The Pittsburgh Pirates often put a poor product on the baseball field, but doing so occasionally reaps small rewards, like getting the first pick in this year’s Rule 5 Draft.
The Pirates used said pick on Indians minor league infielder Josh Rodriguez, a 25-year-old who spent last season mostly in Triple-A.
Rodriguez, a former second-round pick in 2006, has a surprisingly broad set of offensive skills for a middle infielder. He once hit 20 homers while playing half his games in extremely pitcher-friendly Kinston, and is coming off a .486 slugging percentage in Triple-A last year. Rodriguez also boasts plus plate discipline, walking well over 10% of the time at every step of the minors.
Rodriguez’s defense isn’t stellar at shortstop, but he’s a plus at second base who can handle shortstop at an acceptable level. He’s not the basestealer many shortstops are, but has decent speed.
Since he’s had such extensive minor league success, there’s little doubt Rodriguez can play at an acceptable level in the major leagues, making him a good pick for a Pirates organization desperately in need of talent. Since the Pirates’ shortstop situation was putrid in 2010 (combined .250/.297/.362 with the third-worst defense at the position), Rodriguez could probably become the team’s starting shortstop and provide an upgrade on both sides of the ball. The Pirates certainly needed to take advantage of this pick, and it looks like they did just that.