Acquired: Non-drafted free agent, 10-5-2010
Rule 5 Eligible?: No
Option Years: Not on 40-man Roster
Rodriguez is an intriguing prospect, but circumstances out of his control may cause him to be traded.
But before we talk about the organization, let's talk about Rodriguez himself. He was born in the Dominican Republic, moved to the United States as a 12-year-old, then moved back to the DR after attending high school. That made him an International free agent, and got him a sizable bonus ($375,000) from the Cleveland Indians in October 2010. He skipped the short-season leagues entirely, beginning his pro career in Lake County as a 19-year-old.
Rodriguez has lots of interesting tools. He has very good power for a middle infielder, has very good speed, and both the arm and the range to play shortstop. Baseball is game in which its best players have odd combinations of abilities since its players need to play on offense and defense, and a shortstop that has the ability to play shortstop at the major-league level as well as hit for power makes for a very interesting prospect.
But Rodriguez is far from a finished product. Unlike Francisco Lindor or Jose Ramirez, he's not ready to play defense at the major-league level, and there are holes in his swing. He's only 21 years old though, and the Indians have pushed him quickly through the minors. 2013 was only his third professional season, and he spent it in AA Akron after one-year stops in Lake County and Carolina. He's still a couple seasons from Rule 5 eligibility*, so the Indians can be patient with him.
Rodriguez is a right-handed hitter, but he had more problems with left-handers than right-handers this year:
vs RHP: .274/.297/.403, 56 SO, 10 BB
vs LHP: .245/.275/.315, 20 SO, 6 BB
However, there doesn't seem to be a path to the majors for Rodriguez. Francisco Lindor, who was briefly his teammate with Akron this year, is the heir apparent to Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop. Rodriguez has played some second base this year, but again, Jason Kipnis is probably going to be holding down that position in Cleveland for the foreseeable future. And Akron teammate Jose Ramirez was added to the 40-man roster this season and seems to be a natural fit as a utility infielder in a couple years. Now things tend to work themselves, whether it be injuries or poor performances, but the important thing for Rodriguez is that he needs to improve over the next couple seasons. Because the Indians don't have to make a decision on him this winter, they can afford to be patient, although if they do make a trade, Rodriguez would seem to be a player that they can afford to deal.
Ronny is going to play in the Domincan Winter League, which should be good experience for him. He may stay in Akron, or perhaps get a promotion to Columbus, depending on what the Indians do with Francisco Lindor. I think a second year with the Aeros makes sense given that there's no rush to move him through the system.
*For those interested in Rule 5 ephemera:
Players who were signed at age 18 or younger are eligible after five seasons in the minors, and players signed at age 19 or older are eligible after four seasons in the minors, assuming that they are not on a 40-man roster. Rodriguez signed his contract with the Indians in 2010, his Age 18 season. However, he signed the deal after the 2010 season was over with (October 5), meaning that the Rule 5 clock started ticking in 2011, not 2010. So Rodriguez has two more seasons before he's Rule 5 eligible.