The Bearcats in the Big Leagues crew just grew by one. Yesterday, in the 10th round of the MLB First Year Player Draft, Cincinnati Bearcats shortstop Manny Rodriguez was taken with the 290th overall pick by the New York Mets. He was the 30th shortstop drafted and the only Bearcat to be selected so far.
A year ago, such a development would have seemed impossible. While Rodriguez was a regular starter for the Bearcats, he was far from an MLB prospect. In 2017 he set a career-high in batting average with a mark of just .242. Consistently a light-hitting threat, Rodriguez had been held below the .250 mark for each of his first three seasons, even as he started game in and game out. In addition to a lack of enough good contact, Rodriguez didn’t walk much and had pretty much zero power. He walked only 32 times combined in his first three seasons and with only two home runs and 30 extra-base hits all together, he was far from a middle of the order threat or a player that projected to have a chance at a MLB career.
That all changed this season. Rodriguez became a totally different hitter, producing both in terms of getting hits, working walks and sending balls over the fence. He slashed .296/.376/.598 and had a total of 12 home runs, 30 extra-base hits and 20 walks in 49 games. That’s right, this past season he had as many extra-base hits as he totaled in his first three years combined. He also got on base at a better than 30 percent rate for the first time ever and all those home runs dwarfed his previous output.
Not only was he one of the best hitters for the Bearcats, he was one of the best in the AAC, ranking fifth in the league in slugging percentage and tying for seventh in home runs. The power boost helped make him one of two first-team All-AAC selections for UC, joining starter J.T. Perez for the honor.
According to MLB.com, Rodriguez’s approximate pick value sits at $141,000. Its not certain where he will end up playing in the minors right away, but rookie ball seems likely, which means he could be playing for either the Kingsport (Tennessee) Mets or the Gulf Coast League Mets. As for his potential path to the MLB level, obviously it will be a long and difficult one. Setting aside the mammoth odds against even making it once you’ve been drafted, the Mets have some strong prospects at shortstop in the system already. That includes Andres Gimenez, who is listed as the No. 1 prospect in the organization by MLB.com. There’s also Ronny Mauricio, Luis Carpio, Gavin Cecchini and Gregory Guerrero, and those are just the top prospects. The Mets are already testing a new and heralded shortstop this season, with Amed Rosario playing at just 22-years-old. He has performed adequately (.258/.287.376), but has been 15 percent below league average according to OPS+, a metric from Baseball Reference.
Regardless of what ultimately becomes of Rodriguez’s career, this is an incredible achievement and just continues to add to the list of stunning accomplishments for him in 2018. He will join Ryan Noda, Connor Walsh and Ryan Atkinson as a Bearcat in the minor league ranks for now and will hope to one day join Josh Harrison and Ian Happ in the bigs. That’s quite the change from where he was a year ago.