Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Five Set for MLB Breakout in 2023

BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 16: Mike Burrows #93 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a picture during the 2022 Photo Day at LECOM Park on March 16, 2022 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 16: Mike Burrows #93 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a picture during the 2022 Photo Day at LECOM Park on March 16, 2022 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Pirates
BRADENTON, FLORIDA – MARCH 16: Endy Rodriguez #80 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a picture during the 2022 Photo Day at LECOM Park on March 16, 2022 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

Endy Rodriguez

The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Endy Rodriguez in the Joe Musgrove swap. In his first season with his new organization, Rodriguez managed an OPS approaching .900 and a wRC+ of 140. It might be hard to top that, but the switch-hitting backstop found a way to top it and skyrocket through the farm system.

Rodriguez appeared at three levels of the minor leagues, including High-A Greensboro, Double-A Altoona, and Triple-A Indianapolis. Between these three levels, Rodriguez batted .323/.407/.590. Despite power not being Rodriguez’s strong suit, he still clobbered 25 home runs and had a .266 isolated slugging percentage. But Rodriguez’s calling card is his plate discipline. He only struck out 19% of the time while drawing a walk in 11.3% of his plate appearances. This marks the fourth season in a row Rodriguez has had a sub-20% K% and 10%+ walk rate. Overall, Rodriguez finished out 2022 with a .434 wOBA and 166 wRC+.

It’s hard to believe, but his overall season numbers low-ball the switch-hitting backstop. From the start of May through the end of the year, Rodriguez slashed .339/.429/.632 with a .458 wOBA and 182 wRC+. His walk rate was an even better 12.6%, and his strikeout rate sat at 16.8%. The second half of 2022 paints Rodriguez in an even better light, which seems impossible. In his last 219 trips to the plate in 2022, Rodriguez was nearly hitting .400 at .392 with a .470 on-base percentage and .758 slugging percentage. His wRC+ was well over 200 at 222. You read that correctly, 222, meaning he was 122% better than the league average hitter. That’s not just good; that’s early-2000s Barry Bonds good.

It also helps that Rodriguez displayed solid defense behind the dish. Catcher is one of many positions Rodriguez can play. He played some second base for the first time in his pro career in ’22 and has ample time spent in left field and first base. The backstop is his primary position, but he can move around if the Pirates need him to.

Rodriguez is one of the most hyped prospects the Pirates have had in a while, possibly even more so than Oneil Cruz. He’s the complete package: he can hit, he can hit for power, and he isn’t a bad defender at multiple positions. Speed may not be his strong suit, but it isn’t for nearly all catchers, and even then, he moves much better than the average catcher.

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