Ronny Rodriguez Stands Out Among the Tribe’s Many Infield Prospects
By Steve Eby
They say you can never have enough pitching. But for the Indians organization, the saying should state that you can never have enough middle infielders.
The Indians system is loaded with talent at the second base and shortstop positions. At the big league level, two-time All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera and All-Star snub Jason Kipnis are cogs in the Indians lineup and Jason Donald has shown some promise in his backup role and during his limited starting time last season.
Down on the farm, the Columbus Clippers play former third round pick Cord Phelps, who Tribe fans saw hit a walk-off homerun last season. At Akron, the Aeros have Juan Diaz who surprised most people by getting a call up to Cleveland in late May this year, two seasons after being acquired in the Russell Branyan trade with Seattle. The Advanced-A Carolina Mudcats have an impressive duo with another third round pick Tony Wolters and Ronny Rodriguez splitting time between short and second, and the 2011 first round pick Francisco Lindor is tearing the cover off the ball in Lake County for the Captains.
Overall, the organization is stacked with middle infield prospects; most of whom were drafted high or who were brought to the organization in a trade for a big league player. The only exception in this group is Ronny Rodriguez, whom the Indians signed as a free agent in October 2010.
To start the 2011 season, the Indians organization decided that it was best for the 19 year old Rodriguez to skip “Rookie Ball” and the normal stop with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and play immediately for the Class-A Lake County Captains. “(Playing at Lake County immediately), that was a good experience for me,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of players come from the Dominican and play in a lower league like Rookie Ball, but that was a good experience for me.”
While playing for the Captains, Rodriguez struggled at times with the bat, hitting only .246 in 98 games. He did, however, show surprising pop in his bat for a young player who is only 6’0” and 170 pounds. Ronny blasted 28 doubles on the season, legged out seven triples, and pounded 11 homeruns. That is 46 extra base hits on the year, compared to 45 singles. “(I just) try to make good contact,” Rodriguez said. “When you make good contact, you have good power.”
His “good power” was enough for the Indians to feel confident to move the young Rodriguez up to the Advanced-A Carolina Mudcats. “It’s harder every level that you go,” Rodriguez said. “You have to make adjustments every level that you go. You just have to do the right things and you will see progress.” In Carolina, Rodriguez has formed a solid tandem with another young teammate in Wolters. The two 20-year old prospects have shared time at both second base and shortstop which doesn’t seem to bother Rodriguez. “I like shortstop better, (but) I feel comfortable at second base too. I try to do my job every day. (There’s) not too much (difference). It’s just the other side of the bag. I’m a small guy so I can play short or second. That’s their decision. Shortstop was my position, but I know that I can play second base very (well). I feel comfortable.”
Through 84 games of the 2012 season, Rodriguez has hit an impressive .276 with nine homeruns and 40 RBIs. His performance is not lost on his manager, former Florida Marlins skipper Edwin Rodriguez (no relation) who says of Ronny, “I’ve been very, very pleased with the way he’s been developing. (During) the first month of the season he was struggling, but he’s made adjustments offensively. It’s his first time at this level and we’ve been facing very good pitching. Since the first month, (with) his willingness to make adjustments, he’s become one of our best hitters. Really, for the past two months, he’s been our best hitter. He has a good two-strike approach. Defensively, he’s been playing shortstop and second base and he’s been looking better. The offense is there. Not only has he been hitting for average, but also for power. For a shortstop, I’ve been very impressed.”
Ronny’s performance as well as his positive attitude has made him one of the Mudcat fans more popular players on the Carolina roster. “I’m positive,” said Rodriguez. “I am a good player with a good personality too. That’s the nice thing about playing in the minor leagues. You get to the stadium and people know you.”
Having just turned 20 in April, Rodriguez has plenty of time to let the Indians crowded middle infield situation play itself out and let the cream rise to the top. With Rodriguez’s strong performance and strong work effort, it would not be a surprise to see Rodriguez get his call up in the future. “I know that if they give me the opportunity (then I’ve done it) the right way,” Rodriguez said. “That’s (the way I think) every time I’m on the field or at the plate. I’m working every day. (I need to work on) my hitting, my throwing…everything. (I need to) keep working hard. (I need to stay) positive and try to do (things) the right way every day.”
Photo by Nikolaus © 2012 Carolina Mudcats