Slaying the Streak: Julio Rodriguez has the Mariners Postseason Bound
Earlier this week, Baseball America announced that its October issue would feature their 2022 MLB Rookie of the Year, Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodriguez, as the cover athlete. While the race for the Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year award was still a race six weeks ago, Rodriguez has now pulled ahead to an insurmountable lead. In a poll published by MLB.com on September 8th, Rodriguez received 40 of 42 first-place votes for the title. Vegas has taken notice of Rodriguez’s likely crowning, offering odds of -3,000 on new bets on him to win AL Rookie of the Year.
While Julio Rodriguez entered the national spotlight with an entertaining performance at the Home Run Derby, he has been playing quality baseball all year. The 21-year-old was named an All-Star after hitting .275 in the first half with a .337 on-base percentage, 18 home runs, 52 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases. Since then, Rodriguez has kept up his terrific pace and left little doubt as to who is the best rookie in baseball.
While playing in 129 of the Mariners 152 games, Rodriguez has hit .280 with a .342 on-base percentage, .502 slugging percentage, 27 home runs, 25 stolen bases, and has batted in 73 runs. He has produced a staggering hard-hit percentage of 54.6% while taking 57% of his contact to center field. Julio is also the first rookie since Marty Cordova in 1994 to steal 20 bases while clubbing 20 home runs.
Rodriguez has been the most valuable player on a Seattle Mariners club aiming to snap the longest postseason drought in North American men’s professional sports. As of Tuesday, Seattle occupies the American League’s third wild card slot, 3.5 games ahead of Baltimore. These playoff dreams look likely to come true, largely due to Rodriguez leading the team in average, stolen bases, slugging, OPS, and is fourth among position players in fielding percentage.
For his efforts, Seattle chose to lock up Rodriguez for the foreseeable future with a massive new contract signed in August. The base of the contract is an 8-year $120 million pact; however, it can greatly expand with options. After 2028, the Mariners can elect to exercise 8- or 10-year options beyond the original 8-year deal. Julio will be owed at least $320 million if the options are exercised. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that if Rodriguez hits all the performance-based incentives in the contract, he could earn up to $470 million over the next 18 years. If Rodriguez continues to build upon his rookie season, the contract could be the largest in the history of professional sports.
It is worth noting there has been some speculation regarding O’s rookie catcher Adley Rutschman making some noise for American League Rookie of the Year. In 105 games, Rutschman has hit .255 with a .361 on-base percentage, .444 slugging, 12 home runs, and 40 RBI. With Rutschman, Baltimore is attempting to break a playoff drought of its own. However, they find themselves firmly on the outside looking in, with 3.5 games to make up and only 9 to play. For his efforts, Rutschman did receive two first-place votes in the aforementioned MLB.com poll. While making him the second choice for the award, Vegas is rather dismissive of Rutschman’s chances for Rookie of the Year, offering +1100 odds.
Ultimately, the 2022 American League Rookie of the Year appears to be decided. Behind a stellar performance from rookie Julio Rodriguez, the Seattle Mariners are poised to finally reach the postseason after years of struggle and disappointment. Rodriguez himself is nearly a cinch to be named Rookie of the Year, all while cashing in on a robust contract extension and becoming the face of baseball in the Pacific Northwest for years to come.