J-Rod adds All-Star to stellar rookie résumé

July 17th, 2022

SEATTLE -- Julio Rodríguez is heading to Hollywood.

The Mariners’ blossoming star has been selected to the All-Star Game in Los Angeles, Major League Baseball announced on July 10, making him just the sixth rookie in franchise history to be elected to the Midsummer Classic and the first rookie position player since Ichiro Suzuki during his historic 2001 season. Rodríguez also joined Alex Rodríguez and Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. -- two of baseball’s all-time greatest players -- as the only 21-year-olds in Mariners history to be selected.

Rodríguez will be joined by first baseman Ty France, who was named to the AL All-Star team Sunday as a replacement for Mike Trout. Logan Gilbert could still be added to the AL roster if someone backs out due to injury or personal reasons.

“It’s like a dream,” Rodríguez said. “It’s like a dream that I had as a kid, and being able to receive that right now in my first year, I’m definitely excited about the work that I’ve done.”

Rodríguez is the Majors’ youngest All-Star since the Braves’ Mike Soroka and Ronald Acuña Jr. in 2019. Acuña has grown into one of MLB’s generational stars, one who Rodríguez has drawn early comparisons to for his elite five-tool skill set, size and general profile at the plate and in center field.

Yet beyond the elite tools, Rodríguez coupled his remarkable on-field exploits with the kind of flair, charisma and confidence that the league loves to promote. His eccentric personality made him one of the most recognizable players in the Mariners’ organization years before he reached The Show, but that presence has grown well beyond Seattle. Now, it will quite literally be on display at Dodger Stadium on July 19.

“Everybody is going to be there,” Rodríguez said.

Rodríguez, who was the AL Rookie of the Month for both May and June, has emerged as one of the game’s top talents despite being so young in what’s been a breakout season.

Rodríguez’s ranks among AL OF (entering July 10)

WAR: 3.0 (4th)
Hits: 88 (3rd)
SB: 21 (1st)
HR: 15 (T-8th)
SLG: .480 (6th)
OPS: .815 (7th)
wRC+ (league average is 100): 136 (5th)

He’s slashing .274/.335/.480 (.815 OPS) with 15 homers, 50 runs, 17 doubles, two triples, 43 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 85 games. His 3.0 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs, lead the Mariners and are tied for 14th in MLB with Freddie Freeman, the 2020 NL MVP and a World Series champion last season. And he’s been on an even stronger tear of late, with a 1.024 OPS and seven homers in his past 22 games entering Sunday, a stretch that likely contributed to his selection.

Just as impressive is that he’s lived up to, if not exceeded, at least so far, the incredibly lofty expectations that came with being one of MLB Pipeline’s top prospects for each of the past three years. He was the No. 3-ranked talent entering this season, and he’s the frontrunner for the AL Rookie of the Year.

“I never try to set a limit for myself,” Rodríguez said. “I feel like I just kind of roll with it, take care of it, one day at a time. And this is the result of taking care of every single day.”

Rodríguez has seen the prominent stage before, participating in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game last year and meeting some of the game’s top talent in the first half, such as extended conversations with Mike Trout, Yordan Alvarez and more. But nothing will compare to the who’s who of stars he’ll see in L.A. Future Hall of Famers Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols will be there as legacy selections, two Latin American stars who Rodríguez grew up idolizing. Pujols played in his first Midsummer Classic in 2001, when Rodríguez was 7 months old.

“I’m always down to learn, especially from guys like that,” Rodríguez said. “There is no better learning than from those guys. They actually have been there, they actually have done it. They have had really long careers and a lot of knowledge.”

Moreover, Rodríguez is thrilled to represent the Dominican Republic again, after winning a bronze medal for his homeland in last year’s Tokyo Olympics. His favorite All-Star Game memory was in 2017, when he was 17, watching former Mariner Robinson Canó hit the decisive homer for the AL en route to being named the game’s MVP.

“The D.R., you literally breathe baseball,” Rodríguez said. “It’s kind of like you’re representing your country. I feel like it’s going to be really special.”