With Winter seasons coming to an end, and Spring Training just around the corner, I decide to take a look through a scout's eyes at a few players that I saw in Venezuela. The first one I'm going to take a look at is shortstop Miguel Rojas from the Reds organization.
Rojas is a 22 year-old 5′9″, 175 lb limber shortstop with long arms and legs that played Double-A ball with the Reds in 2011. In Venezuela he plays with Tiburones de la Guaira, and this season he left such a great impression that I don't have a doubt he'll be playing in the Majors in the next few seasons.
Even though he's not an offensive threat, and he still has a lot to learn about hitting, his defensive capabilities are among the best I've seen in a while, and definitely the best I saw in Venezuela this year.
He has soft and quick hands while on defense, and when he fields a groundball you get the impression that the ball disappeared in his hands. His footwork is also outstanding, he turns the double play with such speed and ease that you pretty much have to see it in slow motion to capture the moment. You can also see how he positions his feet in order to throw the ball even before the ball is in his glove.
He has great range to both sides, and has a strong and accurate arm. Not to mention that he gets rid of the ball in a blink of an eye. His make-up is also great, at such a young age, he accepted the role as team leader and performed well this season for Tiburones. His baseball instincts and defensive skills, are compared to the ones of a 10-year veteran. He did the little things as the team leader like approach the mound when the pitcher wasn't looking good, to talk and calm him down.
I also heard in an interview that he usually watches the other team's batting practice to notice hit patterns and then know how to position in the field every time a hitter comes to the plate. I was also amazed by his confidence on and off the field and how competitive he was.
His downside is definitely his offense, and one of the main reasons why he's still in the Minors. Even though he can hit to all fields, and has quick hands, he's a contact hitter and has shown little to no power at all. He tallied only four doubles and one triple in 104 at bats this season in Venezuela.
He also needs to develop more plate discipline and learn how to draw more walks. Rojas is a fast runner, although he doesn't possess blinding speed. I believe he has to work on his running, as he repeatedly would get bad jumps and reads on the pitchers.
In my opinion, he could be, as soon as this year, a good September call-up for the Reds. He possesses the defensive tools to perform at a great level in the Majors, so they could use him as a late-inning defensive replacement. But until he learns how to be more productive on the offensive end, he will only a defensive replacement or utility player.
Rojas will continue to be blocked by current shortstop Zack Cozart who in a brief stint in the Majors, showed solid defense and accumulated 12 hits in 37 at bats (.324 avg).
Image by Tiburones.net.