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Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Left Field

eddie rosario
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 10 March 2020 - 08:23 PM

The pressure is on for Eddie Rosario. Coming off a substandard season, with free agency inching closer and top prospects pressing upward from beneath, the fiery left field incumbent is on the hot seat.

Then again, Rosario does have a historical habit of rising to the occasion.Projected Starter: Eddie Rosario
Likely Backup: Marwin Gonzalez

Depth: Jake Cave, LaMonte Wade Jr.
Prospects: Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach

THE GOOD

I have ridden the Rosario rollercoaster. After the 2018 season, I wrote an article honoring him as Twins Daily's MVP. A year later, I was openly wondering if his dramatic drop-off in performance might cause a valuation rift with the team. I've seen people say he is the team's most essential player, and I've seen people say he's the team's fourth-best outfielder.

Clearly, there are a lot of differing views on Rosario. But I do know of two people who clearly view him very highly: Paul Molitor and Rocco Baldelli. The left fielder was Opening Day cleanup hitter in Molitor's last year as manager, and in Baldelli's first.

As a matter of fact, Rosario batted fourth in a whopping 127 of Minnesota's 162 games last year, plus all three in the playoffs. He anchored an offense that scored 939 runs and set the MLB home run record. Yes, this did inflate his gaudy RBI total (109) but still, hitting 32 home runs and slugging .500 in a down year is pretty telling.

Baldelli never wavered in making him a central lineup fixture, because Rosario kept rewarding his faith. There was no inherent loyalty influencing the decisions. Eddie simply produced when it counted, slashing .340/.370/.538 with runners in scoring position and a nearly identical .324/.360/.539 in high leverage.

Over the two seasons preceding 2019, Rosario was second among Twins players in fWAR, edged slightly by Brian Dozier. His built-up cred and a continuing flair for clutchness kept him high in the manager's esteem, even while Rosario battled through a campaign that was undeniably trying in some ways. There's evidence his lapses may have been injury-impacted.

The really good news is this: If Rosario can't buck his downward trend, the Twins are absolutely loaded with outfielders. Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade Jr. are readily available, and could hold their own as big-league starters. In the minor-leagues, Brent Rooker is ready to step in now after mashing as Rochester's left fielder last year. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach are also top-tier hitting prospects verging on MLB-readiness, and while both have played much more right field than left in the minors, there's little doubt the Twins would be fine rolling either one out to LF if Rosario falters.

The organization's corner outfield depth is phenomenal, and will likely come into play here much sooner than in right. One way or another.

THE BAD

On June 26th, Rosario rolled his ankle while charging around first base in a home game against the Rays. Coming up with a limp, he spiked his helmet into the ground, immediately recognizing the gravity of a season-altering injury.

His frustration was understandable. Rosario was in the zone at the time. His OPS sat at .841 and was heading north, thanks to a patented hot streak: In his past 10 games, he had a .413 average.

Despite the seemingly serious nature of the injury, he returned to action a mere three weeks later. But he wasn't the same. Rosario slashed .268/.286/.465 the rest of the way, and his already iffy defense completely tanked alongside his sprint speed, as chronicled in an excellent column from Dan Hayes and Aaron Gleeman at The Athletic.

Healthy after a winter of rest, Rosario has vowed to recapture his previous form. But his running and defense weren't really strong points beforehand, and late-season dropoffs have now become a trend; in 2018 a first-half .890 OPS gave way to a .622 OPS in the second half. Rosario's 2018 tailspin also carried injury implications – a quad strain he fought through before it ended his season in mid-September – but in both cases, the outfielder's well-intentioned tenacity ended up hurting more than helping.

Another flaw in Rosario's 2019 cannot be attributed as cleanly to a limited ankle. He showed zero patience at the plate, giving in to his worst tendencies by chasing a league-high and career-high 46.3% of pitches outside the zone. This surprisingly didn't translate to an avalanche of swings-and-misses (Rosario's whiff rate and K-rate were actually both career lows), but it did result in a TON of weak contact as he constantly offered at pitcher's pitches.

The occasional big blasts were enough to keep his slugging numbers afloat, but Rosario finished with a horrendous .300 on-base percentage, seventh-worst among qualified hitters. Modern statisticians generally agree that OBP is more valuable than slugging, and that's all the more true in this power-laden era. Rosario's .500 SLG ranked 61st among qualified hitters last year, whereas great on-base guys are harder to come by.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If Rosario is making outs at a 70% rate and playing sub par defense in left field, he's really not much an asset, theatrics aside. His 1.2 fWAR in 2019, which ranked 11th among Twins position players, might understate the totality of his impact, but an energetic presence and flare for dramatics won't offset Eddie's negatives if they persist – not with his price rising (he'll make $7.75 million this year), his free agency approaching (he's eligible after next season), and premier talents increasingly pushing from below.

I haven't been shy about expressing my disappointment with Rosario's 2019 campaign, but I think it's a mistake to write him off. He's a tremendously skilled player, still only 28 years old, humbled and determined. I like his chances to bounce back, and even if he doesn't, the number of quality fallback options is reassuring.

