Updated: Dec 5, 2021
WELCOME TO THE DIRTY FLIRTY.
These are my top 40 prospects in The Cardinals organization, aside from the players that I’ve already covered in The Dirty Annexes. This little ditty here is the preface to all of the post in our Dirty series. So, if you’ve read this once then you don’t need to read it again!
A warning to those looking for Lars Nootbaar, Scott Hurst, Junior Fernandez, Johan Oviedo, Jake Woodford, Edmundo Sosa, and anyone aside from Angel Rondon that has already made a major league debut: That’s not really my bailiwick, as I’m sure you’ve heard enough about those guys from more qualified outlets already. Most of those guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway.
A reminder that this is an exercise in futility, ranking prospects. It’s a landscape that is ever-changing and developing. We are almost always talking about kids that are just starting to understand both themselves and their bodies, while learning the most difficult and nuanced sport in the land. You never know when someone is going to start doing 200 pushups per day on their way to postseason glory.
I ask for your thoughts and feedback. I ask that you have fun. I ask that you remember that I’m a moron. Most importantly, I ask that you take all of the prospect rankings from every outlet in the spirit of what they are: a snapshot of that moment, with a bent towards understanding what might come.
#25: Catcher Julio Rodriguez
24 Years Old
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2016
Springfield and the FCL doesn't count because he was rehabbing
I swear to god, I’m going to try and keep this one short. There isn’t a lot to say, but I’m already going off the topic so fuck me, really.
Julio Rodriguez is the ultimate organizational catching depth piece. There is a very good chance that his future is more than just that, but it’s totally OK if that is all that he is. I love that. It makes me happy. Give me him over Ali Sánchez right now. Screw it. No disrespect to Sánchez, of course.
After suffering a broken hamate, Rodriguez missed a bunch of time during the 2021 season. He started the season with Springfield, but he was quickly put on the IL after missing most of the preseason. Rodriguez is also one of those prospects that I waited to compile the D40 for. I’ve always been a big fan, but I wanted to see more than just three games following COVID from him before I decided where/if he should be on the list.
His stats aren’t impressive, but the at-bats were once Rodriguez found his way back into the Springfield lineup. Rodriguez isn’t going to light the world on fire as a hitter, but the kid knows how to use the gaps and hold his own within an at-bat, and that’s a terrific sign for a kid that appears to be a defensive upgrade over the Tony Cruz-type Major Leaguer.
I want to emphasize the “defensive upgrade” of it all because Rodriguez is the best defensive catcher in the organization right now. When I usually say "organization" I almost always just mean the farm system, but in this case I think that you could argue that he's the best defensive catcher that the Cardinals have even if you include the Majors. He’s smooth behind the plate. He’s smooth framing, he’s smooth on the glove to hand transition, he’s smooth calling a game, and he’s smooth firing his motherfucking hand cannon from his knees to get a baserunner at 2nd that got a great jump off the pitcher, somehow.
Hey, leave me alone. I love a good run-on sentence. Cursing is for kings, too.
The gist of Rodriguez is that he is a TRUE backup catcher at the Major League level. Not to drag Ali Sánchez back into this, but I'd say that Julio's value is a lot like that. Sánchez is also defense-first, but with maybe a little bit better (more seasoned, specifically) bat. Now, we all have differing opinions on what the value of that is. I TRULY value that. As a matter of fact, I’d bet that Rodriguez would hit similarly to how he did at Palm Beach during the 2019 season (wRC+ of 93 while batting 258/288 but with less slug which would yield a lower wRC+) with some eye-opening defense if he were forced into a limited at-bat bench role for the Major League club. I also don’t believe that we’d see Rodriguez’s defense fall off in any way if he were forced into a “classic Yadi backup that only starts one in every 73 games” role. To me, that’s valuable. To most, it certainly isn’t worth the 26th spot on any top prospects list, even in a weak farm system. I understand, BUT YOU’D BE WRONG.
And, HOORAY!!!, that’s it!! Sure, Rodriguez could be more if he runs into a couple more home runs or finds consistency in slugging in the gaps. Or if he commits to Yadi’s bread and butter of throwing the bat at a ball seventeen feet off the plate to bloop one into the oppo gap. Or if he does 200 pushups in a day and eats chicken and rice every day. But more than likely, this is the Cardinals version of Julio Rodriguez and, personally, I love it.
I swear, each one of these things is like one million words. I'm letting myself off of the hook on this one.
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In addition, you all know how important and valuable @cardinalsgifs is to the pictures that fire up these articles. I wouldn’t do the write-ups if it weren’t for him.
Thank For Reading!!