By Tommy Rancel //
About a year ago, Sean Rodriguez was introduced to Rays fans. Acquired by Tampa Bay in the Scott Kazmir trade – a move some saw as a white flag on the 2009 season and a salary dump – Rodriguez is helping the Bay area forget about their one-time ace.
Coming into this year’s camp, Rodriguez remained a relative unknown around Tampa Bay. However, the 25-year-old put on a power display in the spring, announcing his arrival. In addition to the pop, Rodriguez showed defensive versatility – a key to the Rays’ roster construction.
After that powerful spring that saw him rank among the Grapefruit League leaders in home runs and other categories, Rodriguez struggled early on. Through the end of May he was hitting just .224. The power we saw in spring did not translate, as he posted a .329 slugging percentage through the first two months. Not only was he lacking authority in his swing, Rodriguez was also hacking at every chance. In his first 219 at-bats, he struck out 64 times, while taking just six walks.
He’s made a charge since then, bumping his line up to he is hitting .257/.312/.411 in 351 PA. That’s while playing seven different positions for the Rays – making him one of just 36 players in MLB history to play seven positions and surpass 300 plate appearances in the same season.
Because of his positional flexibility and his smooth defensive abilities, the Rays may have granted Rodriguez more time than a player with less versatility. Their patience is paying off.
Since August 1, Rodriguez is hitting .250/.348/.425. After struggling with plate discipline early on, he walked 11 times in his last 91 plate appearances. His .227 Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average), over the last 30 days ranks behind only the Pirates’ Neil Walker among second basemen.
Looking forward to 2011, the Rays are likely to have a few holes in their lineup. Without the ability to break the bank on the open market, the team will look to fill most of their vacancies from within. A full-time gig for Rodriguez could mean upwards of 20 home runs with multi-position eligibility, and some speed to boot. If you take that potential and add in his late-season surge, it would be a wise decision to start snatching up Sean Rodriguez in your keeper leagues right now.
For more on Sean Rodriguez and possible 2011 keepers in 2010, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits