Since being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 17th round of the 2009 MLB Draft, first baseman Jonathan Rodriguez has amassed 2,718 plate appearances in the minor leagues, and barring any sort of setback, he projects to be an everyday player (primarily at first base, but he is capable of filling in at third base as well) for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds this season. Just one rung below every baseball player's goal, the 26-year-old has put in the work this offseason to prepare for a successful season in Memphis and hopefully present himself as a viable option should there be a need for a bat on the big-league Cardinals.
As a 26-year-old, one will no longer find Rodriguez's name on any Cardinals top prospects lists, but at the same time, one cannot deny his ability to hit, and in particular, to get on base, as he boasts a career on-base percentage of .365 over seven minor league seasons. While he obviously first needs to prove he is able to match or exceed his career on-base percentage at the Triple-A level, and hopefully experience an uptick in power as well (as he discusses in the Q&A below), getting on base is a skill relished by all teams, especially from a player off the bench. As we learned all of last season and have already had a taste of this spring, baseball is essentially a game of attrition, so I would not be the least bit surprised if we see Rodriguez get some plate appearances at the MLB level this season.
Minor League Statistics
Viva El Birdos: In your time with the Cardinals, what would you consider the most important thing you have learned about yourself?
Jonathan Rodriguez: Being with the Cardinals has been a great way for me to grow not only as a player also as a person. I have learned that there are many ways to do the right thing on and off the field, which has definitely reinforced my character development that I had coming into the organization back in 2009.
VEB: You were set to be a minor league free agent this offseason, what are some of the main reasons you decided to re-sign with the Cardinals?
JR: Obviously, the Cardinals have been great to me, and I am grateful for all the opportunities they have given me. Also, the departure of a few players kind of cleared up my way a bit, so it really was a no brainer to stay here—home with the Redbirds.
VEB: Being at big league camp since day one this year, which current big league pitcher has been the toughest to face during live batting practice?
JR: Facing Waino was definitely a thrill and joyful moment for me. I always wondered what his stuff looks like in the batter's box, and it is amazing the way he works hitters. It was also the first live BP, so I was tracking more than swinging, but I focused on seeing his release point and pitch recognition. It is definitely harder to do than with other pitchers I've faced.
VEB: What are the goals you have set for the 2016 season?
JR: My goal every year is to be out on the field healthy. I prepare myself in the offseason to play for six plus months. With that said, a big goal for me this year is to go back to driving the ball consistently for power. I kind of feel I've lost that the past two seasons. Yet, I want to keep the consistency and plate discipline I've developed over the past couple of years, since 2013, as well.
VEB: If you had the opportunity to change anything about your professional career up to this point, what would it be?
JR: Up to this point in my career, I would not change a thing. I've been very disciplined with my work ethic and character, and I have tried to be the best teammate I can be, so no, I would not change anything.
VEB: Finally, can you take us through a regular day down in Jupiter thus far (before games started, that is)?
JR: A regular day for me is waking up at 5 A.M., so that I can be on the field by 5:45 to 6 A.M. I have breakfast then go to the training room and get going with my routine of stretching. If there is a lift that day, I go lift at 7. After that, cage routine. Done by 8, and then sit in the cages watching and learning from other players' swings and routines. After that, I get ready for practice. When practice is done, I go in, eat lunch, shower, and go home.
I thank Jonathan for taking the time to answer these questions. I wish him the absolute best for the rest of big-league camp this year and look forward to seeing what he brings to the table in Memphis. Also, if you haven't already, you must read Derrick Goold's piece on JRod's impact on our favorite Carlos Martinez from August 2015, titled "A major hand from a minor leaguer."