The most exciting thing about starting a rebuild is dreaming about the future and what those players could be. Dreaming about an outfield of big-time prospects is something Mariners fans have been dreaming about for years, with Julio Rodriguez at the center. One huge piece of this is Julio Rodriguez, who has a chance to be one of the most special players to ever play in Seattle. But what is realistic to expect from Julio in 2022?
Julio is regarded as an elite within prospect circles, ranking second in all of baseball for 2022. He is ranked just behind Adley Rutschman, who is probably only ranked in front of him because of the position that he plays. Julio is a young, special talent and usually talents like his break into the big leagues in a way that “normal” prospects do not.
Julio Rodriguez is an elite prospect, one that should truly fit the bill.
Zips has some fascinating projections for Julio and the Mariners in general. They have Julio projected for the highest WAR on the 2022 Mariners at 3.3. They project his slash line to be .282/.341/.465 with 16 home runs, 15 stolen bases, and an OPS+ of 123. These numbers are lofty for anybody, let alone a 21 year old in his first season.
There are reasons to be VERY optimistic for this to happen. Zips doesn’t project three-win seasons for rookies on a whim. The complete list of players 22 and younger is extremely enticing, in fact, the only player on the list who could be labeled as a bust is Gregory Polanco even though he still produced several seasons of average play.
The complete list of players shows some of the very best the game has to offer. Mike Trout, Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, Carlos Correa, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Vlad Jr are just some of the names to grace Zips’ illustrious history. They basically do not miss on these projections, and Julio is the next player to be added to their list.
Obviously, some of this has to do with when Julio is called up, and what type of playing time he can receive right away. One thing that he will have going for him is the fact that Julio has apparently added the ability to play Centerfield to his repertoire. Although I think Julio will eventually outgrow the position easily, there really aren’t a lot of better options in the center in 2022.
Kelenic will likely start the season as the opening day centerfielder, but with the addition of Jesse Winker and Mitch Haniger still on the roster the corner outfield spots will be locked down. Kyle Lewis would be the best fit in center, but his health will likely prohibit him from playing there much. This leaves Julio to slide into center or a corner spot, pushing Lewis/Winker/Haniger to DH duties.
Although I am not advocating for this, Julio Rodriguez having the ability to play center early in his career massively helps the Mariners. It raises his ceiling even higher and makes the lineup that much deeper. He has done nothing but push limits, and test the things we have seen a Mariners prospect do basically since Alex Rodriguez was coming up.
Fangraphs ranking on his tools speaks for themselves. He has a 50 hit tool, a 60 run tool, 55 game power, 60 raw power, and 50 fielding. These tools rank him above average at all, and his future value is at a 65 according to Fangraphs. For example, a 60 is an All-Star, and a 70 is a top 10 player in baseball. To be somewhere between a perennial All-Star and a top 10 player in baseball? Sign me up.
We obviously don’t want to expect too much from a 21-year-old. Jarred Kelenic showed struggles last season upon his call-up, and Julio is not immune to some of the same struggles as they both moved so quickly through the system. However Julio is a special talent, and the Zips projections seem to pinpoint players who have that transcendent ability.
JRod is an electric talent, with explosive tools and he seems like an even better human being. His personality, from all accounts, lights up a room, and his love for the game is evident. A package like this only comes to a truly special player, one with the potential to break barriers as a Seattle Mariner. I have all the faith in the world that Julio is next up, and will be the new face of our Seattle Mariners. Julio Rodriguez forever.