Class AA

Lookouts’ Rodriguez no longer just a glove story

Alfredo Rodriguez likes to have fun, and he’s having fun with the bat, currently third in the Southern League in batting average. (photo by Mike Morrow)

Ouch! What a blistering scouting report for a player considered to be a prospect to reach the major leagues.

Alfredo Rodriguez, a 25-year-old shortstop from Havana, has a great glove. The scouts love him for that. But hit? No one seems to think Rodriguez could ever hit a lick.

So he’s proving them wrong.

This all-glove, no-hit infielder in the Cincinnati Reds organization is suddenly tearing it up offensively in the Class AA Southern League for the Chattanooga Lookouts. The good-natured shortstop is currently third in the league in batting with a .313 average. He is eighth in the league in on-base percentage at .364. He is a steady contributor in keeping the Lookouts in contention and in second place, three games behind Montgomery, in the Southern League North.

Those statistics might not sound like overwhelming numbers by conventional thinking, but consider this pre-season assessment of Rodriguez by Baseball America.

“While he controls the barrel well, he lacks bat speed and his bottom-of-the-scale power allows teams to position the outfield to cut off bloopers,” BA said, adding about his potential, “The skills are there to be a superb defender up the middle, but his bat will make it hard for him to even handle a bench role.”

Baseball America has not been alone.

MLB Pipeline piped in, “When the Reds signed Rodriguez, a native of Cuba, with a $7 million bonus in 2016, they knew they had a player who was glove-first and didn’t have much of a hitting resume. That has remained the case after two-plus years of minor league baseball. It also puts the organization in a bit of a quandary. Can Alf-Rod’s glove alone carry him to the big leagues?”

Rodriguez currently sits behind only Luis Alvarez of Pensacola and Drew Waters of Mississippi, each hitting .333, in batting against Southern League pitching.

To be sure, scouting reports are based on solid evidence. Rodriguez has never hit. He batted .234 in 2016 in the Dominican Summer League, then .253 in Class A Daytona, .192 at AA Pensacola, .207 back at Daytona, .250 for the Reds in the Arizona League and .179 at Scottsdale.

So now, all of a sudden, Rodriguez is at .313 and in an area he has never been before. He has collected 31 hits in 29 games.

The tried-and-true batting average statistic has become frowned upon in today’s analytical world, with the belief that it doesn’t tell the whole story of a batter’s ability. Of course it doesn’t, and neither do home runs, or stolen bases. But ask a baseball historian about the player with the best all-time batting average, Ty Cobb at .367, and you’ll get the batting average statistic as a measure of greatness. Others in the top 10 include Rogers Hornsby (.358), Tris Speaker (.345), Ted Williams (.344) and Babe Ruth (.342). Here’s a wild guess those players and their colleagues considered batting average a key indicator of talent.

Baseball America is so impressed with Rodriguez’ glove it ranks him the Reds 25th best prospect. MLP Pipeline ranks Rodriguez 29th in the Reds’ system. Given the comments on his lack of hitting ability, if his glove alone is enough to make him a potential big-leaguer imagine what he could be if his current offensive production continues.

Given his overall .250 average in 819 minor-league at-bats, his early-season output this year is uncharacteristic, so it’s nothing to bank on. But a stellar glove and even a hint of the offense Rodriguez is showing now should make his prospect ranking climb. Scouting reports usually get it right. Rodriguez has an opportunity to rewrite some.

Categories: Class AA

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