Twins Daily 2018 Awards: Most Valuable Player
Image courtesy of Ken Blaze, USA TodayIn 2016 and 2017, Dozier was worth 6.2 and 5.0 WAR respectively (per FanGraphs). Last year Byron Buxton came in second on the Twins at 3.5, which slightly edges Rosario's team-leading mark here in 2018 (3.4).
This isn't meant as a knock on Eddie. For much of the season, Rosario seemed determined to carry this lackluster team on his back. It's not really a stretch to say he won a couple midsummer games single-handedly.
In June, as the Twins began fading in the division race and the offense mostly fizzled around him, Rosario flourished, posting a ridiculous .330/.395/.689 line and at one point homering seven times in a 14-game span. He was exhilaratingly brazen on the base paths, stealing runs from opposing teams out of nowhere. He went all-out in left field and unleashed fury with his arm.
With his team struggling to stay afloat, and Dozier a shell of his former self, Rosario played his ass off to try and make up the slack.
It seemingly took a toll.
From July 1st onward he hit just .254/.284/.359, collecting 14 extra-base hits in 60 games after totaling 43 in his first 78. In the latter weeks Rosario battled a nagging quad injury that eventually ended his season in mid-September.
He was largely a non-factor in the second half, and yet Rosario still stands out as a fairly clear-cut choice for team MVP.
Like I said, this award speaks to larger things than Rosario's production, but his all-around step forward as a ballplayer at age 26 should not be downplayed for that reason. So let's give Eddie his due and take a closer look at what fueled the stellar, if front-heavy, campaign he put together.
I call it the E.D.D.I.E. equation: Excitement. Discipline. Defense. Intensity. Explosiveness.
There was no player in baseball you'd rather watch on third base. He antagonized opposing pitchers by dancing down the line, once forcing a run-scoring balk. He deked outfielders and left them bewildered as he scored easily on shallow flies. At times he seemed intent on stealing home and no one would've been surprised if he tried. Rosario's antics at third were but a microcosm of the intoxicating unpredictability he brought in all phases of the game.
He still won't be confused for a patient hitter, but the improvements that enabled his 2017 emergence held steady for Rosario. His walk rate of 5.1% was down a tad from last year's 5.9% but still dwarfed his previous career clip of 3.3%, and he also reduced his strikeouts to a career-low 17.6% — an amazing feat for someone who swings so frequently. Rosario swung at a higher percentage of pitches (57.7%) than any other qualified American League hitter but had a lower K-rate than any Twin other than Mauer, Max Kepler and (of course) Willians Astudillo. The left fielder has settled into a groove of striking out three times for every walk, and that looks to be workable for him.
FanGraphs had Rosario jumping from 2.5 WAR in 2017 to 3.4 in 2018. Baseball-Reference calculated an even larger leap, from 1.7 to 3.6. And yet, Rosario actually finished with worse numbers this year (.803 OPS, 24 HR) than last (.836 OPS, 27 HR). Why? The answer lies in his defense. By almost any metric, Rosario was vastly more valuable in left field, tracking down more drives and ranking among the league leaders in outfield assists. Hell, he even played a couple innings at third base and turned in a Web Gem.
There is a certain edge that sometimes separates the good from the great – a fiery drive to compete and win. I'm not saying others on the Twins don't have it, but Eddie Rosario absolutely has got it. He launched all those max-effort howitzers from the outfield despite a triceps injury limiting him through much of spring training. His season-ending quad aggravation in left occurred because he was sprinting after a ball, while playing hurt, after lobbying his way back out there. He swung out of his shoes pretty much every time he offered at a pitch. Pushing himself to the max so relentlessly might have ultimately undermined Rosario (and the same is true for several of his teammates), but that intensity is what makes him who he is. And he's at least reined it in enough to cut back on some of the wild swings and mental mistakes.
At 6'1" and 180 lbs, Rosario makes you wonder where all of that explosive strength comes from. He's pure wiry muscle and, while not necessarily the speediest runner, his movements are as quick as they come. A combination of premier hand-eye coordination and lightning reflexes enables him to crush pitches nowhere near the plate. When he's locked in, Rosario is a nightmare matchup. There's no reliable way to get him out. His three-homer outburst against Cleveland in early June, culminating in a walk-off home run, was one of the most amazing individual performances in recent Twins history, pulling Minnesota within 3 1/2 games of the Indians for first place.
It was as close as they'd get. Rosario couldn't do it alone, and the team was pretty much cooked by the time his slide began around the All-Star Game, which he narrowly missed playing in. Maybe that's why it was barely noticed, and most of us look back on his 2018 with nothing but positivity.
That's as it should be. The Twins weren't a very good team this year but for several months Rosario put on a hell of a one-man show. As the rest of the team's young position-player core stagnated or regressed, he took another step forward, solidifying his stardom and status as a worthy building block.
Here’s a look at the ballots from our seven voters.
Nick Nelson: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Eddie Rosario, 3) Kyle Gibson
Seth Stohs: 1) Eddie Rosario, 2) Kyle Gibson, 3) Jose Berrios
John Bonnes: 1) Eddie Rosario, 2) Kyle Gibson, 3) Jose Berrios
Tom Froemming: 1) Eddie Rosario, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Kyle Gibson
Cody Christie: 1) Eddie Rosario, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Max Kepler
Steve Lein: 1) Eddie Rosario, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Kyle Gibson
Ted Schwerzler: 1) Eddie Rosario, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Kyle Gibson
Eddie Rosario: 34
Jose Berrios: 27
Kyle Gibson: 22
How would your ballot look? Give a shout in the comments and start the discussion.
Previous Twins Daily MVP Winners
2015: Brian Dozier
2016: Brian Dozier
2017: Brian Dozier
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