Coming off the absence of a whole season, the minor league picture for some clubs may look a bit murky heading into 2021. Many teams are hoping there are minimal delays with regards to the spring training camps, as another year filled with postponements or cancellations could seemingly throw a wrench into an entire farm system.
Already during the winter, we’ve had several conversations about the state of the Los Angeles farm, specifically how lacking the talent is in the outfield. Obviously, the Dodgers are plentifully stocked at the big-league level and on the fringe, but the lack of quality outfielders in the middle levels is quite noticeable.
Of course, there are players like DJ Peters, Cody Thomas and Zach Reks who might be close to their respective MLB debuts, but their lack of overall, balanced tools could be hampering their chances. In the case of Peters and Thomas, their propensities to swing and miss at the plate are somewhat disconcerting to many observers.
Nevertheless, there are a few young outfielders on the lower levels of the farm with much higher expectations. One of those prospects is 18-year-old Venezuelan native Luis Rodriguez, who has already climbed into the Top 10 prospect rankings by most outlets.
Rodriguez was signed during the 2018-19 international signing period, which also included a notable addition in catcher Diego Cartaya. Rodriguez’s deal was for $2.67 million, the highest bonus the Dodgers ever paid to a true international amateur, surpassing the $2.5 million paid to Cartaya.
At the time of his signing in July 2019, Rodriguez was believed by many to be the fourth-best prospect on the international market, closely trailing Jasson Dominguez, Robert Puason and Erick Pena.
The thing that sets Rodriguez apart from his peers is the balance of his tools. Many scouts say that he doesn’t have one skill that stands out, but because he has no apparent weakness in his game, he ranks very high in all areas.
Said Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com at the time of the signing: “Rodriguez is a pure hitter and a natural athlete. He has a sound approach in the batter’s box and has shown the ability to use all fields with consistent and hard contact. There’s a nice rhythm and balance to his swing, and although he’s primarily a line-drive hitter now, there have been flashes of power, which could increase as he develops. Rodriguez is a quality defender in center field now and makes all the plays.”
According to MLB Pipeline, “with his bat speed and ability to put the barrel on the ball, he could hit 20 or more homers on an annual basis once he matures physically.”
Additionally, most scouts seem to think that he’ll stick in center field, although his arm strength is graded high enough to thrive in right field. Some believe he’s already profiling as a consummate leadoff hitter, especially when considering his ability to make contact with the ball at the plate.
MLB Pipeline adds that “he has solid speed and a high baseball IQ, making him a threat to steal bases.”
If things return to near normalcy in 2021, we may see Rodriguez arrive stateside and blaze through rookie ball, and if all goes well, potentially top out Rancho Cucamonga, which was recently bumped down to the organization’s Low-A affiliate.
Right there with Rodriguez in the prospect rankings is 20-year-old Cuban outfielder Andy Pages. The righty-hitting Pages agreed to terms with the Dodgers as an international free agent in October of 2018 for a $300,000 signing bonus.
While some outlets—like Fangraphs—actually have Pages ranked higher than Rodriguez, the consensus is that both players are legitimate Top 10 farmhands.
TBPC profiled Pages as recently as last March.