Fantasy Baseball Catcher Profiles: Wilin Rosario

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

After a fourth place finish in NL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2012, Wilin Rosario had a strong sophomore season, producing the following numbers.

H/AB

   R

  HR

   RBI

   SB

    AVG/OBP/SLG

131/449    63    21      79      4    .292/.315/.486

Now, the Colorado catcher won’t turn 25 until February, and he certainly plays very raw. But what does that mean when taking an early shot at forecasting 2014?

 

What I like:

Well, I’ll keep this simple and give you two words: COORS FIELD.

Okay, I’ll give you more than that, but it the same huge edge that any Rockies hitter has and has had since they became a franchise. Although the NL West has a string of good pitchers, and playing 27-30 combined road games in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego can be rough on a hitter, getting to play half of your games at the ultimate hitter’s paradise is a huge advantage.

But while Coors is an advantage, it’s not as though Rosario is terrible away from Denver. Quite the opposite.

 

   H/AB

   R

   HR

   RBI

   SB

   AVG/OBP/SLG

Home

   66/225    42    10    47    2    .293/.319/.498

Road

   65/224    21    11    32    2    .290/.312/.473

What does that mean for fantasy? Well, in a roto league, not much. There, the stats all add up and go the same final pool. But let’s say you’re in a head-to-head league. We’ll just use batting average for the sake of this example.

  • Week 1 (Home): 7/21 – .333 average
  • Week 2 (Away): 5/21 – .238 average

In a roto league, that’s a .286 average over a two-week window, which is roughly the kind of hitter that Rosario was in 2013. But in a h2h league, you have to find a way to overcome a sub .240 average from one of your players, which is a little tougher. We’re talking about two hits, which doesn’t seem like that much in a given week, but it makes a tremendous difference.

Now, I won’t sit here and tell you that I can guarantee this will happen again. What I can tell you is that it’s good to see.

Rosario passes the eye test, which is admittedly going the way of the dinosaur in the era of advanced metrics, hot/cold sheets, and all that other stuff. But basically what it means is that when I look at this guy’s swing, I come to a realization: This dude can hit.

I have a distinct memory of watching him last season. A 90-plus MPH fastball was about eye-height. He not only swung at it and got a hit, but he hit the ball over the fence, to deep right-center field. You may be thinking that the altitude had something to do with it. Nope, it was in San Francisco, probably the best pitcher’s park in the league.

It’s just something you look at and say wow. That if he can play anything close to a full slate of games, you can never imagine Rosario not topping 20 homers in a bad year. The fact that he put it together with a fine average in 2013 and hit away from Coors gives me plenty of reason to be hopeful.

 

What I don’t like:

While I do like seeing guys make some of the modern stat-crunchers shake their collective heads, Rosario doesn’t exactly excel in a lot of advanced stats, and you can’t ignore that. Especially since you don’t need to go all that advanced to see where Rosario needs work. I’m sure just about all of you guys know what OBP is. If you don’t, read Clave’s explanation and the rest of his Simple Sabermetrics series.

Back to Rosario.

  • In 2012, he hit .270 with a .312 OBP.
  • In 2013, he hit .292 with a .315 OBP.

I will say that if I was Walt Weiss, I’d want a guy like Rosario up there swinging the bat, especially in Colorado. Like any catcher, he’s not a base stealer, and it’s not that easy to move him around the bases. I want him up there trying to drive the ball into the gaps or over the fence.

But the fact remains: If you’re not getting on base, you’re not scoring runs. Now, if he had an OBP at around .340 or above, this wouldn’t concern me so much. But the fact that he’s below .320 tells me that he’s swinging at bad pitches (109 strikeouts in 121 games tells me something similar) which will hinder his ability to drive the ball. Yes, he hits with a lot of power and can hit a bad pitch out, but it’s generally not sustainable, especially for a catcher in the late season as the bat speed slows.

Something else bothers me, although it’s not exactly in Rosario’s control. If you get 140 games out of  Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Michael Cuddyer, consider it a victory. Actually, getting 130 games from them is no small deal. Catchers generally miss a lot of games as it is, but it’s hard to expect big RBI numbers from a guy who will frequently be missing some of his best ducks on the pond.

Something else that I can’t help but notice from the above home/road splits is that his runs and RBI totals were much better at Coors Field. So, while he may not struggle that much away from Coors, those around him certainly do.

Now, the only catchers to drive in more than Rosario’s 79 were Mike Napoli (92), Victor Martinez (83), and Jonathan Lucroy (82). Napoli and Martinez will lose catcher eligibility in 2014, so even if a few other guys (Buster Posey, Yadier Molina) join the RBI party again in 2014, you’re still looking at a Top-5 power catcher, like with room to spare. But the threat of lost RBI looms large when looking at his overall value.

 

The (Early) Final Verdict for 2014:

On the ESPN player rater for standard leagues, Rosario was the second-highest ranked catcher in 2013, and the sixth-highest in 2012. He was 102nd on the overall list, which would have him somewhere around the 8th round in a 12-team league, which is high.

In reality, I can’t rank him ahead of Posey or Molina heading into 2014. Their track record is just too extensive to ignore. But outside of them and possibly Carlos Santana and Joe Mauer, who’s better? Right now, I put Rosario as the third ranked catcher heading in to 2014. Eventually, his free-swinging nature will catch up to him, but that usually comes with a slowed down bat speed, which isn’t generally a huge concern for someone at 25.

Topics: Catcher, Colorado Rockies, Wilin Rosario

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