Luigi Rodriguez may be considered small, standing just under 6-feet tall, but his love of vampire and horror movies proves he has a fearless side.
Rodriguez, a 19-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, is in his third year with the Cleveland Indians organization. The centerfielder signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and is presently in his second season with the low-A Lake County Captains.
Last season, Rodriguez tore through the Arizona League as he hit .379 through 23 games before he was promoted to Lake County. There, he hit .250 through 34 games.
Now, Rodriguez feels he has adjusted to life in the minor leagues, though he’s made it clear that he can’t wait to get out of Lake County.
“I feel good here, but I don’t want to be here forever,” he laughed.
Of course, no minor leaguer dreams of staying in low-A ball, but Rodriguez is confident that he’ll move forward to the next level next season. “Next year, I think I should be in high-A,” he said.
Though he is optimistic for the future, Rodriguez knows that the present is what counts.
“I’m feeling very well,” he said. “Sometimes you feel tired, but you’ve just got to go through it every day and play hard as much as you can.”
With the second half of the season halfway through, Rodriguez has learned the mentality required to push through the grind. “I tell myself I’m not tired. You’ve just got to go and do it and do what you have to do.”
Rodriguez has also learned the adjustments necessary of an everyday ballplayer.
“I’ve done lots of adjustments like eating better, taking care of my body as best I can, hitting better and going to the cage every day,” he said.
Now that he has a grip on surviving life in the minors, Rodriguez is focusing on his hitting, which he believes is his biggest strength. He’s zeroing in on remaining balanced through his swing and keeping his weight back, which may improve his power stroke. Rodriguez has nine home runs on the year, but to him, there’s more to come.
“I think I can do better than that,” he noted.
Captains’ manager David Wallace also believes Rodriguez has plenty of more potential.
“I think he’s come a long way,” Wallace said. “You’re not going to find another outfielder in this league at this level that has more talent than he has, and it’s just a matter of him preparing himself everyday to go out and put those tools and skills to just play.”
Wallace feels that Rodriguez’s biggest improvement since last season is his consciousness on the field.
“[His biggest improvement is] his situational awareness of what’s going on out there,” Wallace explained. “The game’s so much more than just running down fly balls or getting hits and he’s really thinking through the game a lot better this year.”
Rodriguez is a versatile player, considering he can contribute at all aspects of the game. He’s quick in the outfield and on the base paths as he’s swiped 19 bags so far this season. He can hit for average and can hit one out, with a .266 average and nine home runs, and he can provide run support as he is ranked second in the team’s runs scored at 64.
“He can really do it all,” Wallace said. “He can do a little bit of everything and that makes him a pretty lethal threat at the plate.”
In spite of Rodriguez’s smaller stature, Wallace is not surprised by the outfielder’s power.
“It’s not [a surprise], just because I’ve seen him long enough to know he’s got that power in his bat. You just look at his frame, and that might be surprising, but if you watch his hands, how quick they are, then you see where that pop comes from.”
Rodriguez is still very young, but if his success continues to rise, Wallace feels he has the potential to become much like a couple of other Cleveland outfielders as he compared Rodriguez to Grady Sizemore and Michael Brantley. “He’s got a long way to go, but he’s got a better arm than both of those guys. He’s young, he’s got a long way to go, but I think he’s willing to put in the work it’s going to take.”
The second half of the season is winding down and the Captains are currently in the wild card race, but Rodriguez is sticking to his overall goal for the season: “Just play hard and be the best I can every day.”
Rodriguez isn’t afraid to play hard, nor is he afraid to play with confidence. Even on his off-days he’s fearless as he spends his time watching vampire and scary sci-fi movies on Netflix. The centerfielder may be young, but he isn’t afraid to utilize his arsenal of talents to rise as one of the organization’s top outfielders.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.