The smallish but sturdily built 5’11” 175 lb infielder looks like a world beater. Without the benefit of having laid eyes on all of the players in the system, I often have to rely on scouting reports from teammates. When I conservatively ranked the 19 year-old 25th on my White Sox top prospect list it was by virtue of his solid statistical performance during the 2019 AZL season. Rodriguez generated a 121 wRC+ as an 18 year-old with a .213 ISO. His former AZL teammate Tyler Osik shared, “I wouldn’t be shocked if he was your favorite player when you see him.” He continued, “He’s one of the best, if not THE BEST player I have ever played with.” Keep in mind, Osik played on the same team as Andrew Vaughn!
Starting off on the right foot
Rodriguez hit the ground running and started the season going 5-10 with three doubles in his first two games. All three were absolutely smoked as the slugger seemed to have taken issue with the outfield walls in Kannapolis and decided to take it upon himself to punish them with a barrage of hard hit baseballs.
From the first at bat, I felt like it was going to be a pleasure to watch Rodriguez throughout the season.
In five of his first seven games Rodriguez has notched multi-hit performances. While going 13-34 (.406 AVG) with four doubles and one triple, he’s currently generating a 175 wRC+. All before his twentieth birthday which is coincidentally tomorrow. Feliz cumpleaños Jose!
Why it is sustainable
It’s easy to get caught up in hopium when you catch a player during a scorching hot streak. However, his bat control and balance lead me to believe that what I am seeing is legitimate. It’s unusual for young hitters to stay back for breaking balls. Rodriguez did exactly that, never lunging at a pitch or initiating contact on his front side. Although he showed poor strike zone judgement while swinging at this offering it also demonstrates amazing bat speed. Getting around and making solid contact with a 91 mph fastball thrown at the top of the shoulders is a difficult task.
For a young hitter his strikeout rate isn’t excessive (22.5% in 2019 and 17.5% in 2021). There are however some small blemishes in his current offensive profile. Rodriguez is very aggressive in the box and hasn’t drawn many walks throughout his time in the minors. Improving his selectivity will help him generate a higher OBP and make the pitchers come to him. Fangraphs.com has his future game power rated as a 40 on the 80 point scout scale which is below average equating to 8-12 home runs per year. They have his future hit tool graded as a 60 which equates to a batting average in the .280-.290 range. After seeing him, I would comfortably grade his power as at least a 50 (15-18 HR per year). The way he is driving balls to the deepest part of the ballpark as a teenager suggests Rodriguez is improving and doing it quickly.
The other tools
Defensively he made the plays he was expected to make. Judging from the way the White Sox have moved him around the field they are perhaps trying to find his perfect home defensively. I was unable to accurately gauge his speed as he was never forced to race down the line.
Overall there is a ton to like about the future for Jose Rodriguez. Look for him to take a giant leap forward on the organizational top prospects list. If he continues scorching opposing pitchers the way he has been, a top 100 ranking could be in his near future.