Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Looking Into Endy Rodriguez's Struggles

What has plagued Endy Rodriguez at the plate this season?

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Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Endy Rodriguez hasn't had a great 2023 season so far, but why isn't he hitting nearly compared to the last two seasons? Should fans be concerned about his slump?

Pittsburgh Pirates catching prospect Endy Rodriguez was one of minor league baseball’s best hitters in 2021-2022. Between the two seasons, the switch-hitting backstop slashed .310/.395/.554 with a .423 wOBA, and 154 wRC+.

Rodriguez hit for power, but only struck out 18.4% of the time. He also walked at an 11.4% rate. Among all minor league batters with at least 600 plate appearances between the two years, Rodriguez was second in wRC+ and wOBA, and 6th in OPS.

But this year, Endy has not been his normal self. He’s still walking at a solid 11.1% rate, and has an improved 16.4% strikeout rate. But his triple-slash consists of a .239 batting average, .328 on-base percentage, and .371 slugging percentage, which looks like this: .239/.328/.371. Along with that, he has a .319 wOBA, and 77 wRC+. His overall on-base percentage is almost as high as just his batting average in 2021-2022. So what’s going on with Rodriguez?

Well, the first thing is Rodriguez’s batting average on balls in play. Rodriguez’s BAbip is just .275. When comparing BAbip, it better correlates to a player’s average than the league average (which is .300). Rodriguez’s BAbip in 2021-2022 was .350. Last year, he was at .365, and his career average going into 2023 was .344. You could almost compare him to Bryan Reynolds, who also fed off a high BABIP throughout his minor league career.

Despite the drastic shift in BAbip, his batted ball rates haven’t changed much. Endy had a 24.4% line drive rate, 36.3% ground ball rate, and 39.3% flyball rate. This year, he has a 22.2% line-drive rate, 39.2% ground ball rate, and 38.6% flyball rate. Last year, he had a 22.8% line drive rate, 35.4% ground ball rate, and 41.8% FB%. It’s been a small change, yes, but not enough to cause an 89-point drop in BAbip.

Another thing worth mentioning is that it’s possible the Pirates want Rodriguez to work on something before he makes his big league debut. According to MLB Trade Rumors writer Brad Johnson, he’s gone the opposite way a lot more often than usual. Rodriguez could very well be focusing on his ability to go oppo, with his opposite field percentage up by almost 10%. It’s not uncommon for teams to ask players to try something out, just to see how they feel with it in the upper-levels of the minor leagues. Based on the fact his walk rate and strikeout rate aren’t much different from the last few years, as well as his LD/GB/FB rates are also mostly unchanged, I do believe that this might be the case.

If this happens to be the reason why Rodriguez is in a slump in the first half of the year, then I wouldn’t worry too much about his future. Plus if he reverts back to a normal approach at the plate, his BAbip will likely go back to what it was pre-2023. Overall, it doesn’t seem like Rodriguez’s struggles are anything to worry about, and you should still be looking forward to the impact he could make in the very near future.