The Tampa Bay Rays shipped Akinori Iwamura out of town in the offseason, thinking that Ben Zobrist would assume regular duties at 2B. Sean Rodriguez apparently had other ideas.  Just look at the numbers he’s posted thus far (through Sunday):

125 At Bats

.288 Batting Average (36 Hits)

Four Home Runs

21 RBI

23 Runs

Two Stolen Bases

.328 On Base Percentage

.472 Slugging Percentage

.400 Batting Average on Balls in Play

The bulk of his damage has been done during his current 15-game hitting streak, where he has gone 22-for-54 with three HR, 13 RBI, 11 R and two S.

Prior to the streak, he was hitting .197 with a .316 slugging percentage. It’s amazing how two tremendous weeks change a perception, isn’t it?

Clearly, he’s benefiting from an extremely lucky BABIP. Sooner or later that luck is going to swing the other way, and probably in an extreme manner. When that happens, his average is going to plummet.

His biggest problem is his strikeout rate. He’s currently striking out 33.6 percent of the time. During the hot streak, he has that number down to 20.4 percent, which also helps to explain things.  

I’m not going to say that it is impossible that he has improved his strikeout rate, given his Minor League career mark of 24.8 percent (over 2,748 AB). Still, the improvement is dramatic. I would look for him to regress a bit here as well.

His power is for real and is what really put him on the map, first for the Angels (the Rays acquired him as part of the Scott Kazmir trade). Granted, his Triple-A numbers came in the homer-happy Pacific Coast League, but the totals are impressive nonetheless:

  • 2008 (248 AB) – 21 HR
  • 2009 (365 AB) – 29 HR

Is he going to be a 30-HR hitter with regular playing time? Probably not, but he could hit 25 HR. Out of a middle infielder, that certainly has value.

The problem is going to be: At what cost in the average department? As we discussed, the strikeouts are likely to increase from what he’s done during his current hitting streak, as the luck is going to regress. 

Yes, it’s possible the power increases slightly, but when you look at his underlying metrics, it’s no lock:

  • 41.8 percent Fly Ball Rate
  • 12.1 percent HR/FB

In other words, you are probably looking at a 20-25 HR hitter with an average in the .250 range, if he were to get regular playing time. Chances are, with the depth the Rays have, he’ll start finding himself on the bench once he begins to struggle.

He’s a player I certainly would ride with while he’s hot, especially in deeper formats. In most formats he’s going to have eligibility in 2B and OF, which helps his long-term prospects.

Is he a long-term solution? Probably not, but he’s a player I wouldn’t mind having on my bench and plugging in from time-to-time.

What about you? Is Rodriguez a player you would want to own? Why or why not?

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