Rodriguez Showing His Skills

The expectations were high when the New York Mets drafted Kingsport's Javier Rodriguez with their second round pick in the 2008 amateur draft. The development was slow during his first two seasons, but year three is proving different for the outfielder. Rodriguez is beginning to show the skills that made him such a highly touted prospect just two years ago.

A couple of scouting reports on Javier Rodriguez compare the New York Mets' farmhand to Carlos Beltran.

On paper, there's some validity to the comparison. Both are multi-tool outfielders. Both hail from Puerto Rico. And both were taken in the second round of the amateur draft—Beltran in 1995, and Rodriguez in 2008.

Nonetheless, the 20-year-old Rodriguez smiled shyly when the comparison was mentioned in an interview translated by Luis Rivera, first base coach for the Mets' Appalachian League affiliate in Kingsport.

"I really think they can't compare Carlos Beltran to me," Rodriguez said through Rivera. "I'm not on that level. He's like a god. He's a really good player. But nothing is impossible."

"I'm working hard and getting prepared. Maybe I can play like Beltran in the future."

Rodriguez, who is hitting .319 with four home runs, 24 RBI and an .865 OPS this season with the K-Mets, was a highly touted prospect when taken with the 68th overall pick, and was the first Puerto Rican taken in the '08 draft. Coming out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, he was considered one of the best pure hitters in the country.

Rodriguez then spent two years in the Gulf Coast League. He began 2010 with Kingsport, and though the 6-foot-2, 165-pounder has enjoyed a promising season, he has yet to advance to one of the Mets' full-season teams in his third season.

Bobby Malek, the hitting coach for Kingsport and a former high-round draft pick of the Mets in his own right, was on the staff of the Mets' GCL team when Rodriguez arrived.

"We've had a pretty good relationship throughout the years," Malek said. "He's real young and he's come a long way. I heard a lot of great scouting reports on him, and now you really start to see what the scouts fell in love with…Hopefully we can keep him coming."

Rodriguez certainly started the Appalachian League season on a tear. As the midpoint of the Appy campaign approached, the player often referred to as "J-Rod" was hitting at a .307 clip with three home runs and 22 RBI, and logging a robust .448 slugging percentage.

By contrast, Rodriguez tallied only three home runs combined in his first two seasons in the Gulf Coast League. Of course, he was also playing on a more limited basis. Rodriguez appeared in 38 and 36 games, respectively, in two years for the GCL Mets.

"Over here you get more at-bats. You get in a good rhythm to make yourself better," Rodriguez said. "Over there (in the Gulf Coast League), it's a lot of pressure because you know you're only going to get that many at-bats. You don't have the time to make adjustments and get in a good rhythm."

Rodriguez also took his first footsteps as a professional in unfamiliar surroundings. Aside from the occasional trip, he had never been off the island of Puerto Rico for any great length of time prior to his arrival in Port St. Lucie, FL. He seems to enjoy living in America—and the freedom that comes from living away from his family—but the transition proved difficult at first.

"For a guy that doesn't speak a lot of English, from Puerto Rico, it was a lot of adjustment for him," Malek said. "Just to get comfortable in the United States and comfortable around the guys and just used to being a professional, and now he's really taking off."

Right now, missing too many pitches is one of the main flaws in Rodriguez's game. He drew 20 walks against 66 strikeouts in 74 total contests with the GCL Mets. So far this season, he has fanned 28 times while coaxing just six walks. Malek was asked if Rodriguez was too much of a free swinger.

"At times he can be, but if he has a good, consistent approach, he's going to be just fine," the hitting coach said.

He still might need to cut down on his strikeouts, but his mental toughness appears to have improved significantly since his Gulf Coast League days. After earning Appalachian League Player of the Week honors early in the short-season schedule, he went into a funk, hitting .188 with no walks and 10 strikeouts in 10 games.

Rodriguez snapped out of those struggles, however, with five doubles and seven RBI over his next 10 contests, pushing his average back over the .300 mark.

Malek can empathize with both high strikeout totals and slumps. In his first season as a professional after being taken in the fourth round of the 2002 draft by the Mets, Malek hit .207 in 28 games for Brooklyn with three walks and 20 strikeouts.

So when Malek saw Rodriguez linger over a rough at-bat, he drew on his first-hand experience.

"Every young hitter does that. I did that. It's just one of the things that you have to learn as a professional. This is your job," Malek said. "Every day you have to come to the park and you're just trying to put consistent at-bats up."

"Maybe he'll tear it up," Malek added. "Maybe he'll hang on to his struggles a little too long. But right now he's just going through the length of the season and treating each at-bat as its own and not letting things carry over and snowball."

Earlier in his professional career, Rodriguez might not have been able to bounce back from such a slump.

"He's grown up as a person," Malek said. "He's really matured as a person and I think that's helped his on-field play."

Rodriguez also seems to think he's improved his mental toughness. When asked to sum up his effort in Kingsport to this point, he pointed gravely to the side of his head while relaying his answer to Rivera.

"The difference between last year's season and this year's is my mentality," he said through interpretation. "I'm more mature now. I concentrate and have more focus. That's the difference. I think I'm doing better this year because of that. Now I'm more focused and mature."

In the meantime, Rodriguez has his sights set firmly on learning how to be an everyday player at the professional level. A five-tool player with good speed, solid range in the field and an impressive throwing arm, Rodriguez is focusing on "playing baseball the right way and playing hard."


