The time we wait for Seattle Mariners baseball to return will feel like an eternity. Thankfully, their future is still bright, thanks to players like our #2 prospect.
The success of the Seattle Mariners rebuild may ultimately hinge on two young outfielders who are rocketing towards the majors despite neither being legally allowed to consume alcohol in the United States. Today, we profile the younger of the two.
By now, there should be no surprise to who we are talking about. Julio Rodriguez comes in at #2 on our Top 40 prospects list, just behind his good friend who will be revealed later. Rodriguez is just 19-years-old and will be until December 29th.
Despite his age, Rodriguez is a physical specimen, standing at 6’4″, 225 lbs and has loud tools that lead some to believe he is a superstar in the making. Rodriguez’s best tool is his raw power, which some scouts are happy to assign 70-grades to. He has home run power to all fields, with the bat speed and swing plane to pop 30-40 every year.
But Rodriguez is more than a power bat. In fact, his hit tool may not be far behind his power tool. Rodriguez has an advanced feel for the strike zone and rarely chases pitches out of the zone. He has a solid plan at the plate, with the ability to make adjustments in the middle of at-bats, a rare skill for a 10-year veteran, let alone a 19-year-old kid.
Defensively, Rodriguez has played a lot of centerfield so far and has shown to be fringe-average there. But he profiles better in either corner spot, where he should be above-average with a plus arm to go along with good first step and route efficiency.
The only tool that is keeping him from a true “5-tool” designation is his footspeed. Some scouts slap a 45-grade on his speed, but Rodriguez himself takes exception to this grade and is actually slightly above-average. This could change if he continues to fill out, but it won’t matter if the bat progresses as many expect.
The 18-year-old destroyed his stateside debut in 2019, splitting time between A-ball West Virginia and High-A Modesto. In 328 ABs, Rodriguez hit .326/.390/.540 with 12 home runs and 26 doubles.
Whenever his season begins, Rodriguez will likely head back to Modesto, but a trip to Arkansas could be right around the corner. Rodriguez also earns 80-grade marks for effort and attitude and seems to welcome the pressure of being a franchise “savior”.
Heaping that much pressure on a teenager is foolish. Even if he never lives up to his ridiculous hype, Rodriguez should hit .270 with a league-average OBP and 25 home runs, plus solid defense in a corner outfield spot.
Some scouts have been so bold as to compare Rodriguez’s bat to a young Miguel Cabrera, an insane honor and goal to shoot for. Expecting anybody to be as good as Cabrera was is a bit absurd, but a comparison of Justin Upton is a reasonable compromise.