The Road to The Show™: Pirates’ Rodriguez
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at second-ranked Pirates prospect Endy Rodriguez. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. Few prospects have wildly outperformed modest expectations like Endy
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at second-ranked Pirates prospect Endy Rodriguez. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.
Few prospects have wildly outperformed modest expectations like
The native of Santiago, Dominican Republic, signed a $10,000 deal with the Mets on July 2, 2018. After five years in the Minor Leagues and a trade to a new organization, Rodriguez has emerged as MLB Pipeline’s No. 55 overall prospect.
Rodriguez was one of the Minors’ best hitters in 2022 with High-A Greensboro, Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis. He earned the Pirates’ Honus Wagner Player of the Year Award, a second consecutive league MVP, this time in the South Atlantic League, and a spot on the MLB Pipeline Prospect Team of the Year.
The 22-year-old topped the organization with a .323 overall average, .407 on-base percentage, .590 slugging percentage, .997 OPS, 148 hits, 39 doubles and 68 extra-base hits. His OPS and 165 wRC+ led all Minor League catchers, and he was the only hitter in the Minors with more than 20 homers, an OBP better than .400 and a strikeout rate lower than 20 percent. The switch-hitter bashed 25 homers and finished with a 1.002 OPS from the left side and a .975 OPS against southpaws.
Rodriguez mostly stayed behind the plate defensively, throwing out 29 runners, but he also saw time at first base, second base and left field.
His emergence gives the Pirates tremendous depth at the premium position. Pittsburgh drafted Henry Davis with the No. 1 overall pick in 2021. As far as expectations go, the backstops entered the professional ranks on opposite ends of the spectrum. But the club is confident – thanks in large part to Rodriguez’s athleticism and defensive versatility – they’ll find harmony for their second- and third-ranked prospects.
“If you can keep two really good bats fresh by splitting up the catching time, then I think you have a better chance of having a more dynamic offense out of the position,” director of player development John Baker told MLB.com last week.
Rodriguez was older than most in his class when he inked his Mets deal. And just nine days after signing, he suited up in his first professional game in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League.
He had a strong start in 2018 but struggled down the stretch to finish with a .261 average and a .769 OPS. Rodriguez came stateside the following season but stayed in Rookie ball for his breakout in 2019. He batted .294/.411/.510 with a pair of homers and 15 walks in 31 total contests between the DSL and Gulf Coast League. Rodriguez mostly remained behind the plate in his first two seasons, but saw some time at first in 2018 and started adding reps in the outfield in 2019.
Rodriguez was not on the Mets’ alternate roster during the pandemic year, and on Jan. 18, 2021, the Pirates acquired the 6-foot, 170-pound backstop in a three-team, seven-player deal that sent Joe Musgrove to San Diego. At the time, Rodriguez had only begun to make a name for himself.
“Got really strong scouting reports on him on the defense. Switch-hitter. “Makes contact. We think there's some power potential there. Good athlete,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington told MLB.com after the trade.
It took a couple months for Rodriguez to find his footing in the new organization, but he was incredible down the stretch for Bradenton He finished with a .294/.380/.512 slash line, 15 homers and 73 RBIs in 98 games to earn Low-A Southeast MVP honors. Rodriguez batted .311 with a .914 OPS and 38 extra-base hits, including 11 long balls, from June 1 to the end of the season.
“Everywhere he goes, his team wins.”— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) November 17, 2022
Endy Rodriguez is everybody’s next favorite player. pic.twitter.com/dVp5BnJs6c
In 2022, Rodriguez proved he could handle any challenge the Pirates threw at him, even homering in his Grapefruit League cameo. He spent most of the season in hitter-friendly Greensboro, batting .302/.392/.544 with 42 extra-base hits, including 16 homers, in 88 games.
Rodriguez only got better as he climbed to Altoona, collecting more RBIs (32) than games played (31). He batted .356/.442/.678 with eight homers, 14 doubles and 27 runs scored.
"Leaving Greensboro and hitting as well as he did really opened our eyes," Baker told MiLB.com in December. "Everything he's done so far suggests he's the real deal. Consecutive MVP awards and a track record of success and improvement in all areas showed us he's getting very close."
Rodriguez stayed hot over the final week of the season with Indianapolis, going 10-for-22 (.455) at the plate with a homer, triple, two doubles and eight RBIs in six games.
Although he’ll likely make his big league debut this season, the Pirates planned for Rodriguez to return to Indianapolis for the start of 2023. Despite having a terrific spring in which he collected seven hits in 17 at-bats (.412), he was optioned back to Minors camp last week.
Rodriguez has become an important part of the Pirates’ rebuild. He’s on pace to not only crack the big league roster this season, but also to play his way into becoming a lineup regular.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.