Pirates catcher Endy Rodríguez underwent surgery to repair the UCL and flexor tendon in his throwing arm, the team announced. He won’t begin baseball activity for 10-12 months and will miss all of 2024.
Rodríguez had been the presumptive favorite to open the season as the Bucs’ primary catcher. Unfortunately, he suffered the freak injury on a swing while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic last month. Next year will go down as a lost season for the switch-hitter.
Regarded as one of the sport’s most talented catching prospects, Rodríguez made his big league debut not long after the All-Star Break. He served as Pittsburgh’s starter down the stretch despite struggling in his first look at MLB pitching. Over 57 games, the 23-year-old hit .220/.284/.328 with a trio of home runs.
While Rodríguez doesn’t have a ton of power, he has shown excellent strike zone discipline in the minors. He walked at an 11.4% clip while keeping his strikeout rate south of 15% in 315 plate appearances for Triple-A Indianapolis, where he hit .268/.356/.415. He combines that with rare athleticism for a catcher and solid defensive reviews from scouts. Statcast graded him as an average receiver in his first 410 big league innings but credited him with better than average arm strength.
Between Rodríguez and 2021 first overall pick Henry Davis, Pittsburgh entered the season with two high-end catching prospects. The Pirates preferred Rodríguez defensively, keeping him behind the plate as a rookie while moving Davis almost full-time to right field. At last month’s GM Meetings, general manager Ben Cherington said the organization still planned to give Davis extended run behind the dish. Rodríguez’s unfortunate injury opens a path for the Louisville product to assume the #1 job.
Like Rodríguez, Davis made his MLB debut last summer but didn’t produce much at the plate. He hit .213/.302/.351 with seven longballs in his first 255 plate appearances. The 24-year-old also received well below-average defensive marks in right field. His MLB track record at catcher consists of two innings, but scouts have raised questions about his receiving skills in college and during his minor league tenure.
If the Pirates want Davis to continue developing defensively in Triple-A, their top in-house options are light-hitting defenders Ali Sánchez and Jason Delay. Veteran options available in free agency include Martín Maldonado, Tom Murphy, Austin Nola, Tucker Barnhart and old friend Jacob Stallings.