Sunday Notes: Julio Rodriguez Projects as the Future Face of the Mariners

Julio Rodriquez has what it takes to become the face of a franchise. Nineteen years old and seemingly on a fast track to Seattle, the top prospect in the Mariners system possesses more than upper-echelon talent. He’s also blessed with a healthy dose of character and charisma. More on that in a moment.

Rodriguez currently sits 44th on The Board, and there’s a decent chance he’ll climb significantly from that slot in the not-too-distant future. MLB Pipeline has him at No. 18, while Baseball America is even more bullish on the tools Dominican-born outfielder. BA ranks Rodriquez as the eighth-best prospect in the game.

The numbers he put up last year between low-A West Virginia and high-A Modesto are eye-opening. In 367 plate appearances, Rodriguez slashed .326/.390/.540, with a dozen home runs. Keep in mind that he did this as an 18-year-old in his first season stateside. A year earlier, he was a precocious 17 and punishing pitchers in the Dominican Summer League.

Rodriguez is listed at 6’ 4”, 225, and Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto expects his right-handed stroke to propel plenty of baseballs over fences in years to come. Just as importantly, Dipoto sees a well-rounded skill set that is augmented by drive and desire.

“I don’t think he’s even scratched the surface of what he’s capable of from a power perspective,” opined Dipoto. “And he’s committed to improving in the areas you can really control, like defense and base running — the small nuances of the game.”

And then there is the aforementioned character and charisma.

“Along with the five-tool skill set, he’s an unbelievable person,” Dipoto told me at November’s GM Meetings. “He’s one of the wisest and most inquisitive [teenagers] I’ve ever met in baseball. He’s got a great heart. He’s also as good of a teammate as anybody I’ve been around.”

Dipoto disclosed reasons why when I asked if Rodriguez is bilingual.

“He wasn’t when we signed him [in July 2107],” said the executive. “But he learned English just like that. Julio now wants to engage you fully in English. And here’s a quick anecdote: In spring training — having never been to a professional spring training — he would come through the weight room every morning and say hello to every single person in the major-league camp. He would shake their hands and say ‘good morning.’ He would then look at the lineup card posted on the wall, and whoever of the minor leaguers that were listed, he would run around the lockers and high-five them, saying ‘You did it; you’re going to the big leagues today!’ That’s just who Julio is. It was genuine enthusiasm about his teammates, and playing in the big leagues.”

Another anecdote followed.

“We threw him out there, as an 18-year-old, in a major-league game,” said Dipoto. “Julio is in the on deck circle, sunglasses on, and Scott Servais is sitting on a chair near the dugout. Scott slaps him in the back and says, ‘Are you ready for this?’ Julio turns around, confidently, and says, ‘We’re going to find out.’ Then he hits a rocket up the middle for a single.”

That was in a spring-training game. I asked Dipoto if there is any chance of Rodriguez getting fast-tracked all the way to Seattle this coming summer.

“He wants to not only play in the big leagues, he wants to play in the big leagues as a 19-year-old,” Dipoto responded. “He’d obviously need to earn it, but based on his physical abilities, it’s not entirely out of the question.”

——

Aaron Judge is used to being interviewed. That comes with the territory when you’re a big-name player in baseball’s largest media market. Five years ago, the New York Yankees outfielder received one-on-one training that went a long way toward making him comfortable in front of video cameras and microphones. In sessions set up his agent, Judge worked Johanna Wagner.

“He was in Double-A at the time,” explained Wagner, whose company, LoveMyTeam Consulting, does media training for professional athletes. “Aaron is shy in that he doesn’t like to talk about himself. That’s one of the things I was able to help him with: How do you be respectful when answering a reporter’s question yet not sound like you’re building yourself up?

“We worked on certain practices, like talking about the skill. The skill is not you. You talk about the actual action. What it takes to hit a baseball? What was going right? What is going wrong? Another thing is finding ways to talk about your teammates. Buster Posey — someone I haven’t worked with — is very good at that. Instead of talking about his at bat, he talks about the at bat in front of him and how it set up his own. He’ll be answering the question without [heralding] his own accomplishment. That’s something that put Aaron much more at ease. I think it’s helped him to this day.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Tripp Sigman went 3 for 5 against Dazzy Vance.

Paddy Siglin went 3 for 5 against Hippo Vaughn.

Frank Sigafoos went 3 for 5 against Bob Shawkey.

Ed Sicking went 0 for 5 against Dutch Ruether.

Eddie Silber went 0 for 5 against Elden Auker.

