The Seattle Mariners have become one of the top MLB teams in regards to their young talent over the past few years. Looking ahead the Mariners have a lot to be excited about with outfielder Julio Rodriguez, one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Rodriguez is only 20 years old but stands 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.
According to HeraldNet, Rodriguez is starting the 2021 season with the High-A Everett AquaSox. Over his first 11 games he is hitting .326 with four homers, one triple and five doubles. He also has a .415 on-base-percentage and a .739 slugging percentage. In only a few games he is proving his talent.
There are many within the organization as well as all throughout baseball who think Rodriguez has what it takes to become a powerful force in the majors one day. Although there is resounding approval his journey so far has been a rollercoaster ride of good and bad moments, all of which have led him to the athlete that he is now.
From the Dominican Republic to the MLB
Like so many great MLB players, Rodriguez’s roots are in the Dominican Republic, specifically Loma de Cabrera, where grew up. He learned to play baseball form his father who played in the Dominican Republic at the amateur level.
After many years of practicing the game, when he was 14 years old he trained at a baseball academy in the city of Santiago. This is where one of earliest stages of his MLB bound career began as he captivated a Mariners scout and was immediately put on the teams radar. In 2017, at age 16 he became eligible to be signed and the Mariners jumped at the chance to do just that. He signed a $1.75 million deal as an international free agent.
In 2019, at age 18, he was finally brought over to the U.S. to play where he spent most his first minor league season with Single-A West Virginia before moving to Advanced-A Modesto where he put on a show. For the entire season his combined numbers were highly impressive. In 84 games he hit .326 with 12 homers, four triples and 26 doubles.
The only reason he was not able to play then tire minor league season in 2019 was because he was hit by a pitch which fractured his left hand, sidelining him for nearly two months. Looking to play an entire season in 2020, he, just like all other miner leaguers, was unable to get the consistent development he would have liked due to the COVID-19 pandemic which shut down the season. To make matters even worse, almost as soon as he arrived for summer camp in July he fractured his left wrist while diving for a ball during a drill.
Despite all of the injuries and issues in his first couple of years in the minor league system he proved his resiliency. Even when he had a cast on following his write fracture he was out practicing by doing one handed swings as well as continuing throwing and exercising.
“Even though I got hurt, I was still practicing, I was still training to get better, doing anything I could possibly do. I didn’t (let it) get me down.”Julio Rodriguez
Late in 2020 he played in the Arizona Fall League and the Dominican Winter League. After working hard all off season he was able to transform his body so that he is leaner and stronger than ever before.
This work paid off as spring training 2021 rolled around. In just 32 at-bats he posted a .313 batting average with two doubles and two home runs. One of his home runs during spring training received a lot of attention from the organization. It was clocked at 115 mph off the bat and flew 437 feet.
“I can’t believe he hit that ball as hard as he did. I’ve been around this game a long time. To see a young guy like that turn around a 97-98 mph fastball and drive it out of the park like that, you don’t see that very often. He’s really a special talent.”Scott Servais, Mariners manager
This was a major step up from his performance in spring training in 2020 where he was only able to record two hits in 13 at-bats with six strikeouts. Despite all of the injuries and setbacks his offseason work was incredibly helpful in his improvement.
“I went through a lot of training — gym-wise (and) hitting-wise — in Tampa with my people out there. And it paid off.”Julio Rodriguez
Success in all aspects
His brightest spot has long been his hitting ability which has been praised by those around the Mariners since his arrival.
“I project he’ll hit 40 home runs annually with several Silver Slugger awards and MVP honors in the future.”Jim Bowden, formers MLB general manager and current baseball analyst
His ceiling is seemingly non-existent with his ability in the batters box, but there are so many more traits which make up a successful all around player. Rodriguez wants to be more than just a hitter.
“Since I was practicing when I was young, my dream was to be an all-around player — not just a hitter.”Julio Rodriguez
He has become extremely agile and quick in the field and on the bases which is proved with three stolen bases in the AquaSox opening series. He is also constantly attempting to improve as a defender. He is not limiting himself to trying to be good in just one area, but rather as many as he possibly can.
“He takes a lot of pride in his defense right now, and he’s committed to working on it every day. And he’s committed to being a base-stealer, which you saw (last) weekend in Hillsboro. So we think (he’s) gonna be a guy who eventually is going to be a plus outfielder who can run and really hit.”Andy McKay, Mariners’ director of player development
It is one thing if members of an organization are a believer in an athlete because of his skills on the field, but Rodriguez is even more highly regarded because of his spectacular personality. He is proving to be a great guy to have around both on and off the field which makes him even more desirable to keep around as he continues to grow.
Although he is talented on many levels and people admire him for his personality, he has continued to stay curious and willing to learn as much as he possibly can.
“He knows he has a lot to learn about it. And we’ve got a lot of people in place. … When he’s with somebody who he thinks he can learn from, he’s not afraid to ask questions and pick their brain.”Andy McKay
He was even lucky enough to learn from the great Ichiro Suzuki who is most likely a future hall of fame who spent the first 12 and final two seasons of his 20 year career in the majors with the Mariners.
“It was great. I acquired so much knowledge — just the way you’ve gotta commit yourself, the way that you’ve gotta put yourself through things (and) just how dedicated you’ve gotta be to this game if you want to excel at the highest level (and) chase greatness.”Julio Rodriguez
The only way is up
Rodriguez did not waste any time during spring training as he hit a walk off single in the opening game to drive in another young star in Jarred Kelenic.
Just like Jarred Kelenic, who just made his big league debut, and Kyle Lewis, who won American League Rookie of the Year in 2020, Rodriguez is also an outfielder who can be the final piece in building an elite young trio in the outfield.
As he continues to hammer baseballs game after game it is only a matter of time before he leaves the Single-A level and advances up through the ranks. His most likely next stop with be Double-A Arkansas.
“There have been superstar players like Mike Trout, some of the great players of all time, who have made their way to the big leagues at such a young age. And I won’t count that as impossible for Julio. He is that kind of talent.”Jerry Dipoto, Mariners general manager
The Mariners are currently in a playoff drought which has spanned 20 years. With the load of young talent they have coming up it is only a matter of time before they build the perfect team which will take them to the top and Rodriguez is definitely going to be a major factor.
Rodriguez wants more than anything to win and eventually make it to the hall of fame which are goals that most major leaguers dream of accomplishing, but before he can do that he needs to focus on proving he can play at the top level.
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