Julio Rodriguez is having an incredible season so far

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MAY 09: Julio Rodriguez #44 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates beating the tag by Jean Segura #2 of the Philadelphia Phillies after hitting a double during the third inning at T-Mobile Park on May 09, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MAY 09: Julio Rodriguez #44 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates beating the tag by Jean Segura #2 of the Philadelphia Phillies after hitting a double during the third inning at T-Mobile Park on May 09, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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There were a lot of talks to start the year about who the best prospects were for the guys who would be debuting in 2022. Bobby Witt Jr, Adley Rutschman, Julio Rodriguez, Joe Ryan, or a handful of others.

Bobby Witt and Julio Rodriguez were the two that had the most hype since Adley had the triceps issue and it delayed him a couple of months. Both started out slow, taking a while to adjust. Witt is still coming around, but Julio has actually been playing quite well over the last month or so.

Julio Rodriguez should be at the top of conversations for Rookie of the Year, but it seems like he is foolishly being overlooked.

Taking a look at his stats on the year, they seem pretty good for someone of his age and inexperience. A slash line of .255/.317/.345, with an OPS+ of 102, and a 0.5 oWAR and 0.3 dWAR over at Baseball-Reference. You can even go to Fangraphs and see that he has a 1.7 on offense and a 2.6 on defense, good for a 0.9 fWAR.

It’s better than that though. A lot better. Remember, Julio struggled to start the year. Through eight games, he was hitting .107/.193/.143. He was getting what seemed like an unfair strikeout call per game, receiving 9-10 strike threes outside of the strike zone. Servais came out and defended him, getting tossed in the process. The team even sent in tape to the league about it, and since that occurrence, it’s been a lot different.

In the 22 games since, Julio is down to a 28% K rate (down from 57%!), hitting .305/.360/.415, and has four doubles, a triple, a home run, and eight steals. Oh, he also has 10 RBI. I’m not saying he is going to do this for a whole season (I actually do think he can keep it up, but it’s not a part of today’s argument), but he is playing much better than his season stat line shows because of the horrid start.

So, how good is it compared to the other “generational” talents?

Here is the list of Dan Szymborski’s ZIPs projections since the start of 2014. He compiled a list to show everyone projected at 3.0 or higher for all players 22 or younger, and then showed how they did. You’ll see some 2020 numbers on here that are lower than 3.0, but that’s from the shortened season, which is why there is a number in parathesis next to it that shows what it would have been projected at in a full season.

SEASONPLAYERPROJECTED WARACTUAL WAR
2015Bryce Harper3.59.3
2014Mike Trout9.58.3
2016Corey Seager3.96.9
2021Juan Soto6.36.6
2015Manny Machado4.26.6
2021Fernando Tatis Jr.5.46.1
2019Ronald Acuna Jr.4.05.5
2016Francisco Lindor3.85.5
2016Carlos Correa4.95.2
2017Carlos Correa6.55.1
2019Juan Soto5.14.9
2015Mookie Betts3.14.8
2022Julio Rodriguez3.3(0.9)4.7
2019Ozzie Albies4.34.5
2018Ozzie Albies3.33.7
2018Cody Bellinger4.43.6
2020Fernando Tatis Jr.1.2(3.2)2.9(7.8)
2020Juan Soto2.2(5.9)2.5(6.8)
2020Ronald Acuna Jr.1.9(5.1)2.4(6.5)
2014Manny Machado4.52.3
2014Bryce Harper4.91.6
2020Bo Bichette1.3(3.5)0.8(2.2)
2014Gregory Polanco3.20.5
2019Kyle Tucker3.10.5
2020Vladimir Guerrero Jr.1.2(3.3)0.2(0.5)

You know what? That’s pretty, pretty good. I feel like I need to explain why though because I know that some people are going to look at this and think “Hey, if you re-order with those 2020 seasons, that puts Julio 16th out of 25 players, that’s not that high.”

You’re right, it’s not that high. But, a 4.7 fWAR is nothing to scoff at. That’s an all-star (normally, a 4.0-5.0 fWAR indicates all-star worthiness) and an incredible season for a 21-year-old. Remember, Julio is going to be on this list again next year, as you can see with a handful of guys like Tatis, Acuna, Machado, Albies, Soto, Harper, and Correa.

You know what though? Because of that awful start, Julio actually has a higher current fWAR over the last 22 games than he does over the entirety of the season. If you take a number of, say, 1.2 fWAR and extrapolate that out, you get to a season fWAR of 6.3! That vaults him up this list to 6th place.

It’s unreasonable to expect Julio to get even better this year without having some type of slump. I say this because I know there are plenty of us that are thinking “well if he starts adjusting that launch angle and hitting some homers, the fWAR will increase” and you’re right, it would. That would make it a truly special season though, and it’s something incredibly rare.

But…

It’s the type of player he’s projected to be, especially with the insane speed that he is showing. Getting up to the Trout or Harper number would be crazy… but really not outside the realm of possibility. Remember, he has just one home run on the year but ranks in the 86th percentile for Hard Hit rate and 71st for exit velocity. His launch angle is a ridiculously low 5.8% That’s the 14th lowest in the league out of 146 qualifying players.

There’s truly a part of me that sees the potential. That wants to predict that he is the next special player. The Trout, The Acuna, The Tatis, because it’s all there. Especially with the insane speed. I keep bringing it up because he was like a 55-grade during the last off-season. Now, he’s a 75 pushing 80. It’s truly elite. If he can be a .300 hitter with a decent eye, with great defense, and have the power show up… he’s Acuna but with better defense. He’s Trout.

Next. Could Andres Munoz break the Mariners reliever record for strikeouts in a season?. dark

It’s crazy, but it’s there. Julio Rodriguez is showing all the talent to be a generational player, and a game-changer every time he is involved in a play. He’s been great over the last 20+ games, and it’s time the baseball world talks about him more. Julio Rodriguez has arrived, and I’m here for it.

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