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Vanderbilt Baseball Player Report Card: #5 CJ “Chi Chi the Frame God” Rodriguez

Two years was not enough for us fans to have this pitch saving savant in gangster pajamas.

NCAA Baseball: Nashville Regional-Georgia Tech vs Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

*Series Note: I will do baseball player report cards in the order of their number (from lowest, #2 Vaz, to highest, #99 Gonzo) over the next few months. Did I agree to this to mess with Tom for never finishing the basketball report cards? Yes. Did I expect him to then finish said basketball report cards, thus dooming me to do 43 of these? Also yes. Am I doing this because I suspect I will need to continually remind myself that baseball exists and will return during Vanderbilt feetball season? You make the call!

#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 in 58 games played (185 AB).

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.

Simply put, Chi Chi was the best defensive catcher I have ever seen play at Vanderbilt.

In the Draft Preview, I wrote this of his defense:

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.

How many times have you heard baseball announcers rave about a catcher’s ability to frame pitches? Is it next to never, as most casual fans don’t fully grasp what they’re seeing? With CJ behind the plate, you heard it multiple times every game.

And that was likely not enough to fully convey just how good he is as this aspect of the game, and how much better he is than the average college (and, dare I say, MLB!) catcher at stealing strikes. Think of it as sleight of hand. Whereas most starting catchers are the equivalent of a child’s birthday party magician, Chi Chi the Frame God is freaking Ricky Jay.

On the offensive side of things, Chi Chi certainly has enough bat talent, but 2021 was a bit of a disappointment on this side of things (though not really). Though he dropped 40 points on his batting average, his OBP rose by 23 points and his slugging by 22. As such, this was likely an intentional batting approach change with an emphasis on power and walks at the expense of average. It is not an approach change I would have suggested, as Rodriguez’s freshman year gave us a hint that he might be able to be an elite contact hitter. I do understand it, though.

As such, his overall production was better, so why do I say it was a bit of a disappointment? Well, I think it was fair for us to expect him to make a significant jump forward from his freshman to sophomore year at the plate, and that didn’t happen.

Still, Chi Chi was always going to be drafted for his defense, and the Oakland A’s took him in the 5th round (and signed him for $400K).

You will be forgiven for thinking the A’s stole another year of Chi Chi the Frame God from Commodore fans with the deft and alacrity of a Rodriguez stolen strike. It’s okay to feel sad.

Grade: A-.