Pittsburgh Pirates: Where Would Endy Rodriguez Rank Among The System's Outfielders
Entering the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates didn't have much in terms of catching prospect depth. It took the trade of Joe Musgrove to add in their first real one in Endy Rodriguez. While still young, he gave the best hopes for a 'catcher of the future' that the organization was sorely lacking.
Throughout the season the Pirates added several players to the position, most notably first overall pick Henry Davis to the mix, and all of a sudden Rodriguez had company within the organization.
While Rodriguez's athleticism and arm makes him a legit prospect behind the plate, his versatility also allows him to play elsewhere on the field. With the New York Mets he played not only catcher but also first base and each spot in the outfield.
The Pirates had been rotating Rodriguez from behind the plate to first base, as well as being the DH to get him extra at bats. Recently he has played two games in left field, his first taste of the outfield since coming over to the Pirates' system.
While there is no rush to officially move him from out the plate, he is still just 21 years old and will likely spend most of the season in Greensboro in 2022, with Davis being one of the top catching prospects in the game, if Rodriguez is going to have a long term future in Pittsburgh it's a move that's likely going to have to happen.
So what position fits him best? Rodriguez has the versatility to end up at any number of positions, but the outfield gives him the best chance for playing time, as he has seen time in the minors at all three spots.
If he does end up in the outfield, or let's say the Pirates decide to give him a good amount of reps there to close out the season, where does Rodriguez rank among the rest of prospects at the position?
There's an easy answer to this, you could simply look at any prospect rankings and see where he stands compared to other outfielders. Then there is what we will be going over, and that's how Rodriguez matches up when it comes not only to his numbers this year, but also the toolset he currently possess.
To make things simple, we used MLB Pipeline to see where his tools stack up with the rest of the Pirates outfield prospects.
Among the Pirates top 30 prospects on MLB Pipeline, seven play the outfield and among them three share Rodriguez's 50 'hit' tool, which represents average. Current teammate Hudson Head is among them along with Matt Fraizer and Canaan Smith-Njigba of the Altoona Curve.
Maybe the only downside to moving Rodriguez to the outfield, at least based off his tools, is that he projects to have less than average power. While his current numbers in Bradenton (more on that later) may make some rethink that, for now it puts him slightly behind everyone else in the system. Each of the seven outfielders in the top 30 all project to possess at least average pop in their bat.
The same can be said about his 'run' tool as well, with Cal Mitchell and Smith-Njigba also with a '45'. It's a position that could be fast and exciting to watch in the years to come, with Lonnie White Jr. (70), Head (60), Fraizer (60), and Travis Swaggerty (60) all with a plus rating.
Rodriguez has a good enough arm to be considered 'average' at the catcher position, so that could easily translate to the outfield where White, and Jack Suwinski share a similar rating.
Finally, along with Rodriguez, White, and Swaggerty all rate to be 'above-average' or higher fielding wise.
On the field
While it's fun to imagine what a prospect may one day to be able to bring to the table at the major league level, they are going to have to produce on the field in the minors to get there. While most statistics don't tell the whole story, if used properly they can hint you in on what a player is capable of.
Overall, Rodriguez has been one of the better hitters in the Low-A Southeast division this season. He currently is in a tie for second in hits, fourth in average, third in extra base hits and sixth in OPS.
Among the other outfield prospects only Fraizer and Suwinski have a higher slugging percentage than Rodriguez and high power output is also represented in the three being at the top in extra base hits.
One thing that really makes Rodriguez stand out over the rest has been his ability to make consistent contact. Only Mitchell (16.8%) has a lower strikeout rate than Rodriguez (18.4%). Head currently is over 30% as far as his strikeout rate is concerned, while Suwinski (27.4%) and Smith-Njigba (25.8%) are treading a worrisome mark.
It's fair to say that Davis has the 'catcher of the future' spot unless proven otherwise. When that happens, players have to find other ways to be able to make an impact. Rodriguez is starting to show that his bat may be able to play at other positions, and the position flexibility is something that you can tell the Pirates have begun favoring even more under Ben Cherington.
Rodriguez was an interesting prospect heading into the season to see what he was going to be capable of in his first full season of professional baseball, and he didn't disappoint.
For now, while with Bradenton the Pirates showed the ability to get both Rodriguez and Abrahan Gutierrez plenty of at bats to help their development, so don't expect anything permanent anytime soon. It would actually keep up his value if he keeps hitting and continues to play catcher the majority of the time.
Where do you think Rodriguez ranks among the Pirates outfield prospects? After the season he is having now, where do you think he ranks among the position players overall? Let us know in the comment section below, subscribe to the site with the link at the top and follow us on Twitter @SportBlogMurphy and @__Murphy88.