It is never easy to project the future for a prospect. It is even harder to predict a Major League career for a Los Angeles Angels’ minor league player due to the large number of offense-friendly environments that the club’s minor league affiliates play in.
Sean Rodriguez has put up some interesting power/speed numbers in the minor leagues, including 24 home runs and 16 stolen bases in High-A ball at the age of 21. His triple-slash line was .301/.377/.545. Those numbers placed him onto the prospect radar, but he was playing in an excellent hitter’s environment in Rancho Cucamonga.
The next season, the former third round draft pick hit just .256/.348/.427 with 15 home runs and 17 stolen bases in Double-A. He posted mediocre walk rates in both 2006 and 2007 of 9.4 BB% and 9.7 BB%. The strikeout rates were disappointing at 27.3 K% and 25.6 K%.
Rodriguez rebounded at Triple-A in 2008 and hit .306/.397/.645 in 248 at-bats. He banged out 21 home runs, but stole just four bases. The shortstop-turned-second-baseman earned a promotion to the Majors but he looked lost as his approach and plate discipline let him down. He managed a line of .204/.276/.317, along with rates of 7.7 BB% and 32.9 K%. His BABIP was .284 and his line-drive rate was 11.7%.
Defensively, Rodriguez made just two errors at second base in 423.2 innings. He showed average range for a second baseman and could improve as he becomes more comfortable with the position.
He is not going to hit for a high average in the Majors, but Rodriguez has the potential to hit 15-20 home runs and steal as many bases. From a comparison standpoint, he is not all that different from former Blue Jays and Cubs (along with a collection of other teams) shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who retired in 2006. He managed 10 or more home runs in eight of his first nine seasons and also stole 10 or more bases four times. Gonzalez’ 14-year career line was .243/.302/.391, with rates of 9.1 BB% and 25.0 K%.
That’s about what you can expect from Rodriguez, with perhaps slightly higher on-base and slugging percentages, unless he does something Gonzalez never did – make adjustments. With some instability in the Angels’ infield, it is a great time for Rodriguez to make a play for a regular gig. The club has no set regular at shortstop or third base, and second baseman Howie Kendrick has not played more than 92 games at the Major League level in the past three seasons. That said, Rodriguez has his work cut out for him; he is noticeably absent from the organization’s depth chart, which makes one wonder just how valued he is in the system.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.