SEATTLE MARINERS

Mariners’ Goldsmith: Julio Rodríguez’s early struggles not as bad as they seem

Apr 15, 2022, 9:30 AM
Mariners Julio Rodriguez...
Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners flips his bat after walking in the fourth inning against the Chicago White Sox. (Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

The Mariners play their first home game of the 2022 season at T-Mobile Park Friday night against the Houston Astros after an eventful 3-4 road trip to start the year.

Young arms, cold bats: Good, bad and ugly from Mariners’ 3-4 opening road trip

The seven games in the Midwest weren’t just eventful for the games played on the field but also for the weather that pushed one game back a day, one game back almost an hour and impacted the middle of a couple of games.

“The Mariners saw it all,” Mariners announcer Aaron Goldsmith told The Mike Salk Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM Friday morning. “They saw the wind, they saw the rain, they saw the snow. I think they’re happy to get back home and get a roof.”

Aside from keeping a close eye on the skies and weather reports, many eyes were glued to the plate appearances of top Mariners prospect Julio Rodríguez, who made the opening day roster and has started six of Seattle’s seven games this year.

Unfortunately for the uber-talented hitter, his numbers out of the gate have been poor as he has just two hits in 21 at-bats (.095) with two walks, one run scored and 12 strikeouts.

While just glancing at Rodríguez’s stat line may cause Mariners fans to worry, Goldsmith has a few reasons why M’s fans should back away from the panic button.

“(Top prospect) Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals – the Julio fever in Seattle is rivaled by the Witt fever in Kansas City – Bobby Witt Jr. is 3 for 24, and he is seen to be a generational talent just like really Julio,” Goldsmith said. “And Spencer Torkelson of the Tigers, who made their opening day roster, the former No. 1 overall draft pick, their first baseman, is 3 for 19. So hitting is hard. Hitting is especially hard when you’ve never done it at this level before.”

Witt, like Rodríguez, is a top-three prospect in baseball and is MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect. The 2019 No. 2 overall pick broke camp as the Royals’ third baseman and made his MLB debut on opening day, same as Rodríguez.

Torkelson also broke camp with his MLB club and made his debut on opening day. He is a top-five prospect in baseball.

Goldsmith pointed to Rodríguez’s strikeout numbers not as an area of concern but as a cause for optimism for one specific reason – questionable strike three calls by home plate umpires.

“No broadcaster likes to complain about the strike zone on TV or radio, but when you get rung up like five or six times for Julio on strike three (on pitches) outside and off the plate, I credit Julio for not chasing that pitch, man,” Goldsmith said. “I mean, it would be easy for a young player, even a veteran player, to just try to expand (the zone). And he hasn’t done that. And I guarantee you that (manager Scott Servais) and Jarett DeHart, the Mariners hitting coach, are telling Julio, and they’re showing him on a screen, ‘What you’re doing is right. That’s a bad call, don’t change a thing.’ If you start chasing that, obviously we know what happens. Its snowballs and becomes even worse.”

Goldsmith said that as Rodríguez becomes more established in the league, umpires will know he has a reputation for having a good feel of the strike zone and that could work in his favor eventually. He also pointed to the Mariners’ “Rake Report” that’s published every day that shows players what their discipline at the plate was the prior day as well as what pitches they swung at and which pitches they were able to do damage to.

“And what it does is it allows the hitters to take their eyes off that big board in the ballpark that tells them what their batting average is and tell them what their process is,” he said. “The Rake Report, I guarantee you, for all those strike three calls off the plate for Julio, the Rake Report has given him thumbs up, right? The batting average disagrees, but if you stick with the process and the Rake Report, the batting average will come around, the on-base (percentage) and everything that goes along with it.”

Other quick takeaways

So what else stood out to Goldsmith from the Mariners’ seven-game road trip to start the season?

“I don’t think you necessarily go to the bullpen when you ask a question like that, but what we saw from Andrés Muñoz yesterday and on the trip in total, man,” Goldsmith said. “There’s 100 mph fastballs that kind of get lit (up) because they’re straight and you can time them up and then there’s whatever Andrés Muñoz has.”

Muñoz has appeared in three games, and after walking the first batter he faced this year and giving up a two-run home run to the next hitter, he’s retired nine in a row, including the last eight all on strikeouts. And speaking of those eight strikeouts, the last eight batters to face Munoz have all struck out thanks to his electric fastball and wipeout slider.

“Yesterday in the game, he threw the two fastest recorded pitches in Mariners history,” Goldsmith said. “Not the (top one), but the top two in one game. He hit 102.8 mph. So that’s been pretty great to see.”

As far as the Mariners’ bats go, they’ve been cold to start the year. That hasn’t been the case for shortstop J.P. Crawford, though, who is slashing .417/.500/.542 through seven games and picked up two more hits on Thursday.

“We know that J.P. Crawford is a good hitter. But as for the first week of the season where the offense is clearly trying to find some footing, it’s nice when you have a guy who you can kind of rely on to do what he’s always done, right from the gate,” Goldsmith said. “That’s clearly been J.P. Crawford, and we saw Scott move him up in the order yesterday because of it.”

The hot start for Crawford, who hit fifth Thursday after being in the bottom third of the order in the previous games, comes after he signed a five-year extension on opening day.

“I’m sure when you when you sign a big extension, you you would kind of like to come out right away and do something, and J.P. Crawford certainly has,” Goldsmith said.

You can hear the full conversation with Goldsmith when the podcast is published at this link at 11 a.m. Friday. And listen to coverage of the Mariners’ home opener on Seattle Sports Station 710 AM or streaming on SeattleSports.com or the Seattle Sports starting with the pregame show at 5:30 p.m.

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