Image: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
2021 age: 25
Bats: Right; Throws: Right
2020 stats: 147 PA – .252/.272/.371 – 4 HR, 15 RBI – 75 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR
2020 in review: Rosario, building off a strong 2019 season, came into 2020 firmly entrenched as the New York Mets shortstop in his age 24 season. By September, top prospect Andres Gimenez started to grapple playing time away from Rosario at shortstop. In January of 2021 Gimenez and Rosario were both traded together to Cleveland for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. In spring training Gimenez impressed Cleveland and won the shortstop job. That has left Rosario with an experimental move to centerfield.
Offensive impact: In the minors, Rosario was always one of the youngest players at every level he played at and hit over .300 at many of his stops with power. In 2019 Rosario finally put a solid offensive season together, hitting .287/.323/.432 with 15 homers and 19 steals (99 wRC+). He hit for an average amount of power in the minors but it hasn’t shown up in the majors much. He’s had a manageable strikeout rate (20.8%) but his approach hasn’t been as good (4.3 BB%). In the minors he could be counted on to contribute double digit steals in addition to his higher averages.
Defensive impact: As a prospect Rosario was highly regarded defensively. In the majors at short he has been below average with the glove. Defensive metrics were split on his performance at short in 2020 with Statcasts’s Outs Above Average rating him at +2, But Fangraphs’ Defensive Runs Saved at -2 and he’s had negative values there his entire career at shortstop. Before 2020, Rosario was consistently below average in Outs Above Average. Now he’ll try his hand in centerfield, where his debut was rocky, but his last few games he’s looked a little more comfortable making the routine play, which is all Cleveland will be hoping for if they plan to use him in centerfield regularly.
Beyond the stats: Rosario has always had an aggressive approach at the plate. He makes enough contact to avoid damaging strikeout rates but he chases out of the zone at a 36.8% of the time and has a 51% swing percentage, both are above leave average marks. At age 25 after 1500 plate appearances, it doesn’t seem like his approach is likely to change. But his approach was still good enough to have a near league average batting line in 2019 and he only needed a .338 BABIP to carry it. It can work, but it makes the floor low. However, given Cleveland’s vast wasteland in centerfield, the 99 wRC+ mark Rosario had in 2019 would look elite out there.
2021 role: It’s a little complicated. He won’t get regular reps at shortstop, second or third base. The only way he’ll get regular at bats and playing time is centerfield. He could go back to the minors with two options left to work on his defense. Or Cleveland could be less than pleased with Oscar Mercado, Bradley Zimmer and give Rosario enough playing time to figure it out. If he does, he could see a platoon with Zimmer or Ben Gamel in center and hit in the bottom of the lineup.
Fantasy impact: So far in his career Rosario has only ever contributed in steals, and in 2019, he added some modest power and a better batting average. If he can repeat his 2019 offensive performance and have eligibility in the outfield and shortstop, he can fill a UT, MI, or OF spot on your roster with steals and homers. How the transition to centerfield could have an impact on his bat, though it’s hard to imagine his offense being bad as 2020. At age 24 he put that batting lineup and there’s enough hope to think that the 2020 season was just a fluke or step back for him considering his youth and there were no fluky parts to his offensive breakout and he also had a good minor league track record.