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nA couple of scouting reports on Javier Rodriguez compare the New York Mets' farmhand to Carlos Beltran.
\r\n
\r\nOn paper, there's some validity to the comparison. Both are multi-tool outfielders. Both hail from Puerto Rico. And both were taken in the second round of the amateur draft—Beltran in 1995, and Rodriguez in 2008.
\r\n
\r\nNonetheless, the 20-year-old Rodriguez smiled shyly when the comparison was mentioned in an interview translated by Luis Rivera, first base coach for the Mets' Appalachian League affiliate in Kingsport.
\r\n
\r\n\"I really think they can't compare Carlos Beltran to me,\" Rodriguez said through Rivera. \"I'm not on that level. He's like a god. He's a really good player. But nothing is impossible.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm working hard and getting prepared. Maybe I can play like Beltran in the future.\"
\r\n
\r\nRodriguez, who is hitting .319 with four home runs, 24 RBI and an .865 OPS this season with the K-Mets, was a highly touted prospect when taken with the 68th overall pick, and was the first Puerto Rican taken in the '08 draft. Coming out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, he was considered one of the best pure hitters in the country.
\r\n
\r\nRodriguez then spent two years in the Gulf Coast League. He began 2010 with Kingsport, and though the 6-foot-2, 165-pounder has enjoyed a promising season, he has yet to advance to one of the Mets' full-season teams in his third season.
\r\n
\r\nBobby Malek, the hitting coach for Kingsport and a former high-round draft pick of the Mets in his own right, was on the staff of the Mets' GCL team when Rodriguez arrived.
\r\n
\r\n\"We've had a pretty good relationship throughout the years,\" Malek said. \"He's real young and he's come a long way. I heard a lot of great scouting reports on him, and now you really start to see what the scouts fell in love with…Hopefully we can keep him coming.\"
\r\n
\r\nRodriguez certainly started the Appalachian League season on a tear. As the midpoint of the Appy campaign approached, the player often referred to as \"J-Rod\" was hitting at a .307 clip with three home runs and 22 RBI, and logging a robust .448 slugging percentage.
\r\n
\r\nBy contrast, Rodriguez tallied only three home runs combined in his first two seasons in the Gulf Coast League. Of course, he was also playing on a more limited basis. Rodriguez appeared in 38 and 36 games, respectively, in two years for the GCL Mets.
\r\n
\r\n\"Over here you get more at-bats. You get in a good rhythm to make yourself better,\" Rodriguez said. \"Over there (in the Gulf Coast League), it's a lot of pressure because you know you're only going to get that many at-bats. You don't have the time to make adjustments and get in a good rhythm.\"
\r\n
\r\nRodriguez also took his first footsteps as a professional in unfamiliar surroundings. Aside from the occasional trip, he had never been off the island of Puerto Rico for any great length of time prior to his arrival in Port St. Lucie, FL. He seems to enjoy living in America—and the freedom that comes from living away from his family—but the transition proved difficult at first.
\r\n
\r\n\"For a guy that doesn't speak a lot of English, from Puerto Rico, it was a lot of adjustment for him,\" Malek said. \"Just to get comfortable in the United States and comfortable around the guys and just used to being a professional, and now he's really taking off.\"
\r\n
\r\nRight now, missing too many pitches is one of the main flaws in Rodriguez's game. He drew 20 walks against 66 strikeouts in 74 total contests with the GCL Mets. So far this season, he has fanned 28 times while coaxing just six walks. Malek was asked if Rodriguez was too much of a free swinger.
\r\n
\r\n\"At times he can be, but if he has a good, consistent approach, he's going to be just fine,\" the hitting coach said.
\r\n
\r\nHe still might need to cut down on his strikeouts, but his mental toughness appears to have improved significantly since his Gulf Coast League days. After earning Appalachian League Player of the Week honors early in the short-season schedule, he went into a funk, hitting .188 with no walks and 10 strikeouts in 10 games.
\r\n
\r\nRodriguez snapped out of those struggles, however, with five doubles and seven RBI over his next 10 contests, pushing his average back over the .300 mark.
\r\n
\r\nMalek can empathize with both high strikeout totals and slumps. In his first season as a professional after being taken in the fourth round of the 2002 draft by the Mets, Malek hit .207 in 28 games for Brooklyn with three walks and 20 strikeouts.
\r\n
\r\nSo when Malek saw Rodriguez linger over a rough at-bat, he drew on his first-hand experience.
\r\n
\r\n\"Every young hitter does that. I did that. It's just one of the things that you have to learn as a professional. This is your job,\" Malek said. \"Every day you have to come to the park and you're just trying to put consistent at-bats up.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Maybe he'll tear it up,\" Malek added. \"Maybe he'll hang on to his struggles a little too long. But right now he's just going through the length of the season and treating each at-bat as its own and not letting things carry over and snowball.\"
\r\n
\r\nEarlier in his professional career, Rodriguez might not have been able to bounce back from such a slump.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's grown up as a person,\" Malek said. \"He's really matured as a person and I think that's helped his on-field play.\"
\r\n
\r\nRodriguez also seems to think he's improved his mental toughness. When asked to sum up his effort in Kingsport to this point, he pointed gravely to the side of his head while relaying his answer to Rivera.
\r\n
\r\n\"The difference between last year's season and this year's is my mentality,\" he said through interpretation. \"I'm more mature now. I concentrate and have more focus. That's the difference. I think I'm doing better this year because of that. Now I'm more focused and mature.\"
\r\n
\r\nIn the meantime, Rodriguez has his sights set firmly on learning how to be an everyday player at the professional level. A five-tool player with good speed, solid range in the field and an impressive throwing arm, Rodriguez is focusing on \"playing baseball the right way and playing hard.\"
\r\n
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