YES WILIN, THAT IS OUR FACE WHEN WE WATCH YOUR DEFENSE AS WELL…AND EVEN THAT ABs IN 2014
As I write this on January 1, 2015 we have just learned that the Rockies have signed Nick Hundley, the mild hitting, good game calling and framing catcher, to a 2-year deal for a fairly small amount of $6 million, so the future of Wilin “Baby Bull” Rosario seems to be directed away from Colorado.
It shouldn’t have happened this way. Go back to 2011 here is how SB Nation’s Minor-league Ball reported on the Rockies #5 prospect:
5) Wilin Rosario, C, Grade B: This assumes that his knee is OK. Strong glove, tapped into his power this year.
Okay, I am like you, what does “strong glove” mean here? Maybe that it was too strong to hold a ball? Anyways, he was the #5 prospect at that time. The four men ahead of him: 1) Nolan Arenado, 2) Tyler Matzek, 3) Chad Bettis, 4) Kyle Parker (#6 was a guy named Juan Nicasio). That group should have formed the core of their team by 2015, and in fact it might be if Matzek follows up on the end of 2014, Arenado continues to progress, Parker finds a position and his swing and Bettis can become, well, something. But by 2012 you have to think that the leader of the pack was going to be Rosario. Okay, yes, the glove was horrendous, and his game calling still developing, but the bat and the arm, wow!
In the history of this franchise they have never developed a true top of the line catcher (the same can be said of 2B, though DJ has at least captured a gold glove). We all thought it had happened. A .270 hitter with 28 homers and he caught 32% of the runners trying to steal from him. We heard from everyone that he was a hard worker, that he would improve on the 21 passed balls (and 63 wild pitches). We were told that some of this might be rooted in his ongoing recovery from the injured knee while in the minors.
The team signed Vorvit to help in 2013, and well things did improve somewhat. Wilin only had 9 passed balls (and 47 wild pitches) while catching 32 more innings. Yes, the bat slumped some (not too unexpected, given that 2012 was the year the humidor died and that he had focused on his defense all winter. The batting average improved (to .292) but the power declined to 21 homers and the slugging went down .042. Okay, not the right direction but probably not the worse thing. The really good news is that in the first two years his splits home/road were pretty good (2012 H OPS .957 vs R OPS .722, 2013 H OPS .817 vs R OPS .785). Things looked like they were getting better, but, well, even as the PB/WP issues had improved the game calling and the all-new but hyper important pitch-framing seemed to be getting worse. The team once again stressed the need for improvement.
But then came Spring Training and in his last start before the season began issues arose between Jorge De La Rosa and Rosario (Yorvit had been considered DLR’s personal catcher in 2013, though Wilin caught him a number of times with good results). This carried forward to 2014’s opening game, with the no famous 5th inning meltdown. After the game Weiss stood behind Rosario but, well, you got the sense that this was trying to back-up the confidence of Rosario while also trying to get DLR to relax on the mound. Then in late April he along with the now-departed Josh Rutledge came down with a viral infection that seemed to zap Wilin of his strength, endurance, and focus. It caused Rosario to appear in the fewest games of his career, only 106 after 117 and 121 in the prior years.
Rosario never looked anything like the Baby Bull and a wrist injury in August did nothing to help. When he returned to the team after the 2nd DL stint he finally was healthy, and his offense finally returned to normal. Look at his month-by-month:
|April||.244 BA||.276 OBP||.690 OPS||3 HR|
|May||.191 BA||.235 OBP||.597 OPS||2 HR|
|June||.278 BA||.310 OBP||.803 OPS||3 HR|
|July||.225 BA||.267 OBP||.562 OPS||1 HR|
|August||.288 BA||.359 OBP||.754 OPS||1 HR|
|Sept||.392 BA||.415 OBP||1.082 OPS||3 HR|
While a lot of people are saying that Wilin is regressing at the plate, I don’t think that is the case at all. The months with the least performance – May and July, are the periods around his illness/recovery and his wrist issues begin to flare-up. When healthy in June and September (granted September numbers are always taken with caution), he hit like the Baby Bull. There is no reason to think he won’t be able to get back to something like a mid-point of his performance from 2012-2013.
But the fact remains his 2014 numbers were not exactly the stuff that brings back quality in terms of trade. Take a look at the core 2014 numbers:
|2014 Overall||410 PA||382 AB||25 2B||0 3B||13 HR||.267 BA||.305 OBP||.739 OPS||70K/23BB||93 OPS+|
|Home||217 PA||198 AB||17 2B||0 3B||7 HR||.343 BA||.387 OBP||.927 OPS||28K/16BB|
|Road||193 PA||184 AB||7 2B||0 3B||6 HR||.185 BA||.212 OBP||.533 OPS||42K/ 7BB|
||303 PA||281 AB||16 2B||0 3B||5 HR||.249 BA||.290 OBP||.650 OPS||56K/18BB|
||107 PA||101 AB||9 2B||0 3B||8 HR||.317 BA||.346 OBP||.949 OPS||14K/ 5BB|
|2O-RISP||54 PA||52 AB||2 2B||0 3B||2 HR||.192 BA||.222 OBP||.568 OPS||14K/ 2BB|
|Late and Close||77 PA||69 AB||3 2B||0 3B||2 HR||.261 BA||.325 OBP||.759 OPS||15K/ 7BB|
What these numbers reveal is:
- There seems to be a team-wide slump on the road. These numbers are actual close to another player who struggled with health and performance in 2014 – Carlos Gonzalez, and that is a huge problem.
- Wilin is still a very good bat against lefties, even in a down year. His career numbers against lefties are even better at .328/1.009, which means that if the team chose to retain Wilin he could be a nice fill-in on days when you want to run him out there at 1B for Morneau
- Like so many of the Rockies Wilin also struggled in those 2 out and RISP situations, something the team has to improve on to even consider challenging in 2015.
- Even in a bad year Wilin was still able to pull off a .739 OPS, which is no small thing for the catching position.
- The big question is whether or not Rosario can improve in any of the key catching defensive metrics. It certainly didn’t appear so in 2014, but again there were so many factors going on in 2014 – his illness, the wrist, the fifteen differnet starters, most without significant innings in their big league career as starters.
Home: B, as his offense was still a good contribution to the team’s overall success at home, but the team’s ERA at home when he caught isn’t exactly what you want it to be with your #1 catcher.
Road: F, his performance on the road makes DJ LeMahieu look like an MVP candidate. You cannot have the guy who you penciled in as your #6 place hitter and clean-up hitter when Tulo sits hit sub-.200 like he did on the road. You will accept that if the defense is great (See DJ), but not when your defense is well….Rosario’s defense.
The team has decided that Rosario is not their catcher of the present or the future (though still just 26 as he enters 2015). I still believe that he can be a serviceable catcher, at least servicible enough to role out there 4 days a week and maybe DH one time. The Rox are said to be holding out for a good haul on a trade for Wilin, and that makes a lot of sense when you think that this is a .785 OPS on the road even with the adjustments that all Rockies players have to make leaving Coors. Wilin is a very good major league hiter with over 1300 AB at the big league level, still only 26, and able to play (at least some) a non-offensive position.
If Rosario goes is traded and has success for his next team the Rockies will deeply regret the deal…unless they get a good haul from whomever the trade partner is.