——

Teams frequently give names to their proprietary computer systems. The Houston Astros famously dubbed theirs “Ground Control.” The St. Louis Cardinals are “Redbird,” the Chicago Cubs “Ivy,” the Detroit Tigers “Caesar.” So on and so forth.

What type of information is stored on these in-house servers? Hoping for at least a snapshot, I asked Sam Mondry-Cohen what one would find in the file of any player in the Washington Nationals system. The assistant GM couldn’t be comprehensive — nor overly-specific, for obvious reasons — but he did give an overview with some examples.

Mondry-Cohen told me that the roughly 120 people who have access to “The Pentagon” include front office members, coaches and managers at both the big-league and minor-league levels, coordinators, and scouts. Not everyone has the same permission level.

Accessing the file of an individual player, you can find every scouting report that has been written on him by a Nationals employee. If it’s a pitcher, you can see video of every pitch he’s thrown as a professional, from different angles. If all you’re interested in is curveballs low in the strike zone, you can filter for that. Performance by pitch type and batter type are in there. You can see splits. You can see data from TrackMan, such as velocity and spin rates. And while Mondry-Cohen didn’t mention this specifically, Statcast data that extends beyond what’s available in the public realm would be accessible as well.

Like all organizations, the Nationals have their minor-league managers and coaches write reports after every game. These are logged meticulously.

Among the meatier data you’ll find in “The Pentagon” are player projections and trade notes. Mondry-Cohen offered a hypothetical for the latter:

Say it’s Mookie Betts for Stephen Strasburg. That’s not going to happen, but say the Red Sox would have made that offer three years ago, and we said no. That would be logged into our system. Same thing if we offered a player for someone. And it’s also any sort of discussion with a team, not just formal offers. I think it’s pretty standard for teams to log things like that.

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NEWS NOTES

The Detroit Tigers have hired Arnie Beyeler to manage their Eastern League affiliate, the Erie SeaWolves. An infielder in the Tigers system from 1986-1991, and a minor-league manager for 15 seasons, Beyeler spent last season as the first base coach for the Baltimore Orioles.

Jay Hankins, an outfielder for the Kansas City Athletics in 1961 and 1963, died earlier this week at age 84. Hankins later worked in a scouting capacity for several teams.

Andy Helwig has been hired as the number two broadcaster for the Carolina League’s Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the high-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Helwig is the radio voice of Canisius College Men’s Basketball, and did play-by-play for the short-season Batavia Muckdogs in 2018.

Jerry Trupiano, who did radio play-by-play for the Boston Red Sox from 1993-2006, has been hired as adjunct faculty member of communications at the Dean College (Franklin, MA) School of Business. Trupiano will teach a class called Sports & Entertainment Media Reporting.

As pointed out by ballot-tracker extraordinaire Ryan Thibodaux, Seymour Siwoff — the legendary leader of the Elias Sports Bureau who died at age 99 on November 29th — cast one of the 397 ballots for the 2020 Hall of Fame election.

——

I didn’t see the interview Curt Schilling did with Bob Costas on the MLB Network earlier this week, but I have read quotes from their conversation. One thing that stood out to me was Schilling’s saying that BBWAA members were “more flawed than anybody else I know,” and that he didn’t want them judging his character.

Writing about Schilling’s Hall of Fame chances, the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham asked us to keep in mind that some of the 119 voters who didn’t check off his name this year could simply disagree with the idea that he had a Hall of Fame career. Abraham added, “That’s not a wholly unreasonable stance. But Schilling clearly enjoys the role of victim. It’s good for his brand.”

Abraham voted for Schilling. Will I do the same when I have the honor of filling out a ballot for the first time next winter? It’s the one of the harder decisions I’ll face.

——

The most defensive games played at each position:

Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez (2,427)
First Base: Eddie Murray (2,413)
Second Base: Eddie Collins (2,650)
Third Base: Brooks Robinson (2,870)
Shortstop: Omar Vizquel (2,709)
Left Field: Barry Bonds (2,715)
Center Field: Willie Mays (2,829)
Right Field: Roberto Clemente (2,305)
Pitcher: Jesse Orosco (1,252)

Six of those nine players are in the Hall of Fame. Bonds and Vizquel remain on the ballot. Orosco received a lone vote in his only year of eligibility.

———

LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

Joey Mellows came to the United States and took a marathon baseball road trip that saw him attend games in nearly 150 ballparks. Karen Given wrote about “The Baseball Brit” for WBUR’s “Only a Game.”

At Beyond The Box Score, Sheryl Ring talked to Howard Bryant about the relative dearth of African-Americans in baseball.

