It's amazing how perception can pump up or diminish a player's perceived value. If enough people board the hype train, a player's status in the eyes of the casual observer can greatly be enhanced. If a player's hype is mere whispers from an online community, then regardless of what stats or scouts say, that player is likely to be under-appreciated.
With that said, let's look at two minor league teammates from the 2009 season. Besides being teammates, these players will both be newly 25 years-old to begin the 2010 season. Both have the ability to play the 2B/SS/3B portion of the infield. They also have similar major league experience which is ~225 plate appearance with neither setting the world on fire.
In 2009, they both racked up over 425 plate appearances in the Pacific Coast League. Their results at the plate placed them among the league's best hitters. One of them is penciled in as an opening day starter with his major league team while the other is in a battle for a roster spot; a back up roster spot.
Player A hit .293/.353/.557 last season which earned him a .387 wOBA and an ISO of .264. He played mostly short stop and was ranked -6 runs below average by total zone. Player B on the other hand hit, .299/.400/.616 with an ISO of .318 and a Barry Bonds-ian .437 wOBA. He played mostly average second base, but can fill in at short stop as well as the outfield.
Brandon Wood, Player A, will be (barring injury or transaction) the Angels opening day third basemen. Player B, Sean Rodriguez, might not be on the Rays opening day roster at all. Of course, this is more of a testament to organizational depth, but we barely hear a peep about Rodriguez around these parts.
Sure, in our own little community Rodriguez already has more nicknames than plate appearances as a Rays' player, but to the casual fan Sean John The Baptist is one of those guys we got in that salary dump for Scott Kazmir. For those keeping score, in addition to Rodriguez the Rays also acquired Matt Sweeney and Alex Torres in that trade; both ranked in Keith Law's top 10 organization prospects.
I'm not sure what they are saying in Los Angeles about Wood, but he's been talked about for a while now. I'm sure the fans are excited to see what he can do with his first real chance to prove himself at the next level. Meanwhile, in Tampa Bay, those aware that he exists are hoping Rodriguez can win a utility role.
In Rodriguez, some see the potential for a super utility player with power. Personally, I see a starting infielder with at least average defense who can also mashed the cover off the ball. Stuck in a system where he is forced to moonlight as a bench player, this no doubt sucks for Rodriguez. Odds are if he was still with the Angels he would likely be competing with Wood for that starting role. If things go as planned (or at least my plans), Rodriguez's play will make his name for him. As for now, it's a wonderful little secret to have.