Amed Rosario has made steady improvement since making his MLB debut back in 2017. That season he put up a 76 OPS+ in 170 PA. The following year his OPS+ rose to an 88 and last year it was 102, a really nice number for a 23-year-old shortstop. Over his final 372 PA, Rosario slashed .322/.353/.453, albeit with a .369 BABIP.
It’s a splendid thing to have a pre-arb shortsop hitting better than league average. Still, one can’t help shake the feeling that he’s been a disappointment to date. By the time he was called up to the majors, Rosario was generally considered one of the game’s top prospects. And while we’ve seen guys like Ronald Acuna Jr. (130 OPS+ in his first 1,202 PA) and Juan Soto (140 OPS+ in his first 1,153 PA) excel right away at an even younger age, we’ve had to live with some growing pains with Rosario.
Former manager Mickey Callaway, in his first camp with the Mets in 2018, compared Rosario to Francisco Lindor, who was coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons with the Indians, where Callaway was the pitching coach. Now with five years in the majors, Lindor has a lifetime 119 OPS+
Can Rosario continue his steady climb and catapult himself into Lindor territory in 2020? Let’s see what the computer models forecast. We have a new projection available at FanGraps, as THE BAT joins the others available. Here’s what they project:
ATC – 614 PA, .274/.313/.415, 14 HR, 64 RBIs
Marcel – 587 PA, .274/.316/.424, 14 HR, 61 RBIs
Steamer – 625 PA, .275/.318/.423, 15 HR, 68 RBIs
THE BAT – 658 PA, .269/.309/.399, 13 HR, 63 RBIs
ZiPS – 638 PA, .274/.313/.421, 14 HR, 64 RBIs
Regardless of whether you agree with the computer models or not, it’s safe to say that none of them are anticipating a breakout season for Rosario. Our new projection has the most bearish outlook for Rosario, yet it’s not like it’s far removed from the others. And not one of them has him matching last year’s .755 OPS, which seems almost unfathomable for a player who’s still in his pre-prime years.
On the strength of last year’s strong finish, Rosario ended 2019 with a .338 BABIP. The computer models all see a drop of 15-20 points in the category. And they don’t have him compensating with either an increase in BB% or a power surge. For what it’s worth, Rosario had a 4.0 BB% and a .131 ISO in his strong play to finish the season. So his closing stretch was caused mostly be that super-high BABIP.
In minor league stops where he had at least 200 PA, Rosario’s high in BB% was 8.0 and a .140 ISO was his best mark. Let’s compare that to Lindor. While in the minors, Lindor’s top BB% was 15.4 and a .118 ISO was his top mark, in seasons with at least 200 PA. Yet in his last three seasons in the majors, Lindor has posted the following ISOs: .232, .242 and .234 last season.
In his age-24 season – what Rosario will be in 2020 – Lindor saw his ISO jump from .134 to .232 – a leap of 98 points. It’s one tiny data point but it shows Rosario’s best chance for success. And it runs counter to what proponents of batting Rosario at the top of the order should want to hear. If Rosario is going to become an impact guy, he’s going to need to do it via slugging, not on-base percentage. It’s easier to develop power than it is to make big gains in getting on base via BB and HBP.
So, here’s my totally biased forecast for Rosario:
In my opinion, the breakout won’t happen in 2020, either. But he shows the power that will make it happen when the hits come.
You’ll have more credibility if you chime in now with what you think Rosario will do this year. Next up to undergo the forecast microscope will be Steven Matz.