NASHVILLE—Outfielder Yorman Rodriguez is out of options, meaning that if the Reds try to send him to the minors, they risk losing him on waivers. But that fact will not necessarily help his chances of making the Reds' Opening Day roster.
Speaking at the Winter Meetings, Reds manager Bryan Price said he believes Rodriguez has a very good chance of fitting into the Reds' outfield when they head to Cincinnati next April. But he's going to have to earn that spot.
"I'm not a believer in giving guys spots on the team because they are out of options. I've never been (in) a place where that's been a real helpful deal,” Price said. “It doesn't help a team to have a guy who is not a major league player taking up a slot on a major league roster because you don't want to lose him."
Rodriguez has a chance to prove he's more than that. Signed for a then-Venezuelan amateur record $2.5 million in 2008, Rodriguez has had a slow rise through the farm system. He had problems with injuries and maturity early in his career as he sometimes failed to run balls out or show expected effort in the outfield. But Rodriguez has taken significant steps forward in recent years both at the plate and in effort level. He made his big league debut in 2014.
"From a maturity standpoint he's just older. He's got way more at-bats now. He can do a lot of things in the outfield," Price said. "He is starting to get to his power, stealing bases and playing much better defense."
Rodriguez was in line to get significantly more big league playing time last year, but a calf injury ended his season just before left fielder Marlon Byrd was traded away. Rodriguez hit .269/.308/.429 in 308 at-bats at Triple-A Louisville before the injury. He’s playing in the Venezuelan League, where he is currently hitting .227/.293/.333 for Margarita while playing all three outfield spots.
"There's a very strong feeling amongst our staff in Triple-A, in particular Tony Jaramillo who is now an assistant hitting coach, that Yorman had turned a corner, and then he sustained a hairline fracture," Price said. "Tony felt this kid was turning the corner to become the type of player we thought he was when we signed him as a young kid."
"It this kid comes in and shows us something in spring training he can see him at least as a platoon player . . . I want to see him come in and show a maturity that would suggest he should be on the roster," Price said.
Rodriguez is solid defensively in right and left field and capable of playing an adequate center field in a pinch, which gives him potential value as a backup outfielder.