The Twins signed Emmanuel Rodriguez to a $2.5 million bonus during the 2019 international signing period. At the time, MLB Pipeline ranked him as the No. 8 prospect in his signing class, but there is a long road to the big leagues for players signed as teenagers.
Rodriguez wouldn’t make his professional debut until the 2021 season because of the pandemic. He showcased plenty of skills during his first season in the FCL, including hitting 10 home runs in 37 games. Minnesota moved him to full-season action for his age-19 campaign, and he combined for a 1.044 OPS in 47 games. Unfortunately, a torn meniscus ended his season, but he had already established himself as one of baseball’s best prospects.
The 2023 season would be a memorable one for Rodriguez and the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Rodriguez was a fixture in the middle of the lineup while posting an .836 OPS in 105 games. There were some up-and-down moments in the season’s early months, but he turned it on for the team’s stretch run. In August and September, he posted a .959 OPS with 18 extra-base hits in 36 games. He also hit the go-ahead home run in the deciding game of the Midwest League Championship Series.
Rodriguez will likely spend most of the 2024 season at Double-A when he will be 21. The Twins can face two different paths with Rodriguez this winter.
Path 1: Trade Rodriguez for Frontline Starting Pitching
The Twins’ current front office has shown a willingness to trade highly rated prospects for starting pitching. Some of these trades haven’t worked out in the team’s favor (see Tyler Mahle), but most of the team’s 2023 rotation was compiled by trade. The Twins are likely losing Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda to free agency, which puts the club in a position to need more rotational depth, especially playoff-caliber starters.
The Twins have two prospects in their system that rank higher than Rodriguez, which could make him a more expendable option. Brooks Lee and Walker Jenkins are consensus top-20 prospects, and they would likely be untouchable in trade talks. Rodriguez has shown some flaws, including strikeouts and time missed due to injury, that might make the Twins willing to part ways with him if it brings back a pitcher that can help the team win in October. The Twins will attempt to add a starter this winter, and Rodriguez is the player I’d be trying to shop.
Path 2: Continue to Develop Rodriguez
The Twins aren’t going to give Rodriguez away in a trade, so the club might decide to keep him for the upcoming season. During the winter months, it can be challenging to convince teams to trade a top-tier starting pitcher because every team feels like they have a chance to compete next season. Both World Series teams lost over 100 games two seasons ago, so there is hope for any team to make a quick turnaround. The best time to trade Rodriguez might be next season’s trade deadline when there are clear buyers and sellers, but that also means he will need to play well to start 2024.
Double-A can be challenging, especially for a player young for the level. Last season, Rodriguez was over two years younger than the average age of the competition at his level, and that age gap would likely increase next season. There were only two at-bats where he faced a pitcher younger than himself last season. That age gap can make it challenging for prospects to show their true talent level.
His plate discipline is among the best in the Twins system, as he accumulated 92 walks in 99 games. However, his strikeout rate decreased (26.0%) after cutting back in this area during the 2022 season (38.2%). He also continues to play nearly all his defensive innings in center field. He may have to move to a corner spot as he continues to add muscle, so his current defensive position would add to his trade value. If he continues trending upward, he might join Lee and Jenkins near the top of baseball’s national prospect rankings.
What path will the Twins follow with Rodriguez? Will he make his big-league debut in a Twins uniform? Leave a COMMENT and start the conversation.