Wilin Rosario’s Deeply Troubling Splits

I’ve been a staunch supporter of Wilin Rosario for awhile now, and was especially high on him coming into this year. As I pointed out in my preseason Bold Predictions column, the 25-year-old had hit 49 homers in his two previous seasons, and was reportedly set to start playing some first base, to keep his bat in the lineup on an everyday basis.

As it turned out, Rosario played first base for a measly 25 innings in 2014, likely due in no small part to the fact that Justin Morneau had his best season since 2010. Still, that extra playing time for Rosario never materialized. He ended up hitting the disabled list twice — once in May with a viral infection, and again in August with wrist inflammation — limiting him to 106 games.

Still, after back-to-back seasons with a weighted on-base average in the .350 range (.348 in 2013, .356 in 2014), Rosario’s wOBA was all the way down to .319 this year. He hit just 13 home runs. All told, a guy that likely cost between $15-20 in auctions this spring ended up providing just over $3 worth of actual production.

In many ways, Rosario’s peripherals are unconcerning, and he even did a few things particularly well this season. His plate discipline — long considered a weakness — was the best of his career. His 5.6% walk rate was a nice improvement from his 4.4% career rate coming into the season, and he made significant strides in his strikeout rate as well. His 17.1% K-rate was his career-best by far, as his previous low was 23.2% in 2012.

Rosario’s average fly ball distance (286.91 feet) was nearly identical to last year (285.29 feet), which doesn’t help explain why his isolated power dropped from .194 to .168. Furthermore, when Rosario did hit homers in 2014, they were anything but cheapies due to the thin Colorado air — according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, all seven long balls he hit at home this year had enough to get out of at least 25 parks.

But let’s stop a moment and talk about Rosario in Coors, or rather, Rosario’s complete and total reliance on Coors to inflate his production. It’s obvious that any hitter is likely to produce better in Denver than pretty much anywhere else. You don’t need to look much further than the Rockies’ ridiculous .902 home OPS this year, compared to their paltry .636 road OPS.

Yet, as I discovered when researching my Bold Predictions review last week, Rosario’s problems reside in a double-whammy of very troubling splits. First there’s the lefty-righty split…

  • vs L (106 PA) – .310/.340/.610, .950 OPS
  • vs R (300 PA) – .252/.293/.363, .656 OPS

…which is mighty concerning in its own right. Then you throw in his home-away split…

  • Home (217 PA) – .343/.387/.540, .927 OPS
  • Road (189 PA) – .183/.212/.306, .518 OPS

…and notice that it’s even more dramatic than his lefty-righty split. Finally, let’s overlay the two and look a set of numbers which will likely cross Rosario off your 2015 draft board:

  • Road vs R (141 PA) – .158/.191/.211, .402 OPS

Rosario has always hit lefties better than righties, and he’s always hit better at home than on the road. Now, however, the problems have been heightened to a point where he’s a must-bench against right-handers on the road.

It bears noting that Rosario’s perceived decline in the power department may be partially the result of a 2012 that could end up looking like an outlier in his career data set. That year — in which he clubbed 28 bombs and posted a .260 ISO — his 307.03-foot average fly ball distance was good for 5th in the majors, not to mention 20+ feet longer than he’s shown in the two years since.

As long as Rosario’s in Denver, he’ll still get to spend half his games taking advantage of the league’s best hitting environment. That alone might be enough for him to remain a top-12 catcher, but his alarming platoon splits — and general worthlessness on the road — make him a guy I’m not touching in fantasy leagues next year.

Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.

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8 years ago

Scott, love the work, but this really isn’t a double whammy; he’s really only showing one bad split, albeit a horrible one:

Home vs L: 358/397/642, 168 wRC+
Home vs R: 338/384/503, 127 wRC+
Away vs L: 271/286/646, 142 wRC+
Away vs R: 154/188/206, -10 wRC+ (!)

Reason for optimism: the -10 wRC+ came courtesy of a .196 BABIP.

8 years ago
Reply to  ericmilburn

Still, away games vs. righties account for over a third of possible starts for Rosario. His lefty and home splits are quite good, but you can’t use him every day, and that’s costly.