Rodriguez Getting Untracked at Bakersfield

20 year-old Yorman Rodriguez is in his fifth minor league season in the Cincinnati organization after the Reds signed the Venezuelan as 16 year-old with a $2.5 million bonus. He's making his return to the Cali League much more success the second time around and is the youngest player on the Bakersfield roster.

Bakersfield is starting to make up for a 2-11 start after winning their third consecutive game at Lancaster Friday. The Blaze took the lead with a four-run rally in the fourth inning before the JetHawks matched it with four of their own in the bottom of the inning. Bakersfield answered that with another four in the next frame and held on for a 9-7 win.

Yorman Rodriguez started the Bakersfield scoring with an RBI single and scored later as his team stroked six singles in the inning. He doubled in the first run of the rally the next inning and scored again on Dominic D'Anna's two-run home run. Later Juan Duran added some insurance with a solo homer to lead off the ninth. Rodriguez led the way with four hits while D'Anna, Duran, and Kyle Waldrop added two apiece.

On the mound Tanner Robles had another short outing and allowed five runs in four innings. Pat Doyle relieved him with two scoreless frames and even though he allowed a couple more in the seventh he still picked up the win. El'Hajj Muhammad and Brian Pearl ended the contest by throwing a shutout inning each with Pearl recording the save.

Even though Rodriguez is now in the fifth minor league season it's easy to forget that he's still only twenty years old. He grabbed a lot of attention back in 2009 when the Reds signed him with a $2.5 million contract which was a record amount for a Venezuelan free agent at that time. The next year he made that look like a good decision when he torched the Pioneer league with a .339 average at Billings. That came back down to earth at Dayton in 2011 and two years later he's still in single A. Last night's performance raised his 2013 average to .279/.353 OB and he's slugging over .500 with three homers in sixteen games.

Things did not go nearly as well for Rodriguez when he debuted at high-A one year ago and struggled with a .156 average to start the season which prompted a demotion back to Dayton. He acquitted himself much better in his return to the Midwest League by slashing .271 AVG/.307 OB/.430 SLG over 65 games. Though it's his second time around in the California League he's still the youngest player on the Bakersfield roster.

Rodriguez has lost some luster to his prospect status over the years but most analysts still consider him in the organization's top twenty. Earlier many considered him in the top-ten but questions on his work ethic and the rawness of his skills have since moved him in the wrong direction. On the other hand, no one should have been shocked because it's more expected that any player would be challenged emotionally as well as on the diamond when they start to play professionally as a sixteen year-old. He still has plenty of skills and time to shoot back up closer to the top of the list.

Rodriguez actually started swinging his bat well before the season when he went 7-20 with a couple of homers in 20 at-bats during spring training. Defensively the Reds are trying him in center field again this year after he played mostly in right in 2012. Thus far his putouts are low for the position but it's still early in the season and his field percentage has been reduced significantly by a couple of errors. He's still striking out a lot at the plate, but five walks coaxed have given him a nice AVG/OBP differential to start the season.

If a team is going to risk $2.5 million on sixteen year-old then they'd better get ready to be patient and that's what the Reds have done. Cincinnati must not feel they are alone on their evaluation of his talent because they've used a spot on their 40-man roster to protect against losing him to the Rule 5 draft. In the meantime Rodriguez will continue to develop his skills in high-A for now and they will hope that he performs more like a polished minor league veteran instead of a raw twenty year-old kid. His employer must have felt there's a chance he'd be ready for AA in 2013 when they started him out in high-A one year ago and continued success at the plate would likely get him that promotion before the end of the season.

Other Organizational News:

The Reds ended a four-game winning streak with a 2-1 loss at Miami last night. Things started off well enough when Shin-soo Choo led off the game with a triple and scored the game's first run, but they were limited to five hits in the contest and did not cross the plate again. On the mound Mat Latos mowed down ten hitters with strikeouts while walking one and allowing one run on six hits in seven innings for no decision. Jonathan Broxton threw a scoreless eighth inning before Aroldis Chapman gave up his first run of the season on a solo home run in ninth for the loss. The game-winner was provided to the Marlins by Justin Ruggiano who also homered the previous game.

Louisville allowed two in the first to visiting Indianapolis before losing 4-1. The Bats' bats were limited to only two hits on the evening, one of them by Denis Phipps who also reached safely with a couple of walks. Daniel Corcino got the start but control issues limited him to only three innings with six walks and the two runs he allowed were enough for the loss. Mike MacDougal, Jose Arredondo, and Justin Freeman each threw one hitless inning of scoreless relief.

Pensacola was rained out at home against Jacksonville and will resume their schedule at Jackson Friday.

Dayton fell behind early after allowing three in the second inning before losing 5-2 against visiting Bowling Green. Jesse Winker started the season slowly at the plate, but hit three singles last night. Jeff Gelalich had another multi-hit game with a single and double to raise his average to .300. Seth Mejias-Brean, who reached safely twice via a hit and walk, drove in the first Dragon run and scored the last one.

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