J-Rod HRs in 4th straight, invited to Team DR

MLB Pipeline No. 2 prospect's hot start 'does not surprise' Servais

May 17th, 2021

SEATTLE -- Fans in the Seattle area might not have much longer to watch Julio Rodríguez in person. Well, at least not until he joins the big league club down the road.

The Mariners’ No. 2 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 5 overall is off to a scorching start at High-A Everett, homering in his fourth straight game in Sunday's 20-3 rout of Tri-City, which extended his hit streak to 10 games. Through 51 at-bats in 12 games, J-Rod is batting .353/.441/.784 (OPS 1.225) -- and the Minor League daily reports and box scores are jumping off the proverbial page on the desk of the club’s Major League manager.

And his résumé continues to earn more prominent accolades. On Monday, Rodríguez was invited to play for the Dominican Republic in its upcoming Olympic qualifier, the Mariners announced. The D.R. national team begins play in the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida on May 31. The D.R. is part of Group A of the Americas qualifier along with the U.S., Puerto Rico and Nicaragua. Group B of the qualifier is made up of Cuba, Venezuela, Canada and Colombia.

“It does not surprise me at all,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He ended his season there [in Everett] in 2019 at the high level, just a very small sample size. So certainly going back to that level made a ton of sense. I'm not involved in those decisions, but it made a ton of sense to me from the outside, and he's tearing it up. Good for him.”

Rodríguez is ticketed to spend most of 2021 at Double-A Arkansas, and his promotion there could be coming sooner than later. The AquaSox head out for a 12-game road trip beginning Tuesday, and it’s likely that he’ll remain with the club for that stretch -- but all indications are that he will join Arkansas in June, with Mariners management incredibly curious to see how he handles pitcher-friendly Dickey-Stephens Park and the uptick in pitching.

“He's a much better player now than he was a year or so ago,” Servais said. “So, I'm sure at some point here in the near future there will be the opportunity for him to move up when the time is right. Again, there are a lot of young players that are off to a great start. So, I'm really excited.”

Could Rodríguez rake his way to the Majors this season? Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto was asked about that on Thursday and didn’t want to put up a road block. But it’s worth keeping in mind the context of his development, which was stalled last season with the cancellation of the Minors season, as well as a fractured wrist that kept Rodríguez sidelined until the Dominican Winter League in December, where he hit .196/.297/.250 while playing against big leaguers.

“Being a big proponent of winter ball, having gone through it myself a couple of times … it does open your eyes a lot to different things and how players talk about the game and what they're exposed to,” Servais said. “And, for him, he's playing at a higher level with older players, you've never experienced that before.”

Beyond Arkansas, Seattle will want to allocate him a healthy dose of at-bats against Triple-A pitching and the bevy of breaking balls he’ll see there. But Servais reiterated on Sunday that the Mariners are impressed with Rodríguez’s stellar start, picking up right where he left off in big league Spring Training.

“Knowing Julio and his personality, he's very curious,” Servais said. “He asks a lot of questions. He takes it in. He wants to be great and knows that all that information that he's gaining and the knowledge that he can pick up from these older guys is really going to help him, and that's what we saw. We saw it in Spring Training.

“And it’s certainly played out in the early season to the point where he can work himself through an at-bat and make adjustments, maybe understand this guy's going try to throw me a bunch of sliders because I'm a big right-handed power hitter. And that's what they do. You’re not always going to get your fastballs, and understanding how to make adjustments and be able to perform in those spots. So, it's a huge experience for young players to go through that.”