Eddie Rosario manages to exploit his potential

HOUSTON – Eddie Rosario was 15 years old when the “Tornado” discovered him and changed his life.

It was a shy little boy from Guayama, Puerto Rico, back then. His parents Eddie and María, along with his grandmother María Angelina Vázquez, were busy laying the foundation for his life. Eddie played baseball just for fun.

But veteran Puerto Rican listener Héctor “Tornado” Otero, who was tasked with scouting for talent in South Florida and Puerto Rico for the Twins at the time, saw something special about the slim-built young man.

“He could do it all,” said Otero, who now works as an international scouting chief for the D-backs. “We knew he would be the right player for us.”

Fifteen years later and Rosario, the brand new MVP of the National League Championship Series, is still the same humble boy despite the hero tag he has recently adopted. His complicated path to this instance begins with his Puerto Rican roots and the discovery of Otero in a neighboring field in Jupiter, Florida.

With the Braves chasing their first World Series title since 1995, Rosario is a natural fit at the right time for Atlanta. The left-handed slugger could be the best player anyone knows.

“This is something I dreamed of all my life,” Rosario said. “I never stopped because I always had faith in myself. I believe in my abilities. It had to happen this way.

Rosario, who turned 30 on September 28, was born and raised in the Barriada Marín neighborhood of Guayama, on the coast near the capital San Juan. When he was 4 years old, he joined a local children’s baseball team, which was part of the locally known as the Pampers League. At the age of 6, he represented Guayama in the all-star games against teams from neighboring towns and municipalities. His parents, who both worked in the fast food industry, used to go to almost all of their young son’s parties.

His swing was violent, even as a teenager, and he played with unbridled joy. Those two attributes always remained with him throughout his career in the Big Top.

“Our son has always had a big heart, even as a child, and that is something you can highlight about him,” said Eddie Sr. “He has confidence in himself. He works hard and never gives up on anything. “

As a teenager, Rosario shone on the baseball circuits. showcase. It was there that Otero, who earned the nickname due to his stubborn struggle to find talent, discovered it. The “Tornado” also played a very important role in the discovery and signing of other talented players such as Danny Valencia, José Berríos, and Dereck Rodríguez. Otero, a native of Carolina, Puerto Rico, is also the general manager of the Mayagüez Indians of the Puerto Rico Winter League, but his most rewarding job has been as a mentor to Rosario.

“We have had a very solid relationship and our stories go hand in hand,” said Rosario. “We have always supported each other, he has always motivated me and he has been there for me in all these moments. He is one of the reasons why I am here ”.

At Otero’s request, the Twins took Rosario in the 4th round of the 2010 amateur draft. The left-handed slugger spent five seasons in the minors and subsequently made his major league debut on May 6, 2015.

“On every team, there are a handful of guys who can take on the best pitching they face, and he’s one of those who can deal with the best of the best because his hands are lightning fast,” said Jeff Smith, who He now runs the Rays ‘minor league system, but who spent 22 years as a member of the Twins’ organization. “Having watched him grow up in the minors and then in the majors, you know that he likes to shine in times of pressure and that he thrives in those kinds of situations.”

Minnesota was good for Rosario. In six seasons with the Twins, the Puerto Rican had a .277 / .310 / .478 batting line and became a fan favorite thanks to his personality, his penchant for hitting big hits and the way he could. throw the equipment on the shoulder. He finished his stint in Minnesota with 119 home runs, 738 hits and a .788 OPS in 697 games. With the glove, he racked up 57 assists from the outfield.

It was common to hear fans chanting “Ed-die! Ed-die! Ed-die! ” all over Target Field on the days he lit up the crowd with his hits, a tradition he’s revived this month at Truist Park in Atlanta.

But at times, Rosario left Twins fans stumped by her recklessness that sometimes resulted in weak contact at the plate or errors when running the bases. But that is Rosario’s paradox. Your aggressive approach is one of your best tools, but one that can also work against you.

Let’s take this into account: With the Twins, Rosario’s 57.8% swing rate was the third highest among 291 hitters from 2015-2020 (minimum of 5,000 pitches seen). That contributed significantly to a 4.7% walk rate that was well below the MLB average (8.3%). But despite her impatience, Rosario made contact consistently. His fan pitching rate of 24.1% – the percentage of his swings in which he missed the ball – was almost exactly the league average.

“The bottom line here is that this kid was born to hit and that’s just what he does,” Otero reacted. “At key moments, that’s when he excels, and he has shown it throughout his life. The boy hits when it matters most “

Otero is right. Rosario homered into the opposite side of the first delivery he saw, a 91 mph fastball from Oakland southpaw Scott Kazmir, in his Big Top debut. Eddie predicted that hit.

“He told me before he got to the stadium that day that he was going to swing the first pitch and that we all had to capture it on video,” Otero recalled. “That’s why we all had our cell phones ready, because he told us he was going to do something special. That’s crazy, but at the same time it tells you how confident this boy is in himself. “

But despite how well he did in Minnesota, an analytics-focused Twins team and the fans themselves knew that the Puerto Rican slugger would not play in Minnesota forever. With prospective outfielders Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach knocking on the door, the club decided not to offer Rosario a contract in December, making the Puerto Rican a free agent for the first time in his career. Minnesota eventually replaced him in left field with Luis Arráez, Jake Cave and Kyle Garlick on Opening Day 2021 and they didn’t look back.

There was no time for a sad farewell. Rosario had to find a job.

Two months later, the gunner signed for a season and $ 8 million with Cleveland in a maneuver designed to form a left-right duo with Franmil Reyes in the thick of the lineup. His arrival was supposed to reinforce the Tribe’s offensive. But things did not turn out that way.

“The boy worked hard, and his daily preparation was consistent. I really wanted to stand out, but it seemed like I was trying to go overboard, ”explained Cleveland assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez. “The Twins released him and I think that with us, the boy came trying to show the world how good he was and everything he was capable of doing because he had done it before.”

In 78 games for Cleveland, Rosario hit just seven homers and drove in 46 runs. He was hitting .254 with a .685 OPS and was on the disabled list for three weeks with a jerk to the right side when he was sent to the Braves by Pablo Sandoval and cash on July 30.

Whoever was a star in Minnesota had seen their bonds plummet.

“He battled with us when it came to batting average, but in situations where he needed to hit, he hit the key hit, and he always had productive at-bats with runners on base,” Rodriguez said. “Right now, he’s passing shipments, working the accounts, and when he gets his pitch, he’s not failing. It doesn’t matter if it’s left-handed or right-handed, because he’s in a good position to hit and that’s what you really want in your team if you want to win the World Series. “

With the Braves, during the regular season, Rosario was slightly less aggressive, lowering his swing rate to 54.1%. He raised his walk rate (8.5%) to nearly the league average, while fanning fewer pitches than before (18.4% fanning rate). During the SCLN, Rosario became one of just five players to have 14 hits in a postseason series. His batting line is .474 / .524 / .789 in 10 postseason games this year.

The eyes of all of Guayama, Puerto Rico, will be on the television when Rosario stands in the batter’s box Tuesday at Minute Maid Park for Game 1. Her parents will join her for Game 3 3 in Atlanta. And somewhere in the Dominican Republic, the “Tornado” will celebrate the moment with joy.

“Manny Machado and Rosario were the best hitters in [mi área de búsqueda de talento] that year, ”Otero recalled. “I told everyone that Rosario was on the same level as Manny and everyone was like, ‘Who?’ This kid has always been a special hitter. “


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Eddie Rosario manages to exploit his potential