Two years ago, Ronny Rodriguez was one of several unheralded minor league signings by Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila. Rodriguez had posted solid numbers with Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate in 2017, but was quickly overshadowed by fellow minor league signee Niko Goodrum, who produced 16 home runs and 12 steals in his first extended look of major league action with the Tigers in 2018.
Goodrum’s bat has gone quiet after a hot start in 2019, but he is still in the Tigers’ immediate and short-term future plans. At 27, he could still be part of the next Detroit contender — especially if he helps prop up a lineup that is currently wallowing near the bottom of most statistical categories.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, is enjoying an early breakout. He went 2-for-3 against the Houston Astros on Monday, bringing his batting average back up to .301 on the year. Through 80 plate appearances, Rodriguez has hit .301/.350/.658, good enough for a 162 wRC+. While nobody believes he is the second coming of J.D. Martinez, Rodriguez showed some feel for hitting and decent pop in the minor leagues, and put up a solid spring after hitting coach Lloyd McClendon helped him with some offseason adjustments.
Also 27, Rodriguez is quickly forcing the Tigers to make a decision when Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer are both finally healthy, and perhaps beyond.
That brings us to our Question of the Day:
What is Ronny Rodriguez’s ceiling with the Detroit Tigers?
My answer: The easy out here is to say that Rodriguez falls into a utility role of some sort. However, Rodriguez’s bat-first profile and adventurous defending don’t exactly make for your typical fifth infielder. To his credit, Rodriguez can play nearly anywhere on the diamond, though it remains to be seen how well he does so.
Still, Rodriguez looks the part of a big league hitter. He may not be a 1.008 OPS hitter, as he finds himself on Tuesday morning, but one that might be able to hold down a full-time job. He is already projected for another 0.7 WAR by ZiPS over the remainder of the season, which would put him close to 2.0 WAR for the year. If he gets a little more comfortable in the middle infield, he might even push north of that mark. There aren’t many surefire second basemen in the farm system right now, and finding one before the rest of the prospects start to arrive would be a nice get — especially for a former minor league signing.
What do you think?
Note: We’re stealing an idea from our friends at Pride of Detroit. Every day, we will post an open-ended question, along with a quick answer, to spark discussion about the Tigers (or other stuff, who knows where this goes?). Use this thread to answer that question, or talk about other stuff — the Tigers, baseball in general, or anything else on your mind.