For the past two weeks, the hitter I have been enamored with watching the most — after Ian Happ, anyway — is South Bend’s Matt Rose. Rose is a 6’5″ 195 lb. first/third baseman for the South Bend Cubs. He bats right, throws right, and was an 11th round pick in the 2015 MLB draft out of Georgia State by the Cubs. He arrived from Eugene on August 6 and is hitting .324, as of Friday the 21st, with one home run and 8 RBI in 10 games. Previously, at Eugene, he hit .254 with three home runs and 27 RBIs in 31 games.
Rose is originally from Palm Bay High School in Melbourne Florida. In 2012 he was selected in the 24th round of the MLB Draft by the Blue Jays but passed to go to Georgia State. He played third base and he was also a pitcher as a freshman, appearing in 16 games with a 2.55 ERA. Rose had five saves and struck out 30 in 35.1 innings. As a sophomore, he only appeared in four games as a pitcher as his hitting began to take off.
While he hit .283 in his first year, Rose went for .312 with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs in 52 games as a sophomore. He battled injuries as a junior and only saw action in three games as a pitcher but still played third base, catching the attention of scouts as he hit .289 with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs in 53 games for Georgia State.
When I watch Rose’s swing in the video below, there are couple things I come away impressed with. One is the balance. Notice how he can glide on his feet when he swings but also when he doesn’t swing. Why is this important? It’s going to allow him to hit off-speed breaking balls later in his career. It allows him to stay back and actually take a ball to right field. He can keep his hands in the zone longer because of his balance.
The second thing I like a lot about Rose’s swing in his approach. He has good pitch recognition, even though he does strike out in the video below. He’s able to lay off pitches that are close to the strike zone whether they’re low or outside. For example, see the time stamp at 1:25.
Three, even though he struck out, he did not get cheated on his cuts and he did not overswing. He takes a nice smooth cut and when he makes contact, it’s usually good solid contact.
As well as Rose has done this summer for the Cubs, he just turned 21 on August 2. I think he’s more than likely starting out next year at Myrtle Beach, even though he only has ten games in at South Bend and will likely see action in additional 15-16 more games in the next two weeks.
I still don’t think the Cubs have nailed down where Rose is going to play in the field, and for good reason. Being able to play first and third gives him the versatility the Cubs deem necessary in their prospects. Rose may need that versatility down the road in two to three years, especially if the NL adds the DH. At Eugene, he played 27 games at first, four at third, and one at DH. At South Bend, he’s put in eight games at first and two at third base.
Rose is just a small addition to the South Bend team in the last three weeks. However, his presence, combined with Ian Happ and the rise of David Bote, has really reshaped the offense. The South Bend Cubs are now in contention for a wild-card spot in the Midwest League with only two weeks left in the season. Rose’s bat is a big part of their surge to the playoffs.