Amed Rosario presents a difficult decision for the Guardians this offseason. He’s not an elite player by any means, but he’s an elite Dude in the clubhouse at a premium position that the Guardians are loaded at in the minors. As dead-on average as a player can be, but with enough sway in the clubhouse that it wasn’t worth disrupting it to trade him at the deadline.
Listening to players talk about him it’s clear he set the table for the team emotionally and physically, even if he didn’t always get it done at the plate. He was the guy leading the charge for this scrappy bunch of young players to be aggressive on the bases and he’s always one of their loudest cheerleaders in the dugout.
José Ramírez was so adamant about Rosario’s importance to the team that he requested — live after a game — that the Guardians extend him. He even jokingly said he would pay for the extension from his own contract, although I question how much of that was a joke. I bet he was at least 5% serious if it came down to it.
There’s obviously more to baseball than hitting a ball real good, and Rosario has those qualities in spades. But what do you do with a player like that who has potentially better players on the way behind him? It’s that conundrum that landed him as our No. 7 MVP this season, despite a 103 wRC+ and not-great marks as a defensive shortstop.
Rosario finished the year with a career-high 670 plate appearances, mostly due to batting second from May 13 through the end of the season. He started this year as he ended the last — without a real position, and without a real spot in the order. But he settled into shortstop pretty quickly, and not long after that, he cemented himself as the No. 2 hitter in the lineup between Steven Kwan and his buddy José.
Overall, Rosario had a .283/.312/.403 slash with 11 home runs and 18 stolen bases. He was the quintessential 2022 Guardians batter — hardly any solid contact, but enough hits in the right places that he finished with an expected batting average in the 89th percentile. While he didn’t pull the ball much more than usual, it seems like more than ever his pulled balls ended up on the ground while he got more hits to the outfield going the other way. His spray chart lays it out nicely.
One reason that Amed’s success this season doesn’t show up in his stat line is the way that he succeeded. It wasn’t always getting big hits, or even getting hits at all. But the pressure he put on pitchers and fielders with speed alone was enough to get him on base. Opposing defenses always looked uncomfortable playing against the Guardians, especially Rosario, because there was never a ball hit where he wasn’t flying out of the box.
Take this play on April 21 against the White Sox, for example. Tim Anderson was in the midst of a bad series of defense against the Guardians, and Amed took advantage of it. A routine dribbler to short, Anderson fields it, looks to first base like he’s going to lob an easy out, and Rosario is already more than halfway to the bag. You can even see Anderson try to speed himself up when he finally notices Rosario flying down the line. The result is a bad throw on what would have been an easy out against almost every other batter.
This was well before the Guardians had established their identity as a speedy, annoying team. Rosario was doing it from the get-go and everyone else caught on.
Unsurprisingly, Rosario finished in the 96th percentile in sprint speed, according to Baseball Savant. He also finished as one of the worst defenders by outs above average — also not really a surprise. On the other hand, ultimate zone rating loved Rosario’s defense and had him as the leading shortstop at 9.4 UZR. It makes sense when you think about it — UZR measures range, and no one is going to say that Rosario can’t get to a ball with the best of them. We know he’s incredibly fast and he has good reflexes, it’s just everything else about fielding the shortstop position where he falls a bit short. As I mentioned above, outs above average — a more comprehensive defensive stat that is better in one-year sample sizes — has him as the third-worst shortstop in baseball.
All of this brings me back to the opening question — what do you do with Rosario? For better or worse, the Guardians have shown that they have no trouble making trades that might upset fans in the short term if it means long-term success. But are they willing to make a trade that might rock the clubhouse? I think right now the answer is to keep him. His value in the clubhouse is not going to translate to other teams on paper, so you’re looking at a return equal to a league-average player. And what he brings to the clubhouse is well above league average. Coupled with the fact that the prospects who could replace him — Gabriel Arias, Tyler Freeman, Brayan Rocchio, Jose Tena, among others — are hardly finished products and I think the Guardians will sleep just fine at night knowing he’s still on the roster through at least his final year of team control in 2023.
Amed Rosario’s 2022 Stats
Total MVP points: 16
First-place MVP votes: 0
We’re reviewing (almost) all the Guardians players from 2022 now through November, starting with the top-10 MVPs as voted on by eight Covering the Corner staff members. Players were awarded points based on their one through 10 individual rankings and were ranked as such. You can find all the Year in Review posts here.