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The left field option for the Phillies no one is talking about

You’re thinking someone who can’t play defense. I’m not...

World Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game Six Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It seems as though many people have resigned themselves to the fact that the Phillies are going to be signing a outfielder to “play” left field for them in 2022 (and beyond) who doesn’t exactly prioritize defense. Using that spot for power and production while taking a hit on defense is something that has been made palatable so long as the production is virtually guaranteed. Names like Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos have been bandied about as the surefire options the team needs to consider, with someone like Kris Bryant being an option that can move around the field and fill in where the matchups present themselves as more favorable.

Did you know that there are other options?

Adding offense to the equation, especially when the Phillies are in dire need of it, would make the most sense, don’t get me wrong. They can’t rely on bounce back offensive campaigns from a third of their potential lineup if they are serious about getting one of the wild cards, however many there are, this season. Adding offense has been one of the stated goals of the franchise this offseason and once the lockout lifts, there will be a sprint to add players like the trio mentioned above. The Phillies will either have to pony up the money or be able to pivot to a different option. The problem is: when have you heard lately of the Phillies willing to open up the purse strings to add to the team? Pivoting is going to be necessary once the frenzy begins and one option that the team could look at would probably come at a fraction of the price of that trio, but could address some areas they are currently lacking.

Eddie Rosario had an outstanding postseason. There is no getting around the fact that his basically leading the Braves’ offense through the championship series against the Dodgers has inflated his profile a bit. Teams love postseason heroics, especially if the team believes it has a shot at the postseason on their own. The issue is that we don’t want to put too much stock into a series where a player can get super duper hot only to get cooled off only immediately. Only the foolish would bank on a player’s ability to repeat that postseason performance over a 162 campaign.

Rosario, though, is no slouch. Prior to his being nontendered by Minnesota, he was a source of power and average with the Twins, culminating in a 2019 season that saw him hit .276/.300/.500 with 32 home runs and 109 RBI. That on base percentage is not exactly gold star worthy (his 3.7 BB% is almost cringe worthy), but it’s something one can overlook when 32 baseballs are being driven out of the ballpark. The .276 batting average is also something that the old-time fans would appreciate as it would have been third on the team that year, behind only Jean Segura (.280) and Cesar Hernandez (.278).

His abbreviated 2020 saw his ability to get on base go up (his walk rate increased to 8.2%), he still didn’t strikeout much (14.7%), but his batting average, along with his slugging, fell almost 20 points. And that’s part of the scary part about signing Rosario. It’s not just his almost allergic reaction to drawing walks; it’s the drop in slugging percentage, particularly his isolated power, that is a concern. His decline from a .224 in 2019 to a .219 in 2020 to a .177 ISO last year is not the trend line one wants to see out of one’s left fielder. We know that as a position of power and Rosario hasn’t been showing that much the past two seasons.

Are they mere blips on the radar. 2020 in particular a victim of smaller sample sizes than in the past?

Perhaps.

Once Rosario was traded to Atlanta, he did see his power creep back up, registering a .302 ISO for the world champions (still feels weird to say that). He also did have seven extra base hits in 68 plate appearances in the postseason, not a huge number, but also nothing to sneeze at. It doesn’t make one feel completely confident that he has rediscovered his power stroke, but at least there was a pulse.

Defensively, he’s coming out to be a tick below average, but nowhere near the butcher he was in 2019. That season saw him register -18 OAA in left field, by far the worst number for any outfielder that season regardless of position. 2020 and 2021 saw him bounce back to his normal levels just under 0, which makes one question the validity of the 2019 number. He’s not going to win Gold Gloves in left field, but he’s also not going to embarrass the team either.

However they decide to add offense to the team, they’re going to have to look at all options. A bigger bat than Rosario would be preferred, particularly since his strength does not lie in getting on base, but if what he showed in Atlanta, both after the trade and in the playoffs, is what his new norm, there are worse options. It’s one the team needs to consider moving forward.