Julio Rodríguez

Julio Yarnel Rodríguez

Height: 6'3"    Weight: 228 lbs.

Bats/Throws: Right / Right

Born: 12/29/2000 in Loma de Cabrera, Dominican Republic

Offseason home: Loma de Cabrera, Dominican Republic

MLB Debut: 04/07/2022

Acquired: Signed as a non-drafted international free agent (07/02/2017)

Free Agent after: 2027 season

Awards: AL Rookie of the Month (May 2022)

Twitter handle: @JRODshow44

After a slow start in April, Julio Rodríguez has very much arrived. Unlike last year's too-soon promotion of Jarred Kelenic, this fast-tracked prospect move has proven to be the right call. For the first three weeks of the season, it was still an open question—the 21-year-old Dominican phenom had racked up 30 strikeouts (more than a few on poor umpire calls) and posted a very modest on-base mark well under .300. However, once the calendar flipped to May things were different. Using those initial weeks as a sort of orientation period, Julio adapted without apparently breaking a sweat; from May 1st to this writing on June 8th, he's posted a stat line of .309/.356/.515 with 20 RBI. Now, we can't assume this will continue—we saw a similar rookie emergence in 2020 with Kyle Lewis, but after a month of excellence K-Lew fell flat on his face in the second half of that short season. Things happen, scouting reports get better, pitchers learn how to exploit weaknesses. But from what we've seen of Julio, any slumps that he falls into should be brief. He adapts to circumstance like a Borg deflecting a phaser beam. "There’s something that happens to him every day," said manager Scott Servais of Julio, "that [prompts] those big eyes and he says, ‘Oh, I’ve never seen that before.’ He handles everything, takes it all in stride, and he’s having fun.... Well beyond his years is all I can say of his maturity level and it’s been awesome to watch."

Julio's ability to drive the ball a very long way is impressive, of course, but it's another aspect of Julio's game that's been especially entertaining: his love of the stolen base. Every time he gets on first base, if nobody's occupying second he's looking to steal it. To date he has a Major League-best 17 stolen bases (20 attempts); opposing teams have begun to notice this, of course, so steals may not come as frequently going forward, but having someone who is always a threat to run makes for a better baseball experience. Now, if only he would learn to slide feet-first...

TH, 6/8/22


Prior notes

"It's time for Julio Rodríguez to play in the big leagues." So said Seattle manager Scott Servais as spring training neared a close, naming the 21-year-old Dominican to the Opening Day roster. Julio made a strong case for himself in Cactus League play, batting over .400 with a 1.300+ OPS in a dozen games before Servais' announcement, and it was certainly a popular decision in much of Mariner fandom. But is it the right move? Julio has yet to play above the Double-A level, having reached it just last June; the conventional approach would be to slot him in at Triple-A this season, at least to start. And last year we saw how it worked out with fast-tracking another hot prospect, Jarred Kelenic. It's not like the Mariners are hurting for outfielders, so why not let Julio prove himself in Tacoma? Well, for one thing, Julio Rodríguez is not Jarred Kelenic. Kelenic had an arrogance about him that assumed he was good enough for the big leagues instantly; he claimed he should have been in The Show after one year of Class-A ball in 2019 and needed a reality check. Julio had no such expectations or assumptions. He's patient, he's centered, he's supremely talented, and isn't bothered by much of anything. He can take things in their own time, making it easier to make the call if that time is now. Some players simply do not need the traditional minor-league steps. They're few and far between, but they exist—your Mike Trouts, your Bryce Harpers, your Ken Griffeys. It remains to be seen, but Julio Rodríguez may well be one of those guys.

Rodríguez began his pro career at age 17, signed out of the MB Academy in the Dominican Republic, and from day one started putting up eye-popping numbers. Debuting in the Dominican Summer League in 2018, he hit .315/.405/.525. The next year he played at two of the Mariners' Class-A affiliates and combined for a .929 OPS identical to his DSL season. There were no minor leagues in 2020—and he had a broken wrist that summer anyway—but he came back last year to crush both Class-A and Double-A pitchers, topping a 1.000 OPS in 74 total games. For such a young player he has impressive plate discipline—"If it’s not in my zone, I’m not going to swing," he remarked this spring—and has shown a capacity to adapt and learn when pitchers change their approach to him. He has hit for average and for power, runs well—especially for someone of his size—and plays a decent outfield. The kid brings serious skills if not much pro experience.

One other thing Julio brings is simple enthusiasm. His is an exuberant personality that will share the joy. One morning during spring camp, on a day the M's had a night game at their Peoria, AZ, facility, Julio called up the office and asked for some tickets and swag. He then took to Twitter to ask if there were Mariner fans in Peoria who wanted to come by and he handed out caps, tickets, and gift cards and took photos with people who responded. "I just thought it was a good day to come out and meet random Mariners fans around the complex," he said. "It was fun."

His teammates are as excited about him as anyone is. "He’s a special, special talent," said Jesse Winker. "It's going to be cool to play alongside him and get on base for him." Said Servais, "The joy and the excitement [Julio] plays with, I think it’s contagious. It’s going to serve our team very well."

TH, 4/4/22