ARLINGTON — Julio Rodríguez always knew the results would come, even after a trying first two weeks in the Majors. And following a dominant May, in which he paced or ranked near the top of all first-year players in numerous offensive categories, he was named the American League Rookie of the Month on Friday.
“It’s pretty cool, just to be recognized for your performance, but that’s definitely not something that I was working towards,” Rodríguez said. “It’s just something that happened because I performed. But it feels really good. It means a lot.”
Rodríguez hit .309/.339/.527 (.866 OPS), and among AL rookies, he ranked first in hits (34), first in wRC+ (156), tied for first in homers (six) and stolen bases (five), second in RBIs (17) and fourth in batting average. He also had nine multihit games and six games with at least three hits, becoming the first player age 21 or younger with that many in a calendar month since Manny Machado had seven in May of 2013 with Baltimore.
Speaking of, at 21 years and 156 days old, Rodríguez is the youngest player in franchise history to earn the honor, and the fifth player overall, joining Ichiro Suzuki (who won it four times in 2001), Rafael Soriano (Aug. 2003), Michael Pineda (April 2011) and Mike Carp (Aug. 2011).
Not coincidentally, Rodríguez was the Mariners’ most consistent player and notable bright spot in a trying month. He also played in every inning of Seattle’s 28 games in May, sans the ninth on Tuesday due to his ejection in the eighth.
“He brings his tool set every day,” manager Scott Servais said. “Whether it’s in the outfield, running the bases, just having good at-bats.”
Rodríguez began the month with a big boom — literally — via his first career homer on May 1 in Miami, a 450-foot shot that remains Seattle’s longest of the season.
“I always believed that it was going to turn,” Rodríguez said. “I put a lot of work in this offseason, preparing myself. I knew that work was not going to fail me. That’s why we’re here right now.”
Strictly taking a look at Rodríguez’s stats in April, when he had a .544 OPS and a 37% strikeout rate, would’ve painted the picture of a rookie struggling to find his footing. But Rodríguez always trusted himself and his process, even when he wasn’t finding tangible results in the box score. Maintaining composure despite his incredibly high rate of called strikeouts on pitches outside the strike zone was the clearest example.
“I’ve never been around a player that just smiles and has as much fun and just stays in the moment,” Servais said.
Yet Rodríguez is admittedly still learning on the go, such as Tuesday’s ejection in Baltimore for drawing a line in the batter’s box after being called for a strikeout on an inside pitch, a gesture that essentially comes with the batter automatically tossed. But Rodríguez genuinely didn’t know that was the case, and he vowed that it wouldn’t happen again.
“This is my first year; I definitely don’t know everything,” Rodríguez said. “I will definitely not know everything by the end of this year. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what else I can learn, what else I get tricked with or whatever I’ve got to learn. I’ve just got to keep my eyes open, keep my ears open, just keep on learning.”
There are still four months to go, but Rodríguez has certainly looked the rank of the preseason No. 3 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline. More months like May could put him on the path for the bigger honor: AL Rookie of the Year.