Barry Sytluga of The Washington Post (a publication with a policy of not letting its writers vote), presented reasons why sportswriters as a whole shouldn’t be voting for the Hall of Fame, nor for regular season awards.

Former Detroit Tigers outfielder Ron LeFlore has been nominated for induction into The Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals. Dave Mesrey has the story at The Metro Times.

Over at Forbes, Jim Ingraham wrote about how Omar Vizquel not only played an elite position as an everyday player for nearly a quarter of a century, he did so with electrifying athleticism, creativity, and crowd-pleasing elan.

———

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Josh Hader has thrown 204.1 big-league innings and has yet to be charged with a wild pitch. Jordan Walden has thrown 222 big-league innings and has been charged with 31 wild pitches.

Mel Ott had 188 home runs and 306 doubles in away games. He had 323 home runs and 181 doubles in home games.

Craig Counsell had 1,208 hits and 1,632 total bases. Harold Reynolds had 1,233 hits and 1,632 total bases.

Vladimir Guerrero had 2,590 hits, 477 doubles, and 449 home runs. Gary Sheffield had 2,689 hits, 467 doubles, and 509 home runs. Each finished with a 140 OPS+.

Edgar Martinez had 514 doubles, 309 home runs, 1,219 runs scored, and 1,261 RBIs. Scott Rolen had 517 doubles, 316 home runs, 1,211 runs scored, and 1,287 RBIs.

David Ortiz played in three World Series. In 2004, he slashed .308/.471/.615. In 2007, he slashed .333/.412/.533. In 2013, he slashed .698/.760/1.188.

Kiki Cuyler and Goose Goslin were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee on January 28, 1968.

The International Association, which was founded in 1877, is considered by many to have been baseball’s first minor league. The London (Ontario) Tecumsehs finished with the circuit’s best record in that inaugural season. Candy Cummings, who is considered to have invented the curveball, served as league president.

Hall of Fame second baseman Red Schoendienst missed all but five games of the 1959 season after undergoing surgery to remove part of a lung. He’d been diagnosed with tuberculosis the previous winter.

Players born on this date include Hick Cady, who was a part of three World Series championship teams while catching for the Red Sox from 1912-1917. Cady was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics in January 1918 — three months after suffering a broken shoulder in a fatal accident that involved a horse and buggy — depriving him of a fourth title. Boston beat the Chicago Cubs in the 1918 Fall Classic behind the pitching of Carl Mays and Babe Ruth.

We hoped you liked reading Sunday Notes: Julio Rodriguez Projects as the Future Face of the Mariners by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Bartolo Colon
Member
Bartolo Colon

David, I might suggest you watch the Schilling interview and see if you still feel he comes across as harsh against journalists and as playing the victim card. I saw the interview as unapologetic, but not attacking journalists.

I think the other side of it is that the hate has gone really far on Schilling. Almost every Hall of Fame article I’ve seen on him this year was negative, more negative than any of the PED guys, to the point where he’s usually placed at the same or greater level of scorn as guys who have been suspended for domestics violence. To me, that’s sad. I understand that a writer’s job is to evaluate and critique, but it seems that because of the political polarization in America, many writers can forgive on-the-field cheating, lying, and stealing more easily than any flaw involving politics. It’s hard for me to understand placing Schilling’s mistakes on the same level as abuse, but it seems that’s where many writers are.

Psychic... Powerless...
Member
Psychic... Powerless...

For many of us, the issue is not his politics but his hateful bigotry.

dl80
Member
dl80

I understand this take, and I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong in the context of this interview. However, you are forgetting that he literally supported a tweet that advocated lynching journalists and has never apologized authentically for it, as far as I know.

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, that isn’t nearly as bad as actual violence against someone. But most domestic violence attackers have to apologize profusely before they are forgiven by the public (except Chris Brown for some reason). Schilling hasn’t done that.

I suspect that if Schilling apologized for that tweet and/or the most aggressively anti-journalist statements, he’d be in.

dukewinslow
Member
dukewinslow

that’s really it, isn’t it- if it were about politics, and only politics, Rivera wouldn’t be in (I genuinely can’t think of examples with the opposite beliefs, like a “free love” or radically “open borders” player, or holocaust denial in the super fringey british left sense or something being held out because of those beliefs, ). There are enough recent examples of players with fairly extreme social and political views that Schilling shared getting into the hall. Let alone older examples.

This isn’t about politics, this is about threats of violence, and it doesn’t seem like he’s even a bit sorry. He’s had plenty of chances to apologize. What’s depressing is he’ll likely get in and make the same “jokes” immediately after, because he’s not being held to account, really.

