Julio Rodriguez has moved another step closer to the big leagues.
The Mariners’ prized outfield prospect, who is rated as one of the top five prospects in all of baseball by multiple outlets, was officially promoted to Class AA Arkansas on Monday. The team announced the move via its player development Twitter account — @MsPlayerDev — which has a variety of information and videos.
“I think it’s a perfect time for him to go to Double-A,” said Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto in a phone interview. “He just went through two trips to play with Team Dominican. I’m not sure you can perform any better than he did during his time with Everett. This is kind of a timeline that we were hoping for was that when he came back from the second wave of qualifiers. And with that pre-Olympic experience that he would be ready to go play in Double-A. It’s time to give him that challenge. He deserves it.”
Rodriguez spent the past six days in Puebla, Mexico, helping the Dominican Republic qualify for the upcoming summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. While he had only one hit in 10 plate appearances, Rodriguez did make a spectacular catch in the eighth inning of the championship game against Venezuela.
In the previous Baseball Americas qualifier in Florida, Rodriguez posted a .458/.480/.708 slash line with two homers and seven RBI to help the Dominican Republic advance to a second qualifier.
It’s the second time the Dominican Republic has qualified for the Olympics, rounding out a six-team field that features Japan, the United States, Israel, Korea and Mexico. Group A will feature Japan, Mexico and the Dominican Republic and Group B will be the U.S., Israel and Korea.
Opening ceremonies for the Olympics start July 23. The baseball competition begins July 28 and runs through Aug. 7.
The Mariners have told Rodriguez he would go to Tokyo if his team qualified, believing it to be a positive step in his development.
“He would be the first one to tell you that this experience is as valuable to him as anything he does in baseball. We agree. These are awesome opportunities for anybody. For a young guy like Julio, to walk out on that type of stage to play for your country in really a kind of do-or-die environment is big. As he said to me, ‘This is the greatest experience I’ve ever had in baseball.’ This is what the playoffs feel like. We just have to wait until he takes us there. I think this is a great growth opportunity.”
Until then, he’ll be in right field for the Travelers, who were off Monday and open a six-game series in Tulsa against the Drillers.
Based on Rodriguez performance in the High-A Northwest League, the Mariners had planned to promote him after this last Olympic qualifier, regardless of the outcome. In 28 games with the Everett AquaSox, Rodriguez posted a .325/.410/.581 slash line in 134 plate appearances with eight doubles, two triples, six homers, 21 RBI, five stolen bases, 14 walks and 29 strikeouts.
“I can’t say it was shocking that he did well,” Dipoto said. “We thought he would. He had a tremendous spring training. And this was just a carryover.”