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Top Mariners prospect Julio Rodríguez has manager Scott Servais’ attention

M's outfield prospect Julio Rodríguez is turning heads with his exit velocities in Arizona. (Getty)

Not content to put baseball away for the winter yet, many Mariners fans have turned their focus to the developmental games now being played in Arizona.

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With media not allowed at these games and video limited to clips on social media, information has been scant save for the team-issued box scores that now feature top exit velocities for hitters and average fastball velocities for the pitchers.

The fans aren’t the only ones interested in what is happening in the desert. Mariners manager Scott Servais is as well, and last week he made a trip to Arizona to see for himself what the young players were getting out of the opportunity to play four games a week against three nearby teams. It is the first time these players have faced players from opposing teams in over a year, the experience critical to the development of the Mariners prized young prospects.

“Dealing with the situation we had to, you make the best out of a bad situation,” Servais said in an interview on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on Tuesday morning. “I thought a lot of our young players did make steps forward. I was in Arizona last week seeing Julio Rodríguez play, and Noelvi Marte, Cal Raleigh. The guys down there, I’m super excited about how they are progressing and trying to get the most out of it.”

Rodríguez, who was assigned to the Mariners’ alternate training site in Tacoma during the season but missed out on getting any at-bats against teammates after suffering a hairline fracture in his wrist in summer camp, not surprisingly stood out.

“Julio looks great right now, probably the most excited about any player I have been in quite some time,” said Servais. “Just how young he is, the personality, the energy he brings to the game everyday, how he’s swinging the bat and moving. He was running great, moving good in the outfield and the bat is real. When he squares it up, there’s nobody in our system including our big league team that hits the ball as hard.”

While Rodríguez will have the opportunity to catch up on missed time and perhaps even jump ahead of his class in quality of competition faced this year – he is scheduled to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic once the player development schedule is completed – Servais found the need to temper expectations of a hungry fan base for the organization’s top prospect.

“I say that, and he’s 19,” he pointed out. “He’s still got things to work on and things to get better at. I think it’s awesome that our fan base is really starting to identify with some of these young players that aren’t even in the big leagues yet. It just shows how much the game and media has changed our game in the last 78 years.”

Servais also had an update on first baseman Evan White, who had an interesting (to say the least) rookie season that saw him jump from Double-A to the bigs on day 1, struggle with the bat throughout the season, and end as a Gold Glove Award finalist.

“We like the player, love the makeup and defensive skill,” Servais said. “He’s going to hit. As we speak, he’s in Arizona with the hitting coaches trying to iron out things. That’s the exciting thing about our young group, they’re just wired the right way. They want to win, they want to be big contributors. Evan White is probably going to win, should win the Gold Glove, but he knows there are things that he wants to get better at. He’s getting after it today even as we speak.”

In addition to the players mentioned above, Servais also took questions on Kyle Lewis, Jarred Kelenic, the turning point of the season and impressions of the World Series in his 15 minute conversation with Paul Gallant and guest co-host Michael Bumpus. You can hear the full interview in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

Follow Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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