Rodriguez enters 2020 carrying the highest upside of any bat in the entire organization. Last season, the Dominican native displayed an absurd level of maturity when he performed well early, hit the IL for two months, only to return without skipping a beat and ultimately performing well enough to earn a promotion to Advanced-A Modesto by year’s end. At 18 years of age. In his first full pro season. And his first year in the states.
Rodriguez is a solid athlete but does not possess great speed or lateral agility. He does, however, possess average or better tools across the board, including hitting, power and arm strength.
His jump in 2019 – not the jump in levels, but the advancement in skills – suggests a little higher upside than I originally projected with a little less risk and a shorter path to the majors.
And all of that adds up to… a lot.
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It’s plus bat speed and an aggressive swing that drives balls to his pull side. His improved plate coverage came at no expense of power or his ability to make hard contact, instead opening up more of the strike zone for him.
His setup and swing are loose and athletic and he uses his lower half well without disrupting his timing. His belligerent game plan hasn’t been challenged much yet, but eventually he will see quality pitching that forces him to be a bit more selective with steeper consequences.
What sells me on Rodriguez most — outside his tremendous maturity and power potential — is his ability to adjust with two strikes, use more of the field and avoid wasting at-bats.
Defensively, he profiles well in a corner and has enough arm to handle right field in a traditional alignment. He’s shown instincts, well above-average routes and jumps, and he tracks balls well.
He’s also a solid base runner, making good reads, leading with aggression.
Rodriguez likely starts 2020 back in Advanced-A Modesto and ends it in Double-Arkansas, which puts him on track for a big-league debut in 2021. If he stays healthy, the stay in the Cal League may not last but a couple months, but the Texas League projects to be a legitimate challenge for him at the ripe age of 19.
Barring unforeseen bumps in the road, Rodriguez sticks in the big leagues by 2022, which lines up well with the organization’s timeline to contend in the American League. The power, hand-eye, maturity and instincts all suggest an all-star level talent, and Rodriguez has a chance to mash his way to stardom.
Photo of Julio Rodriguez by Freek Bouw/Phrake Photography, licensed via AP