Ben Cherington on Pittsburgh’s Two Top Prospects

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Termarr Johnson and Endy Rodriguez are the top two prospects in the Pirates organization. An 18-year-old middle infielder, Johnson was drafted fourth overall by Pittsburgh last summer out of an Atlanta high school. Meanwhile, Rodriguez, a 22-year-old catcher from Santiago, Dominican Republic, was acquired by the Pirates from the Mets in the January 2021 three-team trade that included David Bednar and Joe Musgrove.

I asked Pittsburgh general manager Ben Cherington about the highly-regarded duo during November’s GM Meetings in Las Vegas.


David Laurila: Pirates fans and prospect nerds are quite familiar with Termarr Johnson, but a lot of fans around the country probably aren’t. What can you tell me about him?

Ben Cherington: “I think a good place to start is that he is currently in the Dominican, participating in our Dominican instructional program, which I think is a cool thing for a high first-round pick to do. It’s something that he wanted to do. Termarr wanted to go down there and be part of that experience, and to get to know potential future teammates who are young Latin players. He’s a full participant in our Dominican program.”

Laurila: Is he going through a Spanish immersion program?

Cherington: “He’s doing the whole day they are. They’re doing English classes, and he’s kind of just learning from them in the opposite direction.”

Laurila: How does he profile on the field?

Cherington: “We think he’s got a chance to be a really good hitter. It’s good bat speed with a history of performance, albeit at the high school/amateur level. He has a good combination of bat speed, decisions, and loft to get the ball in the air. He loves to hit. He studies hitting; he’s kind of a hitting nerd. We think he’s got a chance to be a good offensive player with some power and on-base skills.”

Laurila: What about on the defensive side of the ball?

Cherington: “It’s a bit of a stockier body, but his feet work well and he’s got good instincts. We think he’s got a good aptitude, defensively. He’s played short and second in pro ball so far, and will probably continue to do both a little bit. We’ll see where that goes. So yeah, we think that he can just be a good all-around player. Termarr is someone that really knows the game. He loves the game.”

Laurila: You said he has a bit of a stockier body. Is it a frame that’s not going to fill out and allow him to develop markedly more power than he currently has?

Cherington: “I wouldn’t necessarily say that. He’s not going to add 40 pounds or anything like that, but he will get stronger. He’s already got enough bat speed and ability to get the ball in the air that he should produce some power.”

Laurila: He profiles as a guy who is going to hit balls over fences.

Cherington: “We believe so.”

Laurila: Basically, a power hitter?

Cherington: “I would call him a hitter first; a hitter who should have power. And again, he loves the game. He loves to play.”

Laurila: Let’s jump to Endy Rodriguez. What can you tell me about him?

Cherington: “Endy is a switch-hitting catcher who was playing a lot of other positions — and he can still do that — but we’re focusing more on catching as he’s getting closer to the big leagues. We think he can catch. He’s really athletic.”

Laurila: He was signed by the Mets as an 18-year-old international free agent in 2018, then came over in the Bednar trade.

Cherington: “Yes. Endy is a native Dominican who has learned the English language pretty quickly, and has gained the trust of pitchers. He’s also one of those young players that other players seem to be drawn to. When you’d go to the affiliate he was with and watch BP, or you were looking into the dugout, he’d always have a crowd around him. Endy is a high-energy kid.”

Laurila: One who is emerging as a top prospect…

Cherington: “Endy has performed really well. He touched Triple-A at the end of the year, so he’s getting closer.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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1 year ago

Thanks for this. Not much meat here, but I wouldn’t expect much from a GM.