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Potential free agent target: Eddie Rosario

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Steady Eddie may be the best available outfield bat.

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Dayton Moore’s search for a left-handed hitting outfield bat will have to continue on without Jurickson Profar. Despite being targeted by the Royals, the 27-year old will return to the Padres on a three-year, $21 million deal. Of the remaining left-handed outfielder, one of the best remaining options is one the Royals should be familiar with as an opponent - former Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario.

Eddie Rosario was born and raised in Guayama on the south side of Puerto Rico. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of high school and hit .337 in his first season in full-season ball at Low-A Elizabethton. Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the #87 prospect in baseball in 2012, but he struggled in the upper levels of the minors. Despite underwhelming numbers in Triple-A, Rosario was called up to the big leagues in May of 2015 and homered on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues. He would settle in as the regular left fielder the rest of the season, hitting .267/.287/.459 with 13 home runs, leading the league with 15 triples, and finishing with Rookie of the year votes.

By 2017, Rosario had emerged as a solid power hitter, smacking 27 home runs with a .507 slugging percentage. After 24 home runs in 2018 and a career high 4.1 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference, he hit a career-high 32 home runs in 2019. He also topped 100 RBI for the first time and earned MVP votes that season. He received MVP votes again in 2020, hitting .257/.316/.476 with 13 home runs in 57 games. Despite his performance, the Twins waived him to save money, rather than pay an estimated $10 million through arbitration.

Rosario is not quite the high on-base percentage hitter Dayton Moore is looking for, with a career line of .277/.310/.478. He has had consistent power production, despite failing to wow Statcast with his exit velocity. His 96 home runs since 2017 are the 30th-most in baseball. His platoon split is not too noticeable, although he does hit for less power against lefties.

Rosario is a free swinger, with one of the lowest walk-rates in baseball over the past four seasons at just 5.3 percent. But he doesn’t strike out much either, improving his strikeout rate from 24.9 percent his rookie season to 14.7 percent last year. There are questions on whether his declining strikeout rate is sustainable, since he still seems to swing at a lot of pitches out of the zone. Since 2015, his 42.8 percent swing rate at pitches outside the strike zone is fifth-most in the majors.

The high triples total his rookie season seems like an aberration now, as Rosario has hit just seven triples in the five seasons since. He has average speed, but isn’t much of a threat to steal, swiping just 39 bases in six seasons, and he has been caught 33 percent of the time.

Rosario was a solid defender with a good arm in left early in his career. Since 2015, only Starling Marte has more outfield assists than Rosario’s 53. But opponents tested his arm less frequently and his range began to deteriorate. Here’s how Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic evaluated his defense.

Rosario’s speed also aged poorly, shrinking his range while leaving behind the same erratic, error-prone approach. He was legitimately fast when he debuted, with sprint speeds in the 87th and 86th percentiles his first two years. That fell to the 63rd percentile his third season and dropped again to the 56th percentile in 2019. In his final Twins season, at age 28, his sprint speed was just average.

Not surprisingly, Rosario’s fielding metrics followed a similar path, going from great to average in six seasons. In his first two seasons, Rosario rated plus-12 in Defensive Runs Saved and plus-10 in Ultimate Zone Rating. He was minus-8 and minus-2, respectively, in his last four seasons, during which time Statcast’s outs above average — which didn’t exist yet in 2015 — rated him minus-23.

No team claimed Rosario when he went on waivers last fall, suggesting no one wanted to pay the price he would get in arbitration. He could still land a multi-year deal, although if he signs a one-year deal, he will be eligible for free agency again next winter.

Rosario does not have much upside, but he has been a very steady performer, posting an OPS+ of 105 or better in each of the last four seasons. The 29-year old is likely to be in the Royals’ price range, and his high-contact approach could be well suited for Kauffman Stadium, although his defense may be suspect in the spacious outfield.