What’s Wilin Rosario’s Deal? A Perspective

Is Wilin Rosario the high-upside player he seemed to be a couple of years ago (and appeared to remain coming into this season)? Is he just on the wrong side of some bad platoon splits these days (and perhaps screwed for eternity)?

A reader asked questions like these in a comment on a recent podcast, and we discussed them in a subsequent pod. I think the reader did well to get at the heart of the matter. (I added the “screwed for eternity” part.)

The player has a lot potential value because he has a lot of power, even if it’s not reflected in his home run total. The batting average (.245) this season has been disappointing, naturally. Brett Talley’s survey of “The Best Fantasy Hitters of the Past Calendar Year” doesn’t do enough to console 2014 Rosario owners, especially those in redrafters or those who’ve experienced only these last nearly three months.

Talley did point to something that kind of disturbed me: Rosario’s availability. He’s owned in 88% of CBS leagues. In, Yahoo!, it’s 76%; ESPN, 70.6%. I think I have a rough idea of the percentage of leagues out there that contain 10 teams or fewer and require only one catcher. It’s more than I thought. Someone has scrambled to correct his or her haste or is benefiting from someone else’s thanks to Rosario’s recent performance.

At any rate, Rosario, 25, has struck out less often overall this season (20.3%, as opposed to his rates of around 23% of the past two campaigns). But he exhibited troubling chase rates before this year (41.4% last year, 38.4% in 2012). There has been enough to suggest that he’s not the most disciplined of hitters.

Handedness BB% K% AVG OBP SLG ISO BABIP LD% GB% FB%
2012 vs LHP 5.1% 17.8% .348 .381 .759 .411 .325 16.5% 48.4% 35.2%
2013 vs LHP 5.1% 17.4% .323 .355 .546 .223 .350 21.5% 44.9% 33.6%
2014 vs LHP 3.8% 20.8% .314 .340 .706 .392 .314 20.0% 45.0% 35.0%

The characteristics aren’t glaringly different depending on which handedness he faces, however, unlike what one might imagine. What’s different is the quality of his contact, it seems, particularly this year.

Handedness BB% K% AVG OBP SLG ISO BABIP LD% GB% FB%
2012 vs RHP 6.2% 25.3% .239 .286 .440 .201 .276 17.6% 45.2% 37.1%
2013 vs RHP 2.4% 25.9% .279 .299 .461 .182 .341 23.5% 39.3% 37.2%
2014 vs RHP 5.6% 20.1% .218 .257 .338 .120 .250 12.1% 55.1% 32.7%

His outcomes are changing to correspond with some other indicators. Rosario has hit ground balls more often (52.4%) and line drives (14.3%) and fly balls (33.3%) a little less often against righties. Things like that happen to your batted balls when pitchers know your weaknesses and attack them more often. Perhaps there’s been a change in his swing plane, and that could be bad, but it would then also be fixable, quite likely.

I think he’s still pretty likely to exceed 20 home runs (and could push 25), barring an injury, and he should hit .240 or better in the process. Prior to the beginning of the season, if you’d told me that Rosario would finish with a .250 average, 22 home runs and 66 RBIs, then I’d have told you that I’d gladly be selecting him within the first 100 picks of a two-catcher mixed league.

I don’t see any reason to think that those kinds of numbers aren’t well within his sights. There just isn’t a lot of positive value at catcher, compared to what’s available at other positions. But there’s plenty of negative value at it, and because of that, Rosario is probably still kind of a standout.

At this point, I’d guess that it’s about adaptation for him. This is an opportunity to find out what future projections for Rosario will look like as well, based on his response to some adversity. It doesn’t hurt that he’ll get to make his adjustments in the confines of Coors Field. Yay.

Some indicators could represent reasons to be hopeful as much as others give us reasons to doubt. Both can be a little misleading if we simply assume that correlations will hold true in a particular case. That may not help you, of course.

Still, I think it’s beneficial to view a projection not as, say, a target but as a point, albeit one you consider probable, in a range of outcomes. I adopted that lens after I’d had the chance to work and become familiar with Baseball HQ and Ron Shandler a couple of times a year. Information we don’t have affects a probable outcome, let alone an entire range of them, and that’s especially true of young players. This is why we use indicators that correlate with different types of outcomes and call it predictive. We then seek information that helps us to understand why an outcome falls outside the range or even becomes an exception. It may prove to be an exception, or it may lead to new rules. Is it fortunate or unfortunate that it’s an imperfect process? It depends on how you look at it and what you hope or expect to achieve. I’m not a wizard with statistics, I freely admit, but I have this philosophy, and I’m thankful to learn from others who are kind of wizards with statistics.

I initially thought of that last graf as a side note, but I realized afterward that it became the point of this particular entry.

Most people seem to dislike statements like these. It’s much more understandable from consumers who have raised expectations because of the purpose of the source of the information they consume. It’s harder work to accept that as a response in an arena in which being right is so essential to victory. But I think that, because it’s harder work to digest under such conditions, it’s even more beneficial to do so in preparation for them. I became much better at fantasy baseball, for instance, when I did.

Anyway, as far as Rosario is concerned, he’ll be fine. I think. Hell, it’s quite possible that I just missed something.




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Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He played in both Tout Wars and LABR from 2010 through 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.


9 Responses to “What’s Wilin Rosario’s Deal? A Perspective”

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  1. Ty Wiggington says:

    Killing me in an OBP-league.

    .284 OBP…EWWWW.

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    • stuck in a slump says:

      I hope that you didn’t take him too high, he was never going to be much beyond an average C in an OBP league. There was just no way that he’d keep his .344 BABIP and he’s never been one to walk.

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  2. Miggy Banks says:

    The thing about Rosario that’s annoying the hell out of me is his irregularity in playing time. I’m actually fine with his performance (didn’t expect a huge batting average), but all the buzz out of spring camp was that he would play first base on his rest days in order to keep his bat in the lineup. Instead, he’s in a platoon (or has a virus or whatever) and only playing in three games a week.

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  3. ace_hunter1982 says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Glad my question stirred something up. Thanks for the good analysis on both him and Norris. I am in 100% agreement with the point on a range of outcomes tidbit.

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  4. Paul says:

    Great analysis, thanks. Second-ing Ty’s comment – in a league with both OBP and OPS, is it time to trade/drop him and grab any of Ramos/Norris/Ruiz off waivers? Love Rosario but the league format really seems to be punishing his play style.

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    • Nicholas Minnix says:

      Late reply, but Norris is the only viable alternative there if it’s still even an option. In a league where SLG makes up part of one of those two categories, I’d still be cautiously optimistic.

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  5. eric says:

    my point doesn’t really touch on his offensive & fantasy contributions, but he is generally regarded as a notoriously poor pitch framer. that may address baby bull’s playing time issues and future projectability in coors. it was well reported they chased a few free agent catchers last offseason.

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  6. Joebrady says:

    This article raises enough of a question on his splits to make me think of adding him as a platoon partner for Mauer. Rosario’s home OPS v lefties must be huge. That’s probably only ~ 27 games a year, but I might already need to add a second catcher since Mauer is starting to be benched occasionally.

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