BLUF: Tons of tools and very out of control, but highly intriguing keystone player.
The Player: Starlin Rodriguez (2B, St. Louis Cardinals) – Originally signed by the Rays in July 2009, he was released just weeks later and signed with the Cardinals in October. He debuted with the GCL Cardinals in 2010 and hit .288 as a 20-year old in 47 games. In 2011 he jumped to Low-A Quad Cities and hit .263 before a promotion to High-A where he posted an impressive .315/.354/.455 slash line in 45 games. The Cardinals sent him back to High-A Palm Beach in 2012 and he hit an even .300 in 114 games with 25 doubles, six triples and eight home runs.
Basis of Report: Compilation – Personal Observation (Midwest League 2011), Industry Contacts
Body (5-10, 170): Smaller frame with strength and intriguing athleticism. Has some explosiveness. Quick-twitch guy.
Hit: No situational adjustments. Extremely aggressive swing with tons of bat speed and torque. Swing can be uncontrolled and contact can be difficult at times. Chases out of the zone but can also make contact out of the zone. Lightning quick hands. Can be short and fast to the hitting zone with good leverage in the second half of his swing. Knack for contact and tremendous bat speed lead to frequent hard line drives and give hit projection. Approach is a work in progress and could undo some natural ability. Potential plus hitter as he tones things down. Grade – 40/60
Power: Bat-speed fueled power projection. Has average raw and will get to it more frequently when his approach is more controlled. Plays below-average right now but should improve. Will find plenty of gaps in addition to ultimate average home-run power. Grade (raw power) – 40/50
Arm: Plus strength. When he trusts it and lets it go, really good tool for the position. Can make difficult throws on pivot, both stepping across bag and stepping back from it. Lacks accuracy when he doesn’t let it go. Arm still plays plus but needs consistency. Grade – 60/60
Fielding: Potential to be a sensational defender. Excellent foot speed and range to both sides. Very soft hands. Reads the ball very well off the bat and breaks quickly. Game is too fast for him and he plays out of control. Makes silly errors frequently but forces you to forget errors with highlight reel plays. Potential plus (or better) defender with calm and experience. Grade – 40/60
Speed: Shows plus speed from home to first. Speed doesn’t translate when running the bases. Lacks instincts for base stealing and taking extra bases when the ball is in the gap. Really raw runner but has speed to steal 20 bases annually. Grade – 50/60
Summation: Exciting tool profile. Can do a little of everything. Can do a little of everything in a very uncontrolled way. Runs well but lacks instincts to make it an impact tool; could swipe 20 bases a year and take extra bases as well. Speed plays in the field with really good range on balls on the ground and in the air. Defense is volatile and uncontrolled but can be very, very exciting with tremendous plays. Plus defensive potential and plus arm as both develop more consistency. Hitting ability is natural and bat speed comes from an incredibly violent swing. Potential to continue hitting for average and additional power as he learns to control his swing at certain points in at-bats. Could hit .285+ with 30 doubles, 15 home runs and 20 steals while playing strong defense. Potential 6 profile if everything comes together.
Relative Risk: High. Broad set of high-end tools but so uncontrolled and raw that it’s all a long shot to manifest.
Future: Should be ready for the challenge of Double-A in 2013 and that challenge will be a stiff one. His uncontrolled and raw game will require some development as he faces more mature pitching. Raw tools will play in spurts next season and people should remain excited despite some likely struggles. Given the crude nature of his game, he may not appear on the big league radar until 2015.