SS, Brooklyn Cyclones (SS-A)
Height, weight: 6'2", 170
Age (2014 season age): 18
Acquired: IFA, 2012 ($1,750,000)
Date(s) seen: vs. Staten Island, 6/27/14; @ Connecticut, 7/12/14-7/13/14: 2-12, 2B, R, BB, K
2014 so far:
A: 31 PA, .133/.161/.300, 11 K/1 BB
SS-A: 114 PA, .260/.330/.320 18 K/10 BB
The short of it
Well I'm still not that enamored with Amed Rosario, but he has improved his swing and started to translate some of his shortstop tools into in-game skills in 2014.
The long of it
I suppose I was one of the few naysayers on Rosario in 2013. He slotted into both Baseball America's and Baseball Prospectus' Top 10 Mets prospects with plenty of room to spare, while I was much more measured in my views on the 17-year-old, seeing an extremely risky player without particularly loud tools at the end of the rainbow. But a year can be an awfully long time, developmentally speaking, in the career of an 18-year-old baseball player, and Rosario has begun to make some strides in turning his raw tools into in-game skills.
Rosario is physically stronger than he was in 2013, especially in the upper body, though I wonder how much more he will really be able to add to his frame. He's already just an average runner, and if he does add more mass it may force him off down the defensive spectrum in the field. The conundrum here is that he does still need to add more strength to help his offensive game at the plate. He has cut down on the swing length and quieted his leg kick a bit, which is good, but he's not physically strong enough to generate much loud contact with just his quick wrists. The two best swings I saw from him across the three looks were when he turned on a low 90s inside fastball and lined one right at the Staten Island left fielder, and when he sent a 94 mph fastball from the Connecticut starter back up the box. So he does have the bat speed to handle above-average fastball velocity, but if that is going to translate into extra-base hits and home runs, he still needs to get stronger.
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Rosario's approach is improving as well, but he still struggles mightily with spin. He never seems to be sure about pulling the trigger, and will often end up sort of starting to load and then just let's the bat go limp in one hand as he stares the pitch into the catcher's glove. When he does offer at breaking balls, it is not pretty. He's only 18, but this looks more like a pitch recognition issue than an approach issue, which is worrisome. This also can affect him against fastballs. If he doesn't pick them up quickly enough, he will be late, and while he has the bat speed to catch up and poke them the other way, those swings lack the same authority as the ones I described above. If you are feeling optimistic, you can project average to solid-average power here as he adds strength, but I wonder if he will ever show much bat-to-ball ability. He doesn't really seem to be an instinctual hitter yet, and even when he's on fastballs, the swing is still very mechanical.
At shortstop, however, Rosario has shown clearer improvements. He is much more comfortable with the speed of the game this year. His hands are softer, his actions crisper. He has enough arm for short, and made strong throws from the hole and while almost getting upended on a double play turn. These aren't special shortstop tools, but it looks like he could play the position at the highest level if thebody cooperates. Again, he is only an average runner, and he may add mass as he ages, but I am more comfortable projecting him as a major league shortstop than I was last Summer.
So we have a prospect (and to be clear, he is a prospect) with just a short-season resume, real questions about his hit tool, and without obviously above-average physical tools for shortstop. That is a very risky prospect. If you read my Molina report, or listen to the podcast, you know that I am not particularly averse to an extreme risk profile, but I don't see the same huge payoff here with Rosario if he ends up reaching my optimistic projection.
The optimistic projection
Solid, everyday shortstop who has a bit of pop to make up for low batting averages.
The pessimistic projection
The swing-and-miss against spin derails Rosario somewhere around the Eastern League.
What to look for during the rest of the 2014 season
It's a tough ask of an 18-year-old to make vast improvements over six weeks, but if you want to stretch this out to include 2015 as well, can Rosario make strides against the below-average breakers in the low minors? And does he at least start to turn that bat speed into in-game pop?