Eddie Rosario was a pleasant surprise for the Minnesota Twins last year, as the rookie outfielder was just one of many sparks that helped the team make an unpredicted push towards the playoffs.
Rosario brought the explosive ability to swing all the game’s momentum into his team’s favor. He led the American League in triples, double-plays turned by an outfielder, and assists by a left fielder in 2015. His well-rounded game helped vault him to a sixth-place finish in a highly competitive AL Rookie of the Year race. His game-changing speed on the base paths and rifle arm were complimented by a .267 average, 13 home runs and 11 steals while also proving one of the season’s most memorable moments by launching a home on the first pitch he ever saw in the Major Leagues.
While a breakout rookie campaign was expected from teammate Miguel Sano — who finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting — Rosario’s was more of a bonus. He was only a .257 hitter between the Double-A and Triple-A levels, and hadn’t looked like the same player after getting slapped with a 50-game drug ban before the beginning of the 2014 season.
There are countless reasons for the Twins to feel good about Rosario after a very successful rookie campaign, but he’s still no sure thing as a couple major flaws were masked by strong points like triples and a great outfield arm.
Among all the Twins most frequent starters at each position, Rosario had the second-best batting average but the worst on-base percentage, drawing just 15 walks over 122 games; he also finished second among all American League outfielders with seven errors.
Minnesota recently traded 25-year-old outfielder Aaron Hicks to the New York Yankees, almost guaranteeing Rosario regular playing time next year in a crowded Twins outfield that also includes MLB Pipeline top prospect Byron Buxton, Oswaldo Arcia, and even the possibility of Sano, a natural infielder who will be experimenting with left and right field in the Dominican Winter League.
With the team seemingly committed to Rosario as an Opening Day regular in 2016, it will come with a big warning label, and it’s a trap that the Twins fell into last year with utility man Danny Santana.
Santana slashed an impressive .319/.253/.472 over 101 games as a rookie in 2014 while getting playing time at shortstop — his natural position — and center field. He was also a monster on the base paths, legging out seven triples and swiping 20 bases. Like Rosario, this stunning campaign wasn’t expected and seemingly came out of nowhere. The Twins handed Santana the starting shortstop job on Opening Day last season, and he was nothing but a disappointment as they watched his batting average drop over 100 points to .215.
Looking back now, Santana was primed to regress and Rosario might be in the same situation. A sub-.280 on-base percentage at Double-A and above suggests that if he stops hitting like Santana did it will be a rough sophomore season for the 24-year old Puerto Rican. The Twins need Eddie Rosario working on his plate discipline and pitch recognition skills this winter. If those things happen, he may very well continue producing at a high level. If not, the regression to the norm could be quite painful for the Twins and their young outfielder.