After a recent ringing endorsement from Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, the buzz around prospect Julio Rodriguez has never been higher.
“We do feel like Julio is very close, if not there” Dipoto told Seattle’s 710 AM. That was all it took for the hype around the 21 year old top prospect to soar to even greater heights. With questions surrounding when Rodriguez would seemingly get the call to the show, the time looks to be much sooner than the mid-end of 2022 many had speculated.
The Mariners have had a few “top prospects” over the years, but none quite like Rodriguez. While Jarred Kelenic was the hyped prospect last season (and I believe he’s due for a breakout year in 2022), Rodriguez brings the total package only reserved for superstars. Although usually it’s best to kind of dampen the expectations of guys who haven’t gotten any work at the major league level, as hard as I try I just don’t think I can do that.
Rodriguez really broke onto the scene in the 2019 season when he hit .326, 26 doubles, four triples, 12 home runs and 69 RBI in just 84 games. All of this while being only 18 years old.
Julio didn’t play in 2020 due to a wrist fracture so we’ll fast forward to 2021…
The 2021 season Rodriguez put together was nothing short of elite. After a spring training in which he hit .313 with a .421 OBP in 18 spring training games, Rodriguez was sent to High A ball where he hit .325 with 16 XBH and a .410 OBP in 28 games. Soon promoted to AA, Rodriguez somehow became even more dominant ending the 2021 minor league season with 19 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs, 47 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 74 games. All while hitting .347 in just shy of 300 AB. He then followed that up by hitting .417 during the Dominican Republic’s bronze medal run in the Olympics.
One of the biggest reasons for Rodriguez’s success at the plate is his ability to hit to all fields. In his 43 games last year after being promoted to AA he ended up with a 43.1% pull rate while also hitting it to the opposite field 36.5% of the time. In a league where many people are dominantly pull oriented at the plate, having the ability to spray the ball around is becoming quite rare. He also walked at a respectable 14.1% clip. A nice walk rate, plus power and hitting ability to all fields is something you dream of your team having. For the Mariners, that dream is destined to become a reality in 2022.
While he does possess an abundance of god given size and talent, the 6’3” 180 lb outfielder can attribute much of his success to his incredible work ethic and love for the game. In fact, according to Daniel Kramer, the first text Rodriguez sent to Dipoto after the lockout ended was a video of him practicing Center Field during the lockout…a position Rodriguez has rarely played at the minor league level.
With a chance to make the opening day roster, Rodriguez is set up to be atop the rookie of the year race all year long. I fully expect him to hit .305 with 25 HR, 90 RBI, 25 SB and be an instrumental part in the Mariners finally breaking their missed playoff streak. While many people seem to find joy in watching highly touted prospects struggle, Rodriguez is the kind of player that seems fail proof. 2022 is destined to go down as one hell of a season.