It’s not that he had a terrible season in 2016, but Nellie Rodriguez’s stock seems to be dropping among Cleveland Indians fans. Once the most promising power bat in the farm system, the 22-year-old could become redundant with Bobby Bradley’s prodigious power coming up behind at an even younger age. But it’s still never a good idea to sleep on Nellie.
Last season, in which Rodriguez played all 132 games with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks, the man with a thousand forearms set a career-high in home runs with 26, had one of his highest walk rates in any season, and his isolated power rating was just a shade under what he put up in 32 games during his Rookie League days in 2012.
The biggest knock against Rodriguez, like many young power hitters, is strikeout rate. When Rodriguez first made the jump to Double-A, his whiff rate jumped right along with him, shooting up to 35.2 percent from the 26.5 percent strikeout rate he sported in High-A. He got ever-so-slightly better at not striking out in 2016, but a 32.1 percent strikeout rate still needs work.
The Indians left Rodriguez exposed to this year’s Rule 5 draft — and he wasn’t selected — but that’s not necessarily a knock on Rodriguez. Any team willing to take pick Rodriguez in the draft would have had to keep him on their 25-man roster; it’s completely understandable that a team would not want to hold onto a 22-year-old batter who has never seen a pitch above Double-A.
WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 19 PROSPECT FOR 2017?
Shane Bieber, RHP (Age 21)
2016 (A-): 24.0 IP, 0.38 ERA, 1.90 FIP, 24.7 K%, 2.4 BB%
2016 fourth round draft pick, solid pitch repertoire and excellent command (similar to Josh Tomlin) make him an intriguing prospect. Fastball sits in the low 90s paired with a slider and changeup. Could find himself in Lake County in 2017 as a 22 year old.
Andrew Calica, OF (Age 21)
2016 (A-): 174 PA, 2 HR, 14 SB, .388/.491/.568, wRC+ 213
2016 (A): 42 PA, 1 HR, 1 SB, .359/.405/.523, wRC+ 117
2016 11th round draft pick was an advanced bat out of college who absolutely tore up Low-A and Single-A pitching in his first taste of pro ball.
Willi Castro, SS (Age 19)
2016 (A): 548 PA, 7 HR, 16 SB, ..259/.286/.371, 90 wRC+
2016 (A+): 9 PA, 0 HR, 0 SB, .222/.222/.222, 18 wRC+
Switch-hitting short stop out of the Dominican Republic. Spent the majority of 2016 in A-ball, strikeouts spiked as did his power. Good speed on the bases, hardly walks at all.
Aaron Civale, RHP (Age 21)
2016 (A-): 37.2 IP, 1.67 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 20.0 K%, 5.7 BB%
2016 third round draft pick, a power arm transitioning from the relief role to starting. His innings were limited in his pro debut due to the college season, but he should be ready to stretch out in 2017.
Matt Esparza, RHP (Age 22)
2016 (A): 100.1 IP, 3.14 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 27.2 K%, 5.5 BB%
2016 (A+): 39.0 IP, 3.92 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 18.8 K%, 8.2 BB%
Excelled in first full season in Indians system, struck out 12 batters in one Class-A game. Made it to High-A late in season, likely to start 2017 with Lynchburg Hillcats.
Oscar Gonzalez, OF (Age 18)
2016 (R): 155 PA, 8 HR, 4 SB, .303/.342/.566, 148 wRC+
2016 (A-): 4 PA, 0 HR, 0 SB, .000/.250/.000, 12 wRC+
Highly promising young Dominican player who broke out big with an MVP season for the AZL Indians last year. High strikeout rate is a concern but still very young.
Tyler Krieger, 2B (Age 22)
2016 (A): 299 PA, 3 HR, 15 SB, .313/.385/.427, 141 wRC+
2016 (A+): 257 PA, 2 HR, 6 SB, .282/.369/.405, 118 wRC+
A high-average hitter with a good amount of speed on the base paths. Doesn't strike out a lot and walks at a decent clip. Could find himself in Akron at some point in 2017.
Mark Mathias, 2B (Age 22)
2016 (A+): 490 PA, 5 HR, 9 SB, .274/.359/.405, 115 wRC+
2016 (AA): 16 PA, 0 HR, 0 SB, .067/.125/.133, -35 wRC+
2015 third-round pick skipped Single-A Lake County and had an expected slow start to 2016, but finished with 40 doubles and improved every month. Played third base when Krieger was promoted.
Gabriel Mejia, OF (Age 21)
2016 (A-): 293 PA, 0 HR, 28 SB, .322/.378/.375, 129 wRC+
Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2013. Has yet to hit a home run in his professional career, but continues to be a threat on bases after swiping 28 bags in 2016 (second best in New York-Penn Leagu). First season where he struck out significantly more than he walked
Luke Wakamatsu, SS (Age 20)
2016 (A-): 77 PA, 0 HR, 1 SB, .323/.312/.304, 91 wRC+
Son of MLB coach Don Wakamatsu, owner of the greatest Twitter handle ever, @skywaka22.