Last year at Beloit, I spent the better part of three days watching Ian Happ and Matt Rose hit shortly after they joined the South Bend Cubs. While I loved Happ’s hands through the zone, I also loved how Matt Rose shifted his feet during his swing. Rose was only with South Bend for 14 games last year and I thought he would spend just a couple months there in 2016 before heading off to Myrtle Beach. That didn’t happen.
The first two months of Matt Rose’s 2016 season, however, did not play out as I’d envisioned. Every night, he would show up and try to help the team win and he made solid contact in most of his at-bats. The BABIP gods cared little for that, though. In parts of May, Rose’s average dipped to as low as .148. He played his last first-half game for South Bend on June 5, after which he was reassigned to short-season Eugene to improve on his .178 average, 5 home runs, and 18 RBI.
It’s not the first time that the Cubs have done this in the Theo Epstein Era. Jeimer Candelario, now on the cusp of a big league career, was reassigned from Daytona to Kane County in 2014, where he remained for the rest of that season.
Rose took the reassignment as an opportunity to improve and return to South Bend before the season was out. In his first month in Eugene, he played in 23 games, hitting .241 with an impressive .344 on-base percentage. He also hit 4 home runs and led the Emeralds in RBI. While the batting average did not sparkle, the fact that Rose was taking walks showed a better approach. Unlike other prospects who have been reassigned in the past, Rose made it back to South Bend on July 21.
The upward trend really took off upon his return to South Bend. In the 28 games since coming back from Eugene, Rose has hit .306 with a robust .379 on-base percentage. He’s only struck out 21 times in 103 at-bats in the second half versus 28 in 135 in the first half. He’s also hit 6 home runs and has driven in 21. In the last 10 games alone, he’s hitting .308 with five home runs and 16 RBI.
It’s impressive to watch Rose’s consistent improvement as he plays both first and third base. He has moved up to third in the order but has also hit at various places in the lineup. Most recently, he hit fourth filling in for Eloy Jimenez, who had a minor injury.
It can’t be easy to go through what Rose went through this year. It had to be an frustrating mixture of embarrassment, sadness, and hopelessness when he was reassigned. However, Rose turned those three emotions into strength that’s now propelling him into the future. Hopefully, his drive will result in a promotion to Myrtle Beach at the beginning of next year.
One other interesting note about Rose’s rebirth is that he changed numbers when he returned to South Bend. Throughout the draft and signing process last year, Rose’s looks were always compared to Kris Bryant’s. I thought it was funny that he switched from 5, his first-half number, to Bryant’s 17. It seems to be working out just fine.