Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Outfield options: Eddie Rosario

Eddie Rosario
led AL left fielders in
assists, double plays
-- and errors.
As the Twins made their ultimately futile playoff push in September, Paul Molitor essentially went with three outfielders: Eddie Rosario in left, Aaron Hicks in center, Torii Hunter in right.

Today Hunter is retired and Hicks is a Yankee -- and Shane Robinson, who spent the entire season on the roster, has signed with Cleveland.

So Molitor's 2016 outfield is going to be markedly different than the one he went with at the end of 2015. 

Start with the one certainty for April's lineup: Rosario.

Rosario's plusses: He's a good defensive corner outfielder and probably passable in center, although the Twins have better options in the middle garden. He hit for more power (.459) than might have been anticipated and led MLB in triples with 15. He didn't fall off against lefties -- in fact, his slash line stats were all better against southpaws than against righties.

Rosario's minuses: His walk-to-strikeout ratio was abysmal: 15 walks, 118 strikeouts. His on-base percentage was a lowly .289, and that makes ludicrous the notion floated by some that he belongs at the top of the order.

Keith Law, the ESPN prospect writer, said in a recent chat that he expects Rosario to eventually be the odd man out of the Minnesota outfield. And if Rosario's inability to control his strike zone persists, Law's right. It's not possible to be a productive hitter striking out eight times for every walk.

But I'm not sure that what we saw in 2015 is what we'll see in the future.

The scouting word on Rosario as a minor leaguer was always: Outstanding hit tool, probably a bit shy on power. That was part of the motivation for the second base experiment in 2012-14, that a good singles hitter's bat plays better in the middle infield than in an outfield corner. But Rosario in the majors was more a power hitter than a singles hitter. The level of production was essentially what one might have expected; it simply took a different shape than projected.

Rosario is young -- he turned 24 in September -- and his development as a hitter was certainly detoured by his half-season suspension in 2014 and possibly by the position uncertainty. There's growth possible here. And, considering the talent the Twins have among young outfielders, he'll need to grow. But he is first in line for the chance.

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