In the span of two years, Mets shortstop Amed Rosario has gone from the top prospect in baseball to a defensive liability who could be moved to center field, to back to being a young star on the rise.
"My confidence has been at an all-time high," Rosario recently told Deesha Thosar of the Daily News. "I didn't start the season this great, but now it's been going well."
Rosario, who is still just 23 years old, had been struggling offensively earlier this season while making errors and mistakes in the field. However, during his most recent 100 or so games, he's batting around .300 and has returned to being the quick and slick fielder he projected to be when he was in the minor leagues.
"We saw the best version of Rosario at end of last year," Mickey Callaway told me during Spring Training this past February. "He's going to continue to improve. He's a worker. He has passion and he comes here every day to get better. And he will."
It appears Rosario has finally taken enough reps to anticipate what his pitching staff will throw and how hitters will respond, because he clearly has a better feel for where to set up before every pitch. He is also showing more explosiveness than at any point in his short career, which is a direct result of a wider stance, but also shows confidence in his ability to be in the right place at the right time.
His first-step quickness was the only concern expressed to me by an area scout during Spring Training in 2017, but he expected that to improve in time with added strength and experience.
"He's showing me tremendous range, he's got soft hands and he handles himself well around the bag," the scout said at the time. "He has everything needed to be one of the better fielding shortstops in the National League."
To take it one step further, in the same notebook, I have a first-hand quote from a rival National League, front-office executive, who flat out said, "He's the real deal."
Mets beat reporter Mike Puma recently drew comparisons between Rosario's current blossoming to what Yankees SS Didi Gregorius experienced early in his career.
"That is a good analogy," Callaway said Sunday when asked by Puma to comment on the Gregorius-Rosario comparison. "I got to see a lot of Gregorius. ... You saw the potential and then his first couple of years (2012 through 2015 with the Diamondbacks) he was solid, but then it was a whole different level (in 2016 with Yankees)."
It's worth noting that while the two shortstops share a similar physical look, Gregorius needed four seasons before realizing his potential, prior to which he never ranked in any organization's top five prospect list.
"He is finally understanding his capabilities," Mets 3B Todd Frazier told Puma. "It takes time sometimes to get your swing right in the major leagues. ... I just think he's understanding where he's at in his swing."
Along the same lines, an NL East talent evaluator told me he firmly believes Rosario has turned the first of many corners he will face during what should be a long and productive career.
"When we played the Mets early in the season, I saw a young man (Rosario) hesitant, playing on his heels and only reacting to the game in front of him not around him," he told me. "He's now looking more comfortable and consistent and playing far more in the moment. He's clearly more aware of the big-league game and the speed and situations coming at him at this level. These are things that allow a player to let go a bit, relax and trust the results so he can make adjustments because he isn't worrying about what's next."
I see a shorter leg kick, which is more quickly getting him to the ball, especially on inside pitches. As a result, Rosario is seeing an upward trend in exit velocity, hard-hit contact, swing rates and contact on pitches inside the strike zone. He's also been better at fighting off sliders, which had been chewing him up earlier in his career.
Interestingly, all of these numbers have further improved since Rosario took over the leadoff spot from the injured Jeff McNeil. It's also worth noting that, while he's batting .500 in place of McNeil, he's also hitting .300 this entire season when the first batter of an inning.
The turnaround -- be it statistical, in his brain or in the field -- has Rosario among the best shortstops in the league, which is right where he was projected to be when rising through the farm system.
Since the All-Star break, the only shortstop in baseball with a better weighted runs created plus (wRC+) than Rosario has been Red Sox SS Xander Bogaerts,
Rosario's future was bright, then cloudy and now back to bright. He's back on everyone's radar and his reversal is powering a similar turn this season for the Mets, who have rocketed back in to the Wild Card race.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!