The hype has been building for years, and the dreams of Twins fans have grown with it. And on Monday, the Twins finally decided the time is right: Their much-discussed outfield prospect is headed to Minnesota.
No, not that one.
Eddie Rosario was summoned to the major leagues Monday when Oswaldo Arcia was placed on the disabled list because of a sore right hip. And if he’s not quite the prospect that Byron Buxton is, Rosario at least figures to inhabit the same Target Field outfield someday, according to most projections.
“Ever since people laid eyes on him back in extended spring training [in 2010], he just gets your attention because he has the ability to square up the ball,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor, who spent “a ton” of time coaching Rosario in his former role as roving instructor. “Hitting was always the main thing that you looked at, but he runs well enough, he runs the bases aggressively, and certainly he can play defense. So I’ve been around him enough to know that for that kid, it’s just been a matter of him learning to apply himself a little bit more consistently, and I think he’s been doing that.”
Maybe so, but the numbers haven’t been flashy for a couple of years now, ever since Rosario served a 50-game suspension last spring for testing positive for marijuana. He hit .243 in 2014 at Class A and AA, and he was at .242 this year at Class AAA Rochester, with three home runs, 12 RBI and 17 strikeouts in 23 games.
Still, he has ranked as high as third on Baseball America’s annual top-10 list of Twins prospects, a list he has made four consecutive times, including 10th this spring.
There was some debate among Twins decisionmakers about whom to call up when Arcia’s injury became clear, with big-league veterans Aaron Hicks (.289 with 10 extra-base hits at Rochester) and Josmil Pinto (.299) among the candidates. (Buxton, despite a 14-for-29 week at Class AA Chattanooga that earned him player of the week honors in the Southern League, was not considered, Molitor said.)
In the end, the Twins chose Rosario because he more easily replaces Arcia in left field, and because the promotion is likely to last only for 15 days — “though obviously that can change,” Molitor said — until Arcia returns. But mostly, Molitor suggested, Rosario was the choice because perhaps it’s time the 23-year-old Puerto Rican got a look at where he’s supposed to be headed.
“I wanted to give Eddie an opportunity to get up here,” Molitor said of Rosario, who showed up at Target Field in the middle of Monday’s 8-7 victory over Oakland. “I have confidence with him against lefthanded pitching, and we’re going to see a couple in this series. I want to get him in there as much as we can.”
Rosario’s career appeared derailed by the drug suspension and subsequent mediocre showing last season, but he re-established himself with a strong showing at the Arizona Fall League last October, batting .330 and going 4-for-5 in the championship game.
“This guy can hit,” Mike Radcliff, Twins vice president of player personnel, said in February. “Not just hit, but have a real impact, even against lefties — it’s just a great swing. … He’s got a little swagger. He knows he can hit anybody. That’s how he used to walk up to the plate, but he lost that for a while.”
The Twins tried to convert Rosario to second base earlier in his career, before the emergence of Brian Dozier in the majors. “I’m one of the many people who tried to help him make the transition to second base,” Molitor said wryly. “I didn’t do very well.” But he is considered an above-average fielder in the outfield, though more likely a corner position, Molitor said. Rosario also possesses a strong arm.
“That arm stuck out,” Twins outfielder Shane Robinson said. “We threw a lot in the spring. I know my arm was kind of aching from throwing so much, and his was fine.”