Excuse me while I take cover behind this wall over here before I say this.
OK. I’m ready. Here goes… Sean Rodriguez might actually suck. There I said it. You may now start hurling projectiles at me. I’ll just take cover until you are done and then explain my stance.
Great, now that you got that out of your system, allow me to expand on what most Angel fans likely consider to be a highly inflammatory comment for there is no greater sin in Angel Fandom than to suggest one of their prize prospects might not be destined for the Hall of Fame much less no good at all.
S-Rod has gotten the Halo faithful in an absolute uproar over his potential after banging out 21 home runs through 57 games in Triple-A Salt Lake. When he was promoted to replace the struggling Howie Kendrick (a young second baseman who was once greeted with similar fanfare), people were positively salivating. There is little doubt that Rodriguez would continue to mash with such profundity in the majors.
Except for one little problem… we’ve actually seen this act from Rodriguez before, it just didn’t get as much hype. S-Rod’s power is what makes fans so crazy for his potential, but guess how many home runs he hit in Triple-A last season. Yup, 21 and in only nine more games of action. In fact, if you compare his stats in Salt Lake this year versus last year you might be shocked to find out that he was better in 2008. Take a look:
2008: .306 AVG, .397 OBP, .645 SLG, 21 HR, 19 2Bs, 45 Ks, 248 ABs
2009: .273 AVG, .355 OBP, .634 SLG, 21 HR, 7 2Bs, 68 Ks, 205 ABs
The discerning eye will easily see that Rodriguez was significantly better in 2008. The only reason he is getting so much attention this year is because he had a few balls that would have been doubles last year turn into home runs this year. Otherwise, he is regressing, especially in the strikeout department. This drop-off would be less of a concern had he not already shown what he is capable of at the major league level.
It is amazing to me how quick everyone is to forget that S-Rod was a total waste of space when he was used as an emergency starter for several weeks in 2008. Rodriguez got 167 at-bats last season and struck out 55 times while posting a .593 OPS. I believe the word you are now looking for is “yikes.” Now you expect me that he has suddenly matured over half of a season and is ready to go from scrub to superstar? Methinks not.
Before you start calling me a hater, let me just say that I am not guaranteeing Rodriguez is going to fall on his face. I just don’t think he is going to blossom into a stud and that everyone should adjust their expectations accordingly. After all, Sean did have two different stints with the Halos in 2008, he first came up in late-April and hit just a .185 in 65 at-bats before being sent back down in early June. He then was recalled in August and performed moderately better, including a solid finish in September where he had a respectable .704 OPS. So there is hope that he has continued to climb the learning curve during his two months in the minors this year. But has he really learned so much that he is going to become an offensive force? Realistically speaking, probably not.
There is no denying Rodriguez’s power; that will always be there to tantalize scouts and fans alike. What will hold S-Rod back from stardom is his difficulty making contact. And it isn’t like we are talking about him whiffing 100 times a year, Rodriguez has the ability (or perhaps inability is a better word) to strikeout 200 times if allowed to play every day. That is pretty much the pace he is on in Triple-A this year, and facing major league pitching is only going to make it worse. Few players have ever been able to achieve massive success while swinging and missing so very often.
Fortunately, the Angels don’t need Rodriguez to be a full-fledged middle-of-the-order bat, not now anyway. They just need him to add a little bit of pop to the line-up and do his best to put the ball in play on a regular basis so as not to disrupt Scioscia’s small ball philosophy. That will be a lot easier for him to do if fans keep their expectations for him in check and don’t go insane if he struggles for a little while.