Atlanta Adds Depth With Postseason Hero Eddie Rosario and More

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves re-signed one of the key members of their championship squad, inking Eddie Rosario to a two-year, $18 million deal with a club option for 2024. Acquired by the Braves on July 30, Rosario didn’t get into a game for his new club until August 28, but from that point on, he slashed .274/.333/.579 (135 wRC+) to help Atlanta win its fourth straight NL East title. He found an even higher gear once the calendar turned over to October, slashing .383/.456/.617 (182 wRC+) in the playoffs; he carried close to the entire offensive load in the NLCS against the Dodgers, earning MVP honors during that series. The Braves made two additional smaller moves on Wednesday, signing left-handed outfielder Alex Dickerson and right-handed reliever Tyler Thornburg to non-guaranteed contracts worth $1 million and $900,000, respectively.

Rosario probably won’t be able to replicate his late-season heroics over a full season in Atlanta, but he’s been a solid contributor throughout his career. In six seasons with the Twins, he posted a 106 wRC+ and 11.4 WAR, then signed a one-year deal with Cleveland after Minnesota non-tendered him early in the offseason. He struggled to a 86 wRC+ to start the year before being sidelined with an abdominal strain, then was traded to Atlanta in a clear salary dump right before the trade deadline.

Due to an aggressive approach at the plate, Rosario has always been prone to hot streaks and cold spells, but he did make some slight tweaks to curb his over-aggressiveness at the plate last season and also improve his contact quality:

Eddie Rosario, Peripherals
Years Hard Hit% Barrel% xwOBAcon GB% O-Swing Swing Contact
2017-2020 33.9% 7.1% 0.365 38.1% 40.4% 56.6% 78.7%
2021, CLE 35.3% 4.6% 0.328 39.1% 34.0% 53.1% 81.9%
2021, ATL 38.3% 9.0% 0.438 35.3% 32.7% 52.8% 78.4%
2021 Postseason stats included.

Unsurprisingly, Rosario’s batted ball data was fantastic, but it’s reassuring to see that the changes he made to his plate discipline metrics carried over from his time in Cleveland. Overall, he was a little less swing-happy and managed to make better decisions when he did offer at a pitch. His strikeout rate sat right in line with his established norms over the past few years, but his walk rate hit the second-highest mark of his career. With an offensive profile that’s BABIP-dependent, these slight changes to his approach should help improve his floor when he does hit one of those cold streaks.

Dickerson spent most of the last three years with the Giants after a couple of major injuries kept him off the field for all of 2017 and ’18. He’s been strictly used as a platoon outfielder, but it’s a role he’s carried out capably. Over the last three years, he’s posted a 115 wRC+ and accumulated 1.5 WAR with over 90% of his plate appearances coming against right-handed pitching. The shortened 2020 season was the high point of his time in San Francisco, as he posted a 151 wRC+ in 170 plate appearances, perfectly playing the part of righty masher in the Giants’ lineup.

Last year, three separate injuries to his right shoulder, back, and right hamstring sapped Dickerson of some of his potency; his wRC+ fell to 97, though oddly enough, he did end up setting a career-high in plate appearances. Despite a significant dip in BABIP and ISO, it looks like his underlying batted ball quality didn’t fall all that much from 2020 to ‘21:

Alex Dickerson, Batted Ball Peripherals
Year Hard Hit% Barrel% Avg LD+FB EV xwOBAcon
2020 42.60% 10.70% 93.1 0.399
2021 38.20% 10.10% 92.7 0.412

Dickerson has always possessed excellent batted-ball metrics, but his overall average exit velocity dropped from 90.9 mph to 87.4 mph last year. As you can see above, his power metrics all stayed relatively stable despite the increase in weaker contact. It certainly seems like his dip in power output was a result of bad luck and perhaps injury, not a drastic change in contact quality.

With Rosario back in the fold and Dickerson added to the mix, the outfield picture for the Braves becomes a little clearer. Atlanta had two spots already covered with Marcell Ozuna reinstated from the restricted list and Adam Duvall entering his final season of salary arbitration. Rosario will likely slide into left field with Ozuna or Dickerson seeing regular time at designated hitter. Eventually, Ronald Acuña Jr. will take over right; he is still recovering from the torn ACL he sustained last year, though reports have him progressing well in his rehab, and he’ll likely be available soon after the regular season begins.

With a righty-heavy lineup, adding both Rosario and Dickerson provides some balance to the lineup and sets up some natural platoon opportunities in the outfield if manager Brian Snitker chooses to deploy his lineup like that. Duvall, Guillermo Heredia and Orlando Arcia are all right-handed, and any of them could pair with Rosario or Dickerson in a traditional platoon. Once Acuña is ready to return from his rehab, the outfield picture will likely shift a bit to accommodate him. Dickerson would likely have a bench role at that point but would continue to provide a potent left-handed bat off the bench.

Thornburg has had an up-and-down career with moments of brilliance interspersed between injury-filled seasons. He broke out with the Brewers way back in 2013, putting up a 2.03 ERA backed by a 3.11 FIP across 66.2 innings. Elbow trouble limited him over the next two seasons, but he got back on track in 2016 when he posted a career-high 34.2% strikeout rate and collected 13 saves. He was traded to the Red Sox following that campaign but missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. Upon returning to the mound in ’18, he was largely ineffective in just a handful of innings. He latched on with the Reds in ’20 but hit the injured list again with elbow issues and finally underwent Tommy John surgery in September.

The health of Thornburg’s arm will dictate how much he’ll be able to contribute in 2022, but even then, his effectiveness is a complete mystery now that we’re six years removed from his last good season. When he was pitching well, he relied primarily on a mid-90s fastball along with two fantastic secondary pitches, a curveball and changeup. Back in 2016, each of those pitches ran whiff rates above the league average for their respective pitch types, leading to some gaudy strikeout totals. The Braves’ development staff isn’t a stranger to helping veteran pitchers get back on track, and Thornburg could be a nice middle reliever if everything works out right.

Jake Mailhot is a contributor to FanGraphs. A long-suffering Mariners fan, he also writes about them for Lookout Landing. Follow him on Twitter @jakemailhot.

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8 months ago

I really like how this Braves roster is coming together.

8 months ago
Reply to  kylerkelton

I do, too, though the idea of giving Orlando Arcia regular at bats, even as the weaker platoon, does not sound appetizing. He’s obviously set to make the team as he’s the only option they have that can backup the middle infield, but I’d think the best case scenario is that he spends the vast majority of the time parked squarely on the bench.

8 months ago
Reply to  kylerkelton

It is impossible not to like what the Braves have done. I continue to be dumbfounded by the fact the Braves just lost the 2020 MVP, a great player still in his prime, and came out of it with a better team. Over at Baseball Prospectus the seriously flawed PECOTA analytical system projects the Braves to win 82 games. I wish I could find a place to bet the ranch on the over.