Top 30 Reds Prospects: No. 19

Yorman Rodriguez was a high-profile prospect when Cincinnati signed the Venezuelan as a sixteen year-old in 2009. He's another high-risk/high-reward player and his 2012 season did little to reduce the risk part of that description as it applies to him. His still only 20 and a breakout season this year would trigger an abrupt change in his direction down the prospect lists.

Yorman Rodriguez is yet another example where Cincinnati has rolled the dice to tap into foreign talent. They invested $2.5 million in the sixteen year-old when they signed him in 2009 which set a record for bonus amount to a Venezuelan prospect. At that time he was considered an extremely young player with raw skills and a sky-high upside. Now he is considered a young player with raw skills and a sky-high upside. He bumped his head on his way up the organization against high-A pitching last season and was demoted back to Dayton. Now he's preparing for his fifth professional season and it's easy to forget that he's still only twenty years old.

Rodriguez debuted in the Arizona Rookie League when he was only sixteen and moved to Billings later that season. He struggled in his first stint in the Pioneer League but figured things out when he returned in 2010 and torched opposing pitching for a .339 average. In 2011 he hit .254 at Dayton before a shoulder injury ended his season prematurely. He probably should have returned there at the start of last year but he opened the season at Bakersfield where he failed to hit .200. That led to a midseason demotion and he finished 2012 by hitting .271 in 65 games for the Dragons.

He profiles as a five-tool player and it was no big shame for him to be sent down because he was still the youngest hitter on the Dayton roster. His play there salvaged a disappointing 2012 season and he should be ready for another go in the California League this year. The potential and investment in him means the Reds definitely want him to remain in the organization for a while longer so he was added to their 40-man roster to protect against the Rule 5 draft.

He's still raw in the batter's box and has struck out in over 25% of his plate appearances while drawing walks in less than 6% of them. The learning curve has not been limited to the plate and there are some doubts about his range in center field. He has plenty of arm strength for right field where he spent most of his time last year, making six errors in 76 games.

It was a bold move for the Reds to pony up so much money for kid right after his sixteenth birthday but foreign players cost more than draft choices. Also, with a player of Rodriguez's potential they certainly would not have offered such a large amount if they felt he'd been available for significantly less. There have also been questions regarding his work ethic, but it's not uncommon for teenagers to need emotional as well as physical maturation.

Rodriguez is moving downward on this list because it's hard to identify any specific improvements from one year ago. In the past he's done better when repeating a level and it should be a different story for him during his second go at Bakersfield. The Reds felt like they got first-round talent when they inked him as a free agent and ample opportunity remains for him to regain his higher status of before.

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