'That's different': This Twins prospect's power even has Correa talking

May 26th, 2024

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President of baseball operations Derek Falvey remembers when he and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli sat down with Carlos Correa for dinner following the shortstop’s first season in Minnesota. That’s when Correa was choosing between the teams that wanted him on a long-term deal, which meant he was plenty interested in the prospects who would play alongside him in the future.

That’s when Falvey brought up the name -- and pulled up the Twins’ internal summary page of the young outfielder ranked No. 3 in the organization to show Correa.

“I remember Carlos being like, eyes wide open, ‘That's different,’” Falvey said. “I think now, just what he's doing, there aren't a lot of comps to what he's doing in the Minor Leagues.”

Want to talk power? Rodriguez has it in spades, with MLB Pipeline ranking his power tool as tied with Walker Jenkins for the best in the system. That power has long been the talk of the backfields of Fort Myers, where Rodriguez has put on batting practice shows since his teenage years.

And he’s showing it off at Double-A Wichita this year, big time.

He’s got seven homers through 35 games, which is no surprise -- but what continues to impress the Twins is that, as a 21-year-old who is among the youngest players at the level, Rodriguez has carried his impressive plate discipline and strike zone command into Double-A, where he has a .469 on-base percentage thanks to a ridiculous 25.6% walk rate that dwarfs the mark of the next-best qualified hitter (17.9%).

A problem in Rodriguez's rather unique profile will always be that strikeouts will be a significant part of his game, as he strikes out at a 28.1% clip that also ranks among the 20-highest marks among qualified hitters at the level -- but that’s also tracked with his career marks instead of ballooning with the jump to Double-A.

“I think we would have expected … that you might see an increase in the strikeouts and a decrease in the walks, that you would see that as pitching is getting harder and as the dynamics are changing,” Falvey said. “He's been able to almost improve the walk rate, improve his ability to get on base that way, while maintaining a relatively high strikeout rate but not having it spike on him.”

The goal with a hitter like Rodriguez is not to miss hittable pitches in the zone that he can damage -- and they feel he’s doing that early this campaign, to get to his in-game power against offspeed pitches as well.

“I feel very different compared to last season,” Rodriguez said in Spanish to Jesús Cano of MLB Pipeline. “I focused on making sure to have an aggressive swing, but to be aware of the pitches I attack. That makes the Emmanuel of this year so different. It’s one thing to swing, it’s another to make contact.”

So, how long does Rodriguez need to slash .280/.469/.585 before the Twins deem him ready for the leap to Triple-A (and the cusp of the Majors)?

There’s no set roadmap, Falvey said -- and with Rodriguez still only 21, Falvey indicated the Twins have seen patterns in the past with hitters who perform at the big league level who have a strong foundation of plate appearances in the Minors that allows them to see the ebbs and flows of struggles and success.

“You don't want to be too conservative, but you also don't need to be super aggressive on a guy like that because he is so young and he still has some development left,” Falvey said. “We don't have a perfect roadmap. We just have to assess that as we go and as he continues to progress and show signs -- and he will go through some struggles -- and assess how he responds to those struggles. We almost want him to struggle at every level.”

The thing is, Rodriguez hasn’t seen struggles yet when healthy -- and as he continues to feel out the power/contact balance, the patience/aggression balance and perhaps runs into struggles here and there, the Twins consider all that a continued buildup of the foundation they want to see for such a young player who will be integral to their future.