Julio Rodríguez next to MLB? Dipoto answers

May 13th, 2021

Two of the Mariners’ top four prospects (per MLB Pipeline) are set to make their MLB debuts on Thursday, with outfielder Jarred Kelenic slated to be in the lineup and right-hander Logan Gilbert starting on the mound against Cleveland at T-Mobile Park.

That prompted the question: Is 20-year-old outfielder Julio Rodríguez next? After all, Rodríguez is rated as MLB Pipeline’s No. 5 overall prospect, one spot behind Kelenic.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto addressed that question on Thursday, saying that Seattle won’t rush Rodríguez but also not closing the door completely on a 2021 arrival.

“Julio, I don't know. He's [20]. And he's a dynamic talent,” Dipoto said. “And there have been superstar players like Mike Trout, some of the great players of all time, who have made their way to the big leagues at such a young age. And I won't count that as impossible for Julio. He is that kind of talent. And again, I don't want to suppose that that's likely to happen in 2021. But Julio is the kind of player that can easily move multiple levels in one season, and it wouldn't be entirely shocking based on his personality and his toolset to see him jump to two to three levels at this tender age.

“But I also want to remember that he has very limited experience above short-season baseball. And while we are wildly intrigued by the upside that he has, we also want to be somewhat tempered and that it takes players a little bit of time. And let's give him some time before we push him too hard.”

With the pandemic wiping out the 2020 Minor League season, Rodríguez entered Thursday with only 151 games and 660 plate appearances worth of professional experience. He has hit .322/.397/.538 in that time, with 18 home runs, 111 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. But he also has yet to reach Double-A, beginning the 2021 campaign with High-A Everett and going 11-for-33 (.333) with a 1.027 OPS over his first eight games there. His double on Wednesday gave him a six-game hit streak.

Rodríguez, who turned 20 last Dec. 29, wouldn’t be alone if he made it to the Majors this year. A number of stars over the past decade or so have debuted at 20 or younger and excelled, including Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan Soto, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr.