The Twins Shouldn't Give Up on Rosario
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsIt’s not the end of the world to consider trading him at this point. Especially because his trade value should be pretty high right now. Afterall, regardless of how disappointing it might have ended, wasn’t a bad season at all. So, it makes a lot of sense to deal him in exchange for quality pitching. But it’s a tough pill to swallow when people try to justify this deal by saying that Rose is “washed”. He isn’t.
Perhaps the main reason people’s impression of Rosario was mostly negative after this season was the below average second half that he had. After slashing .282/.312/.529 (.841) and hitting 20 HR before the All-Star break, he slowed down in the second half, hitting .268/.286/.465 (.750) and 12 HR. Overall, the 2019 season was his worst season putting the ball in play, as he had his career-low BABIP, with .273.
He also chased too many out of the zone pitches, with his O-Swing% reaching a career high 46.3%. His ability to draw walks, which was never very good, seemed to regress this year (3.7 BB%), as it dropped way below his career average (4.4 BB%).
But that simply isn’t enough to establish Rosario as a bad hitter nor to say that he can’t contribute to the Twins success in the foreseeable future. For instance, despite regressing in the aforementioned aspects, he also showed a lot of improvement this year — maybe even more than regression.
For instance, his 38.8 hard-hit rate was a career high, which undoubtedly helped him achieve career highs in HR (32) and RBI (109). His weak-contact rate was just 1.9%, a career best. Also, both his barrel (8.5%) and solid-contact (7.1%) rates were comfortably above the MLB averages. His .330 xWOBA in 2019 was both better than league average (.319) and much better than his overall career mark in that stat (.307).
Another fun fact: Despite swinging at pitches outside the zone in an alarming rate this year, he did manage to strikeout the least times in his entire career. His 14.6% strikeout rate was the third best among all left fielders in the league and 13th in the entire AL. He struck out at a lower rate than Jose Altuve, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Mike Trout, to name a few.
If the chase of pitches outside of the zone is what bothers you about him, here’s a list of players who also had a O-Swing% of 40 percent or more: Javier Báez, Eduardo Escobar, Rafael Devers and Nicholas Castellanos. Rosario had better contact (80.3%) and SwStr% (11.7) than every single one of them.
On the other hand, Rosario had the worst year of his career defensively. Per Fangraphs, he had -6 DRS, -5.7 UZR and -11.1 DEF, which, among 24 left fielders with at least 500 innings on the field, rank 19th, 21st and 21st respectively. That’s terrible. But is it enough proof that he can’t be a good fielder anymore? Hardly. Since being called up in 2015, Rosario ranks second among left fielders with 37 assists and the fourth in putouts (893). He also ranks seventh in UZR (10.6) out of 22 left fielders with at least 2,000 innings. He isn’t nearly a great defender, but very few players at that position are. Only three had a positive Defensive Runs Above Average in the last five years. So I barely think we have reason to worry here.
There’s enough reason to believe Rosario can bounce back. There’s also a lot of justifiable reasons to want to trade him this winter. But saying he’s damaged goods definitely isn’t one of them.
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