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Eddie Rosario leads Rafters to AFL title

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The game's best prospects have a chance to shine every year in the Arizona Fall League. Eddie Rosario did just that, and closed his AFL season just like he started it: on fire.

In his minor league career, Eddie Rosario has a lot going for him. Baseball America ranked him their 87th-best prospect coming into 2012 and the #60 prospect heading into 2014, due to his golden combination of skills and age. In 531 Rookie League plate appearances, he hit .321/.375/.578. In 429 Single-A appearances: .296/.345/.490. In 265 Advanced-A plate appearances: .325/.377/.498. It's small wonder his star was on the rise, and that speaks nothing of his defensive acumen and athleticism.

Yet the 23-year old's stellar performance in the Arizona Fall League comes as good news after a disappointing 2014. For the first time in his Twins career, Rosario struggled at the plate. There's speculation over his 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse turning into a slow start that never really got going, there's speculation that the suspension played with his own confidence, and there's speculation that he struggled to adapt to the higher level of talent at Double-A - I'm not sure which option is preferred.

Whether Rosario's repeat trip to the AFL was purposed as a chance to move on from a season he'd rather forget or whether it was designed as a test, it probably doesn't matter. He turned in one of the best performances not just on the team, but in the entire league. As hot as he was coming out of the gate in October, he finished just as strongly, and ends the shortened season with a .330/.345/.410 triple slash.

In yesterday's AFL Champtionship between Rosario's Salt River Rafters and the Peoria Javelinas, he went 4-for-5 with a double, home run, two runs scored, and two runs driven in. His home run was a long bomb deep to right field, opening the scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Rosario would drive in another run in the third, and would score his second run after doubling in what would turn into a monster seventh.

Andy Haines, Rosario's manager, had this to say:

"He's some kind of hitter. He's special to watch," Salt River manager Andy Haines said. "I saw him on the other side of the field in the Florida State League two years ago -- he just tore us up. I was anxious to see him as a manager, and he might be better than I already thought he was. And my opinion was pretty high.

"Great players seem to rise to the occasion. I know a lot people in the sabermetrics world like to say there's no such thing as a clutch hitter, but you just see him kind of rise to the occasion."

It's the expected result for the Rafters, who walked to the best record in the league this season while leading the league in team batting average and ERA. But it was a fantastic way to end the season for Rosario, both in terms of his AFL campaign and in terms of what had been a disappointing summer. While it may not vault his prospect status to a guaranteed debut in 2015, it certainly legitimizes that he's still very much a prospect to watch.