Height: 6’0″ Weight: 170lbs
Ronny Rodriguez lived in the Domincan Republic until he was 12-years-old when he moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts and attended high school there before moving back home to Santiago, Dominican Republic. The MLB delayed his pursuit of a career in professional baseball for about a year. When they determined him eligible to sign, he was 18-years-old. Making the undrafted free agent a Cleveland Indian cost the organization $375,000 in October of 2010.
In an agressive move, Rodriguez’s first stop was Single-A Lake County where the Dominican was the youngest player on the field most games. He held his own by hitting .246 with 91 hits, 28 doubles, 7 triples, 11 homeruns, but earning only 13 walks in 370 at bats. Ronny also tallied 83 strikeouts (21.1%) during the season, but he slugged a decent .443, so when he made contact good things happened. Good things, like his .203 ISOP rating. Even more encouraging, nearly half of his 91 hits went for extra bases. Good things happened for him on the basepaths too as the shortstop swiped 11 bases.
This performance and a rather thin farm system garnered the youngster a sixth place ranking in our Cleveland Indians 2012 Top Ten list this winter. He also peaked at 240° in our 2012 Baseball Instinct 360°.
Despite his slight 6′ 170lb frame, Rodriguez shows decent power for a shortstop. He has very quick hands and, occasionally, he shows he can keep them back so he can handle breaking pitches better instead of selling out for the fastball. That will come with time. He has a open batting stance. His weight transfers fluidly from his back foot to his front with a quick hip turn generating the power from his back leg. He has a clean swing with good timing to the ball. Much of his hitting future will be determined by his approach at the plate.
A few scouting reports have showed that he plays very good defense at shortstop and is likely to stick at the position. When I saw him this past summer playing against West Michigan, he still looked raw to me defensively. He showed quickness and a strong throwing arm, but the lack of decision-making and execution produced a few errant throws. A fluke? A bad day? Maybe. But this should not be a surprise with the aggressive nature by which they’ve placed him in the system. All things that can be fixed with coaching and experience. Truth be told, his defensive position may be decided as much by how higher ranked Cleveland shortstop prospects Tony Wolters and Francisco Lindor develop.
Starting R-Rod out at Single-A Lake County, right out of the box, as a 19-year-old undrafted free agent, shows the promise that Cleveland officials have seen in this kid, but if you were to use one word to describe the skills of Ronny Rodriguez, that word would be “raw”. However, the fact that the Indians felt comfortable challenging him in Single-A should tell you all you need to know about his make-up. The walk rate and strikeouts, as well as some of his observed defensive troubles, all tell of his age and limited experience at this professional level. The cure for each of these ailments is quite frankly coaching and time spent on the playing field. The walks will increase and the strikeous should decrease once he begins to recognize pitches better and hone more of a situational approach. The flash of power shown this past season may regress a little as he straightens things out, but once the coaching catches, it could be back more prominently. Remember, Rodriguez is still trying to figure out what kind of player he will be. Takes time.
I look for Ronny to repeat Lake County and, for the purposes of his development, hopefully, he spends the entire season there, but there is the possibility that he gets bumped up to Advanced-A Kinston to make room for Francisco Lindor’s debut at full season Single-A. And then there is Tony Wolters, who spent 2011 playing short in the Short Season NY/Penn League with encouraging results. He could possibly jump to Advanced instead. Or Lindor could take his place in NY/Penn. With the logjam of promising middle infield prospects at Cleveland’s lower level right now, it’s anyone’s guess. Keep an eye out at the beginning of the season.
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