The Road to The Show™: Twins’ Rodriguez
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at third-ranked Twins prospect Emmanuel Rodriguez. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. When he looks back on his time in the
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at third-ranked Twins prospect Emmanuel Rodriguez. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.
When he looks back on his time in the Minor Leagues, this past year will probably count as both the most memorable and the most forgettable for Emmanuel Rodriguez.
The optimistic Twins fan will see 2022 as his breakout season -- the season that catapulted him into MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects list and rise to No. 3 from No. 18 on the Minnesota Top 30.
Any success in Rodriguez’s future will more than likely come with a reference to his 47 games with Single-A Fort Myers. Rodriguez batted .272 with a 1.043 OPS and drew more walks (57) than he had strikeouts (52) for the Mighty Mussels. As a teenager in full-season ball, he was well on his way to a 20-20 season with nine homers and 11 stolen bases while also collecting five doubles, three triples, 25 RBIs and 35 runs scored.
Most of Rodriguez’s good fortune came at the beginning of the year. But the Santiago native also seemed to end 2022 on a high note. Earlier this month, he was selected by his hometown team, Águilas Cibaeñas, with the No. 3 overall pick in the Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana (LIDOM) draft.
Cibaeñas general manager Angel Ovalles borrowed an American phrase to explain his selection of Rodriguez, calling it a “no-brainer.” Ovalles praised Rodriguez’s ability to control the strike zone and doubled down by saying “No habia dudas en escoger a Emmanuel Rodriguez,” which roughly translates to “There was no doubt in choosing Emmanuel Rodriguez.”
Rodriguez streamed his reaction to being selected by Águilas in a video that was later posted to Twitter. The video was an encouraging sight, as it showed the 19-year-old celebrating, jumping and moving around pretty well -- which could indicate that his surgically repaired knee is healing at a pretty fair pace.
And that’s why 2022 was as forgettable as it was memorable for Rodriguez. He was limited to 136 at-bats after suffering a meniscus tear while sliding into second base during a game on June 8 and had season-ending surgery later that month.
While the remainder of his Minor League season was a wash, Rodriguez could potentially return for LIDOM ball this winter. It would be his first professional action in his home country.
Rodriguez first signed with the Twins for a $2.75 million bonus when the international signing period opened on July 2, 2019. He ranked No. 8 on MLB Pipeline’s international prospects list at the time and drew early comparisons to Eddie Rosario.
In an interview with Twins Daily in April, Rodriguez said he chose to sign with Minnesota because there was a commitment from the organization that made him feel at home, and he was very comfortable working out at the team’s facility.
“Beyond baseball, he kind of felt a little more secure since the beginning,” he said through Fort Myers pitching coach and interpreter Rayden Sierra. “He felt like [the Twins] were always there. They were always falling in love with him, and that meant a lot to him.”
Rodriguez stayed at that facility for instructional league that fall and returned after the pandemic. But he spent most of his time there in 2020 rehabbing a hand injury. When it was finally time for his professional debut last season, he reported to the Rookie-level Florida Complex League.
Official signing bonus for Emmanuel Rodriguez: $2.5 million— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 2, 2019
More: https://t.co/cj62Xf02Tm pic.twitter.com/Axv6nzLN1d
In the FCL, the lefty-swinging center fielder proved he could pack a lot of power into what’s now listed as a 5-foot-10, 210-pound frame. He went deep 10 times in 37 games, driving in 23 runs and scoring 31 times.
But the season also showed that there was an obvious need to improve on his swing-and-miss issue. Rodriguez whiffed 56 times in 153 plate appearances, and his 36.6 percent strikeout rate was third highest in the FCL.
“There is a lot of trust put into his ability with the bat, and that's something that he also believes in a lot,” Rodriguez told Twins Daily. “He said that he's been working on his swing. That's something that he wants to always keep improving on. He said that his focus right now is to level out that strikeout to walk ratio.”
Rodriguez went beyond evening out that ratio in 2022. That drastic improvement is more of a defining characteristic of his season than the time missed due to the injury. The Twins needed patience before seeing what Rodriguez can do in a competitive environment, and they’ll need a little more to see how he fares over a full season. But based on what he’s shown in a small sample, it’ll probably be worth the wait.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.