It's fair to say, Julio Rodriguez lived up to the hype that Seattle Mariners fans have been waiting for. You don't need to look up his stats from last season to know that he's a superstar in the making. He took home the Rookie of the Year award and several other pieces of hardware.
Expectations will remain high for his second season and at Sodo Mojo we don't see him having a "sophomore slump." Chris O'Day thinks Julio might just be able to replicate Ronald Acuna Jr.'s second season in the MLB, and I'd agree.
What fantasy baseball managers should expect from Julio Rodriguez
Most Seattle Mariners fans will be expecting the same or more from Julio this upcoming season for good reason. However, from a fantasy baseball perspective, it's important to go into a draft with a pragmatic mindset. Let's first consider the ceiling for the 22-year-old and what he could bring to your outfield.
Chris put together a great summary of his potential ceiling in his recent article:
I know it's bold of us to assume that he's in the running for the MVP award in 2023, but it's really not that crazy when you think about it. Here are a few examples of players who were MVP candidates in their full second year: Ronald Acuna Jr., Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Joe Mauer.
FanGraphs' Steamer doesn't have Julio reaching the MVP projection numbers from Chris but they aren't far off. Steamer is projecting:
I hope Julio produces the numbers that Chris shared, but I don't think he'll get there. However, what I do like about Chris' projections are the upticks in stolen bases and runs. With the distance between bases shortening, that should lead to more aggressive base running. Julio stole 25 bases last season and is due for more.
The addition of Teoscar Hernandez should also help our centerfielder get to home plate more often. I know runs aren't a valuable metric now a days but it is quite relevant for fantasy baseball managers. Now, let's talk about the not so interesting topic, what happens if he struggles?
What happens if Julio Rodriguez struggles?
The nice thing about the Mariners outfielder is that he's multi-talented and important to the team. The first point should be rather obvious; he's got speed, power, and hitting smarts. So, let's say he struggles to make contact this upcoming season. Even with a lower batting average, we can assume that he'd deliver a good chunk of home runs to warrant a spot in your lineup.
Julio is also a smart hitter and knows the strike zone incredibly well for how young he is. If he struggles to make contact, I'd guess that he can get on base at a decent rate. Once he's on base, what do you think he'll do? You guessed it, steal second base. To me, this provides a lot of fantasy value because he's not an all-or-nothing type of fantasy asset.
Another underrated value-adder for me is Julio's role. He is our best player, the face of the franchise, and the spark plug. I don't even need to mention these but it is important when considering player value; Julio won't be in the bottom half of the lineup, he will never be benched, and certainly won't be sent down. For young players and prospects, these are things you have to consider but Julio is far past this.
Draft strategy for Julio Rodriguez
JRod is clearly a fan favorite and every Mariners fan will be looking to draft him. However, he is such a big name that non-Mariners fans have his name in bold on their draft strategy.
When going into the draft, you have to make the difficult decision of whether you believe Julio Rodriguez will have an MVP-esque season or not. If you have that gut feeling, you need to grab him in the first round. Yes, I did not misspell that, the first round.
One of my go-to fantasy websites, Fantasy Pros, has Julio ranked 5th on the player board behind Trea Turner, Aaron Judge, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Jose Ramirez. It's a pretty big commitment to using your 5th pick on JRod but it could be the best decision you've made if he does produce MVP numbers.
For me personally, it's too big of a risk and I wouldn't put my trust in a 22-year-old. I love Julio with all my heart, but a first-round pick is a huge commitment. I'd rather put my trust in those who have a slightly longer track history than Julio in those mid-first round picks like Vlad Guerrero Jr., Mookie Betts, or Mike Trout.
On ESPN, Julio Rodriguez is dropped all the way down to the 40th-ranked player... I highly doubt that he would drop that far in your draft; the lowest I can see Julio dropping to is the 3rd round.
So with all this being said, you have to decide whether you are all in on the Mariners superstar. If you are, grab him early, don't let anyone else take him from you. If you're a little worried, grab him in the second round if he is still available.
Other things to note on Julio Rodriguez
Make sure to know your league! If you're surrounded by Seattle Mariners fans, it's going to be a cheetah race to select Julio. You might be able to use that opportunity to grab players of greater value due to an impulse buy.
Another thing I would keep in mind is Julio's trade value. Even if he struggles in the first couple of weeks, his trade value won't decrease a whole lot. He is a BIG name and fantasy managers might try to pick him up while he struggles, thinking that his value dropped. Stay strong, and make a case for him to turn things around and get a solid player in exchange.
Last but not least, trust your gut! It's so easy to get into the weeds of stats but even the advanced metrics can't predict how a player performs.
Stay tuned for more fantasy baseball profiles on Seattle Mariners players!