What’s wrong with Julio Rodriguez?

Julio Rodriguez wins the AL Rookie of the Year in 2022.
Stephen Brashear – Associated Press

After a hot start, Julio Rodriguez has struggled to find his groove early in this 2023 season. Coming off his 2022 Rookie of the Year campaign and receiving a big contract extension, there was a lot of pressure for Julio Rodriguez to be not just the face of the Mariners, but of Seattle Sports. Breaking the longest playoff drought in American sports will do that to you. The expectations were higher than ever in Seattle. As the long rebuild began 2018 has them ranked as the top contenders in the American League.

Julio Rodriguez began the season with a batting average up to .308 and led the team in hits in a three-week span from opening day. Ever since the April 21, he hasn’t been himself. He’s four hits on 28 ABs, his batting average dropped to .239, and only garnered one RBI. Most of that is due to chasing balls out of the strike zone, and being overly aggressive on the plate. One of the few weaknesses he had last year is that opposing teams are starting to exploit. The last straw was when Rodriguez injured his back on a headfirst slide while stealing second base on Saturday’s game in Toronto. That turned into missing Monday’s game in Oakland after feeling some discomfort during batting practice.

ESPN reporter Jeff Passan gave his thoughts on 710 Seattle Sports Radio. He states that the team’s lack of success mostly falls on his shoulders.

“I think a big part of that is Julio (Rodríguez) hasn’t really shown up much this year. And he was supposed to be the tone-setter,”. “He was supposed to be the guy putting up Jarred Kelenic’s numbers.”

“With Julio not being who we expected him to be, and I know who he expected himself to be, the tone is a little bit different because as Julio goes, so go the M’s,” Passan said. “He hasn’t been terrible by any means, but if this is who he’s going to be this year, if he’s not the dynamic Julio Rodríguez of 2022, the Mariners, I think, are going to be in for a long season.”

Passan mentioned young prospect Jarred Kelenic, who appears to be finally achieving his full potential. His current stat line consists of a .308/.366/.615, .982 OPS, and seven home runs. That leads the team in batting average and OPS. Also, notable free agent acquisition Teoscar Hernandez was able to bounce back after a slow start. Ties Kelenic for the team’s lead in home runs as well as second in runs batted in. As far as the Mariners as a whole, they are 12-16 after the first month of the season and rank last in MLB in batting average, 26th in OPS, and 21st in runs scored. Recently went four and eight in their last 12 after tough road series losses in Philly and Toronto. Julio Rodríguez is expected to make his return Wednesday in Oakland. Mariners fans hope that the short rest could lead to the old version of Julio that they all know and love.

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