Gerardo Rodriguez, 1B, Atlanta Braves
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-1 WT: 195 DOB: October 25, 1987
Once you get past Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, the Braves system is short of hitting talent. One marginal exception is Gerardo Rodriguez, who has very good power. Unfortunately, that's about all he has. He swings from the heels, strikes out a lot, doesn't draw walks, and is a poor defensive player. I don't think he's much of a prospect, frankly, but he can hit home runs, and if he makes some adjustments with the strike zone, he might surprise us as higher levels. That's a very substantial "if." Grade C.
Matt Young, OF, Atlanta Braves
Young was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of New Mexico back in 2005. He is too old to be a classic prospect and has spent all or part of four years in Double-A, but worse players have had major league careers and at some point he'll probably get some at-bats. He does two things well: draw walks and steal bases. He lacks distance power, and scouts have always been skeptical about him since he's undersized, but there's always the chance he could go on a hot streak at the right time, and end up with some playing time. I could see something like this going down: the Braves have injuries in the outfield that they can't cover, Young gets called up, hits .320 (based on an unsustainable BABIP) with some walks and steals in 75 games, then spends the next four years as a reserve outfielder with a .230/.310/.350 line while everyone waits for him to repeat his first 75 games. Grade C.
A lot of us have been wondering if there's anything to Matt Young, or if his lack of power really seals his fate. Without really mentioning their names, Sickels seems to be painting Rodriguez and Young as clones or slightly worse versions of Cody Johnson and Gregor Blanco.
One encouraging thing for Rodriguez is that his 60 games in A+ last year were actually his best numbers as a professional. Signed as a teenager by the Yankees, the Braves picked him up in 2008 after he'd spent two straight years in their short-season rookie ball. Sent to Danville, he hit .253/.310/.507 in 58 games -- not tragic, but not great numbers for a 20 year old who'd already spent the last two years in rookie ball. In 2009, they assigned him to Rome, and he put up virtually identical numbers, .258/.301/.475 in 63 games. Then they promoted him to Myrtle Beach midway through the year, and he did a little better: .281/.331/.500.
As Sickels says, his power tool is kind of his one big calling card, though he has some speed. In 746 combined PA at three levels of the Braves system, he struck out 208 times while walking just 44 times, but he hit 36 homers, 29 doubles, and 10 triples, and stole 9 bases getting caught just 3 times. Still, this is really all splitting hairs. As long as he strikes out 5 times for every walk, he has no chance to do anything useful, ever. He's done well to maintain his decent 2008 rookie league performance across two promotions since then. But he'll have to figure out how to bring down that hideous K/BB some day soon -- fortunately, he's only 22, so he has a bit of time.
Matt Young is kind of the opposite. A second baseman-turned CF-LF, he's been in our system since 2005, and he's always drawn more walks than strikeouts, with decent stolen base numbers (though a mediocre SB%), and not much power to speak of. Last year, at the age of 26, he had a decent year in AA -- .289/.421/.407, with 42 SB (16 CS) and 94 walks against just 59 K. He had a bad week at the end of the year in AAA, but deserves another shot to start the year in Gwinnett. The real problem is that lack of power -- a .407 SLG in Double-A at the age of 26 is basically proof that you cannot hit in the major leagues. His major league equivalency for his 130 games in AA: .234/.338/.319. Sorry, kiddo.