Earlier in the year there was a lot of talk about who the best prospects were for the boys who would debut in 2022. Bobby Witt Jr., Adleyrutschman, Julio Rodriguez, Joe Ryan or a handful of others.
Bobby Witt and Julio Rodriguez were the two who attracted the most attention since Adley had a tricep problem that delayed him by a few months. Both started out slow and took a while to adjust. Witt still comes by but Julio has been playing pretty well for the past few months or so.
Julio Rodriguez should be at the forefront of talks for Rookie of the Year but it seems he’s been foolishly overlooked.
Looking at his stats for the year, they seem pretty good for someone his age and inexperience. A slash line of .255/.317/.345 with an OPS+ of 102 and a 0.5 oWAR and 0.3 dWAR at Baseball Reference. You can even go to Fangraphs and see that he has a 1.7 on offense and a 2.6 on defense, good for a 0.9 fWAR.
But it’s better than that. Much better. Remember, Julio struggled to start the year. In eight games he batted .107/.193/.143. He was getting seemingly one unfair strikeout call per game and was getting 9-10 strike threes outside of the strike zone. Servais came out and defended him and was thrown in the process. The team even sent a tape about it to the league and since that incident everything has been very different.
In the 22 games since then, Julio has dropped to a 28% K-Rate (up from 57%!), hit .305/.360/.415 and has four doubles, a triple, a home run and eight steals. Oh, he also has 10 RBI. I’m not saying he’ll do this for an entire season (I actually think he can keep it up, but it’s not part of today’s discussion), but he’s playing way better than his season stats show after the terrible start.
So how does it compare to the other talents in the “Generation”?
Here is Dan Szymborski’s list of ZIPs predictions since early 2014. He compiled a list to predict all players 22 and under on a 3.0 or higher and then showed how they performed. You’ll see some numbers here for 2020 that are lower than 3.0, but that’s from the shortened season, so there’s a number in parentheses next to it showing what would have been forecast in a full season.
|SEASON||PLAYER||PROJECTED WAR||ACTUAL WAR|
|2021||Fernando Tatis Jr.||5.4||6.1|
|2019||Ronald Acuna Jr.||4.0||5.5|
|2020||Fernando Tatis Jr.||1.2 (3.2)||2.9 (7.8)|
|2020||Juan Soto||2.2 (5.9)||2.5 (6.8)|
|2020||Ronald Acuna Jr.||1.9 (5.1)||2.4 (6.5)|
|2020||Bo Bichette||1.3 (3.5)||0.8 (2.2)|
|2020||Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||1.2 (3.3)||0.2 (0.5)|
You know what? That’s pretty, pretty good. I feel like I need to explain why because I know some people are going to look at this and be like, ‘Hey, if you backorder with these 2020 seasons, that puts Julio at number 16 out of 25 players, that’s not so tall. ”
You’re right, it’s not that high. But a 4.7 fWAR is not to be scoffed at. That’s an All-Star (usually a 4.0-5.0 fWAR indicates All-Star worthiness) and an incredible season for a 21-year-old. Remember Julio will be back on this list next year as you can see with a handful of guys like Tatis, Acuna, Machado, Albies, Soto, Harper and Correa.
You know what? Because of that terrible start, Julio actually has a higher current fWAR in the last 22 games than he has all season. If you take a number of say 1.2 fWAR and subtract that out, you get a season fWAR of 6.3! That puts him in 6th place in this list.
It’s unreasonable to expect Julio to get even better this year without having some sort of slump. I say that because I know there are a lot of us who think, “Well, if he starts adjusting that launch angle and hitting a few home runs, the fWAR is going to increase,” and you’re right, it would. That would make it a really special season though, and it’s something incredibly rare.
It’s the type of player he’s meant to be, especially with the insane speed he’s showing. It would be crazy to come up with the Trout or Harper number…but really not out of the realm of possibility. Keep in mind he’s only had one home run this year, but ranks in the 86th percentile for hard hit rate and 71st percentile for exit velocity. Its launch angle is a ridiculously low 5.8%. That’s the 14th lowest in the league out of 146 qualified players.
There’s really a part of me that sees the potential. That wants to predict that he is the next special player. The trout, the acuna, the tatis, because they’re all there. Especially at the insane speed. I keep bringing it up because he was like a 55 last offseason. Now he’s 75 and pushing for 80. That’s really elitist. If he can be a .300 hitter with a decent eye and great defense and show the power, then he’s Acuna but with better defense. He is trout.
It’s crazy, but it’s there. Julio Rodriguez shows all the talent of being a generation player and a game changer every time he is involved in a game. He’s been great in the last 20+ games and it’s about time the baseball world talked more about him. Julio Rodriguez has arrived and I’m here for it.