Image: USA Today
2021 age: 29
Bats: Left; Throws: Right
Contract: 1-yr/$8 million
2020 stats: 231 PA – .257/.316/.476 – 13 HR 42 SB, 3 SB – 110 wRC+, 0.9 fWAR
2020 in review: For the fourth straight season Rosario posted an above average league batting line as an outfielder, a 110 wRC+ mark in Minnesota. For the second straight year he kept his career low strikeout rate (14.7%) and upped his walk rate for the first time (8.2%). He did post his lowest slugging percentage of those last four years, but he was still on pace for over 30 homers and 100 RBI once again.
Offensive impact: From 2017-2019 Rosario averaged 27 homers and 88 RBI and a 111 wRC+ mark. He’s a consistent offensive performer who hits for power, drives in runs and the only thing he hadn’t done until 2020 was walk much. From 2017-2019 his walk rate between 3% and 5%. As a left hander, Rosario has a 113 wRC+ mark against right handers and 88 vs. left handed pitching. While 88 is still 12% below league average, it’s still a playable mark given his .710 OPS. He can hit in the middle of the lineup everyday and post consistent above average offensive numbers.
Defensive impact: Defense isn’t an area Rosario has provided much help for a team. In 2019 he had a -19 Outs Above Average per Statcast in left field. In 2018 in all outfield spots he finished with an even 0. Last year he was a -1, so perhaps he’s improving. He had five outfield assists last year, eight in 2019 and nine in 2017, so his throwing arm has been an asset in his defense. His UZR/150 last year was 3.6 so it was a good defensive season for Rosario. Now he’ll have to adjust to playing in front of Cleveland’s big left field wall 81 times a year instead of nine.
Beyond the stats: What might have helped Rosario’s walk rate is that his chase rate dropped from 41% to 39%. He was a more passive hitter overall, taking his swing rate from 59% to 51% and dropping his first pitch swing rate from 42% to 33%. Those are real substantial changes that could point to his walk rate being sustainable and raising his offensive contributions. However, Rosario has always been good at making contact on pitches out of the zone and hitting them for home runs. Changing who he is as a hitter too much could impact his best attributes, which is hitting for power.
2021 role: For the first time in two years since Michael Brantley was allowed to walk as a free agent, Cleveland will have an everyday outfielder it can plug into the lineup and produce capably and be a middle of the order bat. He should bat anywhere between third and fifth and play against right handers and left handers, counted on to drive in runs.
Fantasy impact: He’s not a first tier type outfielder, but in all regular fantasy leagues Rosario will give you reliable power numbers without hurting your rate stats. How Cleveland’s lineup comes together, his RBI opportunities could be limited as their lineup isnt as good as Minnesota’s has been over the last few years. Still, a fourth or bench outfield spot on your fantasy roster is perfect for Rosario.