Tigers Prospect Profile #39: Julio Rodriguez

Julio Rodriguez wouldn't be a player that would jump out at you based on his relatively pedestrian offensive stats. But just looking at those stats would over-shadow Rodriguez's impressive skill-set.

Julio Rodriguez
Position: Catcher
Height: 6-2
Weight: 200
Born: 8/3/1989
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Background
Rodriguez was an early signing in the 2006 international signing period, inking his first professional contract on July 14, just twelve days after the signing period opened.

The Tigers gave Rodriguez his first official taste of pro ball in 2007, debuting him in the Dominican Summer League. In 39 games, Rodriguez hit .263 with nine doubles and 29 RBI.

Repeating the DSL rookie level in 2008, Rodriguez posted a similar line, but command the strike zone much more and showed an increased willingness to wait out at-bats and work a walk, posting a .348 on-base percentage on top of his .261 average. Rodriguez was named the Tigers DSL Player of the Year and was also named to the mid-season DSL All-Star squad.

At 19-years old the Tigers brought Rodriguez to Lakeland for spring training, and while his first taste of stateside ball didn't look good statistically, his skill set was still apparent to most observers. In 38 games in the GCL, Rodriguez hit only .198/.240/.281, but was impressive defensively behind the dish.

Rodriguez bounced around a bit in 2010, but once he settled into the everyday lineup with Connecticut, the 20-year old backstop hit quite well, posting a .270/.317/.360 line in 52 games. Rodriguez struck out only 32 times last summer, and drove in 14 runs on the back of 13 extra-base hits. He also saw action in 28 games with Lakeland, and while his average was only barely above the vaunted Mendoza line, he did rip two home runs and drove in 13 runners.

Scouting Report
Any scouting report of Rodriguez has to start with a discussion of his defensive abilities. He is the best defensive catcher in the Tigers' minor league system, and he has the tools to be a plus-plus glove behind the plate. There isn't a single area of his defense that he doesn't do well already, though as with any player, there is always room for improvement.

He is a good blocker of the ball, though at times he does get a little lazy and takes advantage of his ability to pick the ball rather than dropping down and making sure it stays in front of him. Members of the development staff have worked with him diligently the last two years to improve his focus and it has already made a difference.

His catch-and-throw skills are very good and he frequently posts exceptional pop times, gunning down runners with ease. At times during the NYPL season, his mere presence behind the plate simply stopped the opponents running game. Rodriguez does very well receiving plus velocity pitchers; a must for any catcher in the Tigers system. He speaks English well already and continues to work hard on his language skills, and he handles his pitchers very well.

Offensively, Rodriguez has some tools to work with, but none on the order of his defensive skills. He has strength in his body and he flashes decent bat speed, but his swing can get long and cumbersome at times. He has a tendency to sap his own power potential by getting out on his front foot and off balance.

Rodriguez has a knack for putting the bat on the ball, at times to the detriment of getting something on his swings. He doesn't strike out much and is a pretty aggressive swinger. If he can improve his pitch recognition and swing at more quality strikes, he could take a big step forward offensively.

Rodriguez's defensive tools alone could get him to the big leagues as a backup catcher. If his offense improves to round out his game, he has a chance to be a solid starting catcher.

Performance

Level

Team

AB

AVG

2B

HR

RBI

SO

BB

OBP%

SLG%

A+

Lakeland

101

.208

4

2

13

11

2

.226

.307

SS-A

Connecticut

189

.270

10

1

14

32

10

.317

.360

A

West Mich.

8

.250

0

0

1

1

0

.250

.250


Health Record
Rodriguez has a good frame for a catcher, and he has shown to be a durable receiver that can handle the rigors of the position. He hasn't suffered any significant injuries in his professional career.

The Future
Rodriguez is ready for his first official full-season assignment. Whether that comes with Lakeland or West Michigan in 2011 is still up in the air, but most indications point toward the bulk of the season spent in Grand Rapids.

As a polished defensive player, Rodriguez's bat will be the determining factor with respect to his movement through the system. As he achieves success at the plate, he will be ready to move up the ladder. He is still young with good tools, and though he may require some patience, Rodriguez is one of the organization's more intriguing catching options.

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