Sean Rodriguez’s Potential | The Process Report

Sean Rodriguez’s Potential

By R.J. Anderson //

Every team wants players with a combination of power, speed, defensive ability and flexibility, and baserunning shrewdness with restricted contract status. That combination makes for a fan favorite, which has a fun way of translating to so-called star status. To acquire those players costs something. Whether it be cash for free agents, time for drafted amateurs, or talent in a trade. The Rays gave up talent — albeit in shell form — for Sean Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is a 25-year-old in his first full major league season, although he had more than 200 plate appearances in the majors. Buoying his .330 wOBA is not a strong walk rate – he is taking free passes in fewer than 5% of his plate appearances – nor a high batting average – he strikes out too much for that – but by power. Rodriguez’s .164 ISO places him in select company amongst second basemen. Equal to Brandon Phillips and within the neighborhood of Martin Prado and Chase Utley. Notable since those three are amongst the National League’s best second baseman, with Utley taking the crown.

Rodriguez’s skill set is an interesting one. The quintessential Rodriguez play at this point is either fielding a bloop and throwing ahead to nail the runner or making a bare-hand scoop and fire. He seems like a fine second baseman and while he can fill in outside the infield dirt, the keystone seems like his home. He has good foot speed and displays a constant motor. His footwork is reminiscent of Akinori Iwamura, but I believe his arm and range to be superior. He’s also flashed some of the cleverness that defines positive prose about Jason Bartlett’s defensive game.

At the plate his contact abilities leave something to be desired but his approach is at times overly passive. Given the history of walking I have to believe some of that real translate over in time. Statistically Rodriguez is in very, very good company. Observe.

Taking the top ten or so second basemen in baseball this season and comparing Rodriguez’s career progress to them is startling. He belongs. He has a place amongst them at similar stages. With the exception of Dan Uggla, each had reached the majors by this point and had relative success. Robinson Cano had the worst of the age-25 seasons (using wOBA) and he happens to be the only one with a wOBA below .330. Clumped within five points of Rodriguez is fine company. Phillips, Utley, and Weeks. Aaron Hill sits ten points ahead, and names like Kelly Johnson, Dustin Pedroia, and Ian Kinsler are well ahead.

Much like Utley, the age-25 season marks the first real exposure to the majors. Utley’s previous career high in plate appearances was 152, whereas Rodriguez had 187 a few seasons back. Every other player had at least 300 besides Martin Prado (254). Rodriguez ISO is within five points of Weeks and Hill, ahead of Prado and Pedroia. That without park adjustments, meaning Rodriguez really is accomplishing something by outslugging the Fenway-roaming Pedroia.

Any comparisons to Utley to Pedroia are grandiose and outrageous even by Rodriguez’s most ardent of supporters, but he’s where the best were. That does not guarantee success. Nothing does. What it does suggest is that Rodriguez is performing admirably and continues to build on – not tear down – the intrigue that made him a worthy acquisition more than a year ago.

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