Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 13

Yorman Rodriguez is long-time veteran of top Cincinnati prospect lists since he started playing as a teenager. Since then he’s had ups and downs expected of any young player while moving up the system. Now he’s in a position where success at Louisville could nail down a significant role with the Reds.

What’s a top Cincinnati prospect countdown without Yorman Rodriguez? He’s been a high-profile prospect since his signing in 2008. Most people live under the care of their family during the latter years of their adolescence. However, Rodriguez left his home country of Venezuela to start playing baseball professionally since he was sixteen. Now at the age of 22 the outfielder has grown to 6’3”/195# and is coming off an MLB debut from an expansion call-up last September.

He’s preparing for a seventh season that will probably start with a AAA debut at Louisville. He began as a high-risk prospect with a sky-high ceiling and it’s a bit surprising that the end product of this project isn’t more clear after all this time. The $2.5 million signing bonus invested has kept him around while he’s moved up and down Cincinnati prospect lists like an ocean tide. Now he’s still on the 40-man roster after going 6-27 in eleven games with the Reds.

Originally projected as a five-tool talent, he’s given reason to doubt that all of those facets will materialize while at the same time shown enough progress to prevent shutting the door on earlier expectations. He’s cracked double digit homers only once when he slugged 13 two years ago, but nine of them were in the first half of the season while he was still in the California League. He had nine in a full season at Pensacola last year but overall his slugging percentage was below .400.

That’s not the only tool that needs more development. His .262 AVG/.331 OB last season did not scream for a high average projected at higher levels, but he’s shown progress with plate discipline. He also swiped a dozen bases while getting caught five times. In the field he switched back to center for most of his action last year and had a nice range of 2.2 opportunities per game while committing only four errors in 88 games at the position.

His progress and ability to play all three outfield spots make him a candidate for a utility outfielder at the MLB level. However, Cincinnati envisioned him as more than a backup player when they offered the then-record bonus to the Venezuelan when he was still too young to drive a car. Despite of his long minor league tenure he’s still young and has time to pump up offensive production. Actually, some of his lean periods in the past could probably be ignored when evaluating this prospect because he’s competed against older players at every stop after entering the organization with raw skills.

Right now it appears he needs one more year in the minors and he’ll do that while again competing against older players. Once upon a time Cincinnati might have been hopeful that after six years he would have burst out of the farm and taken ownership of an outfield spot with the Reds. Those expectations were probably unrealistic and regular duty could still be in the cards. He should at least matches production he had in AA with the long-awaited breakout season in the realm. There’s not a lot of competition for a right-handed utility outfield spot with the Reds right now and a strong start could get him a return trip before September. He’s made progress, but still needs to polish his skills, so an early call will probably come with plans for frequent action. 2015 could be the year that Rodriguez makes his first big impact at the MLB level, but if/when that happens it will most likely be at least one more year away.

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