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Will Pirates prospect Endy Rodriguez win race to MLB after red-hot summer time?

ALTOONA, Pa. — After a scorching summer time, has catcher Endy Rodriguez emerged forward of Henry Davis on the Pirates’ inside depth chart?

Davis was the highest choose within the 2021 MLB Draft, however his improvement has been stymied by accidents, together with a damaged wrist after being hit by a pitch. Rodriguez wasn’t precisely an understudy initially of the season — Davis and Rodriguez had been type of the 1A/1B catchers at Excessive-A Greensboro — however he blossomed when he obtained behind the plate extra regularly in Davis’ absence. Since coming off the injured listing a few weeks in the past, Davis has added a brand new wrinkle, taking part in two video games within the outfield.

Who’ll win the race and get to the majors first? If Rodriguez makes a fast look with the Pirates within the ultimate week of this season, would that sign he is cemented because the membership’s high catching prospect?

Minor-league catching coordinator Chad Noble grinned and didn’t take the bait.

“Let’s flip the script and say Endy obtained hit (by a pitch) that day and Henry saved going,” Noble mentioned. “We might very nicely be speaking about Endy having struggles on the plate and all these items. In order that’s a tough query.

“So far as Endy being forward of Henry, I do not see it that approach. They’re so completely different within the methods they do every part that it is onerous to even evaluate them.”

Rodriguez entered this season hoping simply to maneuver up one stage within the farm system. He obtained his want from him six weeks in the past when he was promoted to Double-A Altoona.

Rodriguez, 22, has been as electrical with Altoona as he was at Greensboro. After having the very best summer time of all of the Pirates prospects, I’ve upgraded his plans from him.

“I need to play in huge leagues this 12 months,” Rodriguez mentioned. “My objective at first of the season was to play (in Double A). Now, I have to go up. That is my new objective. That is why I all the time play onerous. Once we play onerous, we will make one thing occur.”


Endy Rodriguez batted .356/.442/.678 in 31 video games with Altoona. (Josh Lavallee/Pittsburgh Pirates)

Rodriguez didn’t play Sunday in Altoona’s season finale. He possible is headed to Triple-A Indianapolis, which has 10 video games remaining.

“I inform Endy on a regular basis, ‘Preserve doing all your factor and shortly you may be in Indy,’” Noble mentioned. “He all the time goes, ‘I do not need to go to Indy. I need to go to Pittsburgh.’ Endy would match proper in (with the Pirates). He’d stroll in and never even be perceived as a rookie. They’d simply be like, ‘Let’s go, man.’”

It is potential Rodriguez will make a cameo look earlier than the Pirates wrap up their season on Oct. 5. Final 12 months, shortstop Oneil Cruz went from Altoona to Indy, then performed two major-league video games within the ultimate week of the season.

Rodriguez should be positioned on the Pirates’ 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. The Pirates have already got two open spots on their 40-man. Administration may decide ​​to make the transfer in a few weeks and provides Rodriguez a style of the large leagues.

“It would not shock me as a result of I’ve had a very good 12 months and so they know I may help the workforce,” mentioned Rodriguez, who just lately moved into the ultimate spot on Baseball America’s Prime 100 listing.

Rodriguez batted a mixed .317/.406/.580 with 24 homers this season. His bat from him stayed scorching after making the soar to Double A, though the pitchers had higher stuff and altered how they attacked him.

“Final evening, I noticed solely two fastballs, each popping out of the (setting) solar. All the things else was a curveball or changeup,” Rodriguez mentioned, shaking his head. “They know I can hit.”

In a few weeks, Davis will head to the Arizona Fall League. Rodriguez plans to play for Estrellas Orientales of the Dominican Winter League, which is able to open its season in mid-October.

Davis, 22, appeared in simply 59 video games this season, the results of being plunked on the wrist in his final sport with Greensboro. Sunday, he notched his twentieth hit-by-pitch in his ultimate plate look with Altoona.

Rodriguez has made 70 begins at catcher, 16 at second base and 12 in left subject. It wasn’t till Davis suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left wrist that Rodriguez turned an on a regular basis catcher.

“(Rodriguez) has the athleticism and all of the instruments,” an evaluator from one other membership mentioned. “I really like his enthusiasm from him. I really like his swing from him. I simply have to catch extra. The flexibility is sweet, however I might get him behind the plate day-after-day.”

The Pirates have walked a tightrope to develop their two prodigious catchers this 12 months on the identical ranges of the system. It has been a problem for Noble, a former Cubs bullpen catcher whom the Pirates employed as a coordinator in January.

“You will get in hassle whenever you focus solely on one man, even when he’s ‘the man,’” Noble mentioned. “My objective will not be for them to be, like, C1 and C2 (first string and second string) within the huge leagues. I would like them to be equal contributors as a result of they convey so many actually good issues. They catch in a different way, they hit in a different way, however they’re each actually productive.”


Henry Davis was restricted to 59 video games this season due to accidents. (Mike Janes/4 Seam Photos by way of Related Press)

Davis has a stoic catching fashion. In faculty, he arrange together with his left knee on the filth. The Pirates switched it to his proper knee down as a result of it made Davis a greater blocker and thrower.

Rodriguez has what Noble calls a “flowy” fashion. He additionally makes use of a one-knee-down set-up, however regularly switches knees, typically from pitch to pitch in an at-bat. Rodriguez additionally is ready to get decrease to the bottom than Davis.

Davis has a no-nonsense Kind A persona, and it reveals when he makes a mound go to. “He’ll go on the market and be like, ‘I’ve completed my homework. I’ve obtained you,’” Noble mentioned. “Endy is like, ‘Come on, man, let’s go! Let’s have enjoyable!’ Two completely different types and each are very efficient.”

Early within the season, a scout seen that Rodriguez appeared tentative throughout his mound visits. When the scout checked in once more a few months later, Rodriguez was extra in cost on the sector.

Noble identified that Rodriguez took an enormous step ahead after Davis went to Altoona and Rodriguez took on full-time catching duties with Greensboro.

“Endy began actually immersing himself in catching,” Noble mentioned. “I feel that actually gave him the concept of, ‘Hey, these guys are throwing at me day-after-day. They’ve extra belief in me now as a result of I am taking part in extra.’ That freed him as much as turn out to be the sort of sport supervisor we’d like.”

(Prime photograph of Endy Rodriguez courtesy of Altoona Curve)

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