the youngest players in Double-A.
He has always been one of, if not the most toolsy players in the Cincinnati Reds farm system. He’s a true five-tool player who can hit for an average, has some power potential in his bat, has plus speed, can play defense in center or in the corners and has a big arm. All of the parts have been there, but over the last year-and-a-half he has taken those tools are he has begun to turn them into usable baseball skills on the field.
Things have gotten even more interesting of late. In August he has gone from a guy who has been solid on the season to a guy who is just destroying the baseball. In 102 plate appearances on the month he has hit .325/.431/.614 with 10 doubles, a triple and four home runs. The biggest key has been his patience at the plate. It’s been a process over the years as he’s gone from an aggressive swinger to someone who really seems to understand both the strikezone and has shown an ability to make the adjustments at the plate on offspeed pitches. In August he has walked 16 times, which is easily a career best for him in a given month. The transformation may be happening and it would seem that the big league club has also taken notice.
When looking at the Reds moving forward over the next few years, there are really only two spots that would seem to be available to be up for grabs if someone steps up. Shortstop and left field. In his career, Rodriguez had played left field a grand total of one time, as a 17-year-old in 2010 with the Billings Mustangs. With a big arm and plus speed, it makes sense that he has spent time in center and right field for his minor league career as his abilities are much better in the roles needed there than in left where a big arm typically is wasted.
For the previous 30 games, Rodriguez had played center field exclusively for Pensacola. That all changed in the last few days as his four most recent starts have all come in left field for the Blue Wahoos. That can’t be a coincidence that one of their top prospects is having the best run of his career, is on the 40-man roster and there could be an opening at the position moving forward and he finds himself playing that position after not spending a game there over the last three years and only one game in his entire career.
All signs are pointing to the Reds bringing up Rodriguez in September and at the very least working him in for a few games as their starting left fielder. While it would surprise me if he were to be the guy to count on in April of 2015, the Reds probably would like to get a decent look at him in September and next spring to get a better feel on exactly what they have. He is still growing into and rounding out his skills, he could be an exciting player to keep an eye on when September rolls around even if the Reds do fall completely out of the race.