What could be the issue behind Julio Rodríguez’s slow start for Mariners

May 8, 2024, 10:16 AM | Updated: 10:25 pm

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez looks on from the dugout on April 9 in Toronto. (Kevin Sousa/Getty Images)

(Kevin Sousa/Getty Images)

Nearly the entire Seattle Mariners lineup has had a rough start to the season at the plate, but perhaps the most glaring struggles have belonged to Julio Rodríguez.

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After a sensational first two seasons in the majors, the Mariners’ 23-year-old superstar center fielder is slashing just .255/.309/.305 for a .614 OPS with only one home run and four doubles through 36 games this year. It’s a stunning lack of power production for a slugger who blasted a combined 60 homers with a .498 slugging percentage over the past two seasons.

Rodríguez has just an 83 OPS+ this year, a far cry from his 136 OPS+ over the past two seasons. Out of 173 qualified hitters in the majors, he ranks No. 142 in OPS and No. 151 in slugging percentage.

What’s off with Rodríguez right now? ROOT Sports Mariners analyst and former MLB third baseman Mike Blowers shared some insight Tuesday during his appearance on Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob.

“(Mariners manager Scott Servais) has talked about it a number of times that Julio’s at his best and the team’s at its best when he’s hitting the ball in the air, and he obviously hasn’t been doing that,” Blowers said. “So I asked Scott, ‘Hey, is it a mechanical thing? Is it an approach (thing)? What’s going on with that?’ And he said it was a little bit of everything.

“But the one thing (he said) that kind of resonated with me is he has a tendency to drift forward. And if you go back and you look at the numbers, I think he’s been pitched inside more than anybody else in the American League. And when your body is moving forward and the ball is in on you, more times than not you’re gonna get jammed. That’s what I see out of him right now and that’s kind of what Scott was alluding to.”

The numbers certainly back that up. Rodríguez’s barrel rate this season is just 6.2%, which is well below his 11.7% career average.

Earlier in the show, guest host Ryan Rowland-Smith had a similar take on Rodríguez’s struggles.

“He just looks off-balanced when he’s swinging,” said Rowland-Smith, who is a Mariners analyst and former MLB pitcher. “He gets that backswing and then all of a sudden the feet start shuffling. … It just seems off. He seems like he’s a little bit off-balanced. He doesn’t seem like he’s in his base whatsoever.

“It’s really wearing on him,” he added. “I really think it is. … You walk up to hit, you dig in, you’ve got that giant scoreboard and you just see a ‘1’ in the (home run) column, … you’re like, ‘Oh man.’ It wears on you.”

Listen to the full conversation with Mike Blowers from Tuesday’s Wyman and Bob in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Mariners

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• MLB Insider: Seattle Mariners’ Logan Gilbert on track to win a Cy Young

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