Wilin Rosario is unquestionably a valuable player. He brings serious pop from the right side of the plate and has put up big time production early in his career. In his first two full seasons, he has thumped a total of 49 home runs and 150 RBI.
Here you have a homegrown player, a guy whom the Rockies steadfastly refused to trade for years, a guy they cited when discussing their hopes for the future, and a guy around whom they built their lineup. He has responded with two seasons of big league production, accompanied by a somewhat surprising ability to make adjustments. He even has a cool nickname, one that started as “Baby Bull” and has since been parsed down to “the Bull.”
For a franchise that has struggled to develop talent in recent seasons, that sounds like a resounding success. So what’s the problem?
His defense. His atrocious, awful defense.
2012 was the flaming bag of you-know-what for Rosario: as has been well documented by now, he led all of baseball with an astounding 21 passed balls. He also committed 13 errors. So yes, his performance in 2013 was better (nine passed balls and nine errors), but he was still among the worst defensive catchers in all of baseball. At this point it’s a matter of what you believe from these two options:
- Rosario is a young catcher who is slowly improving. He will continue to work hard and be even better next year.
- Improvement was inevitable in 2013 because 2012, in all of its horrors, was an outlier. If he hadn’t improved on that campaign, the Rockies wouldn’t have finished the season with him at catcher. That doesn’t mean he’s the answer back there.
We know which of these the Rockies believe. They aggressively pushed to sign veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz, and if it was at all realistic they would pursue free agent Brian McCann. Pending another development this off-season, they will enter 2014 with the Bull as their starting catcher. It appears, however, that their enthusiasm about that plan is lukewarm at best.
That’s the cloud that lingers for Rosario. He appears to be a star in the making at the plate, but it’s hard to sign off on his 2013 season as a success with the team’s understandable doubt about him as a viable catcher. If you’re asking me to grade his season, I’m going in the B-/C+ range, because it feels like this issue is holding him and the team back just a little bit. This guy is one of your best prospects of the last ten years; he seems to have had his break-out at the Major League level, and yet you just tried to sign a replacement for his everyday position last year. I’m not saying I blame the Rockies. I’m just pointing out the fact that the whole situation feels a little off.
Until that is resolved, we have no choice but to temper our enthusiasm about Rosario as a foundation-type player for this franchise.