Following Minor League Baseball is something that I've loved doing for a while now. I was sucked into trying to decipher which players would be the next contributors and future stars for the White Sox. The potential of a player breaking out, playing themselves onto the Major League roster or into the future plans of the big-league squad always intrigued me. Seeing an under the radar prospect break out and make a name for himself is always a welcomed development for any farm system and prospect hound.
A prospect that is a bit further away but is garnering some much-deserved attention in the Sox system is Jose Rodriguez. The 5’11, 175 pound 18-year-old shortstop had a strong Arizona League debut last season and was able to play himself onto our 2019 midseason prospect rankings. After following along with Jose’s progress this season, I wondered to myself, how did we (he) get here?
Let's turn our baseball time machines back to February 13, 2018. The White Sox officially announced the signing of Rodriguez, as well as Francisco Benitez and Johnabiell Laureano, as a few late additions to the 2017/2018 international signing class (that was under penalty from the Luis Robert signing). Despite being signed later in the period and not drawing the same fanfare as other Sox international signings, once the Dominican Summer League season got underway, Rodriguez was making the case that he was someone you shouldn't sleep on.
Following the DSL can be a bit more challenging than any other level of the minor leagues, as many of us are mostly relegated to diving into the box scores because video (or more simply coverage) is harder to come by. Regardless, Rodriguez quickly caught the attention of some White Sox prospect hounds by knocking at least one hit in 10 of his first 11 games to the tune of a .413/.426/.565 slash line.
The scorching pace that the young shortstop was on to start the season eventually faded, but that’s not to disparage anything from his first full season playing professionally. When it was all said and done, Rodriguez concluded his debut season with a respectable .291/.318/.401 triple slash, playing 60 games as a 17-year-old (facing pitchers that were on average over a year older than him).
He ended the year with two home runs, 13 doubles, three triples, 23 RBI, stole 16 of 20 bases to accompany his 3.8 BB%, 12.1 K%, and 105 wRC+. Although he was primarily a shortstop, Rodriguez also logged a good chunk of time at second, third, and even got an appearance in the outfield.
— Sean Williams (@Sean_W10) June 25, 2019
After a successful season in 2018, Rodriguez made his debut stateside for the Arizona League White Sox in 2019 and kept the intrigue alive. Coming over to a new country and going up against pitchers that were on average two years older would make some early season struggles understandable. In contrast to those challenges, the youngster adapted well to the raised level of competition and playing in the US. He came out of the gate showing improved power, surpassing his entire home run total from 2018 in less than two weeks’ time.
— Sean Williams (@Sean_W10) July 16, 2019
Rodriguez would continue to show that the early season power display wasn’t a fluke, as one of the more promising developments of his season was the improvement of his ISO, going from .110 to .213. Rodriguez also reduced his GO/AO (ground outs/air outs) from 1.19 to 0.61 in 2019.
At the conclusion of his second full season, Jose would go on to bat .293/.328/.505 in 44 games with nine home runs, seven doubles, three triples, 31 RBI, 4.5 BB%, 22.5 K%, seven stolen bases and a 121 wRC+. While the K% increased, it was still under the league average rate for the AZL.
In an article per our Sean Williams, he stated: “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.” On the defensive side of the ball, Williams writes, “He frequently displays good footwork in the field and pairs that with a strong arm...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.”
— Sean Williams (@Sean_W10) July 11, 2019
With all of that being said, what lies next for Jose Rodriguez? Once Spring Training concludes, the minor league affiliates will know in short order what prospects are going where. Certain prospect assignments are rather obvious in nature, while others aren't as easy to predict.Although the White Sox typically announce their assignments later than most teams, in my opinion, the two most likely assignments for Rodriguez this coming season will either be Great Falls or Kannapolis.
An assignment to Great Falls (could possibly play in Extended Spring Training games until the Pioneer League season starts in June) would be a more “conservative”, yet still age appropriate assignment, whereas playing in Kannapolis would be more of an aggressive assignment facing more highly touted talent early on. With the recent track record under Chris Getz's direction, Rodriguez likely heads to the South Atlantic League for full season ball.
The one constant in either one of these scenarios is that Jose would square off against older competition, but if the last two years are any indication, he’ll be up to the task. All I know is, wherever Jose ends up assigned, I know I won’t be sleeping on him.
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