Twins get sneak peek at this future star

March 14th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Do-Hyoung Park's Twins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

By the late innings of a Spring Training game, many starting-caliber players are long gone. They have been replaced by Minor League players in often nameless uniforms who are tasked with playing the game through to its completion after the Major Leaguers have completed their work.

But these days, that’s when the real fun begins -- because those late innings could give Twins fans their first real look at tantalizing prospect , who will get more action in center field through the end of camp.

Look for the No. 87 jersey, usually in center field. Rodriguez is still only 20 years old and has plenty of development left, but after a massive breakout in 2022, the Twins are already dreaming about his ceiling -- as are my colleagues at MLB Pipeline, who have the outfielder ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the organization and the No. 88 overall prospect in baseball.

“Really excited about his progression this season,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “Obviously, what he did in a short time last year was pretty special at that level. So it'll be fun to see him play. He'll play in some more Major League games from now until the end of camp, for sure.”

Before Rodriguez had his season cut short in June by a torn right meniscus in his knee sustained while stealing a base, his advanced eye at the plate helped him excel in his first year of full-season ball with Single-A Fort Myers. He posted an eye-popping .492 on-base percentage with more walks (57) than strikeouts (52) in 199 plate appearances.

Even considering that discerning patience, it’s actually Rodriguez’s power that is considered to be his best tool, with a continually improving ability to access it in games. The Twins took a little bit of time at the start of camp to make sure Rodriguez was in a good place before bringing him over to the Major League side.

Due to his youth and relative distance from the Majors, it’s far too early to think about what Rodriguez’s ultimate path through the Minor Leagues could look like -- but Falvey said the Twins’ focus will remain with ensuring Rodriguez’s continued health and looking for the outfielder’s ability to execute and excel in the plan they have laid out for his development.

But the short glimpse everyone got of his potential in 2022 made a huge impression -- and he’ll now get more chances to make even more of an impression in front of the Major League staff.

“I would say in his case, we’ll focus on the plan side of it, which is get him back, defensive work, continuing to progress offensively,” Falvey said. “But his combination of performance and execution on his player plan will tell us when he’s ready for the next level. Once he gets to that Double-A level, obviously with his advanced feel for offense, hopefully he can kind of take off and go quickly, but we’ll see.”