Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 Top Prospect List: #23 Adam Rosales, inf

Adam Rosales
Height 6-2, Weight 195, B/T: R/R, DOB: 05/20/1983
2008 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: #15

Adam Rosales, a 12th round pick in the 2005 draft, is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. If Josh Ravin was the most depressing report to write up, then Adam Rosales may well be the most challenging. At this point, I'd be lying if I said that I knew exactly what to make of him, but let's take a look.


In 2008, Rosales had an extremely volatile season, which is in keeping with his entire professional career. The Reds sent Rosales to triple-A Louisville to start the 2008 season. On the season, Rosales posted a slash line of .287/.339/.463/.802 with a 82/22 K/BB ratio and 11 homers. The final line looks solid, but Rosales had to travel a difficult road to get there, as he started off the season ice-cold, but ultimately finished it white-hot.

In April, he was ice cold with a meager .177 batting average and a paltry 9% line drive rate. His line wasn't much better in May, as he hit only .232, but he was driving the ball better as evidenced by his 22% line drive rate. In June, he finally got it going, hitting .299 with a .561 slugging percentage. In July, he kept it rolling by hitting .324 with a .471 slugging percentage and was even better in August hitting .436 and slugging .764.

In sum, Rosales got progressively better in each passing month of the season and finished out so strong that he earned a call-up to the majors in September. Unfortunately, major league pitching did what its minor league brethren could not, which is to say they poured cold water on Rosales's white hot streak, limiting him to a line of .207/.233/.241.

So, who is Adam Rosales? Is he the slow starter or white hot finisher from 2008? Is he the guy who posted a .946 OPS in 2005, a .726 OPS in 2006, a .904 OPS in 2007, or the .802 OPS in 2008? Is he a 1b, 2b, 3b, or shortstop?

Ultimately, it's difficult to get a handle on Rosales, but once again it seems to come down to his place on the defensive spectrum.


The farther to the left he can stay, the less offense he needs to provide. The farther to the right he slides, the more offense he has to provide to justify the position.


Rosales has a swing only a mother could love. Ok, ok, so it's not that bad and it does have the advantage of actually being effective. Still, poetry it is not. Fortunately, Rosales adds a strong batting eye and good control of the strikezone, which really helps his swing play up.

At the plate, Rosales has a pretty straight forward set up, using a slightly wider than shoulder width stance. His stance is square to the plate and he keeps his back elbow up. When he brings the bat up over his shoulder, he uses a bat waggle wherein he quickly and continuously moves the bat from vertical to horizontal while waiting for the pitch. When the pitch is delivered, Rosales basically rolls his front foot up onto the toe and puts it back down. He has very little forward stride in facilitating his weight transfer.

At that point, Rosales begins his swing, which is top-hand heavy, especially when he tries to turn on the pitch. When he tries to turn on the pitch, he often throws the top hand at the ball and puts a lot of body into his swing. Instead of staying on the ball and looking down the barrel at contact, Rosales almost seems to pull the swing through the zone with his shoulders. This type of swing forces him to open up his front foot and body earlier than the more conventional swings, but Rosales makes it work. When he takes the pitch the other way he has to stay on the ball longer and his swing can be a bit less "top-handsy." Even so, his overall swing mechanics create a downward plane to his swing (see photo: strong top hand action in swing). While it may be functional, the "chopping wood" approach isn't pretty. Still, production is what matters, as you don't get style points in baseball.


Last year I wrote about the implications of Rosales's downward slide on the defensive spectrum. Fortunately, the reason he was shifted to firstbase was to rest a sore throwing elbow, not because he couldn't handle a more challenging defensive position. That's good news for both the Reds and Rosales, as his bat doesn't profile well at firstbase.

It's difficult to know what the Reds plan to do with Rosales. He played primarily shortstop in college, but he just doesn't have the range to play there at the professional level. When he was promoted to the majors in 2008, he spent time at both secondbase and thirdbase. Ultimately, Adam's best position is likely thirdbase, as his range may be stretched at second. His range and lateral movement are good enough to handle thirdbase. Regardless, the presence of Brandon Phillips at secondbase means that it's not a real option for Rosales, so it's seemingly the hot-corner or bust.

