40. Ronny Rodriguez – Infielder
Born: 04/17/1992 - Height: 6’0” - Weight: 170 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Rodriguez was signed by the Indians as a free agent in October of 2010 out of the Dominican Republic. He originally signed with the Chicago Cubs back in 2008 when he was 16 years old, but since he was attending high school in the United States in Boston at the time he had to be released from his contract and had to wait a year in order to be eligible to sign with another team.
Offense: Rodriguez is loaded with lots of tools and athleticism and has a good frame with some physical gifts that allow him to impact the game on both sides of the ball. One of his greatest attributes is his ability to impact the baseball, something that is the result of some very fast bat speed and natural, sneaky strength for his size that allow him to flash some above average power to all fields. The power mostly plays average, but he shows an innate ability to find the barrel and make consistent, hard contact, and has the ability to be a 20 home run hitter and pile up some good extra base totals if he is able to tap into it more consistently. The approach at this point is what it is as he will just always be an aggressive, free swinger who doesn’t walk much and is prone to chase, but even so, he finds a way to limit strikeouts some and finds his way to contact. The reason for that is he has a very good swing where he has a good pre-pitch setup and has some quiet hands with an athletic posture and good leg positioning which allow him to repeat it well, see the ball through contact and stay connected with his top and lower half.
Defense: In addition to his ability to impact the baseball, the other area of Rodriguez’s game where he can really impact is the athleticism he provides where he can play anywhere on the diamond and handle just about any position. His versatility is exceptional as he has the tools to play any infield position at the Major League level at an average or better level. His best asset is a plus-plus throwing arm where he combines some exceptional arm strength and a lightning quick release to make some amazing throws from all over the infield and there is no throw he cannot make. He also shows some very good instincts, great hands and feet and good range to his left and right to be an above average defender at shortstop and second base. Over his career he has logged the most games at shortstop (262 games) and second base (244 games), but has played some first base (74 games), third base (45 games) and last year even dabbled into the outfield some (13 games), so that ability to move around the field creates a ton of value for him.
Speed & Intangibles: Rodriguez is not a burner, but he grades out as an above average runner because of the way his plus athleticism and aggression plays out on the bases with some solid speed and quickness to steal a few bases and how smart of a baserunner he is when he is on them. Perhaps the third great attribute for him is the unwavering confidence he has and the neverending enthusiasm for the game and infectious smile he brings to the field every day. Along with that, he just brings a ton of positive energy, works hard and is well liked by his teammates and coaches, which the Indians believe will make him a great addition to a Major League clubhouse from a makeup standpoint. He’s been very durable over his career as he has not had any health issues aside from a hamate injury early in 2015 which required surgery and sidelined him the first few months of the season.
Focus: Rodriguez has been in the system for a while now, but amazingly, he is still only entering his age 25 season this year, so there is still a little time left for him to finally put all of his talent together and get that long awaited Major League opportunity. He made some adjustments last year to really hone in on his mechanics at the plate to not get too quick, but he still struggles with chasing pitches out of the zone and continues to be over-aggressive which leads to some poor at bats. To combat those limitations the Indians have really worked on getting him to consistently use the whole field because when he goes the other way he has the ability to recognize pitches better and stays in the zone much better. His super aggressiveness at the plate is what helps his power play up, but also works against him, so the Indians have worked to quiet his swing down by eliminating a high leg kick into more of a subtle lift and drop and then work to the middle of the field which helps him stay connected better so he is not trying to jerk everything. Defensively, the game can speed up on him at times and he can lose his focus. He also can be a bit wild and erratic with his throws.
Future: Rodriguez did well in his first taste of Triple-A last season and showed he still has something left in the tank as a prospect. While he had a solid showing at Triple-A Columbus, where it all appeared to come together was in winter ball as he played a ton of games against high level competition and hit .295 with 5 HR, 21 RBI and .790 OPS in 69 games in the Dominican Winter League regular season and playoffs – and even got to play with the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Series which was a great experience for him. Things appeared to click for him in winter ball and the Indians liked what they saw and invited him to big league camp this spring as a candidate to make the opening day roster as the club’s utility player. While his chances of beating out Erik Gonzalez for the utility position appear very slim, the Indians believe that his winter ball showing has built some incredible momentum for him that has carried into this spring and could make him an immediate option for them later this season if Gonzalez were to get hurt or struggle – or one of their regular infielders were to get hurt and have to spend time on the disabled list. He isn’t the high profile prospect he was a few years ago, but if things have started to click he may be a late bloomer and could still end up the player everyone once thought he could be. His inconsistent performance over the last few seasons resulted in a downgrade in his prospect status, but his good showing the last two seasons has him on the rise again. He is on the verge of a Major League opportunity and if the consistency ever comes he may still end up a solid second level everyday position player. He should open the season at Columbus but should make his Major League debut at some point this season.
Ranking History: #50 (2016), #53 (2015), #21 (2014), #6 (2013), #9 (2012)