As we did last offseason, Twinkie Town writers are grading players who appeared in a game for the 2020 Minnesota Twins. (Last year’s grades can be found here, this year’s here.) Players will be graded individually on an A-F scale based on their hitting, fielding, and whatever else the author wants to consider. Today we get back on track, after Sandwiches took us down a rabbit hole last week.
Eddie Rosario has been a key cog in the Minnesota Twins’ lineup for the better part of the last six years. More likely than not, that streak is about to come to an end.
In 2019, Rosario was having a breakout season, alternating for the home-run lead in the American League for much of the first two months of the season and earning plenty of votes to start the All-Star Game. Ultimately, Rosario was on the list of players selected by MLB to vie for the final spot on the American League roster in the Midsummer Classic.
Unfortunately, Eddie rolled his ankle in a freak injury while running the bases a couple of weeks prior to the All-Star break, and the rest of his 2019 season was a struggle. While his final line of .276/.300/.500 with a career-high 32 home runs looked solid, it was a clear step back from his 2018 campaign, especially combined with his defensive struggles that were compounded by the ankle injury.
The shortened 2020 season wasn’t any better for Rosario offensively, as he took a step back along with many of his teammates after the joys of the 2019 Bomba Squad.
Rosario finished the season slashing .257/.316/.476. He started the year walking far more than he ever had in his career, but that predictably evened out a bit as the season wore on. Still, he managed a career-best walk and home-run rates of 8.2% and 5.6%. But the non-homer extra-base hits were gone, as Rosario’s extra-base rate was his lowest mark since 2016; he had only seven doubles in 231 plate appearances and zero triples on the season.
Clearly, Rosario’s ankle injury sapped his power in the latter half of 2019, and much of that pop returned in a mostly-healthy 2020 campaign. If the improved walk rate is for real and the lack of extra-base hits was a fluke, however, then Rosario may be in the midst of elevating his offensive game from average to above-average.
The problem is that Rosario is 29 years old and will easily make north of $10-11 million in his final year of arbitration. At his $7.75 million salary in 2020, Rosario wasn’t a bad deal. But things could quickly get out of control salary-wise unless he continues to refine his approach and add value via on-base percentage.
Rosario has generally a decent enough leftfielder, at least in that he has never been considered a liability. Until 2019, that is.
Largely due to his ankle injury, Rosario had a miserable campaign in left field, and there was concern as to whether or not he’d be able to hold down that position moving forward. After all, a below-average fielder can’t also turn in an on-base percentage of only .300.
Indeed, he was easily last among qualified leftfielders in Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in 2018. Thankfully, Rosario tied for No. 4 among regular leftfielders in UZR in 2020, coming in behind only St. Louis’ Tyler O’Neill, Arizona’s David Peralta, and Kansas City’s Alex Gordon.
Rosario still has one of the better arms among leftfielders across major-league baseball, although his decision-making leaves something be desired more often than it probably should for a 29-year-old with six seasons under his belt.
Rosario turned in a solid all-around season in 2020. Unfortunately, the offensive strides weren’t enough to help carry what was ultimately an entirely underwhelming Twins offensive unit.
The improved walk and home-run rates were great, and the lack of non-homer extra-base hits certainly felt somewhat fluky. The defensive improvement was great, and he will likely be an average-y leftfielder for at least the next year or two as he’s still solidly in his prime.
Again, the problem with Rosario lies in the money he’ll be due in arbitration for the 2021 campaign. Compounding that issue for Eddie is the high volume of Twins prospects who can play left field; Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Brent Rooker were all first-round picks in recent years, and they’re all corner outfielders.
If the Twins can get 75% of the production out of one (or more) of those players at a fraction of the cost next year, they’ll take it in a heartbeat. Plus, there’s the upside factor that all three of those players posses on some level, whereas Rosario’s realistic upside is basically limited to whether or not he’s able to take more walks in the middle stages of his career.
Unless the Twins are able to get Rosario back at a severely discounted rate, it seems unlikely that he’ll be back. And if that’s the case, then hopefully Eddie can latch on with a successful organization and continue what has been an extremely solid career to this point.
How would you grade Eddie Rosario’s 2020 season?
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