Baseball

The Julio Rodriguez Show Is So Much Fun

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Watching the first two months of Julio Rodriguez‘s career has been a pleasure. Mariners fans and fans of baseball need to take notice of the “J-Rod Show.”

Julio Rodriguez Loves the Game Of Baseball

If you haven’t watched Julio Rodríguez play baseball, please do. In my time being a baseball fan, I have never seen a guy smile so much. At the age of 21, he looks unphased by the bright lights of the big leagues. When the camera cuts to him in centerfield or on the bases, he’s always smiling while talking to his fellow outfielders or the opposing first baseman. His energy is contagious. After getting a big hit, he always turns to the dugout and fires up his teammates.

In spring training, the Mariners sent Rodríguez to the streets of Peoria Arizona to give out team store certificates to random fans. In Rodríguez’s vlog, you can see how much he embraces the fans and how much he appreciates them. I haven’t had the pleasure to witness Rodríguez in person yet, but from all accounts, he’s awesome with the fans and he has a positive bubble around him all the time.

Rodríguez has the personality to be the face of the franchise player, and the skillset to be the face of Major League Baseball. Julio Rodríguez is one of the easiest guys to root for.

Julio Rodríguez Is Very Good At Baseball

Julio Rodríguez has been a highly touted prospect and he was in most people’s top five prospect list, the last two seasons especially. Coming into the 2022 season, there were doubts that Rodríguez would make the Opening Day roster due to having only 206 plate appearances at Double-A and having no time played in Triple-A. Julio Rodríguez put all doubts to rest in Spring Training. In 34 at-bats, Rodríguez hit .412 with three home runs and an OPS of 1.281. Spring Training numbers don’t mean much but if the Mariners wanted to keep him in the minors, that would be a tough sell to the fanbase. The Mariners had minimum outfield depth at the time, so Rodríguez got the Opening Day nod.

Julio The Speed Demon

Rodríguez’s scouting report throughout his time in the minors said he was a corner outfielder with slightly above-average speed. Standing at 6-foot-4, people never thought of Rodríguez as anything besides a corner outfielder because of his size. In 2021, MLB Pipeline graded Rodríguez’s speed a 50 on the 80-grade scale, which is slightly above average. Mariners President of Baseball Operations, Jerry Dipoto said the following on The Wheelhouse Podcast “Julio went home during the offseason, into lockout, and as he came into Spring Training, he found himself a strength coach and a speed coach. When he walked into Spring Training, the different look to his body, it was longer, he looked like a sprinter.” Rodríguez turned himself from an average runner, into the eighth fastest runner in Major League Baseball, according to Statcast Sprint Speed. He is now playing a plus centerfield and is a stolen base threat, after being thought of as a corner outfielder.

Growing Pains

Almost every rookie goes through growing pains after hitting the major league level. That is no different with Rodríguez. During April, Rodríguez had no home runs, a slash line of .206/.284/.260, and had 30 strikeouts in 81 plate appearances. This was not just Rodríguez’s fault. Through April 18th, he had struck out looking eleven times. Ten of those were on pitches outside of the zone. Most rookies would come out of their approach after bad luck and struggling like this, Julio did not stray away from his approach. Rodríguez’s bright part of April was his nine stolen bases on nine attempts and his great play in centerfield. Rodríguez is only 21 years old. I’ll say it again, Julio Rodríguez is 21 years old.

May Flowers

Julio followed up the rough month of April with a superb May. He had a slash line of .309/.339/.537/.866, hit six home runs and swiped five bases. Rodríguez has shown the ability to learn from past struggles. For example, he faced Justin Verlander on April 16th and went 0-3 with three strikeouts. He faced Verlander on May 27 and hit an opposite-field home run in his first at-bat.

Rodríguez may go through minor growing pains every so often, but he’s shown the ability to bounce back. Rodríguez was announced rookie of the month according to MLB.com in May.

Rodríguez hits the ball very hard on a consistent basis. He is currently 87th percentile in average exit velocity and 88th percentile in Hard-hit percentage. The strikeouts are higher than you’d like to see but again, he’s 21 years old. The strikeouts will come down. Mariners fans didn’t know how Rodríguez would shake out in centerfield. He has proven everyone wrong and is in the 93rd percentile in outs above average. That is unbelievable for a kid who has played minimal centerfield at a professional level.

Rodríguez Is the Future of Baseball

Julio Rodríguez is a six-tool player. Yes, six tools. The main 5 tools are speed, throwing, fielding, hitting for average, and hitting for power. Rodríguez has the rare sixth tool, mental makeup. This means that you don’t see Rodríguez get down on himself and get upset at his failures. Even at his lowest points in April, Rodríguez stayed true to himself. He was still the positive, smiling guy that Mariners fans have come to know. Players like Rodríguez don’t come around often. Mariners fans should enjoy the “J-Rod Show” every chance they get. Even if you aren’t a Mariners fan, make time to turn on the TV and watch him. The “J-Rod Show” will not disappoint.

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