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CLEVELAND — Guardians shortstop Amed Rosario has received plenty of attention this season for his offensive production — and rightfully so. But his improvement defensively may be just as impressive.
Rosario has struggled in the past with his shaky defense. The Guardians have even tried at times to move him to the outfield to allow Andr?s Gim?nez to get more time at shortstop. But with a lot of extra work with infield coach Mike Sarbaugh, Rosario has seen quite the turnaround when it comes to his skills on the field. He made sure to prove that on Saturday night by flashing some leather in the Guardians’ 4-1 victory over the Astros at Progressive Field.
“No matter how many people try to tell him he’s not a shortstop, he continues to prove that he is our shortstop,” Guardians starter Cal Quantrill said.
Rosario’s defense and age made it easy to say he won’t be part of the club’s long-term plans, especially since the organization has so many impressive middle infielders ready to get a big league opportunity. That led to Rosario’s name getting thrown into trade rumors over the past few weeks. But clearly, he’s earned the right to have his shortstop position.
Rosario has been on a roll defensively of late, highlighted by a beauty of a play in the top of the eighth inning against Houston. Astros center fielder Jake Meyers hit a sharp ground ball in the hole between short and third at an exit velocity of 90.1 mph. Rosario was able to make a backhanded grab, leap in the air and make a jumping throw across his body to first base. The highlight-reel-worthy play was punctuated with a smooth pick at first base by Josh Naylor, leaving reliever James Karinchak screaming in celebration on the mound.
“I’m not gonna say [Rosario] was bad [defensively] by any means last year, but he’s definitely made a stride this year,” Guardians center fielder Myles Straw said. “Not every shortstop in the big leagues can make those plays. So credit to him. He’s been working on it this whole year, and that’s what happens when you work on something: You improve. He’s been one of the best this year.”
Rosario still hasn’t found his way to the top of the defensive leaderboards. He’s somewhere in the middle of the pack, sitting in the 43rd percentile in Statcast’s Outs Above Average. However, when you look at where he was to where he is today, he’s seen tremendous improvement. In each of his five previous seasons in the big leagues, Rosario’s Defensive Runs Saved were all in the negative. But so far this year, he’s had five Defensive Runs Saved — a big leap from last year’s -9.
“Consistent is a good word. Dependable is another word,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said, describing Rosario’s defense. “Tonight, he made some plays that were beyond the norm. … He’s learning to maybe leave his feet a little bit. He didn’t do that when he first came here. He and Sarby spent a lot of time together. Kid deserves a lot of credit.”
Even the slightest improvements in Rosario’s defense help make him a more complete player. His offense hardly needs any type of boost. Last year, he led the Majors in four-hit games. This year, he’s tied for the lead in the big leagues with six triples and has batted a steady .288 with 44 RBIs — two of which came on a second-inning single in Saturday’s win. Rosario has now hit safely in 22 of his last 27 games (since July 8), slashing .325/.347/.504 with seven doubles, one triple, four homers and 20 RBIs in that span. “I don’t focus on one area in particular,” Rosario said through team interpreter Agustin Rivero, when asked what he’s focused on this season to be so successful. “I try to work everything as a whole and then put attention to the small pieces and from there, just take it from there.”
Even if Rosario still isn’t in the Guardians’ long-term plans, the team will certainly benefit each day he’s in the lineup.
“I feel extremely confident in Rosario playing shortstop,” Quantrill said. “I don’t know how much more praise I can give the guy. He runs hard every single day. He shows up with a positive attitude. He rakes. He’s a great player. I feel like everyone wants to pretend he’s not, but he’s a really good player.”