Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Endy Rodriguez Has Been Historically Good
Endy Rodriguez is coming off yet another highly impressive season at the plate, showing improvement at each and every level. But is he the best minor league hitter the Pittsburgh Pirates have had in their recent history?
When the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Joe Musgrove in the 2020-2021 offseason, Endy Rodriguez was one of the most underrated pieces of the deal. Coming over from the New York Mets, Rodriguez had a great 2018 and 2019 at the Mets’ rookie-ball level affiliates. Fast forward to 2023, and Rodriguez has since developed into one of baseball’s premier prospects. But is he the best-hitting prospect the Pirates have had in recent history?
Last season, Rodriguez dominated minor league pitching, batting to a .323/.407/.590 triple-slash. The switch-hitter crushed 26 home runs with a.266 isolated slugging percentage. Even better was his plate discipline. Rodriguez struck out just 19% of the time with an 11.3% walk rate. Rodriguez has never struck out in more than 20% of his plate appearances and has never posted a walk rate below 10%. Overall, he had a 166 wRC+. Even that lowballs him, as he had a 182 wRC+ after April and 227 wRC+ after the all-star break. Yes, you read that correctly, a 227 wRC+ after the break.
Not only was this an outstanding season, but it was encore after he hit .294/.380/.512 with a 140 wRC+ at Low-A Bradenton. Rodriguez was considered a top 100 hitter in the minor leagues in 2021, ranking 72nd in wRC+, 92nd in OPS, and 38th in wOBA. For most batters, an OPS approaching .900, wOBA above .400, and wRC+ of 140 would be their best season. For Rodriguez, it was just a preview of what was to come.
The most impressive part is that Rodriguez has improved at every level. Rodriguez’s wRC+ from Bradenton to Indianapolis goes as follows: 140, 151, 199, 208. Now granted, he only had 138 plate appearances at Altoona and an even smaller sample size of 23 trips to the dish at Indy. It’s not just improvement, but he’s gotten markedly better. You usually start to see a separation between High-A and Double-A, but Rodriguez? He moved his wRC+ from 151 to 200 (from time spent between Double-A and Triple-A).
In terms of just pure numbers, there’s not been a Pirates minor leaguer this dominant with the bat in their recent history. Dating back to 2006, Rodriguez has the highest OPS, wOBA, slugging percentage, and second-highest wRC+ among Pirates minor leaguers who had at least 300 plate appearances.
Even going back to a player like Austin Meadows, who was considered a top 15 prospect in all of baseball, Meadows was never this dominant or ever showed this high of an offensive ceiling. While Oneil Cruz may have a higher offensive ceiling than Rodriguez, it certainly comes with more risk. Even Andrew McCutchen was far from Rodriguez in terms of offensive production when he was a prospect in the late-2000s.
Rodriguez showing good tools throughout the minor leagues is one thing. Him significantly improving at each and every level is another thing. The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had a minor leaguer dominate pitching like this in their recent history. If it weren’t for Termarr Johnson’s even higher offensive ceiling, then Rodriguez would be the organization's no.1 prospect. But in terms of performance so far, the Pirates have almost never had a player hit this well in their system.