Julio Rodriguez is in the driver's seat to a Hall of Fame career and Cooperstown

Through his age 22 season, all-time Mariner Ken Griffey Jr. had a 134 wRC+ while Julio Rodriguez sits at 135 wRC+. Only two center fielders in the Modern Era, Acuna Jr. and Mike Trout, have a higher wRC+ than Julio entering their age 23 season.
Julio Rodriguez, Rangers v Seattle Mariners
Julio Rodriguez, Rangers v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

There was a consensus about Julio's special offensive ceiling early on, with Fangraphs grading his game power potential as 70 grade and contact tool as 55 grade. His speed was graded as a 60 back in 2022, with a projection down to 50 as he fills out. Most scouts expected Julio to be pushed to right field, but he's managed to stay in center field, while playing the position at a pretty high level.

Before his 23rd birthday, Julio had earned two top 10 MVP finishes, the ROY award over Orioles star Adley Rutschman, as well 2X Silver Slugger and 2X All Star. We've established that Julio is a top 10, if not top 5, player in the American League. The question now is, can Julio ascend from young All-Star to MVP?

Rodriguez stole 37 bags, and hit 32 HR last season, including 11 bags and 7 HR in August. Julio showed his superstar potential to all of us last August when he hit .429/.474/.724. As with other young stars, J-Rod has had his mountains and valleys. Similar to a young Ronald Acuna Jr., Julio is prone to swing and miss, with 175 K's in 2023. Acuna had a 29.7% K rate in 2020, before cutting his strikeout rate all the way down to 11.4% last year, propelling him to the NL MVP award. If Julio can cut his K rate below 20%, he could have a similar outcome.

While J-Rod can work on his chase rate this year, one of the most important things for his Hall of Fame trajectory is injuries. Mike Trout is a 3X MVP, but he's only averaged 79 games over the last three seasons. Andruw Jones hit 368 home runs and was a 10X GG center fielder with Atlanta through age 30 season, but only hit .210 with no Gold Gloves the rest of his career before falling out of the league. Griffey Jr. had led the American League in homers three years in a row, and looked like a sure bet for 700 homers before the injuries kicked in and he couldn't stay healthy. Julio has the chance to be an all time great like the names above, but he'll have to stay on the field to reach his true potential.

As mentioned above, the two main threats to Julio's Hall of Fame path are strikeouts and injuries. He currently projects for another 30/30 season, as the star of the competitive Mariners team in the AL West. Few guys have this level of talent, and even fewer have been able to convert that talent into the level of success J-Rod has enjoyed before his 23rd birthday.

The Angels asked Trout to stop stealing bags, which of course was an unsuccessful path to health for him. It's worked in the past though to keep guys on the field, and on has to wonder, how long can the Mariners go before putting up the stop sign on Julio? Aside from his individual goals, the Mariners need Rodriguez healthy for their competitive window and hopefully turn 54% into a championship one of these years.