Bold prediction: This will be the only post I write about a Seattle Mariner all year.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think the M’s are headed in the right direction—or at least they finally have a direction. I just don’t think there is much to pay attention to with this Mariners club yet. As someone who was born and raised in Seattle, I’ve gotten pretty good at not paying attention to the Mariners.
Still, I find it hard to ignore young phenom outfielder Julio Rodriguez, though everybody else seems to. I actually thought the 18-year-old might be too popular for this series until I started seeing top OF prospect lists released and his name was not on it. George Valera (Cleveland Indians) and Kristian Robinson (Arizona Diamondbacks) seem to populate every dynasty outfield prospect—and rightfully so, as they are both top talents—but I think Rodriguez belongs right beside them.
Yes, all Rodriguez only competed in the Dominican Summer League in 2018 while both Valera and Robinson were in Rookie ball. I acknowledge there is a big difference between the level of competition, and we’ll return to that in a bit. For now, let’s just look at the numbers Rodriguez posted:
Rodriguez wasn’t just good, he was the league MVP, and there is no reason to think he cannot continue his success into rookie ball and beyond in 2019. In fact, there is plenty of optimism—so much so that the M’s gave Rodriguez an invite to spring training, and he did not disappoint. Against a competition level that Baseball Almanac graded as a 6.5, which is somewhere between High-A and Double-A, the teenager posted the following in just five games:
Could it be a fluke? Sure. It is a very small sample size, but to put his spring ABs in perspective, his seven total at-bats are 1/3 of the total at-bats Valera had all last season, against worse competition.
There are many more reasons to like this kid. Despite being a plus fielder and with untapped athleticism, Rodriguez has all the makings of a five-tool player. There is room to grow both figuratively and literally. He’s 6-3 and 180 pounds, so once he hits the weight room and fills out, more power is likely to come, and he’s not likely to get so big that it will undermine his speed.
All that concerns me right now is a minor flaw in his swing mechanics. For the most part, Rodriguez has a good approach. He’s willing to take pitches, get deep into counts, and he can make contact all over the zone. What could hold him back are his hands, although I doubt it. Right now they are too loud. He makes a circular motion before swinging, which translates to difficulty repeating the swing. That is not a hard thing to fix, it just takes more experience, which Rodriguez will get plenty of in 2019. In fact, he might have already done it. Watching his spring ABs showed fewer signs of his active hands. If he continues to perform like we have seen, he could appear on top 100 prospect lists as early as September.
I have kind of gone through a retooling in the outfield in a 10 team 35 keepers dynasty league and have Rodriguez, Valera, Brennen Davis, and Robinson after inheriting a terrible team. How would you rate Rodriguez’s ceiling relative to his floor?