Is Julio Rodríguez making Mariners’ roster? The case looks strong

Mar 28, 2022, 1:16 AM | Updated: 1:18 am
Mariners Julio Rodríguez...
Mariners prospect Julio Rodríguez before a game against the Angels on Oct. 2, 2021. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners’ top-ranked farm system is headlined by Julio Rodríguez, the No. 2 overall prospect according to Baseball America and No. 3 per MLB Pipeline. And by the sound of things, he’s not far from jumping off those lists and becoming a contributor for Seattle’s major league team.

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“This team is set up where, whether it’s an opening day or sometime early in the season because of the uncertainty surrounding (outfielder Kyle) Lewis, Rodríguez has a path to have a very significant influence on this team this season,” Jon Morosi of MLB Network said during his most recent weekly segment with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob.

Rodríguez, 21, is currently in major league spring training camp with the Mariners and receiving a good amount of playing time in Cactus League play, including getting a look as Seattle’s potential center fielder with the future of the position open due to Lewis coming off the second major knee injury of his career.

The question now isn’t whether M’s fans will see Rodríguez at T-Mobile Park this year, but rather how soon. And based on what Morosi said, a spot on the roster come opening day April 7 in Minnesota is very much in play.

“I think we’re gonna see him early,” Morosi told Bob Stelton and Dave Wyman, “whether it’s early April or late April – whenever it is. And I think he’s gonna make a huge impact.”

After hearing that and having seen Rodríguez up close during the first week of spring training, Mike Salk of Seattle Sports’ The Mike Salk Show is pretty much convinced Rodríguez will be on the Game 1 roster.

“I agree (with Morosi), and I’m gonna say it’s early April. I think Julio’s on the team,” Salk said Friday morning after playing the sound from Morosi’s segment.

One thing working in Rodríguez’s favor is the way MLB rosters will be set up to start this season. Due to the shortened spring training as a result of the MLB-instituted lockout that ended earlier this month, teams will start the year with 28-man rosters before going down to the usual 26 on May 1. The way Salk sees it, Rodríguez should be on the expanded roster even though he’s never played a game above Double-A – and only 46 games in Double-A, for that matter.

“Especially if they’re going to have to keep at least 13 (position players), and that may end up being more than 13. When you run through the numbers of who’s on the roster, he’s there. You almost don’t have another way to spin it,” Salk said.

He went on to list 11 position players he believes are locks to make Seattle’s opening day roster, then looked at the options for two remaining position player spots.

“Essentially, you’re looking at two from these three: Julio Rodríguez, (catcher) Cal Raleigh, and a defensive center fielder, whether that’s Taylor Trammell or Billy Hamilton, or maybe Steven Souza Jr. as sort of an outside shot,” he said. “(First baseman) Evan White I think is going to be hurt, Kyle Lewis is going to be hurt. Just looking at who has an opportunity to make the roster, who else is it? … I don’t understand how Julio wouldn’t be one of the next two.”

There’s no question to Salk what his answer would be.

“If you give me two of those three options, give me the guy that’s the budding superstar who might be the best hitter on the team when it’s all said and done,” he said of Rodríguez. “And then, honestly, I’d probably take the center fielder over Cal Raleigh. … I want Julio on the roster. I think that you’re in a win-now mode. It’s different from last year when you were still in a little bit of a developmental situation.”

Salk said the Mariners should still be careful with Rodríguez’s development like they have been with fellow young outfielder Jarred Kelenic, who was also a big-name prospect. For him, having Rodríguez on the roster to begin the season makes sense under that guideline.

“I do still think you’ve got to be careful and treat Julio the right way, you’ve got to do what’s right for him. But I also think this is what’s right for him. I think that he’s ready. You watch him, you’re around him, you hear him, you feel his presence – that’s a guy who’s ready for the big leagues. Very much, I believe, ready for the big leagues.”

Listen to Salk’s full thoughts in the first segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below.

Who Julio compares to

There’s one more interesting thing about Rodríguez from Morosi’s segment that jumped out to Salk.

“Oh, by the way, Morosi says he’s gonna be a lot like Carlos Correa at the plate. How about that?” Salk said.

Not a bad name to be compared to. Correa will be on the other side of the field when the Mariners start the year against the Twins, having recently joined Minnesota as a free agent on a contract reportedly worth over $35 million a year. The Mariners no doubt are glad to see the two-time All-Star, 2015 American League Rookie of the Year and 2021 AL Gold Glove shortstop move out of their division, where he hit at least 20 home runs in five of his six full seasons with the Houston Astros. And they’d no doubt be glad to see similar production from their top prospect.

“You look at (Rodríguez’s) physicality, he at the plate reminds me of Correa, his stance and setup,” Morosi said to Wyman and Bob. “Obviously, he’s had some good at-bats already (in spring training). … I love his physicality and athleticism. To me, if Kelenic and Rodríguez really click, this team’s going to be I think a really, really fun team to watch this season.”

Listen to the full segment with Morosi, who joins Wyman and Bob at 5 p.m. each Thursday on Seattle Sports 710 AM, in the podcast below or at this link.

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Is Julio Rodríguez making Mariners’ roster? The case looks strong