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Twins 2018 Position Analysis: Left Field

One of the most pleasant surprises for the 2017 Minnesota Twins literally came out of left field.

With newfound discipline at the plate, Eddie Rosario turned the corner and went from frustrating underachiever to fearsome slugger.

But with Rosario slowed by injury this spring, the depth behind him could quickly come into play.
Image courtesy of Butch Dill, USA Today (Eddie Rosario)
Projected Starter: Eddie Rosario
Likely Backup: Robbie Grossman

Depth: Ehire Adrianza, Zack Granite, Nick Buss
Prospects: Alex Kirilloff, Akil Baddoo, LaMonte Wade

THE GOOD

Rosario's approach at the plate improved by leaps and bounds in 2017. Just take a look at how the strikeout and walk rates compare to his previous major-league campaigns:

YEAR | K% | BB%
---------------------------------------
2015 | 24.9% | 3.2%
2016 | 25.7% | 3.4%
2017 | 18.0% | 5.9%

That walk rate still wasn't good by any means, ranking as the 26th-lowest in the majors, but it was a massive step up from his stagnant bottom-of-the-barrel marks during those first two campaigns. With his quick wrists and outstanding hand-eye coordination, Rosario has always been capable of putting the bat on almost anything thrown his way. But as the Baseball Prospectus Annual 2018 puts it, he "started learning to separate the pitches he can hit from those he should hit."

The result was a career-high .290 batting average despite a career-low .312 BABIP. He also slugged .507 with 27 home runs, surpassing his prior cumulative totals of .443 and 23. That might've had something to do with the juiced balls but also speaks to Rosario's highly impressive ability to drive scorching liners with authority from his 6'1", 180 lb frame.

And here's the best part: Rosario isn't necessarily done fine-tuning his approach. Keep in mind the kid is only 26, and coming off a revelatory year with a new hitting coach who seems to be getting through. If Eddie can get those K/BB rates trending further in the right direction, continued offensive growth may be yet to come. An enticing proposition for a player who finished with the third-best OPS+ on the team in 2017.

Even if those rates remain the same, simply gravitating back toward his .335 BABIP from 2015/16 could push Rosario's average past .300 and his OPS into the 900-range.

Finally tapping into his true potential at the plate as he enters his fourth MLB season, Rosario represents one of the biggest reasons to love Minnesota's offensive upside this summer.

THE BAD

While Rosario has mostly erased any doubts surrounding his outlook with the bat, he still has some work to do defensively. He possesses all the tools to be an excellent left fielder, but brazen aggressiveness continued to lead to questionable decisions that hurt the team in 2017.

Hopefully the more disciplined approach at the plate will carry to the outfield this year. Unfortunately, he hasn't had much chance to work at it this spring, with triceps tendinitis keeping him off the field for nearly two weeks. He finally returned to the lineup on Thursday, finishing 0-for-3 against the Rays as designated hitter, but there's no specific target date to get him back in the outfield.

Paul Molitor did mention that the outfielder came away from throwing sessions pain-free this week and the manager expects to see him back in left soon. If there are any setbacks or hiccups in Rosario's recovery, Robbie Grossman and Ehire Adrianza would likely consume the balance of reps in left field.

That's a major drop-off, both offensively and defensively, but it's not a disastrous fallback plan. In the event of a lengthier absence, Zack Granite would probably be called upon to fill in as a regular, likely providing superior glovework to Rosario with a good approach at the plate (albeit MUCH less power) and speed on the basepaths.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Though his arm ailment has kept him off the field for much of March, Rosario indicated on Thursday he is now throwing from 90 feet with no issue, so he should be back in the outfield soon and good to go by Opening Day. As things stand now, he is the present and future in left field, with a heightened floor and a lofty ceiling still within reach.

Down the line, Alex Kirilloff and Akil Baddoo stand out as the brightest hopes to potentially succeed Rosario, who's four years away from free agency (though many feel Kirilloff profiles better in right). In the shorter-term, one player to watch is LaMonte Wade. Twins Daily's No. 14 prospect has put his signature patience on display this spring; he drew his team-leading seventh walk on Thursday.

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14 Comments

I really like the prospect list - Ehire and Grossman are filler only and if we have them our quality goes down.  

