Arturo Rodriguez, C/1B/3B/DH
Greensboro Grasshoppers (SAL)
Weekly Stats: 9-26 (.346), HR, 2B, 5 RBI, 2 BB
Between Dan Uggla in the Rule V draft, to career reclamation projects such as Casey McGehee, the Marlins have made a reputation out of finding creative ways to garner positive production. With Grasshoppers catcher Arturo Rodriguez, the Fish may have done it again.
It isn’t often that a Mexican League player makes it to Major League Baseball. The reason: Mexican League teams usually want much more than what a player is worth in order to pull back the maximum amount possible in commission (the league makes 75% commision on each player sold) to keep their operations running in impoverished Mexico. Depending on the player in question, the Mexican League has been known to ask of upwards of seven figures in return for the signing rights. So for a player to be pulled out of the Mexican league, especially by a team such as the thrifty Marlins, said player really has to turn heads.
In his two full seasons, Rodriguez didn’t just turn heads, he broke necks. After hitting an already impressive .279/.344/.431 in his first full season as a professional as a 21-year-old in 2013, all Rodriguez did last season is up his average by a hundred points, his OBP by nearly the same amount, and hit more than twice as many homers in under 130 extra ABs. His .379 average was good for third best in the Mexican League and his .618 slugging percentage and 1.040 OPS each placed fifth. This success at the most advanced level of competetion that Mexico has to offer was enough for the Marlins to invest in Rodriguez.
Judging by the success Rodriguez has had through his first 16 games as a member of the organization, the Marlins, who likely spent a pretty penny to acquire him (still unconfirmed), have to be ecstatic about the return their investment has produced thus far. Through is first 56 ABs with the Grasshoppers, Rodriguez has collected 23 hits, including four XBHS and 10 RBIs. As impressive as his .411 BA and .518 SLG are, the middle portion of his slash line is what is most encouraging. As good as Rodriguez was coming up in Mexico, he was never one to take a lot of pitches. He struck out twice as much as he walked in each of his seasons in the Mexican League. However, so far this season, Rodriguez has walked seven times to just four strikeouts, bringing his OBP to .462. As early as the season is, it is still encouraging to see a guy who posted a meager 5.7% walk rate just a season ago who has dealt with the rigors of both relocating and getting accustomed to an entirely new style of baseball improve upon his greatest weakness. If Rodriguez’s patience continues to develop, he will be nearly unstoppable at the plate.
At 6’0″, 235, Rodriguez is quite the phyiscal presense but at the plate, he cuts down on what would otherwise be an enlarged strikezone. Resembling another Rodriguez in the box, Rodriguez gets low and leans into the plate in order to get the most of his arm extension on pitches on the outer half. Though he slightly favors pulling the ball, Rodriguez has found success hitting the ball to all fields. Judging by his heat map, he didn’t forget to pack that success when he made the trip across the border.
Defensively, Rodriguez is a natural catcher. Behind the plate, he strikes fear in the hearts of runners with a good pop transition and an absolute cannon that allowed him to throw out an impressive 28% of his runners as a 21-year-old and an eye popping 40% of his baserunners in 2014. His large frame serves him well behind the dish as he has only allowed four passed balls in his entire career. Even if the Marlins have found their long term answer behind the plate in JT Realmuto, Rodriguez has eligibility at both corner infield spots. His quick reflexes and glove as well as his well above-average arm follow him in to the rest of the field. He has seen most of his time at first base this year with the Grasshoppers. For his size, his 9.25 range factor per game is fantastic. He makes the right decisions when the ball is hit to him as well. So far this year, he has started nine double plays. With Michael Morse only signed through next season, if Rodriguez develops as quickly as his numbers and approach so far suggest he will, he could find himself pulling on a Marlins jersey during spring training within the next two years. Wherever the Marlins see Rodriguez defensively, the thought f a fully developed Rodriguez hitting behind Giancarlo Stanton is scary. Scary but fun.