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Pirates Prospects

Slow Start for Endy Rodriguez to 2023: Cause for Concern?

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Endy Rodriguez, Pirates prospects

After a breakout 2022 campaign that saw Endy Rodriguez win the Pirates’ Minor League Player of the Year award, the young catcher has come back down to earth this season. 

I wrote in January about how Rodriguez’ could pump the brakes after his meteoric rise through the Pirates’ system—a sort of sophomore slump at the minor league level following his breakout campaign. 

Offensive Outlook

With Rodriguez slashing .239/.328/.371 midway through the season with Triple-A Indianapolis, good for an OPS of .699, that ended up happening. 

He’s still walking at a healthy clip, a hair under 10 percent of the time, and is actually striking out less than he did last season. 

Why the dip, then? 

Rodriguez hit 25 home runs and 39 doubles in 125 games last season. He’s managed just four and 10, respectively in 53 games to begin 2023, which accounts for the OPS dip. 

He’s also putting the ball on the ground at a higher rate than he did last season—which could stem from swing changes or the way opposing pitchers approach him—although not to a degree that should cause a massive difference.

His BABIP dipped from a lofty .365 in 2022 to just .275 this season, a field where regression to the mean was likely.

Rodriguez dealt with a right forearm injury in April that landed him on the 7-day injured list. He hit three home runs in 14 games before that, and just one in the 39 games since then, so he could still suffer from residual effects of the injury, whether pain and soreness or mechanical issues that the hitting staff in Indianapolis haven’t managed to correct yet. 

Defense as Advertised

Defensively, Rodriguez remains excellent. His fielding percentage is north of .990 at catcher and perfect in seven games at catcher. His caught stealing rate has taken a dip from last season, but that’s to be expected as he spends the majority of his time in Triple-A, which has had the larger bases they’re using at the MLB level since 2021.

What’s the Verdict?

It’s something to keep an eye on, but there isn’t cause for panic yet, especially with extenuating circumstances like injuries factored in. At 23 years old, Rodriguez is still on a good track to make the big leagues and, while one never likes to see a down season from anyone, he could certainly benefit from added time to bulk up—reports differ on his height, but at 170 pounds he’s lankier than a prototypical catcher or first baseman, his primary positions.

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