As Rosario Shows, Raw Power Comes In Many Forms
Image courtesy of Evan Habeeb, USA TodayRosario had a quiet spring, spent mostly nursing a sore arm, but when the regular season kicked off on Thursday he pretty much picked up where he left off.
We last saw the 26-year-old stepping up on the big stage in October, launching a two-run homer against New York's Luis Severino in the first inning of the AL Wild Card Game to give Minnesota a sizable (albeit short-lived) early lead.
The clutch blast came on the heels of a breakout season in which Rosario went deep 27 times, surpassing his total from 2015 and '16 combined.
In his first at-bat of the new campaign, Rosario lifted a drive to deep right-center field with enough distance to clear the fence. But Orioles right fielder Craig Gentry robbed him with a fantastic play, reaching over the Camden wall to pull it back. Later, in extra innings, the Rosario got into another one, slashing a 1-2 offering from Richard Bleier to the warning track in left, where it was caught.
Though Rosario came up just short in both of his bids for a round-tripper, the message is already clear: last year's power surge, which saw him post a .568 slugging percentage in the final 95 games, was no fluke. It isn't hard to see why Paul Molitor has tabbed Rosario for the key designation of No. 4 hitter.
Sandwiched between top-tier sluggers in Sano and Morrison, Rosario's physical contrast from those two is plain enough to see when they line up for the anthem – while the third baseman and DH weigh in at 250-plus, Rosario is listed at 6'1" and 180 lbs, an explosive bundle of wiry muscles.
While his power did begin to fully manifest last year, its onset wasn't as sudden as that of a Brian Dozier. The tool has been evident for Rosario since he was a teenager pacing the Appalachian League with 21 home runs (he edged his teammate, the prodigious phenom Sano, by one). Rosario slugged .484 in the minors, where he was young for every level. He memorably homered in his first MLB plate appearance and tallied 46 extra-base hits in 122 games as a rookie.
The pop has always been present for Minnesota's left fielder, and while he might not hit the ball as hard as the guys surrounding him in the lineup – Sano ranked 4th in average exit velocity last year, Morrison ranked 116th, Rosario ranked 278th – it's becoming clearer he's got what it takes to eclipse 30 HR.
The combination of innate strength, lightning-quick wrists, and a compact uppercut swing – you can see it in action here on the would-be homer Gentry robbed – turns Rosario into a very impactful offensive weapon, especially when you factor in his uncommon aggressiveness.
Cleaning up in Molitor's lineup is a crucial assignment that figures to yield a great deal of opportunity for producing runs. Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer and Sano all finished with OBPs north of .350 last year. Can Rosario reward his manager's show of faith by delivering?
More on Twins Daily:
- Matthew Lenz's breakdown of the 2018 outlook for Kyle Gibson, Saturday night's starter.
- Steve Lien's examination of the next wave of Minnesota Twins talent.
- Twins relief pitcher projections via Andrew Thares.
- Jamie Cameron's look at the disparity between Taylor Rogers' first and second halves in 2017.
- dbminn and DannySD like this