Left field is in good shape for the Minnesota Twins. One way or another.


~~~

Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Catcher
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: First Base
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Second Base
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Third Base
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Shortstop

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#2 DocBauer

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Posted 10 March 2020 - 09:18 PM

To preface, I announce I am a huge fan of Eddie, and have been for a long time.

The guy is gregarious, fun, talented and productive. I also feel he is part of the heart of the team for all of the above. Despite a couple bad second half performances due to injury, he has put up numbers. When healthy, he is DANGEROUS. When healthy, he's also a pretty good OF. Can you imagine what he might have produced fully healthy in 2019?

The guy has great instincts and is usually right. For every mistake he may make, he makes another 3 great plays. I'll take that. I'll even take some bad streaks because of what he does the rest of the time...healthy.

BUT...can he stay healthy and be all he can be? If so, even with some of his idiosyncrasies, he is worth the $12-13M he would command in arbitration in 2021, or an extension. But he might also be one of the easiest players to replace with Kirilloff, Larnach and Rooker so close.

I don't want Eddie to go. I want him healthy and raking and signed to an extension he deserves and earned. Let the prospect chips fall where they may.

However, with the talent coming up behind him...Cruz staying or going could also have an impact...the writing could be on the wall come 2021 or 2022. For now, I'm going to root for him as a big fan and hope he makes the FO sweat for all he can do and bring with a healthy 2020.
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#3 High heat

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Posted 10 March 2020 - 11:02 PM

This is the last season of Rosario, if he has a big year I think he is traded if he struggles and the second half Rosario reappears I think he is none tendered.  You have lot of other options which arm much cheaper who can replace for penny’s on the dollar. Hoping Rosie has a big year!

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#4 mikelink45

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Posted 10 March 2020 - 11:39 PM

I have been a fan of Rosario since he first came up. I do not deny his bat and his flare, but I think it ultimately will come down to his price tag and with so many waiting in line I cannot see the twins being willing to pay the price to keep him after this year no

#5 howieramone2

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 03:56 AM

Wait to sell high. He's the most obvious and least painful choice to use as a centerpiece. No he won't fetch a true ace. That would take Kirby.
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#6 MMMordabito

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 05:39 AM

Nick, this series has been what I've looked forward to reading this spring, so thank you.

However, as I peruse the OPS+ data of the '87 Twins, I know there are two plays that I will never forget from the 2019 season. Eddie's pinch-hit 3-run blast off Petit at home against Oakland and his throw of the year to nail Devers at the plate in Boston.

From a data stand-point, it's hard to argue that Rosario may need to look over his shoulder this year, but I just think he has the intangible "It-factor". I think a team needs a guy or two with that to be truely complete.
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#7 Det95Twins

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 06:22 AM

This is a perfect example of analytics just flat out being wrong. .276/32/110 is hardly an off season. If he’d not been injured half the season, he might have been an MVP candidate.
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#8 woolywoolhouse

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 07:41 AM

Rosario has such a fun, easy name to chant in big-situations. 

 

"Edd-ie! Edd-ie!"

 

Not a lot of players on Twins have that. It's important. :)

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#9 JLease

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 08:29 AM

 

This is a perfect example of analytics just flat out being wrong. .276/32/110 is hardly an off season. If he’d not been injured half the season, he might have been an MVP candidate.

 

welp, that's some hyperbole.

 

Eddie had his lowest BA in three years. Lowest OBP in 3 years. lowest OPS & OPS+. The defense was not good, by any measure.

 

I'm sure the injury influenced his struggles, but I don't see how you can look at Eddie Rosario's 2019 and think that it wasn't a decline from 2018. (unless you think that HRs and RBI are the end-all be-all of batting stats, I guess) Eddie is a good player, and when he's doing well on D and showing a little patience at the plate he can be a very good player, but he's never been an all-star, let alone an MVP candidate.

 

You have to feel good about our OF depth right now. Cave & Wade can both play LF just fine and their offensive production, while different, would likely match Rosario's overall offensive contribution from last year. With Rooker, Kirilloff, and Larnach in the wings it's hard to see the Twins keeping Rosario after this year with his price tag continuing to rise, unless he really turns the defense around and shows much more patience at the plate.

 

I don't see him getting dealt this year, though. If he's crushing it, the Twins will ride that into the playoffs. If he's struggling, they won't get anything for him anyways. The only way he gets moved before the deadline is if the whole team collapses and they're out of contention while he's crushing it. That seems...unlikely.

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#10 HrbieFan

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 08:59 AM

It is a good time to be a Twins fan when we complain about his numbers last year and being down. Five years ago we would have made him our MVP with those stats. Ideal situation is that Eddie has a bounce back year, reduces his K rate and makes the basic plays in the OF. If he does that, there will be a trade market for him and we can move one of the rookies into his position. Only way I see him sticking around is if we trade Kirrilloff or Larnach and the other has a bad year in the minors.
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#11 srlarson

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 09:25 AM

