Julio Rodríguez has never posted a bad year since signing with the Seattle Mariners. As a 17-year-old in his first season in rookie ball, Rodríguez posted a 161 wRC+ in 59 games. The following season Rodríguez moved to the now-defunct Class-A and, while taking a minute step back, still slashed .293/.359/.490 with ten round-trippers and 50 RBI.
By the tail end of the 2019 season, “J-Rod” had been promoted to the former Class-A Advanced (now High-A), mashing the cover off the baseball. He cut his strikeout rate from 22.4 percent to 13.9 percent in the 17-game sample size and managed to hit .462 with a mind-blowing .738 slugging percentage. The kid posted a 243 wRC+ over the 72 plate appearances as an 18-year-old playing, on average, three to four years younger than his senior. It was a special thing to bear witness.
Then the pandemic hit and Rodríguez, like every other minor leaguer, felt their effects with a lost season and the unknown of when they would return. Nevertheless, many players, Rodríguez included, continued to find opportunities to play. He spent time in the Dominican Winter League. Then, finally, things began opening back up, and after a year of toiling and getting reps in, Minor League Baseball was officially set to return.
2021 has been a beast of a year for the 20-year-old, and he ain’t finished
Some people can fail to get something accomplished, whether through their control or not. Seemingly, minor leaguers were forced to sit the whole year out through no fault of their own. Lives were affected in a significant way. Rodríguez himself made sure to continue staying in shape, and it honestly has helped him turn such a strong corner coming into this season.
As it sits right now, ‘J-Rod’ is in a league of his own, or, at least, it feels like that. He came into this year going back to High-A and has moved up the ladder once more, this time to Double-A. Rodríguez hit .325 in those 28 games posting a 161 wRC+ before the leap. Since then, he’s not done much except hit .359 with four home runs and 11 stolen bases in 35 games.
He’s the hottest prospect in baseball right now and, for a good reason, finds himself listed as the number two overall prospect on Baseball America’s ‘Top 100’ MLB prospects list (subscription required). Only Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman looms above him for that coveted top overall spot. Before yesterday and his 0-for-5 day, Rodríguez had hit .486, including nearly doubling the number of walks over strikeouts.
I’m sure talk about Wander at the same age will surface if it hasn’t already and that mere comp should make Mariners fans jump for joy. For now, let’s all enjoy ‘J-Rod’ for who he is and what he is doing.