Has any Seattle athlete met expectations as fast as Mariners’ Rodríguez?

Jul 3, 2022, 9:50 AM
Mariners Julio Rodriguez...
Julio Rodriguez celebrates after hitting a home run at T-Mobile Park on June 30. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Julio Rodríguez has been as good as advertised for the Mariners as a rookie this season, entering Sunday’s series finale against Oakland with a .273/.334/.468 slash line with 13 home runs, 39 RBIs and an MLB-leading 20 stolen bases while playing very good defense in center field.

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Due to Rodríguez’s stellar play, he’s been named American League Rookie of the Month not once, but twice, earning the honors in both May and June.

Not only has Rodríguez been arguably the best rookie in MLB this year, but he’s been among the game’s best outfielders in general and is making a strong case for making the 2022 American League All-Star team. This all came after he entered the year as one of the game’s top overall prospects, a distinction Rodríguez has held for a few years now.

“We’ve talked a lot about Julio Rodríguez and him coming in with the massive expectations, the huge spotlight, and to this point living up to them,” Bob Stelton said during Thursday’s Wyman and Bob on Seattle Sports 710 AM. “… How does he compare to other young superstars in Seattle? Is there another young star in any sport that sort of lived up to the hype out of the gate the way he has?”

Seattle has had many star players across its different professional sport teams, but few entered their first season with the kind of hype train Rodriguez did.

“Russell (Wilson) didn’t have hype, he was a third-round pick and (the Seahawks) had Matt Flynn,” Stelton said. “Looking at Russell, he was an undersized guy in the third round who you thought they’re taking a flyer on, so there wasn’t the expectation with him.”

Another star Mariners center fielder may be the most comparable to Rodríguez in Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. While Griffey, a No. 1 draft pick, did quickly become a star for the Mariners, the circumstances around his debut were different than with Rodríguez.

“You look at Griffey, yeah, there was (hype with him) back then, but it was such a different time,” Stelton said. “You didn’t have social media, you didn’t have access to every little thing he had done leading up to that day.”

“He was kind of our little secret right here,” Dave Wyman chimed in.

A more recent example of a young player quickly becoming a star in Seattle is Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf, a 2019 second-round pick who is considered to be one of the NFL’s top receivers.

“But there were probably even questions. I don’t know how much hype was attached to him,” Stelton said. “There was hype in how he looked — he looks like an action figure. But maybe just in terms of expectations, people were like, ‘Well, he dropped to the second round for a reason.’ He had an injury history and we weren’t not sure if he was gonna work out. So even he didn’t come with that expectation that Julio has. It’s a very unique thing here, specifically in Seattle. I can’t think of another athlete that came with that level of expectation that either lived up to it or exceeded it.”

Added Wyman, “There’s some about the statuesque (build of) DK Metcalf and Julio Rodríguez that I think kind of adds to it a little bit.”

For Wyman, Rodríguez overcoming early obstacles makes his rookie season all the more stellar.

“Think about what Julio has been through. I’m not saying it was like some huge tragedy or anything, but he was getting squeezed at the plate as far as the called strike threes early on,” Wyman said. “He handled that really well the whole time.”

Texters chimed in with a few Seattle athletes like Alex Rodriguez and Felix Hernandez for the Mariners and Breanna Stewart for the Storm. Listen to the whole segment, with thoughts on those players, at this link or in the player below.

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Has any Seattle athlete met expectations as fast as Mariners’ Rodríguez?