The Twins took a chance on Hawaii’s standout amateur with their final pick in the 2020 draft that was limited by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fast forward three seasons and his outlook is polarizing for many evaluators. So where does Kala’i Rosario go from here?
Image courtesy of Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
It’s easy to get excited about a powerful showcase in the Arizona Fall League. Seeing intriguing prospects succeed against other major minor leaguers is sure to create buzz. And if all goes well, this buzz propels the young player into his pivot next season.
That’s what the Twins’ prospect Kala’i Rosario (Twins Daily Prospect No. 11) hopes.
While his brief 25-game stint in the AFL featured a second-half reality check, he made a name for himself in his first two weeks in the desert. Ultimately, he finished that campaign with an overall slash line of .214/.333/.483, clubbing seven home runs and three doubles along the way.
This roller coaster ride has become the norm for the 21-year-old corner outfielder. He showed immense power from the right side of the plate and his offensive production was above average during his three seasons in the Twins system. But as his career progresses to the upper levels of the minor leagues, questions remain about his approach at the plate and his future as a potential option at the highest level of the game. So what should we make of the highly polarizing perspective of the Twins?
What to love
Even with the question marks surrounding various aspects of his game, Rosario has demonstrated the ability to succeed at every level he has seen in the minor leagues. Even in the Florida State League, which usually suppresses raw power, he could drive the ball reasonably well, with 36 extra base hits in 109 games.
Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs acknowledged the flaws in his swing but praised his ability to continue to grow as his career progresses.
“He has too much power to completely dismiss it, and he has begun to show an ability to make adjustments,” they said in their statement. mid-season prospect rankings in June. “So far in 2023, Rosario has narrowed his approach. He swings and hits less and walks more often.
His first season with High-A Cedar Rapids showed some of that newfound patience. Rosario nearly doubled his walk rate from 2022, and while his strikeout rate is still higher than many feel comfortable with, it’s down a few points to 29.6%. This growth in swing selection led to his breakthrough as a professional hitter, and he finished the season with an .832 OPS (133 wRC+). Rosario put on such a show for the Kernels that he won the Midwest League MVP.
He showed great range in the corner outfield, with solid speed and a strong arm that led to 23 assists over the past two seasons. While that’s by no means his calling card, evaluators think he should be passable enough to be an everyday right fielder.
What to worry about
Like many hitters this front office has drafted since he took the helm, there is quite a bit of swing and miss in Rosario’s game.
While that’s not enough to completely eliminate a player, evaluators are concerned about his swing path and ability to make adjustments as the quality of opposing pitchers continues to improve in the future.
“His high-effort swing has zero accuracy and a flat, almost downward cutting angle that generates a lot of opposite field contact,” Longenhagen said in the article mentioned above.
So while the exit velocity of some of the gigantic shots he hits seems enticing, Rosario seems to be falling prey to the same pitfalls as hitters like Miguel Sano, Joey Galloand even his AFL teammate Aaron Sabato. And right now, he doesn’t have the secondary tools needed to take it to the next level if he can’t continue to improve his approach.
Rosario is still a long way from potential big league playing time, but he finds himself in a plethora of options for the Twins outfield in the years to come. He’ll need to make another jump like the one he just made to High-A if he wants to become a real possibility in the near future. He currently finds himself blocked by several former prospects controlled by the team (Byron Buxton, Trevor Larnach, Matt Wallner, etc.). Chasing him are other, more ambitious prospects, such as Emmanuel Rodriguez And Walker Jenkins.
So, even if there isn’t a career-defining decision for Rosario, he’ll need another break into the upper levels of the minor leagues if he wants to establish himself as a quality prospect.
What do you think? Do you think Rosario will take a new step in 2024? What do you like or dislike about his game? Let us know what you think in the comments and, as always, stay nice.