Dipoto: Julio Rodríguez making the Mariners, the impact on Jarred Kelenic

Apr 7, 2022, 12:52 PM
Mariners Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez...
Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez of American League Futures Team look on during the performance of the National Anthem before a game against the National League Futures Team. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
(Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

After a monster 2021 season in the minors and a torrid spring training, top Mariners prospect Julio Rodríguez made Seattle’s opening day roster.

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Not only will Rodríguez be on the roster when the Mariners open their 2022 campaign in Minnesota against the Twins, but MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 prospect in baseball will be tasked with a key role Friday afternoon according to general manager Jerry Dipoto.

“Will we see Julio in the opening day lineup? Is that the expectation? He’s playing center field tomorrow?” Mike Salk asked Dipoto on The Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM on Thursday.

“Oh yeah, that was the plan. We didn’t bring him here to watch everybody else,” Dipoto said.

So when did the Mariners know Rodríguez, who has yet to play above Double-A, was going to make the big league roster?

“Obviously we went into spring training and you could probably hear from my my tone that we went into spring training with some idea that this was likely to be the outcome just based on the work that he put in during the offseason, the general toolset that he has and believing in the maturity of the person,” Dipoto said. “Julio’s a really mature kid and he has a great way about him. And then when he went out and did what he did on the field, that just really cemented the decision. I would say it was about 10 days or two weeks ago when we were like, he’s on the club and there’s really nothing he could do to play himself off outside of experiencing an injury. So this has been kind of a foregone conclusion for us for a little while, and we’re very excited to see where it goes.”

Rodríguez’s debut has been the top Mariners storyline in recent weeks, which has pushed former top prospect Jarred Kelenic a bit into the background.

Kelenic, like Rodríguez, is an outfielder and was at this time last year Seattle’s top prospect. Kelenic debuted and struggled overall in 2021, but he did finish the year very strong.

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So what impact did Rodríguez being in the spotlight have on Kelenic?

“Jarred came in last year with so much scrutiny and everybody’s watching him and obviously it didn’t go the way he wanted. But he finished strong, he came into spring training in a good place,” Dipoto said. “What I appreciate most about what happened is Julio was celebrated from Day 1 and Jarred just went about his work in the background and continued to do the things that I think are gonna result in better results for him.”

Kelenic had a slow start to spring training but finished very strong, including hitting home runs in his final three games. Dipoto thinks Rodríguez may have played a part in Kelenic closing the exhibition games on a high note.

“Perhaps the fact that there was such a great focus on Julio allowed Jared to relax a little bit and just go do his thing,” Dipoto said. “He’s also a special player and to see him do what he did those last three games after it became obvious that Julio was on our club where we made that announcement, Jarred took it to a different level. And hopefully that’s a sign of things to come.”

So what is Kelenic doing that’s allowing him to be primed for a much-improved 2022 season?

“So much of his offseason was spent on just being easy with his stroke and focusing on left-center field. You look at the first half of our spring training game schedule that almost all of the hits that Jarred got in games were all from center to left field, which is not really what we saw last year,” Dipoto said. “It’s not like Jarred is a long-in-the-tooth veteran, so I admired his focus on sticking with what he knew was going to work and ultimately it led to what I think leaving spring training is this is what Jarred Kelenic looks like. And I’m pretty excited to see what happens over the course of a full season.”

Listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player below.

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Dipoto: Julio Rodríguez making the Mariners, the impact on Jarred Kelenic