MVP? Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez making case with ‘unbelievable’ 2nd half

Sep 15, 2023, 1:27 AM | Updated: 1:30 am

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners celebrates a hit against the Angels on Sept. 12, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The 2023 statistics for second-year Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez are impressive, and certainly what you would expect from a player who has already been named an All-Star twice.

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Entering Friday, Rodríguez owns a .289/.344/.505 slash line for an .849 OPS with 30 home runs, 99 RBIs and 36 stolen bases in 139 games this year. Not bad, right? In fact, it may even be MVP-caliber in the American League, especially with two-way Angels star Shohei Ohtani’s health status for the rest of the season uncertain.

What the 22-year-old Rodríguez has been doing for the past two months, however, is proof that he’s more than just a two-time All-Star, more than the best player on the Mariners’ roster. Rodríguez is a true five-tool superstar and the potential next face of baseball – the kind of player the Mariners haven’t had since Alex Rodriguez over 20 years ago.

Since the first game after the All-Star break in July 14, here’s what Rodríguez’s stats look like:

• .352 average (third in MLB)
• .400 on-base percentage (17th)
• .656 slugging percentage (third)
• 1.056 OPS (fifth)
• 17 home runs (tied sixth)
• 50 RBIs (third)
• 16 doubles (tied fourth)
• 14 stolen bases (eighth)
• 3.9 fWAR (tied first)
• 189 wRC+ (tied second)

Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto used an apt word to describe Rodríguez’s second half: unbelievable.

“Honestly, what he’s been able to do since the All-Star break really is unbelievable if you take a look back at in retrospect how good he’s been,” he said during Thursday’s Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports.

“And I think he’s very much put himself in the MVP conversation.”

What makes Rodríguez so special is that he isn’t just a star with his bat. His elite speed is a big part of why he’s a potential Gold Glove winner in center field, as well as just the fourth player in MLB history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in his age 22 season or earlier (he’s also the 44th player of any age to join the 30/30 club, and joins Alex Rodriguez as the only Mariners to pull off the feat).

“The attraction in Julio is really the whole package. It’s the offense, it’s the defense, it’s the baserunning, it’s the power, it’s the speed,” Dipoto said. “… You’re talking about such a well-rounded player, and then you add into it the additives that he brings, the engagement with the fans. You know, he’s inviting. And right now, I mean, he’s really on some kind of heater, and it’s been quite some time that this has been going on.”

The impact of Rodríguez’s contributions on the Mariners’ 36-31 record since the All-Star break, which has lofted Seattle into the American League playoff picture, is not lost on Dipoto.

“For a team to get on the kind of run that we’ve generally been on for the last 2 1/2 months, you need the Julios to do what Julio is doing,” he said. “And I can’t even say that you need him to do that – he’s gone above and beyond. He’s had a phenomenal run.”

Current MLB Standings: Division | Wild Card

Simply put, Rodríguez is proving that he truly is the kind of superstar that scouts are always hoping to discover.

“You’re always looking for that physical athlete, the size, speed, power-speed combo that sometimes results like this,” Dipoto said, “because when you hit on it like we as an organization have been fortunate or blessed enough to hit on with Julio, it’s such a difference maker when you have someone who can do all those different things on a field that Julio does.”

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs live at 8:30 a.m. each Thursday during Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. Listen to this week’s full edition at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Why Dipoto isn’t worried about what George Kirby said
Lefko: A rookie is why Seattle Mariners’ AL West hopes are still alive
How Eugenio Suárez keeps the good vibes in Mariners clubhouse
Mariners Notebook: How Woo came up big; Kelenic’s other foot
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