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Mariners OF Julio Rodriguez
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Dipoto: Top Mariners prospects Kelenic, Rodriguez impressing at camp

Mariners OF prospect Julio Rodriguez has the tools to be a star, GM Jerry Dipoto says. (Getty)

The Mariners will feature a number of young faces in 2020 who will be key building blocks for potential future success. The two most important players in the entire organization, however, will start the season in the minors. Those two, of course, are top outfield prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez.

Dipoto: 2020 Mariners are much different than 2019 ‘transition team’

The two are not only the top prospects in the Mariners organization, they are two of the top prospects in all of baseball. MLB Pipeline has Kelenic ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the game with Rodriguez not too far behind at No. 18. The duo are now in the midst of their very first big league spring training camp.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant Monday morning and raved about his two young prospects.

Kelenic, 20, was the centerpiece of last offseason’s blockbuster trade with the New York Mets that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Big Apple. He was the No. 6 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft by New York. 2019 was his first full season as a pro, and he dominated everywhere he played.

After starting the year at Single-A West Virginia, he was promoted to High-A Modesto and ended the season in Double-A Arkansas. Overall, Kelenic slashed .291/.364/540 between the three levels. He also hit 23 home runs, drove in 68 runs and stole 20 bases in 117 games.

Kelenic has started the spring red hot, reaching base in four of his first six plate appearances, and is getting encouragement from Rodriguez, as 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer captured here.

Dipoto says Kelenic displays awareness that is much higher than other players his age.

“I can’t say enough about Kelenic’s at bats,” Dipoto said. “It seems so ‘non-sexy’ to finish with a walk (in your final at bat), (but) his discipline, his pitch selection in that spot for a 20-year-old who has a chance to impress in major league camp, to wait for the pitch that he can handle, that he can hit, he can drive and when he didn’t get it, he took the walk and he passed the baton. That’s what we want to see. We want to see that kind of maturity, the ability to adjust to the off field on the backdoor breaking ball, you don’t see players do that, much less 20-year-olds in their first big league camp.”

Kelenic has all the traits to be a star player in center field, and though he’ll likely start the year in High-A or Double-A, don’t expect him to be there for long.

“(He’s a) five-tool guy and very polished,” Dipoto said. “I think he’s going to move very quickly (through the Mariners’ system).”

Rodriguez will likely playing next to Kelenic in right field for years to come if all goes right. Rodriguez, 19, signed with Seattle as an international free agent at just 16 years old from the Dominican Republic. While 2019 was the first full season as a pro for Kelenic, it was the first full year Rodriguez spent in the United States.

He also started 2019 in Single-A West Virginia, but stayed longer than Kelenic due in part to a hairline fracture in his left hand after getting hit by a fastball. He recovered nicely and earned a promotion to High-A Modesto to end the year. In his 17 games with Modesto, Rodriguez slashed an absurd .462/.514/.738. Between the two levels, Rodriguez slashed .326/.390/.929 and hit 12 home runs and drove in 69 runs in just 84 games.

Rodriguez is a physical specimen, standing roughly 6’4 and weighing over 220 pounds. He also moves exceptionally well for a man of his size.

“Julio’s huge, and I don’t think he’s done growing,” Dipoto said. “He’s only 19 years old and when we signed Julio, we had him as a center fielder, he has played center field to this point of his career, he’s particularly athletic, but he’s gotten bigger and bigger. We’ll list him as 6’3 or even 6’4 now, and physically, he’s going to be an even bigger man.”

In addition to being a large human being, Rodriguez also has a large personality that could carry him, along with his skill set, to be a superstar.

“The power is there, the arm strength is there, the athleticism is there and the confidence (is there). He has a great personality to be the front man so to speak. He’s not afraid of the camera,” Dipoto said. “He (also) shows really growing leadership traits and he’s still so young. There’s a lot in front of him, but he’s a big dude with big strengths and we feel like he’s got a chance to be a star in this league.”

Dipoto also talked about a number of young players in depth in his interview with Danny and Gallant, which can be found at this link or in the player below.

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