When he was just 16 years old, Yorman Rodriguez signed with the Cincinnati Reds as an international free agent out of Venezuela. It's easy to understand why the Reds signed him. Rodriguez projects every skill scouts look for when evaluating young untested players.
As part of the Reds' more aggressive approach to international players, Rodriguez is seen as part of their future. Now at age 21, he is playing in the Arizona Fall League as a major outfield prospect. Rodriguez is ranked No. 15 on Cincinnati's Top 20 Prospects list.
Coming off a season in which he hit .259 and finished the year at Double-A Pensacola, Rodriguez is holding his own in the early stages of the AFL. Playing with energy and enthusiasm, he was making good contact early this fall but has now racked up 18 strikeouts in 60 at-bats. That's important, as Rodriguez struck out a whopping 153 times this past season at two levels.
Rodriguez played for both Pensacola and Class A Advanced Bakersfield. He has to continue to improve making contact to realize his full offensive potential.
Rodriguez had his best power season in 2013, hitting 35 doubles, six triples and 13 home runs. He also stole 10 bases. So while the strikeouts were high, the power display was impressive.
I have only seen Rodriguez this fall, so I have nothing with which to compare. From what I have seen, however, his swing is nice and compact, and he is seeing pitches well. With a reputation of chasing pitches, Rodriguez's pitch recognition has been good. In games I've scouted, he hasn't offered at pitches he doesn't think he can drive.
It is evident Rodriguez is working hard on plate discipline and pitch recognition this fall. To date, the results are encouraging.
I would say Rodriguez falls in the high-risk, high-reward category.
The Reds made a substantial financial commitment signing Rodriguez, but he can return dividends at full development and maturity. He has outstanding upside as both a potential power hitter and a high-quality defender. And Rodriguez has enough usable speed to impact games. Refining the hitting tool will help make him a complete five-tool player.
At 6-foot-3 and 197 pounds, Rodriguez has a very athletic, well-balanced frame. Looking ahead, he might even gain some strength and weight.
A right-handed hitter, Rodriguez has powerful arms and quick hands that help generate loft. He uses his trunk with good hip rotation to power his swing.
Rodriguez is very tough on inside pitches that he can pull. To the contrary, he scuffles a bit with pitches outside. Rodriguez just doesn't look as comfortable covering the outside corner. Plate coverage is often a late-developing skill, but it will come with time.
Rodriguez is a quality defender. In the AFL, he has played both center field and right field. Arm strength and accuracy may be Rodriguez's most advanced and finest tool. As a result, if he can hit for some power, right field may be his best position.
Rodriguez is fast enough to be a legitimate basestealing threat. He will also be able to take an extra base to help the offense, and he clearly has enough speed to close quickly if he ends up playing center field.
Clearly still a work in progress, the coming season may well determine if Rodriguez is more a prototypical scout projection only or if he indeed realizes the results his visible raw skills project. He is a gifted athlete, but he has work ahead to smooth some rough, raw edges.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.