Bartolo Colon
Member
Bartolo Colon

It’s true, he seems arrogant for not apologizing and he should. To take that tweet as a threat of violence, to me, is a bit much even as I’ll agree it’s in very poor taste. But even if we take it that way as a threat against journalists, I still think it’s going too far to say he’s worse than a cheater and in the same categories as people who did actual violence. That’s where I think many writers are and that the character clause is being applied unevenly as to him.

dl80
Member
dl80

I would argue that it falls somewhere between “poor taste” and “actually inciting violence.” It’s not that it actually is meant to convince anyone to kill journalists. But it is a way to legitimize the potential for violence against journalists (which is very real in many parts of the world). In that way, it’s similar to what Trump does when he says that journalists are “traitors to the country.” Neither is a credible threat of (or call to) violence, but they send the message to a lot of mentally ill people that it would be ok if they were to commit that kind of violence.

Imagine if instead of “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.” it said “Teacher” or “Jew” or “New Yorker.” I don’t see a difference, to be honest.

I am on record as supporting Bonds and Clemens getting into the Hall (and some other suspected/confirmed PED users such as Manny and Ortiz). I also think Schilling’s case on the field is strong and he should be in someday, but voting him in now seems like rewarding what is really awful behavior that goes way beyond offensive into semi-dangerous territory.

dukewinslow
Member
dukewinslow

It would have been effortless to apologize, with nothing to lose. That he didn’t reflects closely held beliefs, I think.

AZ
Member
AZ

I’m not taking sides here, but have you guys considered maybe he doesn’t WANT to apologize? If he truly feels the way he has portrayed himself, why are we asking him to please us with an apology? I’d rather him be honest than lie to us for the sake of looking professional, especially with him not representing anyone but himself.

If he’s a bigot, he’s a bigot…and he’s paying the price for it.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

This is how I used to feel about Schilling, but the Nazi stuff has just gone too far. He hangs out with the modern-day Nazis, he parrots their talking points, he collects Nazi memorabilia. Baseball is loaded with conservatives, on the field, in the front office, and especially ownership. Schilling is the only one who really gets singled out, and it’s because literally no one feels good voting for him. He did get a higher % of the vote than Bonds and Clemens, but even the people who vote for him can’t put it out of their mind.

MikeS
Member
MikeS

Bigotry is not politics (except insofar as everything is political these days) and attempts to legitimize or minimize it as such should not be tolerated.

dukewinslow
Member
dukewinslow

I dunno. The definition of bigotry is going to be largely idiosyncratic, and, as a result, someone’s bigotry is going to be another person’s largely acceptable viewpoint (hot button example: transitioning people in combat sports or track and field). As a result, the definition of bigotry becomes a political battlefield.
Do you really want to know Mariano Rivera’s feelings towards the lgbtq community? David Ortiz? Todd Helton? Not baseball but Peyton Manning or drew Brees? Those are just examples where it’s possible they have views, by dint of religion and upbringing, some folks find bigoted.

MikeS
Member
MikeS

No. Arguing that any group of people is less human than yourself or any other group of people and deserves fewer rights is not politics. This isn’t complicated. Making it complicated is just giving bad people a shield to hide behind.

Those other people you named, if they are bigots, are self aware enough not to scream it repeatedly on Twitter and ESPN. That’s an important distinction because if they know their views are unacceptable to a large portion of human beings, they might start to wonder if they are wrong. Schilling has shown no such self awareness.

dukewinslow
Member
dukewinslow

I hate to break it to you but unless you’re gonna exclude people from voting, deciding who gets rights (and resources) and who doesn’t is, very much, politics in a representative republic. If that’s the line of “less human or more human,” republics VERY MUCH leave that up to the people and their representatives . Case in point, if voting is a criteria for humanity- we don’t let felons vote, for the most point.
“Bigots” (I think most people agree 90% of the time what that means, but that last 10% is contentious, and I worry that a lot of people think that 10% covers 60% of likely voters) get to vote. Pragmatically, they seem to be winning, whether philosophically coherent or not. (As a former organizer in an AA town, I don’t like the bigot discourse, because it’s almost always covertly racist and disenfranchises generally socially conservative but otherwise progressive african american voices)

timprov
Member
timprov

“Arguing that any group of people is less human than yourself or any other group of people and deserves fewer rights” is arguably *all* of politics.

gavinrendar
Member
gavinrendar

Did he ever argue that certain groups of people are “less human?” Or are you taking that extra step yourself?

hombremomento
Member
hombremomento

Nobody really has issues just because he’s right leaning. Its that he’s *extreme* right leaning.