On the heels of yesterday’s top prospect piece, let’s go in the way-back machine and look at a player in the Mets’ organization in 2019. Endy Rodriguez was an IFA signed in 2018 as an older prospect, one who received a nominal bonus. He spent parts of two seasons in the DSL before coming to the U.S., where he played in the GULF, where as a C/1B/OF he put up an .847 OPS in 89 PA at age 19. With the way of looking at prospects used in yesterday’ piece, Rodriguez would have been a third-tier, Luis Guillorme level player.
Unfortunately, I was doing an ordered-number list of prospects at the time, trying to figure out which older relievers had the best shot of reaching the majors in a part-time role. Rodriguez was nowhere on my list, which was published on 12/29/19.
On 1/19/21, the Mets traded Rodriguez as part of a three-team deal, sending him to the Pirates in the swap that netted the club Joey Lucchesi. The lefty was just starting to put things together for the Mets before coming down with an injury which kept him from pitching in the majors in 2022. Now, Lucchesi is in the mix for a position as a relief pitcher, although there’s no guarantee he makes the club out of Spring Training.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez has become one of the Pirates’ top prospects. Like all minor leaguers, he was hurt by the missed Covid year in 2020. In 2021, he put up an .892 OPS in 434 PA in Lo-A at age 21. The missed Covid year would have knocked him back to the fourth tier, as he was no longer on an age-appropriate trajectory. But he hit both before and after 2020, which was a good sign.
Then, last year, Rodriguez went from Hi-A to Double-A to Triple-A. He put up a .996 OPS in 531 PA, including a 1.120 OPS in 138 PA at Double-A, which was the preferred age level for him last year.
In a deep Pirates’ system, Rodriguez is now the sixth-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline.
I’m a fan of Lucchesi and it’s my belief he’ll play some role on the 2023 Mets. But if the Pirates called up and offered Rodriguez straight up for Lucchesi, that’s a deal to be made 100 times out of 100. Having a switch-hitting catcher with experience playing other positions as productive as Rodriguez has been would be a coup for any organization.
Why rank prospects by levels focusing on age? Because you recognize the potential for a guy like Rodriguez years earlier than you would otherwise.