Rosario’s Return to Relevance in 2020
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsIf you’ve followed me on Twitter for any length of time, you’ll note that I’ve had a rollercoaster of emotions in regard to the Twins left fielder. He was someone I found myself incredibly high on as a prospect, eagerly anticipating his call up. As a big leaguer he’s been deeply rooted in surface statistics, rarely contributing in more than an individual manner. As we venture into his age-28 season, a merging of all aspects would be more than a great development.
Recently Tom Froemming did an amazing job diving into the injury issues that plagued Eddie last season. While it was reported that Rosario dealt with an ankle issue, the magnitude was probably never truly understood. Rocco Baldelli told Twins Daily’s Seth Stohs, “that was a fairly significant injury that he was playing with last year. I can't say that at any point during the regular season last year that he was 100 percent running around out there.” With that in mind, it stands to reason a rebound solely due to health would be in store.
What’s more for Rosario is that there’s been a steady decline across the board for the past three seasons. After posting an .836 OPS in 2017 he dropped to .803 in 2018 and .800 last season. He’s remained the same free-swinging player he always has been, making a bit more contact, but generating a career worst 46% chase rate. Those, at least to a certain extent, are isolated issues from injury.
So why should we believe he turns things around? Well, again, it starts with health. If Rosario is back to 100%, he’s working with a more athletic profile. In 2015 he posted a 28.5 ft/sec sprint speed. That season he ripped off 15 triples and a career best 9 DRS. He was down at least a 0.5 ft/sec to a full 1.0 ft/sec in recent seasons.
Pressing in the outfield may also have translated to the plate. After debuting with strikeout rates up near 25%, he’s dropped that all the way to a career best 14.6% in 2019. That falls in line with his whiff rates as well, but that’s where the good news ends. Rosario’s chase rate spiking, alongside a career high contact rate last season, is indicative of a Willians Astudillo-esque approach. The K/BB inputs aren’t as exaggerated, but the reality is he’s executing on poor pitches too often.
Should a return to 2017 plate discipline take place (and that’s a big ask in dropping chase rate 10%), Eddie’s batted ball profile is as good as it’s ever been. He posted a career best 39% hard hit rate last year, yanked the ball nearly 50% of the time, and was in the air 42.2% of the time. As a lefty he’ll need loft to clear the Target Field wall in right, but 328 down the line is the quickest way to exit the stadium. There’s work to be done here for sure, but a guy entering his prime should not be in over his head when it comes to execution.
Projection systems are on board with a slight rebound as well. ZiPS has Rosario at 1.9 fWAR in 2020, while Steamer sees him at 2.2 fWAR. Neither of the OPS marks represent career highs, but the further he can clear the .800 bar the better. Assuming injury was a key part of the defensive setbacks, a return to positive DRS marks makes sense. He consistantly contributes with his arm in terms of assists, but too often Rosario was looking to make a spectacular play with the throw in response to a miscue with the route or glove.
At the end of the day it’s hard to scoff at a guy who put up 32 dingers and 109 RBI in one of baseball’s best lineups. He did it while batting cleanup though and left so much more on the table in all facets of the game. Rather than being enamored by somewhat hollow surface numbers, hoping Rosario’s clean bill of health takes him to the next level in a less pressure-filled role this season could be a get Minnesota didn’t know they’d be getting.
It’s a pretty big swing year for Eddie, and the guy who once had me in awe as a prospect could again produce at a level that makes him more than just a fan favorite in Twins Territory.
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