The Twins might have the 11th-best record in the American League, but there is no doubt the team should have two representatives at the All-Star Game in Washington on July 17th. Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar have not only kept this team alive in the American League Central, but have been one of the best duos in all of baseball.
Tuesday night was no different. Rosario scored the go-ahead run against Red Sox starter Chris Sale on a Escobar double in the sixth inning that also drove in Ryan LaMarre.
Escobar came to the plate against in a key moment in the eighth and doubled to center to score LaMarre and Joe Mauer as the Twins retook a 4-2 lead and held on for a 6-2 victory against one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Coming into this season, Rosario had hit .277 and averaged 17 home runs, 23 doubles, 53 RBI and 64 runs scored per season. Escobar had hit .253 for his career while averaging seven home runs, 15 doubles, 32 RBI and 34 runs scored per game.
Heading into Wednesday night’s against Boston at Target Field, Rosario was hitting .316 with 16 homers, 20 doubles, 46 RBI and 51 runs scored. Escobar was hitting .305 with 12 homers, 32 doubles, 48 RBI and 35 runs scored.
They have been on a tear as the Twins have won three of their past four games. Rosario was hitting .412 in that stretch with two doubles, two homers, three RBI and seven runs scored, while Escobar was hitting .533 with six doubles, six RBI and three runs scored.
The fact that Rosario and Escobar have become the leaders of this team shows how hard it can be to project which players will become stars in baseball and how general managers have to get a little lucky.
Rosario came to the Twins in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB draft out of Rafael Lopez Landron High School in Puerto Rico, when the Twins had Bill Smith as their general manager.
Escobar came to the Twins in July 2012 in a trade with the White Sox that sent lefthander Francisco Liriano to an AL Central rival in a deal crafted by Terry Ryan, who had returned to the GM spot after Smith left.
“Yeah, [Rosario] was a draft choice,” said Smith, because players from Puerto Rico are American citizens and thus draft eligible. “… Liriano was, I think, going to be a free agent and so we were looking to get some young players. Escobar was one of those guys. Terry was that guy [who made the trade].”
Smith is now assistant to the president of Minor League Baseball, Pat O’Conner, after serving 31 years in the Twins organization — including his final six years as an assistant to Ryan and team President Dave St. Peter. Ryan, after being fired in July of 2016, has refused to comment on the current club, which he and Smith helped build.
The Escobar trade was mostly built around receiving lefthander Pedro Hernandez, who pitched in 14 games for the Twins in 2013.
Escobar had played 45 games in the major leagues at the time of the trade, hitting .213. Ryan said this about him at the time:
“He’s a switch hitter who can run. He’s got tremendous energy. He’s strong enough. He can play shortstop. He can play second. He doesn’t really profile at third offensively, but he can play there. Defensively you wouldn’t have any problem with any of the three.”
When the Twins selected Rosario, the pre-draft profile on him read like this: “He also comes with good upside and while he’s not a high-ceiling power hitter, he has enough of a ceiling to think he’s going to be dangerous with the bat, which gives him value.”
Still, neither Ryan’s projection of Escobar nor Rosario’s profile hinted at the type of careers they are building, especially the seasons they are having in 2018.
Smith also mentioned another Twins staffer who was instrumental in assembling the current roster.
“You know the guy who was important with [Miguel] Sano and [Jorge] Polanco and [Max] Kepler was Mike Radcliff. He oversaw all of the international players at that time.”
Radcliff is now the Twins vice president of player personnel.
Manager Paul Molitor was asked if he thought he would see this kind of production from Escobar and Rosario coming out of spring training.
“Escobar, we’ve seen him get hot at times, but it was hard to envision exactly how he was going to fit,” Molitor said. “With some of the injuries, he has gotten a chance to play, and [because of] Polanco’s suspension. He just hasn’t missed a beat.
“Rosario, we saw him put together a pretty nice offensive season last year, and we were all looking for a little more consistency. He has developed into one of the American League’s better offensive players.”
Molitor also talked about the influence batting coach James Rowson has had with Escobar and Rosario since joining the team in 2017.
“I think the big thing James did coming in last year was build trust with these guys,” Molitor said. “He gave them all plans on what they needed to do in terms of daily maintenance and preparation. I think he instills a lot of confidence.”
• J.B. Bickerstaff, the former Gophers player and Timberwolves assistant coach, was retained as coach of the Memphis Grizzlies in May after serving as interim coach last season following the firing of David Fizdale, who is now head coach of the Knicks. Bickerstaff recently announced that former Gophers teammate Kevin Burleson has been named an assistant coach involved with player development. Burleson had been an assistant last season with the Iowa Wolves, the Timberwolves’ G-League affiliate.
• Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant continues to produce great players. The latest mentioned as a potential prep standout is athlete Justice Sullivan of the Class of 2021. The 6-2, 205-pound Sullivan already has impressed coaches at Gophers camps and has interest from Iowa State, along with several other Division I programs.
• It will be fun to compare Minnesota and Wisconsin 2019 quarterback recruits. The Gophers signed Jacob Clark of Rockwell, Texas, the No. 24-ranked pro-style quarterback in the country. The Badgers got a commitment from Graham Mertz, the No. 7-ranked pro-style quarterback in the country from Mission (Kan.) Blue Valley North. … According to 247Sports, the Gophers currently have the No. 19-ranked Class of 2019 in the country with 18 recruits and a 178.46 score, while the Badgers are ranked No. 20 with 12 recruits and a score of 177.75.
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. • firstname.lastname@example.org