By John Manuel
October 25, 2002
Francisco Rosario’s breakout season came with a difficult postscript.
Rosario, the Blue Jays righthander who dominated a pair of Class A leagues to emerge as one of the organization’s top prospects, had elbow surgery this week and is likely to miss the start of the 2003 season.
Rosario was injured while pitching for Grand Canyon in the Arizona Fall League, where he gave up two runs and four hits in six innings, walking two and striking out five. While Bob Nelson, the Blue Jays’ director of minor league operations, wouldn’t confirm that Rosario had Tommy John surgery, he did say the injury and Rosario’s stage of development reminded him of Billy Koch. While a Jays farmhand, Koch had Tommy John surgery in 1997 while he was in the high Class A Florida State League.
Nelson said the organization hoped to have Rosario pitching again “by either the beginning or the middle of next season, but he won’t be ready for the start of spring training.”
Rosario doesn’t throw quite as hard as Koch, but finished his best season as a pro at Dunedin in the FSL as the Jays’ premier pitching prospect, having developed more than any other prospect in the system. The 22-year-old Dominican went 9-4, 1.94 overall in 2002 with 143 strikeouts in 129 2/3 innings, while giving up just 39 walks and 83 hits. Rosario was using a 92-97 mph fastball with a pair of devastating changeups and a developing slider.
Rosario ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the Class A Florida State League after going 3-3, 1.29 in 63 innings for Dunedin. He gave up just 33 hits and fanned 65 while walking 25. He was the South Atlantic League’s No. 5 prospect after going 6-1, 2.57 for Charleston (W.Va.), striking out 78 and walking 14 in 67 innings.