Is the Mariners superstar set to ascend to the next level of MVP stardom in 2024?

One of the most talented players in baseball, Julio Rodriguez placed 4th in American League MVP voting in 2023. In 2024, will inconsistency continue to prevent him from reaching the upper echelon of MLB superstars, or will the third-year center fielder make the leap?

Los Angeles Angels v Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

Since he entered the MLB in 2022, Julio Rodriguez has been one of the top players in the league. Yesterday, the Mariners' 5-tool centerfielder was revealed to be inside the top 10 on MLB Network's Top 100 Right Now list. After back-to-back seasons with 5+ WAR, what can Seattle fans expect in 2024 from the face of the franchise?

Rodriguez is one of the most balanced players in the MLB. He ranked in the 91st percentile or greater in Batting Run Value (91st), Baserunning Run Value (96th), Fielding Run Value (91st), and Sprint Speed (96th) in 2023. His varied skill set ensures that even if one facet of his game is going through a slump, he is still a positive player.

Expect a serious run at MVP for Julio Rodriguez in 2024

That was seen in full effect in 2023. By his standards, Rodriguez struggled immensely with the bat in the first half of the season, slashing just .249/.310/.411/.721 with 13 home runs in 87 games. However, fueled by one of the hottest streaks in MLB history, Rodriguez hit for a .308 average and .941 OPS with 19 home runs over his last 68 games.

There is still potential cause for concern. While Rodriguez had a terrific August, posting a 1.198 OPS, July was the only other month he had an OPS above .800. His OPS for the other months of the season was just .745. To have a chance to win MVP, which his talent level suggests is a possibility, Rodriguez will need to produce at an elite level for longer than two months, no matter how impressive that stretch was.

Despite his inconsistencies with the bat during last season, Rodriguez provided value with his legs and defense. He stole 37 bases, 2nd most in the American League. FanGraphs rated him with 12 Outs Above Average as well, 7th best in the AL.

Steamer projects Rodriguez to have a season in between his first two. They have him hitting .283 with 33 home runs and 33 stolen bases, with 5.6 WAR. However, I believe Rodriguez has the potential to push past 6 WAR in 2024. He slightly lowered his strikeout rate last season from 25.9 to 24.5, and another slight improvement could go a long way, especially if he brings his walk rate up from a paltry 6.6 percent.

Furthermore, his white-hot August was the best that Julio has ever hit. While he obviously won't hit .400 throughout a whole season, he's now shown that he can be the best player in baseball, at least for a month. As he continues to gain experience, he should get more consistent, and be able to hit closer to his ceiling on a month-to-month basis.

My 2024 season projection for Julio Rodriguez is a slash line of .290/.350/.520 with 35 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Assuming that he continues to be a great defender, this kind of season would give Rodriguez legitimate MVP consideration, especially if Seattle takes a leap this year. Mariners fans should consider themselves lucky to be able to watch such a great young talent every day for at least the next 7 years.