Julio Rodríguez had done just about everything offensively since his bronze medal-winning turn in the Olympics, except for showcasing his trademark power. He changed that with a few violent swings Friday.
The No. 2 overall prospect homered twice as part of a 4-for-5, four-RBI showing to lead Double-A Arkansas to a 12-5 win over Springfield on the road. It was Rodríguez’s second career two-homer game in the Minor Leagues and the first to come stateside. The other was on Aug. 9, 2018 with the Mariners’ Dominican Summer League affiliate.
Rodríguez got his night started by singling back up the middle off Springfield right-handed starter Dalton Roach. That knock alone continued a stretch in which the right-handed slugger has reached base in 21 of his past 22 games. He added a little more thump in his second at-bat against Roach, ambushing a first-pitch fastball in the third inning and sending it well over the wall in right-center -- a clear exhibition of his 65-grade power.
The 20-year-old walked in the fourth frame and struck a two-run single the opposite way in the fifth.
Perhaps his most impressive knock of the night came in the seventh. Left-handed reliever Kevin Marnon spun an 0-1 breaking ball below the zone, only to see Rodríguez swing from the tops of his shoes and send it screaming over the wall in left for another solo shot.
A seven-pitch, ninth-inning strikeout was the only at-bat keeping the top Mariners prospect from a perfect night at the ballpark, but by that point, he had done more than his share of damage. His four hits matched a season high, achieved twice before including most recently on Sept. 3 at home against Wichita.
The pair of homers were even more notable, given that Rodríguez had hit only one in 23 games since returning from Japan where he helped his native Dominican Republic capture a third-place finish on the international stage.
That said, Rodríguez has still been one of the hottest hitters in all of pro ball since he rejoined Arkansas. Since Aug. 14 (his first game back), the outfielder has gone 40-for-93 with three homers, nine stolen bases and an 18/17 K/BB ratio over 24 games. His .430 average ranks third among qualified full-season Minor Leaguers in that span, while his .523 OBP places second and his 1.114 OPS 16th. Only Vancouver’s Spencer Horwitz (42) has picked up more hits over that time.
Following Friday’s masterclass in hitting, Rodríguez, who is roughly four years younger than the average Double-A player, owns a .378/.483/.559 line with six homers, eight doubles and 11 stolen bases in 38 games with Arkansas since his promotion from High-A Everett on June 29. Those counting stats could have been bumped higher had he not spent time away from the club for Olympic qualifiers, the Olympics themselves and the All-Star Futures Game in Denver.
Rodríguez’s grand summer could have one final exciting turn. With Arkansas’ win Friday, the Travelers improved to 62-50 on the season. They hold a slim lead over 60-50 Frisco for the second and final spot in the Double-A Central postseason with eight games remaining on their schedule.