Young Rodriguez Starting Second Tour with Captains
Todd Paquette | On 12, Apr 2014
Every professional baseball player has setbacks in their career. How they respond from those setbacks often defines the length of that players career.
For Nellie Rodriguez, he’s already trying to bounce back from an early struggle. Still just a teenager, Rodriguez has plenty of time to rebound. The Lake County Captains first baseman starts his second professional season this year with a long pedigree to make him a young prospect to keep an eye on.
After a difficult start to his season in 2013 at Low-A Lake County, Rodriguez is off to a quick start this season. Friday evening he was 2-for-4, with a pair of home runs, in a 6-4 loss at Kane County. Rodriguez is hitting. .357 in the early season.
Rodriguez was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 15th round of the 2012 First Year Player Draft. Rodriguez chose the Indians over college and received a $100,000 bonus, the highest amount he could have received without the Indians being penalized for going over their allotted bonus pool. Rodriguez had other options directly out of high school, including Central Arizona Community College and Virginia Tech, though he would have needed to qualify for the NCAA eligibility requirements at Tech.
“(My mom) said whatever decision I made she would have been happy,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to play, so everything’s good.” Rodriguez played his high school ball for George Washington H.S. located in New York City. Indians fans should be familiar with the school as it is the same school as former Tribe outfielder Manny Ramirez. Ramirez was drafted out of George Washington H.S. in 1991. As a senior in high school Nellie had a .500 batting average, with a slugging percentage of .840 and led his team to the city championship game. Rodriguez—still in high school—was also the winner of the AFLAC All-American Home Run Derby at Petco Park in 2012.
Rodriguez was drafted as a catcher out of high school but the Indians organization converted him to a first baseman quickly after the draft. In the fall of 2012, the same year he was drafted, Nellie got the chance to play for the Arizona League Indians, where he hit .229 with four home runs, 17 RBIs, 41 strikeouts, 24 walks and an .834 OPS in 32 games.
Rodriguez is known as a hard worker and his work carried over through his first offseason, where he spent two months in the Dominican Republic working with his trainer. There, Rodriguez worked on losing weight, eating healthy, agility and his offense. His hard work paid off as he had a good spring training in 2013 and was assigned to the Lake County Captains, an accomplishment he had not expected.
Starting in Low-A ball as an 18-year old proved to be a tough task as Rodriguez struggled out of the gate hitting only .194 with one homerun in 160 at bats. The Indians transferred him down to their Short-Season team the Mahoning Valley Scrappers during the middle of the season last year. Still only 18-years old, Rodriguez found success and regained his confidence, finishing the season leading the Scrappers in hits (75), home runs (9), doubles (16), RBIs (37), total bases (118), walks (29) and OPS (.818) and was named the New York-Penn League’s Player of the Week for July 22.
Now 19-years old, Rodriguez finds himself starting the 2014 season in a familiar place back in Lake County with the Captains. This year Rodriguez is out to prove he belongs and establish himself as one of the Indians top power hitting prospects in all of the minor leagues. At 6-feet, 3-inches, 245 lbs., Rodriguez reminds many of another Jesus Aguilar who has an almost exact build and currently is one of the Tribe’s top prospects. Aguilar is starting the season with the Columbus Clippers playing first base and possibly could see time with the big league club at some point this year. Some scouts actually believe Rodriguez may actually have a bit more advanced bat at this early age than Aguilar had. Rodriguez tells the story that other Tribe minor league players and people around the organization actually joke that he and Aguilar are brothers.
The sky is the limit with this 19-year old, right-handed, power hitter and that is why he is one of the Indians prospects to keep an eye on this year and in the future.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer