Scouting Yankee Prospect #34: Rafael Rodriguez

The Yankees signed Rafael Rodriguez as an undrafted free agent prior to the 2003 season. Rodriguez excites the Yankees with his power hitting potential, infield versatility and athleticism. It's these reasons that he's our Yankee's prospect #34. <b>(Free Preview of Premium Content)</b>

Vital Statistics:
Name: Rafael Rodriguez
Position: Second Base/Third Base
DOB: January 11, 1984
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 160
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
How Acquired: Rafael Rodriguez was assigned to the Gulf Coast Yankees in 2003 after being signed as an undrafted free agent.

A free-agent signing out of the Southeastern League of the Independent Leagues in 2003, Rodriguez logged some time at second base and third base as a valuable utility player for Battle Creek this past season. Rodriguez has some pop in his bat, but will have to learn to take more pitches as he continues to develop. He drew just six walks in 70 games in Battle Creek! If he can learn to be more selective at the plate, Rodriguez could prove to be a decent prospect. He has real good power projection as he matures. Rodriguez could be manning the hot corner for Tampa in 2005 or be the full-time 3B for Charleston, depending on where Eric Duncan begins the season next year.

At this point in time, it is much too early to tell exactly what kind of player Rodriguez could turn out to be despite his endless raw talents. Many scouts are also considering the idea that could Rodriguez become the next of a new generation of power hitting middle infielders. He put together a decent 2003 season in the Gulf Coast League but several scouts had commented that his potential is very broadly based on only a short period of time. However, with a very solid 2004 season, Rodriguez has shown that he is a legitimate prospect.

What has impressed scouts the most is his ability to drive in runs with frequency and consistency along with good power potential. In 2003, he led the Gulf Coast Yankees with 29 runs driven in. He was also among the team leaders in hits with 49, second only to star Yankee prospect Eric Duncan's 50. Rodriguez, along with Eric Duncan, led the team throughout the season in most offensive categories. There were even days where backup second baseman Adam Unger was playing and the clutch, run producing bat of Rodriguez was kept in the lineup at DH. Many sources close to the team saw Rafael Rodriguez as a source of stability and consistency in the lineup. He didn't DH in 2004 but his defense was still shoddy at times. So many scouts are hoping and believing that Rodriguez will continue to progress and keep showing signs of his knack for clutch hitting and producing runs. If these accomplishments are met, he will certainly move quickly through the Yankee system.

Here is what two Minor League coaches had to say about Rodriguez. Andy Stankiewicz had this to say in his interview with "I know he gets overshadowed a lot of time but the organization sees what he has done. You would be surprised as to how aware of guys like Rafael they actually are. We see him as having a lot of power potential and he could likely end up playing a lot of third base as he moves up and gets stronger." His manager in Battle Creek had similar comments. "There is another guy who doesn't get nearly as much attention as he deserves. We, in the organization, see him as a really big-time power prospect. He showed a lot of potential with the power stroke but, again, here is another guy who just needs to fill out. So much of our team, that was the case with and we were still pretty successful. I played Rodriguez a lot at third base and that looks like the spot for him now. I think he'll play there in Tampa next year depending on what they do with Duncan."















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* Stats as of 10/1/04

Batting and Power. Several advanced scouts around the league seem to have a strong sense that Rodriguez has shown the potential to be a very good offensive force and could be a Big League player with the proper development. One area where scouts suggest improvement in Rodriguez's game is his lack of patience at the plate. Rodriguez managed only 8 walks in the 2003 in 190 at bats. He has shown slightly better than adequate power in his first two seasons but could be seasoned into a consistent power threat. Rodriguez has gap to gap type power, but within the organization, it is widely thought that Rodriguez could be developed into a very fine power hitter. He still has an extremely wiry frame that has plenty of room to fill out as he matures. He'll get a chance to be in the lineup on an everyday basis in 2005, so his offensive ability will truly be displayed. At this point, he looks to have a chance at being a .300 hitter someday.

Base Running and Speed. In his rookie campaign in the Gulf Coast League, Rodriguez showed very good speed but sources near the team say that he adds to that with smart base running. However, his speed has not translated into stolen bases as of yet, even in 2004 with Staten Island and Battle Creek. Rodriguez has a lot of athleticism to offer but has not mastered getting good jumps for stealing bases. He has still yet to turn 21 years old so he may be able to acquire this skill with age. However, if he turns into more of a power threat, he may lose some speed, which is not necessarily a bad thing if he meets his offensive potential.

Defense. This young infielder has some improving to do as an infielder according to scouts and his error totals. At some points during the 2003 season, Rodriguez was reduced to the DH duties and replaced with Adam Unger at second base. However, this didn't happen in 2004 and he ended up committing a combined total of 20 errors in 82 games at second and third base. This isn't exactly gold glove caliber. It appears he'll get a shot to be the everyday third baseman in Tampa next season and hopefully more experience will help him to become more comfortable in the field. He doesn't get good jumps on the ball at second base, but his athleticism and reflexes may better suit him for full-time third base duties. In order to continue his development as a good prospect, this is an area to be improved upon by Rafael Rodriguez.

Projection. Right now, it appears that Rodriguez could have the skills to be a true Big League player but it is much too early to tell. If he continues to develop his offensive skills and improve upon his defense he could become a very solid Major League infielder. It looks like a future of playing third base is the most probable for him.

ETA. N/A. Rafael Rodriguez is still somewhat of a project. His maturation at the plate and in the field over the next season or two will determine his ETA to the Majors. He will in all probability start the 2005 season with the high-A Tampa Yankees.

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