Twins prospect Rosario draws up AFL Home Run Derby title

November 5th, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- stood at home plate Saturday night at Sloan Park and soaked in the adulation as the crowd gave him a standing ovation for winning the 2023 Arizona Fall League Home Run Derby. He was officially crowned by donning a new chain that read "Derby Champ" around his neck.

The Twins' No. 19 prospect outslugged seven other participants to claim the honors, edging out No. 18 Blue Jays prospect Damiano Palmegiani in the championship round, 6-5.

Rosario finished with 25 home runs in total, his longest being a projected 465 feet.

"I have a lot of adrenaline right now," Rosario said after winning. "I had a blast out there. I'm grateful and blessed to have that opportunity to be out there and compete with all those players. It was fun."

The 21-year-old had 14 home runs through the first and second rounds. The only problem? So did Ivan Melendez (AZ No. 8), Kyle Manzardo (CLE No. 2) and Jase Bowen (PIT No. 27). It forced a one-minute swing-off tiebreaker round between the quartet.

Rosario stepped up as the last batter in the tiebreaker, needing to beat Bowen's five dingers. With 10 seconds left, Rosario walked it off to advance to the championship round.

"Definitely the nerves were going," Rosario said. "I kind of just took a step back and embraced the moment and position I was in. I went out there and had fun. It was a good time."

Waiting for him in the finals was Palmegiani, who came out of the gates hot Saturday, drilling 11 home runs in the first round. By virtue of six more roundtrippers in Round 2, he did not have to take part in the tiebreaker and easily advanced to the Finals.

"To be honest, adrenaline takes over," said Palmegiani, who hit 22 homers in total. "But now that it's done, I'm feeling it a little."

Palmegiani chose to bat second in the final round, giving himself the advantage of knowing how many homers he'd need. He attempted to spur himself to victory by bumping the sound of Toronto's own Drake, but after an early flurry, his last few swing attempts fell to the warning track. As the timer hit zeros, Rosario and Palmegiani came together for an embrace.

"I had so much fun," Palmegiani said. "It was more fun than I thought it was gonna be to be brutally honest and I enjoyed every second of it.

"I didn't know what to expect, and I'm gonna carry this with me forever. So this is one of those moments that I wanna just live in for a little bit."

Rosario's seven home runs on the premier prospect circuit are tied for first place in the AFL with fellow Twins prospect Aaron Sabato. He can now add the prestige of winning the Derby to his 2023 accolades, which already included earning Midwest League MVP honors and a championship ring with High-A Cedar Rapids.

The Hawaii native chose to have reggae music playing around the stadium's speakers, something that he tends to do whenever he needs an energy boost.

"That's helped me every single year of pro ball so far," Rosario said of the music selection. "I go up there, it's my walkup song, and I [feel] like I'm back home in Hawaii. I'm just having a good time, like when I was a kid.

"I go out there and listen to music. I'm just vibing."

The stars were out from the Spring Training home of the Cubs as the left- and right-center-field berms were packed with fans seeking out home run balls.

In total, players hit 121 home runs. Wes Clarke (Brewers) ate a hot dog during his in-round timeout. Bowen -- who delivered the snack -- had only a handful of hours' notice before signing on to swing for the fences. Manzardo had his old Rays organization mates -- Carson Williams and Shane Sasaki -- deliver him liquid replenishments.

At the end of it all was Rosario, with the chain around his neck being dosed with the remnants of the water cooler.

The two-round totals for the other six participants were as follows:

Jase Bowen (Pirates): 14 (plus 4 in the tiebreaker)
Ivan Melendez (D-backs): 14 (plus 2 in the tiebreaker)
Kyle Manzardo (Guardians): 14 (plus 1 in the tiebreaker)
Gabriel Rincones Jr. (Phillies): 13
Wes Clarke (Brewers): 6
Kevin Alcántara (Cubs): 5