As is the case for most rookies, Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez struggled in his first month in the MLB but has since looked like the touted player he was projected to be, and a possible AL Rookie of the Year candidate. With the early May turnaround, Rodríguez hasn’t looked back and is on his way to running away with the AL Rookie of the Year race.
To begin the season, Rodríguez had a slash line of .220/.283/.297 while piling up 38 strikeouts in his first 25 games. The Mariners were 12-13 in that stretch with a bulk of the offensive production coming from first baseman Ty France and shortstop J.P. Crawford.
Since May 6, Rodríguez has looked like a whole new player, slashing .300/.358/.566 with 14 home runs, 66 hits and 12 stolen bases. His performance has been huge for the Mariners as they look to climb back into the playoff race.
The Mariners are 12-3 in their last 15 games and are currently four games back out of sixth place in the American League standings. In 13 of those games the Mariners had to take the field without France, but they were able to weather the storm in his absence.
With Rodriguez’s performance of late, he has propelled himself into the All-Star conversation, but with so many players in the conversation, it may be difficult for Rodríguez to nab a spot. With all the All-Star talk surrounding him, Rodríguez expressed his feelings surrounding the situation.
“Who would not like to play in the All-Star Game,” Rodríguez said. “You tell me who would not like to play in the All-Star Game.”
Even if Rodríguez doesn’t get the All-Star nod, he’s built up a very compelling case to take home AL Rookie of the Year already. On the season, Rodríguez ranks 39th in batting average (.277), T-14th in hits (86), 2nd in stolen bases (21) and T-29th in homeruns (15), including this moonshot:
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 4, 2022
Strikeouts Could Be His Downfall from AL Rookie of the Year
The only real downside to Rodríguez’s rookie campaign has been strikeouts. He currently ranks sixth in the category with 94, with teammate Eugenio Suárez leading the category at 112.
The majority of Rodríguez’s strikeouts have come against fastballs and breaking balls, but he’s hitting .244 against the latter compared to .313 against fastballs. When Rodríguez gets better at identifying breaking balls, we could be talking about a whole new player.
In terms of Rodríguez’s competition for AL Rookie of the Year, there are only a couple of contenders. Houston Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña is batting .276 with 63 hits, 31 RBIs and 12 home runs, but he’s played in 20 less games than Rodríguez.
The other contender is Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. He doesn’t have as big of a case as the other two, but Witt has still been a bright spot in a disappointing Royals season. Witt’s batting .236 with 70 hits, 42 RBIs and 12 home runs in 77 games.
Unless Rodríguez has a historic drop off, taking home the AL Rookie of the Year Award should be a piece of cake.
Read more about the AL Rookie of the Year race.