Three weeks ago, an article was published at this site comparing Amed Rosario to other young shortstops. Gus identified Xander Bogaerts as a potential comp for Rosario, which would be a wonderful thing if it turned out to be the case. Bogaerts hits for average, is willing to take a walk and the last two years his ISO has been over .200 – which is a good total for anyone and outstanding for a young shortstop.
This is another look at comps for Rosario. The guidelines are as follows: Must have accumulated at least 1,000 PA in the majors by their age-23 season, played at least 80% of their games at shortstop and produced at least a 90 OPS+ in their career to that age. Rosario is at the low end of that spectrum in the offensive parts, as he has 1,417 PA and a 93 OPS+ thru his age 23 season.
Baseball-Reference shows just 35 shortstops to meet the criteria listed above in baseball history. Rosario ranks 24th in PA and tied for 33rd in OPS+. Bogaerts makes the list, too, although he’s 11th in PA (2,017) and tied for 17th in OPS+ (101) thru his age-23 season.
Let’s look at the guys on the list who finished their age-23 season with a lifetime OPS+ in the 90-99 range. Furthermore, let’s limit it to guys who’ve played since the end of World War II, eliminating those who played in the era before integration. That leaves us eight players as potential comps for Rosario. Let’s check what those eight guys did, both in their age-24 season and the rest of their time in the majors. The top line next to their name will include their PA and OPS+ thru their age-23 season.
Leo Cardenas – 1016 PA, 97 OPS+
His early career OPS+ was driven by a fantastic age-22 season, when Cardenas put up a 119 OPS+ in 216 PA. That got him a full-time gig the following year, where he posted a solid 98 OPS+ in 647 PA. In his age-24 season, Cardenas had the worst year he would ever have in the majors in a season with at least 300 PA, as he managed just a 69 OPS+ in 1963. Cardenas would rebound and play in the majors thru the 1975 season, finishing with a lifetime 88 OPS+ in 7,402 PA.
Starlin Castro – 2617 PA, 96 OPS+
His story is still being written, as he signed with the Nationals as a free agent and is expected to be the team’s starting second baseman. Originally a member of the Cubs, Castro led the NL in ABs three straight seasons from age 21-23. But his age-23 season was his worst to date. Castro rebounded at age 24, putting up a career-best 115 OPS+ in 569 PA. But his career has been up and down since then, with yearly OPS+ numbers ranging from 84-106. Thru the 2019 season, Castro has a 98 OPS+ in 6,170 games.
Troy Tulowitzki – 1211 PA, 96 OPS+
Like Cardenas, Tulowitzki made this list on the strength of his age-22 season, when he put up a 109 OPS+ in 682 PA. He was unable to match either number the following season, as injuries limited Tulowitzki to 421 PA and an 85 OPS+. But starting with his age-24 season, Tulowitzki put up a streak where five times in six years where he produced at least a 130 OPS+. The only year he didn’t reach that mark was 2012, when injuries limited him to 47 games. Tulowitzki played five games with the Yankees in 2019 and retired from the game in July. He finished his career with 5,415 PA and a 118 OPS+.
Jose Reyes – 1957 PA, 95 OPS+
He had his breakout season at age 23, when he posted a 115 OPS+. Reyes took a slight step back at age 24, with a 102 OPS+. Those two years were the start of nine straight seasons with an OPS+ in triple digits. Six of those were in the 102-113 range. Of course, we all remember Reyes’ magical 2011 season, the one where he put up a 144 OPS+ in his final season as a Met. The best he ever did in another uniform was the 113 he posted in 2013 with the Blue Jays. Reyes finished his career with 8,240 PA and a 103 OPS+.
Alan Trammell – 2187 PA, 94 OPS+
Like Tulowitzki and Cardenas before him, Trammell had a big age-22 season, with a 113 OPS+. The next year was the strike-shortened 1981 season and while his numbers took a hit, Trammell still garnered some down ballot MVP support. In his age-24 season, Trammell played in 157 games and recorded a 97 OPS+. He followed that up with back-to-back seasons with OPS+ totals in the 130s, a start of 11 straight years where he posted an OPS+ of at least 114 eight times. Trammell finished his career with 9,376 PA and a 110 OPS+.
Chris Speier – 1945 PA, 94 OPS+
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but Speier made the list thanks to a standout age-22 season, when he notched a 115 OPS+. He fell to an 88 the next year and in his age-24 season, he rebounded slightly to a 92 mark. Speier ended up playing forever but only twice more in his career did he reach a triple-figure OPS+. His lifetime totals were 8,155 PA and an 88 OPS+
Ron Hansen – 1240 PA, 94 OPS+
At 6’3, Hansen was one of the first “big” shortstops. Injuries delayed his MLB debut and followed him throughout his career. He put up a 111 OPS+ in 153 games at age 22, a season he made the All-Star team and was Rookie of the Year. But he only reached triple digits in the category two more times in his career, with one of those coming in a part-time role. In his age-24 season, Hansen was limited to 71 games and a 52 OPS+. He finished his career with 4,964 PA and a 92 OPS+.
Andujar Cedeno – 1079 PA, 90 OPS+
In a rarity for this list, Cedeno had his career-year at age 23, when he put up a 107 OPS+ in 149 games. His age-24 season was the strike-shortened 1994 and he had a good year with a 100 OPS+ in 380 PA. But following that season, he was part of the huge package that Houston sent San Diego to acquire Derek Bell and Phil Plantier. Cedeno was terrible in two years with the Padres and was soon out of baseball. In 2,238 PA in the majors, he had a 78 OPS+.
Even with our comp list at just eight players, we see a wide variety of outcomes. There are guys like Tulowitzki and Trammell who you’d love to see Rosario have a similar-type career. And there are guys like Speier and Cedeno who show that a good start doesn’t indicate a great outcome.
In the article linked at the top, Gus goes into greater detail with some important metrics like swing percentage. Those definitely help in narrowing the comp group, but with a limited one to begin with, it really wasn’t practical here. Besides, those aren’t even available for the 20th Century ballplayers.
There are encouraging signs around Rosario and we can dream that everything comes together and he turns into Bogaerts. But in addition to guys like Speier and Cedeno, there are more modern players like Orlando Arcia, J.P. Crawford, Jurickson Profar, Addison Russell or Dansby Swanson, who were all highly-ranked prospects who’ve yet to have the big league success predicted for them.