Photo
ToddlerHarmon
Mar 16 2018 10:20 AM

The eye test says Rosario's a good candidate for number 3 hitter: great contact, good power, decent speed

 

Also, if you look at 2017 season stats, you have the following top Twins hitters:

 

AVG: Mauer, Rosario, Dozier, Sano

OBP: Mauer, Dozier, Sano, Morrison

SLG: Morrison, Rosario, Sano, Dozier

 

That's right, there are only 5 hitters on the Twins covering the top 4 of all three triple-slash categories.  Seems pretty obvious who the top 5 in the lineup should be.  With Rosario's potential for a high average with power, he seems the likeliest #3 of these.

 

    • Oldgoat_MN, Original Whizzinator and Borealis like this

I really hope last season was the start of Rosario's path and not a fluke season. If he can make modest gains on patience while keeping the power he's really going to be a nice hitter. His defense baffles me a bit; he's got the tools to be at least an average defender out there, but he seems to be getting worse. I have to wonder if he might be better off in RF where he'd have to cover less room and his arm would still play very very well.

 

Either way, Eddie Rosario is a very important part of the twins this season and for the next few years. But the depth at OF in the system is pretty good too. Grossman can cover for some reps (he's bad defensively too, but we can survive it), Granite has real potential as a 4th OF and I'm very excited to see what Kiriloff will do this year.

The eye test says Rosario's a good candidate for number 3 hitter: great contact, good power, decent speed

Also, if you look at 2017 season stats, you have the following top Twins hitters:

AVG: Mauer, Rosario, Dozier, Sano
OBP: Mauer, Dozier, Sano, Morrison
SLG: Morrison, Rosario, Sano, Dozier

That's right, there are only 5 hitters on the Twins covering the top 4 of all three triple-slash categories. Seems pretty obvious who the top 5 in the lineup should be. With Rosario's potential for a high average with power, he seems the likeliest #3 of these.


I'd prefer a higher OBP that high in the lineup.
I think Rosario is more suited for the 5 or 6 spot.
    • Twins33, Danchat and ToddlerHarmon like this

I hope his tendinitis encourages him to hit the cut off man. 

Let’s not refer to him as a kid. The man is 26. I’m not saying he’s finished progressing as a ball player.
The low babip puts a big smile on my face. He’s going to do damage this year:)
    • Carole Keller, Mike Sixel, Danchat and 2 others like this

 

...

Also, if you look at 2017 season stats, you have the following top Twins hitters:

 

AVG: Mauer, Rosario, Dozier, Sano

OBP: Mauer, Dozier, Sano, Morrison

SLG: Morrison, Rosario, Sano, Dozier

...

That's a fun way to look at it. 

I would like to see a lineup that starts with Mauer, Dozier, Morrison, Sano, Rosario at the top.

I know Joe isn't all that speedy, but he runs smart & won't block Dozier (like Kennys Vargas in front of Buxton). LRLRL would be a nice way to start the order, as well.

    • ToddlerHarmon likes this

Read somewhere this morning, maybe the Strib, that Rosario would be playing outfield in a minor league game sometime this weekend.Indicated that they would have him throwing everything to the infielder so not to stress the arm.  

If Rosario plays his cards smart at the plate, he could put up numbers almost like Dozier. Just stay picky at the plate. 

I think he's the biggest wild card in the lineup. He could go in either direction from last year.

I think power and AVG will fluctuate somewhat year to year, which is pretty normal, but I don't think we've seen the best of Rosario yet. Hes athletic, fast, has quick hands, and the ball just jumps off his bat.
    • adorduan, slash129, Dozier's Glorious Hair and 1 other like this

 

I think power and AVG will fluctuate somewhat year to year, which is pretty normal, but I don't think we've seen the best of Rosario yet. Hes athletic, fast, has quick hands, and the ball just jumps off his bat.

 

This .... and he seems to reach back for extra in spotlight moments ... Very fun player to have on the team .... If he ever finds that singularity of competitive passion and fundamental control, he'll be a five-tool all-star.I could project Charlie Blackmon minus the Coors park factor but better defense.

    • DocBauer likes this
Zach Granite, best name ever!

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