DETROIT - It's still early in the 2019 MLB season, but it's already clear the Detroit Tigers have one of the worst offenses in the league.
Through 31 games, Detroit ranks last in the American League in runs and home runs, second-to-last in hits and third-to-last in OPS. Beyond the likes of Christin Stewart and Nicholas Castellanos, the Tigers haven't had much to cheer about when they're up to bat.
That is, until Ronny Rodriguez burst onto the scene.
The longtime minor leaguer was called up April 14 when the Tigers sent starting shortstop Jordy Mercer to the disabled list with a right quad strain.
Rodriguez was expected to be a short-term fill-in for Mercer and go back to Triple-A Toledo when Mercer returned.
In 62 games as a rookie last season, Rodriguez showcased very little offensive production, hitting .220 with a .256 on-base percentage and .591 OPS. He had 42 hits, 42 strikeouts and only 12 extra-base knocks.
Even in the minor leagues, Rodriguez hasn't been a prolific hitter. He was hitting .212 with a .492 OPS and only one extra-base hit in eight games with Toledo this season.
In more than 800 career minor league games, Rodriguez owns a .726 OPS with decent power and a low OBP.
Again, he was expected to be a temporary Mercer fill-in. But at his current pace, Rodriguez isn't going anywhere.
The 27-year-old is tearing the cover off the ball, hitting .333 with a 1.091 OPS in 12 games. He's already got 10 extra-base hits -- six doubles, a triple and three home runs.
Rodriguez doesn't draw many walks, but he's got four in 12 games and a .380 OBP thanks to 15 hits in that span.
Despite playing in 16 fewer games, Rodriguez is only three extra-base hits behind Castellanos, the team leader with 13.
Even more incredibly, Rodriguez leads all Tigers position players with a 0.7 WAR, meaning he's been more valuable to the team in just 12 games than the likes of Castellanos, Miguel Cabrera, Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum have been in about 30 games apiece.
Rodriguez's biggest performance came April 23 against Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox, when he smacked a home run over the Green Monster and added a pair of doubles in a Tigers win.
His numbers certainly aren't a result of only a couple of big games, though. He has at least one extra-base hit in eight of 12 games and multiple hits in four games compared to just two hitless efforts.
In May, Rodriguez has started all four games -- three and second base and one at first base -- going 7-16 with two doubles, a home run, four RBI and three runs scored.
Rodriguez has no track record of this type of production, but right now, he's the Tigers' best hitter, so manager Ron Gardenhire has to keep him in the lineup.
If he can keep hitting for power, it will add a much-needed boost to the heart of the weak Tigers' order.
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