The Milwaukee Brewers have not been afraid to take defensive risks under the current front office regime. From teaching both Travis Shaw and Mike Moustakas to play second base, to giving the likes of Brad Miller and Jonathan Schoop run at shortstop, to deploying players such as Jonathan Villar and Avisail Garcia in center field, the Brewers have often needed to get creative with defensive positions over the years in order to try and maximize the offensive output of their lineup.
With that in mind, Milwaukee was connected recently to Eddie Rosario, who has spent most of the last six seasons patrolling the outfield grass for the Minnesota Twins. Rosario is reportedly close to signing, but according to Jon Becker of Roster Resource, the Brewers aren’t necessarily planning on playing him in his usual spot if he lands with the Menomonee Valley Nine:
Source: Eddie Rosario is expected to sign in the coming days, perhaps as soon as today.— Jon Becker (@jonbecker_) January 29, 2021
The Brewers' interest is predicated on Rosario playing 1B, with the Dodgers and Atlanta also interested in the lefty OF. The Giants are no longer believed to be in the running.
Rosario, 29, has never played first base in his MLB career or at any point during his 11 professional seasons. His only infield experience at the big league level was 2.0 innings at third base in 2018; he did play some second base during his early days in the minors leagues and winter ball, but hasn’t appeared at that position at any level since 2014.
While he doesn’t look like a clean fit positionally and would have to learn a brand new spot for the Brewers if this report is true, Rosario’s bat does fit type of profile for what the starting lineup could use in 2021. He’s a left-handed hitter who has flashed plenty of power in the majors, posting three straight seasons of 24+ dingers from 2017-19 (with a high of 32) before smashing 13 long balls in 57 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.
Rosario hasn’t been an on-base savant, but he did earn free passes at a career-high 8.2% rate last season. What he does do extremely well is put the ball in play, something that Milwaukee struggled mightily with last season (and has been a recurring issue in recent years) as they ended with the Senior Circuit’s highest collective strikeout percentage of 26.6%. Rosario has posted a punchout rate of 18% or lower in each of the last four seasons, including the last two years under 15%. His K-rate ranked in the 88th percentile of the league in 2020. He has posted a wRC+ between 103-117 in four consecutive seasons, including three years of 110 or above. Last summer, he hit .257/.316/.476 in 231 plate appearances, and ZiPS forecasts a very useful .277/.314/.488 slash line in 2021.
The Brewers do have a gaping hole to fill at the cold corner before pitchers and catchers (hopefully) report on February 18th. Daniel Vogelbach is currently listed as the projected starter at first base, but he comes with his own defensive issues and the org has said multiple times they prefer him as a designated hitter (which the National League won’t have in 2021, at least at this point). Rosario has the kind of bat the Brewers need, but would a switch to a brand-new position affect what he can do on offense?
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant