When the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Sean Rodriguez from the Los Angeles Angels in 2009 as a part of the Scott Kazmir deal, they acquired an infielder with tons of potential. Rodriguez had hit 29 home runs twice in his minor league career, and while those both came in hitter friendly leagues, the Rays still believed that Rodriguez could be a strong offensive middle infielder for year to come. But in his big league career so far, Rodriguez has not lived up to this potential, and has put up a disappointing .228/.304/.363 line over his career. In 2013, his story began to change.
Last season, Rodriguez finally made progress, putting up a .246/.320/.385 line after mustering just a .218/.305/.343 line in the previous two seasons. His 2013 line is not going to win any MVP awards, but he finally found his niche. After having the platoon advantage just 36% of the time entering 2012, that figure jumped to 79% in 2013 and the Rays matched him up against almost entirely against lefty pitchers. Then in the field, Rodriguez found himself moonlighting all over the place, but he wound up spending most of his time at two positions he had started a combined 10 games at entering the season: left field and first base. If Rodriguez can continue to improve, he could quickly become a scary piece on the Rays’ bench.
Rodriguez’s line last year was solid coming from a utility role, but if he can improve to say a .260/.335/.420 line this year as the Rays continue to figure out how best to use him, he will be even more valuable. That line isn’t too exciting for a starting player, but there are few utility players in the big leagues who are going to put up better numbers. If Rodriguez can do that while playing every position on the field except pitcher (yes, he can even catch), he will be one of the league’s most valuable bench players. Rodriguez has already made a living in the big leagues because of his ability to play multiple positions, but the ability to do that as a strong hitter against lefties would take his game to another level. He already has a pair of extra base hits in his seven at-bats this season–let’s hope that he can build off the early success.
Especially after his disastrous 2012, plenty of people questioned why the Rays continued to hold onto Sean Rodriguez. In reality, the Rays recognized his potential the entire time, and now he is starting to tap into at least a portion of it. The Rays are thrilled to have a player the quality of Rodriguez on their roster. For just $1.48 million for 2014, they have a player with the talent to be a bench piece coveted by the rest of baseball.