TCN 2012 Cards Prospect 27: Starlin Rodriguez

The second baseman from the Dominican isn't well-known, but is well-liked by our voters.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR 2B 12/31/1989 5-10 168 R R 2009 FA

Selected 2011 stats

QC 0.263 137 18 36 7 3 1 16 11 37 5 0.335 0.380 0.715
PB 0.315 165 28 52 9 1 4 20 6 34 3 0.354 0.455 0.808
Total 0.291 302 46 88 16 4 5 36 17 71 8 0.345 0.421 0.766

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (25): Starlin Rodriguez is one of my favorite unheralded Cardinal prospects. He is not a logical choice for that honor, though. Rodriguez has a reasonably high strikeout rate, a terrible walk rate, a high BABIP that distorts his average upward, and has been a disappointment on the base paths. What he does have is excellent speed and decent power numbers for a middle infielder. That gives him the potential to be an above-average second baseman if he can harness his skills.

In 2011, Rodriguez made it to High-A Palm Beach, where he showed well-above average power. Rodriguez is said to be one of the fastest runners in the organization; he has yet to show that on the bases. He only stole eight bases in 15 attempts last year. Rodriguez managed a respectable .345 OBP, which combined with his speed could make him a respectable leadoff candidate in the future. His defense is said to be average.

Rodriguez has moved fairly quickly through the organization. Given the glaring holes in his game, I would normally expect him to return to Palm Beach to start 2012. The one caveat to that is that Rodriguez must contend with the presence of 2011 first-round pick Kolten Wong who will likely be given preference and who could also be ticketed for Palm Beach. In this scenario, the Cards would likely have to make a choice on whether to bump Rodriguez up to Springfield so he also gets playing time (I don't see him moving downward) or finding another position for Rodriguez to play while at the same level as Wong. This could be as a utility guy (swing between second base, shortstop and third base) or possibly utilizing his speed in center field.

Message board community (30): Rodriguez was the community's #30 prospect, after missing the top 50 list entirely 12 months ago. So why the big jump for the 21-year-old Dominican second-sacker? Well, Starlin made the Midwest League All-Star team in 2011... then performed even better upon his promotion to Palm Beach, posting a line of .315/.354/.455 in that hitter-hating environment (albeit with a poor 6/34 BB/K rate).

As for anecdotal praise, here's what Redbirds director of international operations Moises Rodriguez had to say about the young man when he was brought into the Cardinals system in October, 2009: "Starlin has tools - his bat and his legs. They are big-time tools. His bat is really impressive. He's a lightning bolt... very fast, and has a lot of strength."

Assuming he starts 2012 in Double-A, Starlin will be severely tested by more mature pitching, and he'll face serious internal competition from Wong going forward. But if he keeps hitting like he did in the Florida State League, an MLB career is definitely in his future. - BobReed

Brian Walton (25): Here we are, exactly one-third of the way into our 2012 countdown, before we reach a player whose individual rankings reflect that we are all very close in agreement. I am also in general consensus with the comments of the others.

I would add that in 2011, Rodriguez was arguably moved up more quickly and aggressively than any other position player in the entire system. In fact, he was stretched the year before, as well. The Cardinals did not mess around with Rodriguez after signing him just weeks before his 20th birthday - late for a Latin American prospect. The reason he was available was that his earlier contract had been voided by the Rays and some organizations are reluctant to take a chance on non-teenagers.

As a result, the Dominican Republic native never played a regular-season Cardinals game anywhere but in the US. Further, other than two games with Johnson City at the end of the 2010 season, the switch-hitter was effectively jumped from the Gulf Coast League last year to all the way to Quad Cities one month into this season.

After just seven weeks and 158 plate appearances in the Midwest League, Rodriguez earned an all-star berth and was promoted again. Granted, this bump to Palm Beach was likely in direct response to Wong's timely signing. Instead, had the first-rounder held out until the mid-August signing deadline, Rodriguez may have remained in Davenport instead of heading to Florida.

Still, as noted above, he defied logic by actually performing better in the Florida State League than in the MWL. In an early assessment, Palm Beach manager Luis Aguayo noted Rodriguez was only starting to come out of his shell. That should not be surprising given how far and fast the infielder had moved.

Since Rodriguez has shown an ability to adapt quickly to new challenges, his readiness to handle another push ahead - to Springfield - may be tested during spring training. After all, despite the aggressive promotions, Rodriguez is 10 months older than Wong. On the other hand, if Wong passes him, it shouldn't be embarrassing for Rodriguez to wear the label of the second-best second base prospect in the system.

Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

There's more! Want access to the all details behind our Cardinals prospect rankings in our "Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Prospects" feature here at The Cardinal Nation?

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