In 2011, Miguel Sano enjoyed a breakout season in Elizabethton, launching 20 homers in just 66 games for the Twins' advanced rookie-league affiliate. Because that dazzling performance served as a springboard for the young slugger, who has since graduated to elite prospect status, it can be easy to forget that Sano didn't even lead his team in home runs that year. No, that would be Eddie Rosario, who went deep 21 times and posted a 1.068 OPS for E-town -- one of the best offensive seasons ever assembled in the Appalachian League.
While he has never garnered the same massive hype as Sano, Rosario has managed to stay on the same aggressive promotion schedule and has hit at every level. If he's not as close to the majors as Sano, who could be up next month
, he's certainly not far behind.
Following his huge season in Elizabethton, Rosario was moved from center field to second base, as the Twins hoped to shift some of their minor-league strength from the outfield to the infield. Though his adaptation to the new position has included some bumps, his glovework has mostly drawn solid reviews.
And the bat... well, the bat just continues to shine. Rosario has hit .307/.359/.513 overall in four minor-league seasons. He batted .329 with a .903 OPS in the first half at Ft. Myers to earn a promotion to New Britain, and in the Eastern League he is currently at .274/.333/.403 through 56 games. Those numbers don't stick out like the ones he's posted elsewhere, but this is a 21-year-old getting his first taste of Double-A. Among 19 second basemen with 200-plus plate appearances in the EL, Rosario is the third-youngest and ranks seventh in OPS. Pretty damn good.
The thing about Rosario is that he doesn't necessarily have particular skills that elevate him above the rest. His power has come back down to Earth after the 21-homer season in E-town -- he has hit only 22 total bombs in two seasons since. His plate discipline isn't great. He's not much a base stealer (19-for-40 over the last two years, yuck). But Rosario can straight-up hit, and has done so very consistently while rising rapidly through Minnesota's system.
He's clearly a part of the next wave for the Twins, but how long will it be before we actually see him at Target Field?
The Aggressive Route
Sano has forced his way into consideration for a September call-up due to his sheer obliteration of Eastern League pitching. That hasn't been the case for Rosario, whose numbers at New Britain profile more as good than great, especially after a recent slump that has seen him bat .158 over his past 10 contests.
Early 2014 would seem to be the soonest we might see Rosario, and when the Twins do finally decide to give the kid a look, they'll need to find room for him with the suddenly entrenched Brian Dozier holding down second base. There are a number of potential ways to go about this. As a young, cheap second baseman coming off a breakout year, Dozier might have some trade value during the offseason. If they could flip him for quality arms while opening a spot for Rosario, it's something they would have to look at. Heck, they could even look at trading Rosario if the right opportunity comes along.
The more likely scenario, however, is that the Twins look to create space for both Dozier and Rosario. That might mean trying Dozier at shortstop again (although he's looked so comfortable at second that's hard to envision). It might also mean sliding Rosario back into the outfield, at least temporarily. Suddenly the Twins don't look quite so stacked out there in the short term, with Aaron Hicks' brutal season casting doubt on his readiness.
By starting in Rochester next year, Rosario would be ready to put up numbers and position himself for a call-up whenever a need arises, either at second or in the outfield.
The Conservative Route
It's easy to caught up in the flurry of promotions, what with all the midseason movement we've seen this summer. Guys like Sano and Byron Buxton have changed the rules for an organization that typically opts for a more patient approach.
But it's important to remember that Rosario simply isn't on the level of those two, and the Twins might be a bit gun-shy about pushing too hard with non-generational talents after watching Hicks struggle immensely with the transition from Double-A to the majors this year.
Next spring, Rosario will still be only 22, and unless he turns things around in the final weeks at New Britain he'll be coming off a fairly pedestrian half-season in Double-A. By returning to the Rock Cats next year, the second baseman will still be younger than many of his peers in the Eastern League, and he'll be able to dictate his own pace through his production. With Dozier earning plenty of leash in the majors, the Twins have the luxury of taking things as slowly as they want without worrying about robbing the big-league club of a talent that could sorely be used (unlike with Sano and Alex Meyer).
The Likely Route
With his lack of overwhelming production in New Britain, along with the presence of Dozier in the majors, I expect the Twins to go full-out conservative with Rosario. And that's perfectly fine. Let him continue to iron out his game and work his way up to Triple-A and beyond while the Twins continue to see what they have in their emerging 26-year-old incumbent.