Pittsburgh Pirates 2021 Prospect Preview: Catcher Endy Rodriguez

The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired catching prospect Endy Rodriguez from the New York Mets in the Joe Musgrove trade. What does 2021 have in store for the switch hitting Rodriguez?

Entering this previous offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the few teams without any top ranking catching prospect. While Jacob Stallings could be a solid long term answer to provide a stable glove, the team had very few young backstops in the system.

This offseason, general manager Ben Cherington acquired a pretty solid catching prospect when he acquired the switch hitting Endy Rodriguez from the New York Mets in the Joe Musgrove trade.

Rodriguez is a switch hitting backstop. In 2019, Rodriguez spent the season with the Dominican Summer League and Rookie Ball teams in the Met organization. Overall, he was quite productive. Rodriguez hit for a .294/.411/.510 slash line with a .402 wOBA.

Impressively, Rodriguez had more doubles (14) than singles (13). He would have about 56 doubles across a 500 plate appearance stretch at the rate he was hitting them in 2019. Rodriguez also showed some pretty solid plate discipline. He walked 15 times to oppose just 18 strikeouts through 124 plate appearances.

All told, Rodriguez has 265 career plate appearances across two seasons in the Mets’ organization. He’s hit for a very solid .276/.389/.452 line, 20 doubles, 4 home runs and a .370 wOBA. Rodriguez has walked at a 13.2% rate and has struck out just 16.6% of the time.

His 90 MPH exit velocity ties him with Liover Peguero for the 4th highest mark among the top prospects of the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, he only had a 36% hard hit rate. In comparison, that ranked 15th among Pirate prospects. Still, he has shown some good power potential from the left side of the plate and should add more power as he matures, according to MLB Pipeline.

Rodriguez’s advanced approach to the plate earned him a 60-future hit tool grade. While he only has a 40-future game power and 45-future raw power grade now, like MLB Pipeline says, these could improve as he grows into his 6-foot, 170 pound frame.

Rodriguez is also a plus defender. FanGraphs sees his ability behind the dish as a 60-grade ability. He does not have the strongest of arms but it’s adequate for a catcher with a 50-grade. Not only is he a plus defensive catcher, but he also brings some defensive versatility. Rodriguez has recorded 79 innings in the corner outfield spots, and 100 innings at first base.

While Rodriguez has a smaller frame currently, he’s still only 20-years-old. He’ll turn 21 on May 26th. His ability to draw walks and avoid strikeouts often at such an early age project well for the future. Good plate discipline is often a good indicator of players who could be good hitters in the future as having a good eye at identifying balls and strikes is a tough skill to learn.

Rodriguez is also quite athletic for a catcher. He has a 45-current speed grade on FanGraphs, although he does project as a 40-grade runner after he fills out. Still, he’s swiped 6 bags in 8 attempts. That projects to be about a dozen stolen bases over the course of 130-135 games played.

Rodriguez could eventually grow into a .280/.380/.400 batter. That’s great production for a backstop. That’s comparable to Wilson Ramos’ overall production since 2018. He has a 112 wRC+ and .334 wOBA in that time as well. However, unlike Ramos, Rodriguez has the potential to be a Gold Glove caliber defender.

Rodriguez has shown the ability in the minors to hit for average, show an outstanding eye at the plate, and provide plus defense at multiple positions, but most importantly catcher. Rodriguez could end up being one of the team’s more notable prospects before the end of the 2021 season.