Have always been an Eddie fan, But he is the odd man out...forget Cave and Wade....get to the young guys.Hopefully Eddie lights it up first 1/2 the year and can be part of a trade deadline deal for a pitcher.and let one of the Kids take over.  

 

Not a Cave fan at all.......his D was terrible last year.....and if you are going cheap let one of the Kids get a start.........

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#12 Bickle19

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 09:31 AM

 

This is a perfect example of analytics just flat out being wrong. .276/32/110 is hardly an off season. If he’d not been injured half the season, he might have been an MVP candidate.

No, it is just a case of you undervaluing advanced statistics and using traditional stats that support the narrative that you want to be true. .276/32/110 is not a bad season, but when that comes with a .300 on base percentage in an era of inflated offense those traditional stats carry less weight. 

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#13 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 10:27 AM

Love me some Eddie but .... he may be replaceable at least as far as production goes. Maybe not this year, but maybe by next year. I hope he has a big bounce back year and makes the Twins really think about the choice between an extension or a trade. Best case scenario for all.

 

The one thing that concerns me when we talk about Eddie, however, is the assumption that he can easily be replaced by Larnach, Kiriloff, Rooker, Cave, Wade, etc. No real proof of that , except maybe in the case of Cave. The others are prospects and that's ALL they are at this point - they may be the second coming of Kirby Puckett, they may be the second coming of Gene Larkin or Randy Bush, or even somewhere in between like Shane Mack. Heck, they may be Joe Lis (extra points for those who remember Joe Lis). The point is that with the possible exception of Cave, none of them have proven they can hit major league pitching on any sort of consistent level. Wade has proven that he CAN"T hit major league pitching, at least not yet. If Rosario goes, Cave starts in LF for 600 ABs. Absolutely true in 2020, probably true in 2021. 

 

No need to bury Rosario even if he repeats last year. We can and should win NOW. Rosario is part of that and the rest of these guys are just hopes and dreams. Keep him as long as we can until we know we have a replacement. 

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#14 saviking

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 10:36 AM

Let me just make this prediction. Eddie will not be on the team in 2021 because of his projected 12-13 mill salary and the talent waiting in the wings. If Buxton performs this season and with right field nailed down for years the only open spot for Kirilloff, or Larnach is left field and they are a lot less expensive. Before this season I would have said there was an opportunity for Kirilloff to play 1st base but now Sano is a fixture. Because his lack of defensive skills Rooker will probably have to hope the designated hitter spot opens up soon. Rooker could also be a back up outfielder and pinch hitter as well. 

 

Rosario frustrates the hell out of me due to his lack of plate discipline. I also feel he is impulsive and makes bad decisions like Cave. Wade is solid but not talented enough to compete with Kirilloff and Larnach. 

 

I have been very impressed with Kirilloff, Larnach, Rooker and Lewis this pre season. These guys will be ready by mid season. Can't hold them off much longer and Eddie's spot is the only one available. All roads lead to Eddie .. 


#15 Darius

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 11:27 AM

I think people like to find reasons to pile on Rosario at this point. I think it’s pretty clear that the ankle injury derailed what was a huge season. People forget how good he was in the first half. This team was unbeatable when he was hitting. Also, he was the only guy who showed up in the playoffs.

But, some don’t see it that, and that’s fine.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see him have a career year offensively being healthy and entering his “prime seasons.”

At the end of the day, it’s all hopes and opinions. I sort of see it both ways, because I’m really anxious to see what Larnach or Kirillof can do.
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#16 wabene

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 11:41 AM

This year if someone gets dinged up I wanna see them sat as long as necessary. If it's Eddie I don't want to see Cave 100% of the time I'd like to see a young guy worked in there. Make lemonade and use your depth!

#17 BodieInSD

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 02:11 PM

 

Nick, this series has been what I've looked forward to reading this spring, so thank you.

However, as I peruse the OPS+ data of the '87 Twins, I know there are two plays that I will never forget from the 2019 season. Eddie's pinch-hit 3-run blast off Petit at home against Oakland and his throw of the year to nail Devers at the plate in Boston.

From a data stand-point, it's hard to argue that Rosario may need to look over his shoulder this year, but I just think he has the intangible "It-factor". I think a team needs a guy or two with that to be truely complete.

I agree wholeheartedly!  Especially the "it" factor as you label it. Eddie is the proof for the old "lies, damned lies and statistics" adage.  

 

And to top it off, he is FUN to watch play, especially when he is having fun.


#18 Shaitan

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 02:33 PM

I expect it to be Eddie's last year because the kids will be ready and that's how it works.

 

But I worry that the team will miss his attitude almost more than his bat.


#19 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 04:51 PM

This is a perfect example of analytics just flat out being wrong. .276/32/110 is hardly an off season. If he’d not been injured half the season, he might have been an MVP candidate.

Yes, analytics has missed the boat on Eddie. He still put bat to ball 32 times for a bomba in 2019. For fun, I looked at the other MLB players who hit 32 HRs in 2019: Charlie Blackmon, Manny Machado, Ketel Marte, Francisco Lindor, and Rafael Devers. It's an interesting list to say the least and I wonder if any of them get the same amount of heat that Eddie does.

#20 howieramone2

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Posted 11 March 2020 - 06:26 PM

Agree. Let's not forget you can't use RBI's because that's about opportunity and not ability.



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