Julio Rodriguez did not have a good start to the 2023 season. Prior to his recent eight-game hit streak, he had just a .656 OPS, a far cry from last season, when his .853 OPS and 146 OPS+ convinced Seattle to give him an extension spanning over a decade.
However, after the aforementioned hit streak, Rodriguez is up to a .745 OPS and ten home runs. This is still much worse than he performed last season, but the underlying data seems to show that for Rodriguez, this season has actually not been much worse than last year.
Per Baseball Savant, Rodriguez's average exit velocity in 2023 (92.8 MPH) is actually 0.8 MPH faster than last season. Despite his poor statistical numbers, Julio is hitting the ball harder than ever. This is also shown by his hard-hit rate increasing to 52.6% this year compared to 50.7% in 2022.
Julio's xSLG (expected slugging percentage) shows that he has been unlucky this season, as he has slugged .441 compared to an xSLG of .465. His xWOBA (expected weighted on-base average) has the same trend: .323 WOBA to .346 xWOBA. Slight positive regression should be expected here, and Rodriguez's OPS should get to the .800 level once again this year.
Rodriguez actually outperformed his xWOBA (.366 WOBA to .337 xWOBA) and xSLG (.509 SLG to .460 xSLG) in 2022. Somewhere in between his performance this year and last year is probably the true Julio Rodriguez. When averaging Julio's stats from the last two seasons, that player posts a .799 OPS and adds value on the basepaths while being a capable defender at a premium position.
That player is exactly who we think Julio Rodriguez is right now. An All-Star caliber player. And at just twenty-two years of age, Rodriguez has time to become even better. His slow start to the 2023 campaign should not scare Seattle fans. While it may take time for him to have another 2022 if Rodriguez can consistently post numbers similar to the averages above, his contract is worth it.