Last July as the trade deadline was approaching the Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder Tyler Naquin along with minor league left-handed reliever Phillip Diehl to the New York Mets as they made a push for the playoffs. The Reds were looking to acquire younger players to help build towards the future as they were simply trying to avoid being the worst team in baseball last summer. The two teams agreed that in return for the current big leaguer in Naquin and the minor leaguers with big league experience Diehl that Cincinnati would get 18-year-old outfielder Hector Rodriguez and 19-year-old right-handed pitcher Jose Acuna.
At the time both players were considered solid prospects, but didn’t really jump off of the scouting report page at you. Both guys performed well in their limited action last season after joining the Reds organization, though Rodriguez saw his season come to an end a few weeks early after a pretty serious leg injury that even some within the organization felt may keep him out until the middle of this season.
Fortunately for Hector Rodriguez he recovered faster than initially expected and began the 2023 season on time. Rodriguez, though, hasn’t exactly played to the scouting report that he entered the organization with. But that’s a good thing in this case.
Entering the season Baseball America rated him as the 25th best prospect in the organization. He had four tools that were average or better, but his power was rated as a 30 on the scouting scale. That’s well below-average and projects for just a handful of home runs a season.
Last night Hector Rodriguez hit his 7th home run of the season for the Single-A Daytona Tortugas. That puts the 19-year-old outfielder in a tie for second place in the league. He’s also hitting .304 with a .368 on-base percentage, and he’s got a .551 slugging percentage. Rodriguez ranks 2nd in the league in slugging and he’s 8th in the league in average, while also ranking 4th in the league in OPS.
The home run total is a true surprise. While he’s just 19-years-old and like many players that age still figuring out a whole lot on the baseball field, he had six home runs in his career when the season began. He hit three in each of his previous two seasons where he had played in 42 games and 49 games. And he’s not really hitting cheap home runs, either. All of his home runs have been between 364 and 413 feet, with three of them topping the 400-foot mark. This is all coming in the Florida State League, too, which has long been known to be the most pitcher friendly league in all of minor league baseball.
Jose Acuna was not ranked in the top 25 prospects within the Reds organization by any of the large publications. The 20-year-old right-handed pitcher is in the High-A Dayton Dragons rotation and last night he allowed one run in 5.0 innings for the Dragons in his 8th game of the season. That lowered his ERA to 2.41 on the year.
Acuna is 3-0 this season and has allowed just 22 hits and 10 walks in his 37.1 innings pitched for Dayton. His WHIP is just 0.86 and he’s picked up 39 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting just .165 against him. His 2.41 ERA ranks 3rd best in the league. His WHIP is 2nd best in the league. The .165 average against is also 2nd best in the league.
There’s a long way between A-ball and the big leagues. But early on in the 2023 season the two prospects that came back to Cincinnati in a trade for pending free agent Tyler Naquin and a 28-year-old minor league reliever are performing about as well as anyone in the league that they are playing in.