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Endy Rodriguez’s Bat Came Alive And Defense Improved When He Focused on Catching

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Endy Rodriguez can hit.

The Greensboro catcher is currently hitting for a .302/.392/.544 line in 370 plate appearances in High-A. Greensboro is a very hitter-friendly environment, but Rodriguez has hit all over the South Atlantic League, with an .852 OPS on the road.

This isn’t new. Rodriguez had a .294 average and an .892 OPS last year in Bradenton, and his numbers with the Mets in rookie ball were just as good.

“The Florida State League is not the best place in the world to hit,” said Pirates farm director John Baker. “And he hit there. And he hit in the DSL. And he hits in Greensboro and he hits on the road. I think that it’s safe for us to say that it doesn’t matter where you put Endy, he’s going to be able to hit.”

Rodriguez hasn’t hit the entire season. He struggled at the start of the season, batting .240 with a .652 OPS in April. He was struggling with some different off-speed looks that he hadn’t seen in the lower levels. Baker gave Rodriguez credit for grinding through those issues, and showing what he can do over a larger sample size.

“It’s showing up now, and it sure showed up last night in Bowling Green in a big way,” Baker said when I spoke with him last week.

Pirates DVR: Look Back At The Endy Rodriguez Five Hit Game

Rodriguez started hitting in May and continued in June. The Pirates had him working defensively at first base, left field, second base, and catching when 2021 first overall pick Henry Davis wasn’t starting.

Once the Pirates promoted Davis, they started giving Rodriguez more playing time behind the plate, slowly removing first base and left field.

“When we kind of widdled away first and left, and we just left it to catching and second base, and we stabilized his weekly routine, he rewarded us with a lot more offensive performance,” said Baker.

Since Rodriguez dropped left field, and worked strictly at catcher and second base, he’s hit for a .391/.491/.793 line in 106 plate appearances.

The Pirates have been trying their players at alternate positions this year, and Baker noted how it was important to learn those positions early, so the players never feel like they’re springing something upon them.

“We’d rather rip the bandaid off when they’re 18, 19, and run them all around the field,” said Baker. “See what they can do, and see what they can’t do.”

Rodriguez is not only one of the best pure hitters in the system, but he’s also one of the most athletic players in the system, which gives him a lot of possibilities.

“Endy is a guy who can adequately do all of those things, but it’s unfair to him to try to practice outfield, practice second, practice first, practice catch, DH,” said Baker. “We let that go on as long as we could, and then with Henry leaving, it opened up some space for us to just catch him four in a row and play second base twice a week. He’s done great at both of those positions, and his catching has only gotten better as he’s gotten more frequent back-to-back games.”

Rodriguez showed off the defense in that five hit game last week on this impressive play:

With the runner going, and a pitch thrown inside in the dirt, Rodriguez calmly and cleanly receives the ball on a bounce off the dirt, then effortlessly jumps to a throwing position, double-clutches, and still has the arm strength to throw out the runner at second with a perfect throw to the second base side of the bag.

“It was pretty impressive,” Baker said, after highlighting the play.

In my opinion, there’s a better chance that Endy Rodriguez, not Henry Davis, will be the catcher of the future in Pittsburgh. I think both will hit enough to reach the majors, but Rodriguez is already ahead of Davis. If Davis does hold the position, then Rodriguez has a lot of other options.

What’s encouraging is that his monster offensive numbers recently have come as Rodriguez has put more focus on his hitting, and less on his defensive versatility. The fact he was hitting in May and June, while splitting his focus among two other positions was impressive.

What he’s doing now with the bat, and only two positions to worry about, is just talent.

THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

Greensboro is Where Players Start to Take Development Into the Real World

Endy Rodriguez’s Bat Came Alive And Defense Improved When He Focused on Catching

Nick Gonzales Working Through Contact Issues

Prospect Roundtable: The Book on Oneil Cruz

Johan Oviedo enjoys the opportunity to start again

Carter Bins reworks swing and discusses Triple-A adjustments

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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