ESPN’s Kurkjian: Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez will be one of MLB’s best

Jul 11, 2022, 2:34 PM | Updated: Jul 12, 2022, 12:19 pm
Mariners Julio Rodríguez...
Julio Rodríguez gestures after hitting an RBI single in Sunday's Mariners win. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The Mariners are on as good of a run as they’ve been on in recent memory, having won 16 of their 19 last games. And right in the middle of it has been perhaps the brightest shining young star the team has had since Félix Hernández.

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That would be Julio Rodríguez, the 21-year-old phenom who was named an All-Star on Sunday just 86 games into his major league career. That made him the fifth rookie in Mariners history bestowed with All-Star status and the first in 11 years.

With an .811 OPS, 15 home runs and American League-leading 21 stolen bases, Rodríguez is turning heads everywhere he goes this season – even when it comes to some of baseball’s most respected national voices.

On Monday, one of those voices – Hall of Famer and longtime ESPN analyst Tim Kurkjian – joined Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk Show and shared his thoughts on the Mariners’ rising star, and the praise was glowing.

“It’s pretty scary,” Kurkjian said of Rodríguez’s performance as a rookie. “I mean, the power – obviously, 15 homers is pretty darned impressive – but then you add in 21 stolen bases. We start looking at players this young, rookies to have homers and stolen bases like this at this stage of the rookie year, it’s a pretty small list.”

Kurkjian said Rodríguez is the latest example of a youth movement in baseball that is different from anything he’s seen before in his time in the game.

“I have never seen this kind of influx of great young players who aren’t just great, but they’re big, they’re strong, they’re athletic, and they’re ready when they get here,” he said. “It started with (Mike) Trout and (Bryce) Harper (in 2012), and every year somebody else comes in and you just look at it and say, ‘How can you be this good this early?’ That’s Julio Rodríguez this year.”

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Rodríguez came to the Mariners with a high ceiling, but there are things he’s doing now that are surprising even Kurkjian.

“I think he’s going to be one of the best players in the game – if he isn’t already – very, very soon. And again, to do this at such a young age is the really impressive part. He’s not 25, and to be able to figure it out this quickly, it’s just remarkable. So there’s no telling where he’s going to go with this kind of skillset.”

Kurkjian also believes Rodríguez has the kind of makeup that will give him staying power.

“From everything I know about him, he’s a really great kid, meaning this is not going to go to his head. He’s not going to get all caught up in things. He’s really well grounded, and sky’s the limit for this guy. He will be one of the best players in the game for a long time.”

You can listen to the full conversation with Kurkjian in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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ESPN’s Kurkjian: Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez will be one of MLB’s best