His gaudy HR and RBI numbers on a historically explosive offense last year obscured the reality: he was a mediocre player showing some seriously diminished skills. Rosario's .300 on-base percentage ranked as the eight-lowest among MLB hitters and his defense rated near the bottom of all outfielders.
Among 135 qualified big-league position players last year, Rosario ranked 114th in fWAR.
This was a big year for the left fielder, who knew he needed to turn around his declining performance trend and build his case for free agency. Before the season he announced his intentions to address weaknesses in the statistical categories that modern front offices care about.
"Defense, walks, OPS, those are the numbers in the game right now that are bad for me. OK. I want to try to change that. That's it," he said.
To his credit, Rosario has made definitive improvements to his plate patience. He's chasing out of the zone less, whiffing less, and has more than doubled his paltry 3.7% BB rate from a year ago. Unfortunately, this hasn't led to an uptick in overall production – quite the contrary, in fact. His OPS is down 70 points, and his defense rates as poorly as ever. The notion that last year's drop-off owed to an ankle injury hasn't been substantiated (unless the ankle is still bothering him, which is possible but hardly reaffirming). He's a below-average runner and Statcast's Outs Above Average metric places him in the 5th percentile among all fielders.
His range is awful and the strong arm doesn't come close to making up for it. It all adds up to this:
Among 158 qualified big league position players this year, Rosario ranks 122nd in fWAR.
On top of this, he continues to be a maddeningly undisciplined and reckless player on the field; on Sunday he blatantly blew through a stop sign at third, getting thrown out easily to stifle a big rally, and then later watched a caromed ball sit in front of him in left field as runners circled the bases because he (wrongly) assumed it was a ground rule double. On Monday he ran into another out on the bases, attempting to stretch a double into a triple and getting thrown out by a mile.
He's doing all this for a prorated salary of $7.75 million this year, and figures to command a similar amount in 2021, his final year of arbitration. How do you justify that expense with multiple top prospects waiting in the wings behind him?
You don't. Eddie is on his way out.
So why keep feeding him everyday playing time when you could be prepping those future fixtures who do not have the benefit of playing minor-league games this year? To an extent, this becomes a moot point with Max Kepler sidelined, but if he returns – and even up until then – it would behoove the Twins to start mixing in Rosario's replacements to both get them familiar and, frankly, improve the production from left field. A bit of exposure to an intense September stretch run atmosphere in the majors could benefit Alex Kirilloff or Trevor Larnach greatly, if they are expected to be a big part of Minnesota's championship plans for 2021. Brent Rooker is of course already here, and demonstrating that it's possible to acclimate quickly from the alternate site.
I get that Rosario is a streaky player. It's entirely possible he'll get on a roll and validate his consistent nods at the heart of the batting order. But it's also very possible he won't. There's only so much time left to turn around his lackluster performance, and many underlying signs suggest that Rosario's decline is more attributable to diminishing athleticism than bad luck or the standard ebbs and flows of baseball.
The Rosie ride has been a wild one over these past six years, filled with plenty of thrills and frustrations. Now, as that ride reaches an end, it's time for the Twins to prep themselves for the future in left field.
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