Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
When it comes to Mets shortstop Amed Rosario, two things can be true.
It can be true that Rosario hasn't yet put it all together during an at-times frustrating three seasons -- especially when you consider the expectations that were heaped on him when he was viewed as one of the best prospects in all of baseball.
It can also be true that at just 23 years old, Rosario has shown more than enough to potentially be part of the Mets' solution going into 2020 and beyond. Definitely not up there with Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, or Michael Conforto, but in the conversation nonetheless.
But how much can the Mets rely on Rosario? And where should he play?
Rosario's defense at shortstop is still very much in question (much more on that below), but he is hitting his stride with the bat -- his triple slash sits at .274/.315/.444 heading into tonight's series opener against the Padres. He already has 11 homers (two more than the career-high nine he hit in 2018) to go along with 19 doubles, five triples, and 11 stolen bases.
While Rosario's OBP is already 20 points better than it was in 2018, he'll need to get on base even more for him to be viewed as a player who has fully blossomed offensively. But he has made serious strides with the bat, picking up in 2019 where he left off at the end of last season.
In the final 39 games of 2018, Rosario hit .290/.318/.407 with three homers, two triples, and six doubles to end his season on a high note.
So far in 2019, Rosario's offensive improvement has continued. And a look at his advanced stats suggest that it hasn't been a fluke.
Rosario has career-bests in hard-hit rate (38.1 percent, way up from his previous career-best of 27.7 percent), line drive rate (22 percent), and soft contact rate (just 11.5 percent after being 20.4 percent in 2018). He is striking out a bit more than he did in 2018, but the fact that he is hitting for so much more power makes the couple of extra strikeouts more than palatable.
What Rosario is doing seems sustainable. And if he can improve even more, he can be a true asset on offense.
The desire for a player to make an immediate impact is understandable. But it should be noted that while Jose Reyes had a strong showing in 69 games as a 20-year-old rookie in 2003, he regressed in 2004 and 2005 before breaking out in a big way in 2006 -- when he hit .300/.354/.487 with 19 homers, 30 doubles, and 17 triples.
This is not to suggest that Rosario will make the same kind of offensive impact that an in-his-prime Reyes did. It's to show that Reyes didn't hit his stride until he was 23 -- the same age Rosario is right now. Sometimes it takes time. And for Rosario, things are starting to pay off.
Among the 11 qualified shortstops in the National League, only three (Trevor Story, Javier Baez, and Dansby Swanson) have a higher slugging percentage than Rosario's .444. His slugging percentage is ninth-best in all of baseball among shortstops, but his defense is holding him back from becoming a true impact player.
When it comes to defense, Rosario has gotten his errors under control lately. But of far greater concern has been his range (or lack thereof).
Per FanGraphs, of the 19 balls that have come to Rosario this season that he had a 60 to 90 percent chance of converting into outs, he has converted just 57.9 percent. Of the 14 balls he had a 40 to 60 percent chance of converting into outs, he has converted just 28.6 percent of them. Of the 11 balls that have come his way that were viewed as unlikely to be converted into outs (10 to 40 percent chance), he has converted none.
Overall, Rosario has been worth -15 DRS so far this season after being worth -16 DRS last season in roughly 460 more innings.
If Rosario doesn't show serious improvement at shortstop between now and the end of the season, the possibility of the Mets moving him to center field -- something the team is already considering -- could become a reality.
While it seems somewhat insane for the Mets -- who are already using two converted infielders in the outfield -- to move yet another infielder to the outfield, it can be argued that a move of Rosario to center field would make far more sense than what they're currently doing (using Jeff McNeil in right field and Dominic Smith in left field).
It has also been done relatively recently, with Juan Lagares making the switch and becoming a Gold Glove center fielder under the Mets' tutelage.
And when it comes to the constitution of the 2020 Mets, there are reasons why the potential shift of Rosario to center in 2020 could make lots of sense...
- He would have an entire offseason and spring training to get acclimated. While McNeil and Smith are holding their own in the outfield, one was asked to make the transition during spring training and the other is making it in-season. That's not usually a recipe for success.
- The free agent market for center fielders is terrible, and none of those options should be of interest to the Mets. That means they will need to trade for a center fielder or go in-house. And they should be holding on to as many assets as possible.
- There is a strong possibility that McNeil (moving back to third base) and Smith (traded) will not be in the outfield next season, which would blunt the impact of moving Rosario out there -- where he would be flanked by Conforto and (hopefully) a healthy Brandon Nimmo.
When it comes to Rosario, the Mets might not know exactly what they have yet. But he is certainly not a "bust," as some have labeled him. The talent is there, and the tools are there. And with the way he has hit over the last season or so, he should move firmly into the "core" category along with Alonso, McNeil, and Conforto.
Whether Rosario will be part of that core while settling in at shortstop or being moved to center field remains to be seen, but he has certainly hit his way into being part of the Mets' future plans.