As a unit in 2020, the Indians outfield combined for a slash line of .194/.270/.300 over 687 plate appearances. Compared to the rest of baseball, that gave Cleveland the lowest batting average in the American League. Furthermore, it was the second lowest in all of baseball ahead of only the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Additionally, power was something that the Indians outfield unit really struggled with. From a Isolated Power (ISO) perspective, Cleveland’s outfield had the lowest value of all 30 teams at .107. In total, Indians outfielders put up 11 home runs, 62 RBI, and had a 8.3% walk rate over the 60-game sample.
Based on those stats alone, it was fair to say that the Indians definitely needed to add offense to their team this offseason. Obviously, the Francisco Lindor blockbuster trade, which also included starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco, didn’t help in that department. However, it was a trade that had to be made given the circumstances from a financial aspect.
The Fit of Eddie Rosario
With Friday’s signing of Eddie Rosario, the outfield has taken a step forward compared to where it was. Rosario concluded the 2020 season with a slash line of .257/.316/.476 over 231 plate appearances or 57 games. In that span, the 29-year old had 54 hits, seven doubles, 13 home runs, 42 RBI, 19 walks, and 34 strikeouts.
Rosario did enough at the plate and in the field during 2019 and last season to earn All-Star votes. In 2019, he finished 18th overall in the American League Most Valuable Player Award vote. Likewise, last season he finished 17th overall.
Besides the offensive production, Rosario also fits well on the depth chart for the Cleveland Indians. His primary position is left field, but over his six-year big league career he also has experience playing in center and right field. That in and of itself will be extremely valuable for the Indians.
Prior to the Rosario acquisition, Cleveland had Franmil Reyes as their starting left fielder. Reyes is much more suited for the Designated Hitter position. Furthermore, the Indians had Oscar Mercado starting in centerfield which will likely still be the case. Meanwhile, Josh Naylor and Jordan Luplow would split duties in right field.
As stated before, Rosario’s primary position is in left field. With the arrangement mentioned above, he fits very well into the equation.
Experience Playing in the American League Central
Another clear positive about the Eddie Rosario acquisition for the Cleveland Indians is his familiarity playing in the American League Central. Rosario was originally drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins. Ever since making his debut in 2015, he played for the organization.
As a result, Rosario is very familiar with the landscape of the AL Central. Of the other four teams in the division outside of the Twins, Rosario had the most success at Progressive Field, which is of course home to the Indians. Since 2015, he has posted a career slash line of .353/.379/.653 with 60 hits, 11 home runs, and 25 RBI there.
Furthermore, over 301 plate appearances since 2015 against the Detroit Tigers, Rosario has had success. Over that sample, he posted a .804 OPS with 81 hits and 52 RBI.
Given that experience and familiarity, Rosario should do quite well with the Indians. In addition, he can provide some valuable hitting tips to the teams hitters about how to put up productive at bats in each of the parks.
Eddie Rosario Against Right-Handers
Finally, one other strongpoint about the Eddie Rosario acquisition is his ability to hit right-handed pitching. Over his career, Rosario has a lifetime slash line of .277/.312/.507 against righties. More specifically, last year he put up a .265 batting average along with a .882 OPS against right-handers.
As a team, the Cleveland Indians slashed .227/.321/.369 against righties in 2020. In that span, they had a .151 ISO value along with Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA) of -10.1. Obviously, that was one area of need for them going into this offseason.
With Eddie Rosario in the fold, he helps the Indians address that need to some degree.
In the end, the acquisition of Eddie Rosario should be a very good one for the Cleveland Indians. The Indians are only committed to him for one-year so if the fit is not right, they are not locked down for the next several seasons.
However, it’s a fair gamble for Cleveland to take considering how their offense especially the outfield unit performed at the plate this last season.
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