Is Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez an All-Star already? MLB insiders say yes
Mariners phenom Julio Rodríguez belongs in the MLB All-Star Game later this month. At this point, it’s barely even a matter of opinion.
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Rodríguez is just 21 years old. He’s still a rookie with only 82 games of big league experience under his belt. And yet he’s not just been the Mariners’ best player during their best stretch of the season – while Seattle has been on its current 12-3 run, he has been named the American League Player of the Week and picked up his second straight AL Rookie of the Month award – but he’s been one of the better outfielders in the AL.
This week on Seattle Sports, two of the more highly-respected journalists in baseball – ESPN’s Jeff Passan and The Athletic’s Jayson Stark – were asked if Rodríguez should be on the AL team when the All-Star rosters are announced Sunday afternoon. They both responded with the same answer:
Just a couple games past the midway point of the Mariners’ season, Rodríguez is hitting .277 with 15 home runs, 43 RBIs, 21 stolen bases, and an .823 OPS for the Mariners. His 3.5 WAR, according to Baseball Reference, is 10th in all of the game. And it’s a very real possibility he could hit 30 home runs and steal 40 bases, something that would put him in tremendous company, as Stark pointed out on The Mike Salk Show.
“The only player in history to ever do that at 21 or younger was Mike Trout, and that’s not a bad comparison,” Stark told guest hosts Mike Lefko and Ryan Rowland-Smith on Tuesday. “Julio to me has become one of the must-see attractions in the league and just a total game-changer, team-changer, season-changer. I don’t know which of his stats blow me away more.”
Passan was just as effusive in his praise Wednesday when talking to Mike Salk.
“I don’t think he’s an All-Star just because he’s a young talent who should be built and propped up and put in this marquee game. He’s an All-Star because he’s been one of the five best outfielders in the American League this year,” Passan said. “Like, that’s just fact. That’s just numbers. And the idea that he’s doing it at 21 years old, it just makes the story even better.”
What Rodríguez is doing is even more impressive considering he wasn’t projected to be a center fielder (he’s done just fine there with two defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs) or particularly fast (he has the 12th-best sprint speed in MLB and leads the AL in steals).
“What he’s providing so far is just about as good of an all-around game as we’ve seen,” Passan said. “I think people, even in Seattle, may not recognize just how productive he’s been this year. We’re halfway through the season right now, he’s played 82 games, and he’s got three wins above replacement. If we extrapolate this over the rest of the year, a six WAR season is like MVP-caliber stuff, and for him to be doing that at 21 years old, my goodness. It’s scary to think what he’s going to be when he really gets going.
“He’s just such a more complete player than I thought he was going to be, and that’s been the wonder of him. I saw Julio Rodríguez as just a big, power-hitting beast; he is so much more than that, though, and it’s been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2022 season. It’s not that I didn’t think he was going to be successful. It’s that I didn’t realize he was going to be successful at as many things as he is.”
How Julio compares to rookie All-Star hitters
If Rodríguez makes the AL roster, he’ll become the fifth Mariners rookie All-Star, joining center fielder Ruppert Jones (1977), first baseman Alvin Davis (1984), right fielder Ichiro Suzuki (2001) and pitcher Michael Pineda (2011). Since 2012, 11 rookie hitters throughout the league have been All-Stars. Does Rodríguez have the numbers to belong in that class? His stats certainly put him in the conversation.
Take a look at how his numbers compare.
Statistics through team’s first 83 games
Julio Rodríguez this year: 82 games, .277/.336/.487 (.823 OPS), 15 HR, 43 RBI, 21 SB
Mike Trout, OF, Angels: 61 games, .348/.403/.555 (.958 OPS), 10 HR, 38 RBI, 26 SB
Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals: 63 games, .282/.354/.472 (.826 OPS), 8 HR, 25 RBI, 10 SB
José Abreu, 1B, White Sox: 83 games, .292/.344/.631 (.975 OPS), 29 HR, 73 RBI, 1 SB
Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs: 74 games, .275/.380/.473 (.852 OPS), 12 HR, 49 RBI, 8 SB
Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers: 82 games, .234/.372/.504 (.876 OPS), 20 HR, 38 RBI, 2 SB
Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers: 73 games, .301/.361/.536 (.897 OPS), 17 HR, 40 RBI, 1 SB
Aledmys Díaz, SS, Cardinals: 70 games, .314/.379/.522 (.901 OPS), 11 HR, 42 RBI, 3 SB
Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers: 63 games, .262/.335/.633 (.968 OPS), 24 HR, 56 RBI, 5 SB
Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees: 81 games, .331/.449/.697 (1.146 OPS), 29 HR, 65 RBI, 6 SB
Gleyber Torres, 2B, Yankees: 62 games, .296/.353/.560 (.913 OPS), 15 HR, 42 RBI, 2 SB
Brandon Lowe, 2B, Rays: 66 games, .275/.338/.520 (.858 OPS), 15 HR, 47 RBI, 4 SB
How Rodríguez’s season ranks out of these 12 players:
• Seventh in batting average
• 11th in on-base percentage
• 10th in slugging
• 12th in OPS
• Tied for sixth in home runs
• Sixth in RBIs
• Second in stolen bases
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