Cleveland Indians: The curious case of Amed Rosario and what to do with him in 2022

Cleveland Indians, Amed Rosario

Amed Rosario #1 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

In the midst of an exceptionally hot stretch, Amed Rosario is proving to be a great pickup for the Cleveland Indians – but what will they do with him in 2022?

Amed Rosario is on quite a tear for the Cleveland Indians at the moment, enjoying a 10-game hitting streak while batting an incredible .391/.419/.598 in the month of August with two home runs and 14 RBIs.

But that doesn’t really tell the whole story, because Rosario has been raking for a while now.

Since May 1, Rosario, who was acquired in the Francisco Lindor trade with the New York Mets, has been a .309 hitter, with six home runs, 20 doubles, and 12 stolen bases. On the season, he’s maintaining a 104 wRC+, which is right above league average – not having much power to speak of will do that to you.

But even as Rosario continues to do nothing but hit, there is a good chance he will essentially be a man without a position next season. Defensively, he maintains a -2 Outs Above Average, which puts him 24th among all major-league shortstops. It’s clear Rosario’s defense hinders the Indians’ infield and there are much better defensive options coming up through the system – mainly Gabriel Arias, who will no doubt be in a Guardians uniform come 2022.

And in the outfield, Rosario is out of luck in center, where he actually started the season. With Cleveland’s acquisition of Myles Straw at the trade deadline, the team found its center fielder of the future.

So what are the soon-to-be Guardians going to do with him?

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The most likely scenario for Rosario is that he’ll inhabit the vaunted super utility role, in which his bat will always be in the lineup, but it’ll just be a toss-up as to where he plays in the field. Because he doesn’t excel at any one specific position, he might as well just play them all and provide that much-needed versatility.

Interestingly, the advanced stats don’t paint the greatest picture of Rosario from an offensive standpoint, either. According to Statcast’s Baseball Savant, Rosario has a barrel rate in the bottom 5% of the league, along with below-average numbers in xwOBA, average exit velocity, xSLG, and chase rate. And despite hardly ever drawing a walk, Rosario has at least cut down on his strikeouts this season, keeping his rate just under 20%.

Long story short, when Rosario makes contact, he makes it count, even if he’s not blasting much out of the ballpark on a consistent basis.

This season is shaping up to be similar to Rosario’s 2019 year with the Mets, in which he hit .287/.323/.432 with 15 home runs, 72 RBIs, 30 doubles, 19 stolen bases and a 99 wRC+. Without that power and a below-average on-base percentage, he’ll likely settle in nicely as a league-average hitter over the course of his career, which I imagine the Guardians will be happy to have.

However, the other option is that Rosario’s trade value has never – and might never be – higher than it is right now. His name was thrown around in rumors in the offseason when the team figured Andres Gimenez would hold down the shortstop position, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that happen again. Rosario is just 26-years old and arbitration-eligible next year; he doesn’t become a free agent until 2024, so there is that added value of team control if Cleveland opted to consider the trade route.

Ultimately, expect the Guardians to find a way to keep Rosario’s bat in the lineup moving forward. Though he doesn’t necessarily possess many elite hitting stats, Rosario makes excellent contact, hits the ball all over the field, and is capable of going on extended heaters like the one fans are witnessing right now. These are the tools that made him a one-time top prospect in baseball, and they are much tougher to find than one might expect.

Rosario may not be the everyday shortstop moving forward, but he might just end up being able to play multiple infield positions and the entire outfield, which is still a major question mark beyond center.

Rosario is the type of bat that fills out a lineup perfectly, and the Guardians would be foolish to part ways with him next season, unless it was part of a package that brought back someone like, say, a Bryan Reynolds from Pittsburgh.

But that doesn’t seem very likely, either. The reality is that Rosario will probably be in Cleveland next year, a scenario the Guardians will happily accept. And they’ll just have to find a way to get him into the lineup, another scenario they will be more than fine to contend with, especially if Rosario continues to hit at a .300 clip.