Two current members of the AZL White Sox roster, Jose Rodriguez and Bryan Ramos, have a few things in common. For one, they are both playing professional baseball in the United States for the first time in their careers. And secondly, they are both having a ton of success so far in the early parts of the 2019 season. Despite the AZL season still being relatively young, the results that these two have shown so far has been very exciting and these are two prospects that White Sox fans should keep an eye on moving forward.
Jose Rodriguez is an 18-year-old out of the Dominican Republic and was an international signing back in 2018. Rodriguez was assigned to the Dominican Summer League affiliate that year where he slashed .291/.318/.401 with 13 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs, 23 RBI, drew 9 walks, and struck out 29 times in 60 games. All things considered, that's a pretty successful season for your first year of professional baseball, regardless of which affiliate you were assigned to.
In 2019 with the AZL White Sox, Rodriguez has put together some very impressive numbers while facing the toughest pitching he's seen so far in his career. In 13 games with the AZL White Sox, Jose Rodriguez is slashing .283/.306/.633 with 3 triples, 5 home runs, 12 RBI, 2 walks, and 16 strikeouts so far. He's starting to cool off a bit, going a combined 0-9 with three strikeouts in his last two games. However, his .939 OPS is still the third best on the team when looking at guys who have played in 10 or more games. Rodriguez has already surpassed his home run total from last season and don't let his smaller frame fool you (5'11", 175-pounds), the ball explodes off his bat. Power is something that he should continue to develop more of as he grows through the White Sox' farm system.
Jose Rodriguez goes deep with a solo shot to give the AZL White Sox a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 7th. pic.twitter.com/NpH984nQn4
— Sean Williams (@Sean_W10) June 20, 2019
Rodriguez has a smooth, compact swing that allows him to generate a lot of line drives. He keeps his hands tucked in close to his back shoulder, allowing him to have a short, quick movement between loading and getting the barrel through the zone. For being only an 18-year-old, I've been impressed with his approach at the plate. He has shown the ability to be patient, wait for his pitch, and drive the ball once he gets it. Also, he's attacked early in the count if he sees something that he doesn't think he will see again in that at-bat. Overall, it's safe to say that Rodriguez has somewhat of a mature plate approach for his age.
Jose Rodriguez jumps on the first pitch he sees for a RBI single. He makes it a 6-4 game in the 8th. pic.twitter.com/W6LMCGQOPJ
— Sean Williams (@Sean_W10) July 1, 2019
Defensively, Jose Rodriguez has been equally as impressive. He's listed as a shortstop, but has spent time at second base and third base as well. He frequently displays good footwork in the field and pairs that with a strong arm. He's spent the most time at short so far, but he looks the most comfortable at second base. The majority of his errors have come at shortstop this season as he sometimes struggles to make accurate throws from that part of the diamond. Overall, he looks smooth in the field and has the ability to cover a lot of ground at any of those positions.
Rodriguez seems like the type of player that will be able to continue playing multiple positions down the road, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him continue the utility role as he works his way up towards the majors. If he eventually becomes a big leaguer, I can see him being a utility guy at that level too. Not to mention, that might be his quickest or most efficient way of getting himself to the show. Providing that kind of flexibility will allow him to earn more playing time and will also separate him from some of the other prospects working their way towards the South Side of Chicago.
Bryan Ramos is a 17-year-old third baseman from Havana, Cuba who was a $300K international signing in 2018. Ramos, unlike Rodriguez, is playing his first season of professional baseball this year and has been lighting the Arizona League on fire. In 15 games with the AZL White Sox, Ramos is slashing .373/.468/.627 with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs, 8 RBI, 8 walks, and 15 strikeouts. That line is impressive for anyone, but it's even more impressive for a 17-year-old who is getting his first taste of professional baseball.
Ramos checks in at 6'2", 190-pounds and all it takes is one quick look at him to notice his big frame. He looks like a man among boys standing next to the rest of the AZL players, and Ramos being listed at 190-pounds might not be doing his frame enough justice. He has quite a bit of muscle packed on right now and is going to continue to fill out his naturally big frame as he gets older. He also has pretty good speed and is very athletic for a guy his size, and that's something that will stick with him as he continues to develop and fills out his frame more.
At the plate, Bryan Ramos got off to a very slow start, going a combined 0-16 in his first five games and only reaching base twice via walks. However, he would follow that up by going on a seven-game hit streak with five of those being multi-hit games. Since going 0-16, Ramos has been held hit-less in just one game and looks like a completely different player. His approach leans more towards the aggressive side, even though he has picked up 8 walks so far. The walks were more of a result of him being pitched around and laying off of the junk. Pitch recognition is something that he will have to continue to work on moving forward if he wants to continue being a threat at the plate. Aside from that, Ramos shows a lot of strength at the plate, has good bat speed, and possesses raw power that he's learning to tap into more and more each game. He has the potential to develop a lot of power over the years and that could eventually become his best tool.
Bryan Ramos drives in Rodriguez and Gladney on a two-run double to make it a 3-2 game in the 4th. pic.twitter.com/VV3yMaCyzu
— Sean Williams (@Sean_W10) June 26, 2019
I've been impressed with Bryan Ramos' defense as well. He's strictly played third base and has looked solid over there. His athleticism allows him to make tough plays on slow rollers and balls headed for the hole. His footwork is still a work in progress, but the speed and athleticism make up for it for the time being. Ramos also has a strong arm and has made a lot of accurate throws across the diamond so far. Overall, I've been happy with his results at the plate and in the field, and there's a lot of positives to takeaway from his performance as just a 17-year-old prospect.
So, what comes next for these two prospects who are both tearing up the AZL and playing stateside for the very first time in their careers? For Jose Rodriguez, I believe that he will head to Great Falls at some point this season and if all goes well, he could end up starting next season in Kannapolis. For Bryan Ramos, it's a little more difficult to gauge. As I've mentioned before, he's only 17 so I wouldn't be surprised if he spent the entire season with the AZL affiliate, especially since this is his first year of professional baseball. However, if he continues to hit at this pace, the White Sox might not have much of a choice and will have to truly consider sending him to Great Falls to see how he handles a new challenge. If he does get promoted, he would end his season there and would likely start next season in Great Falls too before eventually making his way to Kannapolis.
The early signs of these two prospects have not only been surprising, but exciting too. Sometimes it can take international signings a little while to get adjusted to professional baseball in the United States, but so far, these two prospects have shown that this challenge has not been too great for them. Rodriguez and Ramos are two prospects that White Sox fans should keep an eye on moving forward as they seem like they have the tools and potential to eventually become big league players. They have a long way to go, but for now, their development and growth is worth keeping an eye on.
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