Friday, February 10, 2012 at 7:18 AM
With Spring Training set to get under way, SoxProspects.com will be taking an in depth look at many of the system's prospects with previews set for every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leading up to Opening Day. The third edition of the series features a first baseman trying to prove himself in the upper minors and a young outfielder working to get his footing as a professional.
Position: First Base
2011 Teams: Salem Red Sox/Portland Sea Dogs
2012 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 26
Strengths: Rodriguez excels at turning on inside fastballs, quickly driving the head of the bat through the hitting zone when he is pulling his hands inside of the baseball. With a relatively short swing and easy load, he is capable of turning around the consistent higher velocity fastballs seen in the upper levels of the minors. Rodriguez shows solid-average power potential, utilizing his lower body in his swing mechanics to generate torque as he impacts the ball and produce backspin when driving offerings. He understands how to create loft with his swing, especially with pitches from his thighs to the belt. While his batspeed is not above-average, he makes up for it by being quick with his trigger. Rodriguez looks to use the whole field, creating extension against pitches on the outer third to drive them to the opposite field. Defensively he handles himself well around the bag at first base. He is fairly light on his feet and fluid going to both his left or right. Rodriguez flashes a soft glove, aiding his infielders by being able to react to off-target throws.
Development Needs: Rodriguez has been old for the level of competition since joining the Red Sox organization out of the independent Golden Baseball League in 2009. He is untested and inexperienced against advanced secondary offerings. This showed during his time in Double-A last season. Rodriguez over-commits against breaking balls, often getting off-balanced on his front foot due to being fooled and he ends up punching with his bat or flicking the head of the bat to produce weak contact. He will have to adjust to prevent opposing pitchers from consistently feeding him secondary offerings. Rodriguez is also not overly patient and goes into ruts of hitting behind in counts after trying to attack the first fastball he sees regardless of its location. Logging experience will help him gain trust in his batting eye. While Rodriguez has a power element to his game, he does not have the power of a regular first baseman. Even with a fast learning curve in demonstrating he can make consistent contact, he looks most likely to have the ceiling of an up-and-down player within a second division team’s organization.
2012 Outlook: Rodriguez slots in as the starting first baseman on the Portland Sea Dogs and will get the chance to prove he can consistently hit in Double-A during the 2012 season. His stint at the end of last season should help to give him more of a feel for the level of competition he will face heading into this year. Rodriguez has hitting talent and has thus far made the most of the second chance at a professional career the Red Sox gave him in 2009. With dedication to keeping his weight back and producing better contact against secondary offerings, he has a good shot to put up solid-average power numbers and maintain a higher batting average during his time in Double-A. Due to his age, Rodriguez is behind the curve, but can show he is ready for Triple-A by mid-season. He provides the club with organizational depth this season and could also draw some interest from a team out of contention as a player in the back-end of a trade or potential Rule 5 pick during the 2012 off-season.
2011 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners/ Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 20
Strengths: A former football player, Perkins has a sturdy, well-filled out frame that is designed to generate power. His strong wrists allow him to whip the head of the bat from the left-side of the plate with force. Perkins’ swing is geared towards producing lift and his raw power grades out as plus. With solid batspeed, his hit tool shows to be average-to-solid-average. Perkins is capable of producing enough solid contact as he matures to project as an average-to-better hitter for average. Now firmly focused on baseball since signing in 2010, he is the type of player who it can suddenly click two to three seasons into his career as his experience level begins catching up to his tools. The organization has moved on the slower side with Perkins to ease him into the professional environment. A good athlete, Perkins is slow out of the batter’s box, but his top speed clocks in at solid-average. He moves well for a bigger player and has the footspeed to play a corner outfield spot. Perkins has been improving with his reads in the outfield. His package of tools puts his ceiling as a power hitting middle-of-the-order bat, with 25-30 home run potential.
Development Needs: While Perkins has solid tools, he is a very raw player. His approach, plate discipline, and pitch recognition have been built from the ground up. Perkins doesn’t presently pick up offerings well out of opposing pitchers’ hands, leading to a lot of bad swings against secondary offerings. When he is caught in-between guessing, average fastballs tie him up due to the longer nature of his swing and he cannot get good wood on the ball to drive it. Repetition seeing pitches will help Perkins catch up to the caliber of professional pitching to enhance the amount of hard contact he makes, but he also has some mechanical flaws that need ironing out. His swing is rough. Perkins tends to hit out on his front foot, landing stiffly with his stride. His hands come too far forward with him and he is reduced to hitting primarily with his arms. The head of the bat also loops down under the ball leading to him missing the center of the baseball with the sweet spot of the bat due to opening up too early. Improvement of his balance and separation with his hands are keys to him tapping into his natural power, as well as unlocking his ability to square up the baseball frequently.
2012 Outlook: Perkins is in the mix to break camp with the Greenville Drive when the 2012 season gets underway. He could possibly stay back in Extended Spring Training for more instruction time and play with the Lowell Spinners, but showed signs of making improvements relaxing in the batter’s box during the latter portion of his time in the Gulf Coast League in 2011. He will be challenged this season to make strides cleaning up his hitting mechanics and this will be a good tell as to where his development is headed. Given the rough nature of his mechanics, it could be a struggle in 2012 for him to make consistent hard contact. Positive signs of improvement in this area will show in longer stretches of making hard contact. Perkins’ work with his pitch recognition is also vital to him making progress tapping into his hit tool as he tracks through the lower minors. Development steps should be expected to be slow and steady given his level of baseball experience. I do not see him as a prime candidate to break out in 2012, but a player to watch this season for the subtle clues and tells in evaluating whether his work during practice sessions is beginning to transfer into game action.
Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen