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CJ Rodriguez Selected by Oakland Athletics in the 5th Round

With Romero in the transfer portal, this does not bode well for our outlook at catcher in 2022.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Mississippi State v Vanderbilt Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

#5 So. C CJ “Chi Chi” Rodriguez

2021 Stats: .249/.393/.378 with 9 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 36 RBI, and 1-1 Stolen Bases.

On the Defensive end, Chi Chi gunned down 65% of would be base stealers. That’s really really good. Oh, and if I have to tell you how unbelievable Chi Chi “The Frame God” Rodriguez is at stealing strikes and managing a pitching staff, I would have to assume you didn’t watch him play.

Here’s his scouting report:

With Ty Duvall and Dominic Keegan sidelined at the start of the 2020 season, Rodriguez suddenly became Vanderbilt’s regular catcher as a freshman. He showed the ability to handle college baseball’s most talented pitching staff and has boosted his profile by providing more offense this spring. Most teams project him as a quality backup, though a club that thinks he can hit enough to be regular could take him in the top four rounds.

Rodriguez has soft hands and does a nice job of receiving and blocking pitches, and he moves fine behind the plate despite bottom-of-the-scale speed. His arm earns average-to-solid grades and plays up because he makes accurate throws. He has strong leadership skills and earns praise for his ability to manage a game and his pitchers.

Rodriguez focuses on making contact with a simple right-handed swing. He’s rarely fooled at the plate, controls the strike zone and hits the ball where it’s pitched. He’s walking more often and driving the ball more consistently in 2021 after rarely doing so a year ago, but he still figures to top out at 10-12 home runs annually.

Range: Rounds 5-20. Top 250 Ranking: #236.

Prediction: I think Chi Chi is coming back. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Rodriguez could come back, put in work with Astronaut Mike Baxter and in the weight room, and raise his offensive profile for MLB Scouts in ‘22. Some may see this situation as similar to Phil “The Hitman” Clarke, who was drafted in 2019 as a draft-eligible sophomore catcher out of Vanderbilt in the 9th round by the Toronto Blue Jays (and signed for an above slot deal), but I don’t see it that way. Clarke was drafted because of his bat. Full stop. That bat can play, and if he doesn’t stick at catcher, he could transition to a corner OF/corner IF role, and still make the pros. If Clarke is able to stick at catcher, that’s a boon.

Rodriguez, on the other hand, would be drafted for his defense... and... well... MLB teams don’t often do that unless someone is tooled out beyond belief. Chi Chi The Frame God’s defensive chops are more skill than tool-based. He’s a framing savant, who has worked diligently to refine every aspect of his catching defense. As such, even his 65% gunning down of would-be-base-stealers is more the product of hard work to get his pop time down, and the intangibles of his Yadier Molina-style catcher’s IQ, than due to a flat-out arm cannon. I absolutely think Chi Chi will catch on the major league level by the time he’s 25. I absolutely think tools-over-ability type scouting is dumb. Still, that’s what I think will happen. Teams will not hit CJ’s signing bonus number, and he will be Vanderbilt’s Captain in 2022.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 25%.

*Update: Now that he has been taken in the top 5 rounds, he is most likely gone. I will be inconsolable for a while.