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Drafted first overall in 1993, Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras waged a long, contentious and highly publicized battle with the Mariners during negotiations. The parties finally struck an 11th-hour deal where the Mariners gave Rodriguez a $1 million bonus and a major league contract. Despite missing his first year, Rodriguez adapted so well to the professional game that he spent only a half-season in the minors. By July he was in Seattle, where he became the first 18-year-old since Robin Yount in 1974 to start at shortstop in the big leagues. But major league pitching soon exposed his inexperience, and he was sent back to Triple-A, his fourth stop to finish the 1994 season. Rodriguez is a shortstop all the way. He glides instinctively to balls, especially to his left, and throws runners out with a strong, accurate arm. Defense is the most advanced part of his game. With experience, he'll become above-average in all other phases. He projects as a .280-.300 hitter with annual totals of 20-25 home runs and 20-25 stolen bases--superior numbers for a shortstop. Rodriguez has shown his greatest improvement as a pro with the bat, but he still has holes in his swing. He has been getting a heavy dose of reality this winter in the Dominican Republic, where he was struggling to reach .180 at midseason. Scouts say Rodriguez needs to be more selective and relaxed at the plate, and refrain from lunging at pitches. Defensively, balls hit right at Rodriguez give him his biggest challenge. He needs to work harder on positioning himself on in-between hops. If Seattle's development people have their way, Rodriguez will start 1995 in Triple-A, where they'd like to see him repeat what he did at the end of '94. He can use more time to work on his hitting and make routine defensive plays more consistently.
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