It might have taken a little while, but the Mariners have cultivated an impressive farm system, with a handful of players who are among the top 100 on a number of top prospect lists. They have Jarred Kelenic (OF), Logan Gilbert (RHP), Evan White (1B and someone that I am very impressed with) and Justin Dunn (RHP). Additionally, in the middle of the pack sits Julio Rodriguez, a 19-year-old international free agent that Seattle signed in 2017 from the Dominican Republic. He would play for the Dominican Summer League Mariners the following year at 17, a full three years below the average aged player in that league—taking home the MVP and multiple All-Star honors in the process.
Julio seems hungry and ready for the hype that will inevitably come with being a promising prospect on the only team that has yet to make it to the World Series. He enjoys a good challenge and embraces the work, wanting to make it without any shortcuts. 2019 saw him move up from rookie A ball, where in spite of an abbreviated season due to a fractured hand, he hit .293 with 10 home runs, 50 runs and 50 RBIs across 67 games. At High A, he hit an insane .462 with 13 runs and 19 RBIs across 19 games. The later stat saw him bump up from top 100 in many lists to a top 25 prospect. Julio might be a prospect with as high a ceiling as any right now, as the raw power that he has shown in (a quite limited) time is amazing. The initial risk with him was his size as a growing young adult, currently at 6’4” and 225 lbs. Scouts have been watching him as he grows to make sure he keeps his weight in check. Thus far, he has proved that he is prepared to be diligent putting in the hard work both on the field and off the field, maintaining excellent condition. He has shown remarkable poise and candor through his first two years. One thing to watch will be if his numbers dip this season or early next season as he moves up a few levels—can he keep that poise during frustrating slumps or lower than expected outputs?
The part that I found impressive in Julio’s stint at High A was not the batting average as that also came with an absurd .528 BABIP, but his patience improved. His K% dropped from 22% to 14% and his BB% increased from 6.8% to 6.9%. Additionally, his line drive rate went up from just under 50% to just over 50%. At the same time, I am very cautious on this, he has played a grand total of 133 games (all at A and High A ball), as I mentioned, his BABIP was through the roof late last season, he has already suffered one injury and on top of all of that, he stole 1 base in 2019. As we know too well, there is no ‘sure thing’ with an MLB prospect, if you are willing to take the risks there, there is a high ceiling to go with it. I’ve seen his anticipated entrance into the Majors between mid 2021 late 2022, I’m inclined to go with the earlier side to that if he can continue his way up the ranks with even a modicum of success he showed late last year. As of now, any combination of Kyle Lewis, Mallex Smith, Jake Fraley or Mitch Haniger shouldn’t hold him back if he is continuing to show this power.
For me, everything I have seen thus far has me convinced he’s a top 25 prospect. His power is legit, he has the mental fortitude and drive to succeed, and he seems to be embracing his role and the hype without letting it infringe upon his work ethic.