Julio Rodriguez is one of the brightest young prospects in all of baseball. This was his age-20 season, and he defied all expectations with his brilliant and spectacular play throughout the year as a Mariners minor-leaguer.
Everyone knew that Julio was supposed to be good. He was one of the top prospects in baseball, after all. Still, at age-20, players can struggle a bit as they acclimate to playing at different levels, seeing the increased speed and break, and adjusting to the length of the season.
Instead, Julio Rodriguez put together an incredible 2021 season
The Mariners started Julio off at High-A in Everett. He stayed there for just 28 games, hitting .325/.410/.581, blasting six home runs and stealing five bases in six attempts. His defense was strong as well, with one error in 44 chances in the field. He had played relatively well, so the Mariners decided to move him up to AA to see how he would fare for the Arkansas Travelers.
Something else would happen before he got to play in Arkansas though. Julio would actually leave the Mariners system for a bit to represent the Dominican Republic in the Olympics. In 24 at-bats, Julio would hit .417/.444/.625, with one home run and two doubles, driving in four while representing his country. Quite the “summer vacation” for Julio.
He would ride that hot play out to Arkansas, where it would last… for the remainder of the season. Julio would straight rake all year for the Travelers, finishing with a line of .362/.461/.546, hitting seven home runs and stealing an eye-opening 16 bases in just 20 attempts. He did this in just 46 games with the club, adding 11 doubles to his impressive stat line.
What stands out is the speed. Julio is supposed to have a great bat. One that can deliver both average and power. He showed just that, combining for 19 doubles and 13 home runs this season in 291 at-bats through 74 games. The speed though, that’s surprising. 21-26 in steals. Where most scouts thought the speed would wane as he grew and matured, Julio actually focused on improving his footwork, increasing his speed, and actually furthering his perceived value and ceiling.
The defense was great in Arkansas as well, with the Travelers mainly playing Julio Rodriguez in right field, where he tallied 168 innings compared to 76 in left. He was a perfect 57-57 on chances in the outfield while notching two assists, both in right field.
Heading into 2021, everyone knew Julio was a top prospect. The thought, however, was that the Mariners MIGHT see him late in 2022, but likely in 2023. He doesn’t even turn 21 until December 29th. For the entirety of the 2022 season, Julio will be 21.
After his play in 2021, Julio has changed the narrative. He’s still going to start 2022 in the minors, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves and think he’s going to start in the outfield for the Mariners next Spring. However, he now seems to be more in line with Kelenic, Gilbert, and the rest of those similar prospects who are just waiting till May/June to tweak their service time and potentially avoid being a super-two prospect.
Julio Rodriguez looks to be forcing his way into the Mariners plans sooner rather than later. If anything, we should expect to see him play the majority of the season next year with the big league club, and it’s something that should make all Mariners fans happy. Now, they just need to find a place for their remaining outfielders.