Despite the elbow soreness of 2008, Rosales's best tool is his arm, which is both strong and accurate. Given the very poor defensive performance of Edwin Encarnacion, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to give Rosales an extended look at third, as I don't doubt that he's already a better third baseman than Edwin. However, the window may have closed on Rosales's chances to be an everyday player, as Edwin is currently blocking him and Todd Frazier and Juan Francisco are potentially better options for the future at the hot corner.


I still wrestle with the likely future of Adam Rosales, as part of me thinks he has the bat and defense to be a league average starter. Ultimately, his bat will determine his future role. Still, given the makeup of the Reds' roster and the volatility of his performance, Rosales likely projects as a utility player. His versatility on the infield is a positive attribute and perhaps the one the Reds are most likely to utilize. Even if he doesn't become an everyday regular, he could still have good value to the Reds, as versatile utility infielders with solid offensive skills don't grow on trees. Ultimately, Rosales will go as far as his bat will take him, but right now he projects as only an MLB bench player.


  1. I was suprised to see that Adam did not make the major club as the utility infielder in front of Paul Janish. His batting and fielding numbers have looked better ever since they were both drafted.

  2. Hey Anon,

    To be honest, I was a bit surprised that Rosales lost out to Janish as well. Clearly, Rosales brings greater versatility and more offensive production to the table, while Janish is the better defensive infielder.

    Given the Reds shortcomings on offense, I would have thought that Rosales would get the nod. I actually like Janish more than most and hold out a sliver of hope that he could be a starting shortstop at the MLB level. However, of the two, Janish would also seem to be the one who would benefit most from additional minor league time. Rosales seems to have reached his ceiling and seems more ready to contribute at the MLB level.

    Given that he would seem to address the Reds needs more effectively, I think it is surprising to see Rosales sent down to the minors. However, I certainly wouldn't be surprised to see him up in the near future, as the MLB bench as currently configured isn't going to get the job done.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!!!


  3. Is Rosales' hot start a continuation of the progress he showed last year? Or is he just getting lucky?

    How will he fare in the majors?

  4. Hey Anon,

    Rosales actually wasn't all that impressive for much of last season. In 2007, he posted an OPS of .904 between high-A and double-A. In 2008, he posted an OPS of only .802 at triple-A. Even so, he did finish out the season stronger than he started it.

    He certainly earned the promotion and his first MLB game went rather well. At this point, I think his performance is more the result of a white hot streak than a breakthrough to a new level.

    When he cools off, I think he settles in with seasonal average production of .275-.285 with 15-17 HRs. Of course, he'd have to get a full season of ABs for that to happen. Also, it's difficult to envision him being a downgrade defensively from Edwin. Of course, that's more of a comment on Edwin than Rosales.

    Rosales isn't a flashy or graceful player. When you see him in action, he's not an "eye-catching, dazzle you with his athletic genius" type player. That said, he's fundamentally sound and solid across the board. He has been considered more of a utility infielder type, but the struggles and injury of Edwin open the door a crack. Rosales has his foot in the door and may show enough ability to stride right through it.

    I think the big advantage Rosales may have is on the defensive side. Even if he can prove to be league average at third, that would be significant upgrade over Edwin. So, even if Edwin was more productive with the bat, it likely wouldn't be by enough to offset the difference in their defensive skill.

    Personally, I'm tired of waiting for Edwin to breakout offensively and don't believe his defense will ever be even league average. I think it's time to consider other options. At this point, Rosales has to be considered a bit of a longshot as a long-term solution, but he could prove to be a solid MLB utility player. Time will tell.

    Thanks for the comment!!


  5. pete rosales had to wait behind he's got rolen.

  6. Hey Anon,

    Yeah, Rosales isn't likely to take the starting job any time soon. In theory he had an opportunity to win the job when Edwin scuffled and got injured, but long-term Rosales profiles better as a utility infielder.

    Still, I'm a bit surprised that he has struggled at the plate as much as he has. He had a nice game today, so maybe he's ready to turn the corner.

    Thanks for the comment.