Amed Rosario and the Mets’ decision not to promote him sooner

For half the season, if not more, Mets fans clamored to see Amed Rosario get a promotion to Queens. The Mets’ defense at shortstop was not good and Rosario did a lot of damage offensively in the friendly environment of Las Vegas and the Pacific Coast League. It seemed like the perfect confluence of events. The team’s top prospect performing well at the highest level of the minors, with the club having a need at that very position.

Yet, the Mets refused to call up Rosario until August. Initially, the fans thought the owners were merely being cheap, not wanting to call up Rosario until the nebulous Super Two deadline had passed. For their part, the Mets insisted that had nothing to do with it, that they wanted Rosario to be up for good once they promoted him. The strong inference there was that the player simply wasn’t ready.

Once we got to see Rosario in the majors, it was easy to see both why the fans wanted to see him and why the club thought he wasn’t quite ready for prime time. His speed jumps out at you, especially after watching the mostly-plodding Mets of the recent past. He flies down the basepaths and gets to ball in the field that other club shortstops simply wouldn’t get to. And his bat certainly has some pop in it.

But we’ve also seen a player who takes some curious routes to the ball defensively. And we’ve seen some balls not fielded that perhaps should have been. To be fair, these are minor quibbles and certainly ones that can be addressed and hopefully fixed. But it’s still possible to be better than what the Mets had at the major league level while not being a finished product as a fielder and that seems to be the case with Rosario.

Let’s take a look at some defensive numbers for the Mets’ three primary shortstops here in 2017 so far this year:

Player Innings DRS UZR UZR/150
Asdrubal Cabrera 386.2 (-9) (-1.1) (-2)
Jose Reyes 630.1 (-14) (-4.8) (-14.2)
Amed Rosario 320.2 0 1.7 8.1

Reyes seemed like a defensive upgrade from Cabrera but the numbers don’t view that as a slam dunk. If they played similar innings at their established seasonal rate, the DRS for the two would have been very close. But on the UZR/150 scale, Reyes was considerably worse. But Rosario has been better than both of his predecessors regardless of which metric you prefer.

Sure, the club needed a defensive upgrade at short. But what had most fans excited about Rosario was his offensive potential. And the early numbers again bear out what the Mets were saying, in that Rosario still had work to do when the fanbase wanted him up in the majors in late April.

One of the stated goals for Rosario was to improve his plate discipline. And after 145 PA in the majors, he has just 3 BB compared to 40 Ks. There’s no way to describe a 2.1 BB% and a 27.6 K% as anything else but ugly. Why any pitcher throws him a strike at this point is up for debate. Rosario has a 45.9 O-Swing%, meaning he’s hacking away at nearly half of the pitches he sees that are balls.

It may be hard to immediately recognize how bad that is. Of the 432 players who’ve had at least 100 PA in the majors so far this season, Rosario has the third-worst O-Swing%. The two guys who have worse O-Swing% numbers are Salvador Perez and Jorge Alfaro. Those guys just like to swing, period. Meanwhile, Rosario has just a 66.3 Z-Swing%, which ranks tied for 246th-highest in the majors, or in the bottom 50 percent of the league among those with at least 100 PA.

He needs to do a better job of identifying which pitches to pull the trigger and swing.

Rosario has a healthy .344 BABIP yet just a .697 OPS. Because of his ability to beat out infield hits and to make solid contact when he does connect with the ball, we would expect Rosario to post higher-than-normal BABIPs. Perhaps not .344 high but certainly above the traditional .300 mark. So we have a case here of the hits falling in – at least some – yet the overall numbers not being acceptable. And the primary culprit is the strikeouts.

This year in Las Vegas, Rosario had a 5.4 BB% and a 15.8 K%. You’d definitely like to see more walks but that strikeout number doesn’t look bad at all. But Rosario got slightly worse in this regard as the season went on. Through the first 44 games, he had a 13.3 K%. Then in his final 50 games, that number climbed to 17.8% and we see what’s happened once he’s reached the majors.

The Mets are committed to Rosario at shortstop in 2018 and beyond. Most of us imagine that we’ll be very happy with that arrangement. We look forward to seeing him fly around the bases and also adding to his already-displayed power numbers. In some ways, the potential seems unlimited. Yet, if Rosario doesn’t improve his plate discipline, he’ll never come close to reaching his potential.

12 comments for “Amed Rosario and the Mets’ decision not to promote him sooner

  1. Hobie
    September 24, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Watching last night’ game with my son (OK, switching back & forth tp Penn State-Iowa) when we both nearly fell off the couch at Rosario’s 2nd K. After fouling off two very high & very away pitches with a 2-2 count, he flails & misses at a bail a good 18 in. outside & in the dirt. Now this wasn’t a ball that broke outside, it was low & outside all the way from the the umpire’s ball-bag.

    My son’s comment was that TC must have given him the “swing-at-anything” sign and it certainly looked like he had decided to swing before the windup. Could it be?

    • September 24, 2017 at 11:08 am

      A few years ago I wrote that the Mets should give Ike Davis the take sign when the count got to 0-2 because no matter how bad the pitch was, Ike was going to swing. I definitely believe that players get in the mindset that they are swinging before the pitch is thrown.

  2. holmer
    September 24, 2017 at 10:28 am

    The defensive flaws, such as tapping the glove before throwing, will be corrected fairly soon but it may be a few years before we see the plate discipline required to be considered a good major league hitter.

  3. grote
    September 24, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    There is nothing good about his aproach at the plate, and his defense has been 1 major disappointment thus far!

  4. MattyMets
    September 24, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    Right now he looks a lot more like Alcides Escobar than a guy who hopes to be mentioned in the same sentence as Carlos Corea, Trea Turner and Francisco Lindor.

  5. Metsense
    September 24, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    It took three years for Jose Reyes to have a “true” break out season at age 23. I don’t expect Rosario to reach his potential before he 2020 season. His athletic ability, defense and speed will keep him in the lineup until then. There is raw talent there and Ahmed is also raw. He needs to show some plate discipline and pitch recognition. I think he should have been promoted when it became apparent that Cabrera wasn’t getting the job done defensively at SS. Rosario needed to face major league pitchers because AAA pitchers were not enough of a challenge for him. Maybe he could winter in Wyoming and get tutored by Brandon’s father.

    • September 24, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      Ouch – it seems exceedingly harsh to make a kid from the Dominican Republic spend a winter in Wyoming. Maybe they can meet half way in Florida?

    • Joe F
      September 24, 2017 at 10:33 pm

      Spot on, most players take time to adjust to a new level, especially when they get to the bigs. Need at least 300 ABs before you even have a glimpse of what they currently are and maybe even a full season before they settle down. Funny how fans ripped mgt for not promoting him sooner and then rag on him for shortcomings. Let’s be grateful that we have a superior defensive SS, with hopes for a two sided player and let him find his level.

  6. Eraff
    September 25, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Rosario is tremendously unfinished as a Hitter. I will be surprised if he’s a straight line big success at the plate, although he has enough talent to get by while he’s developing. He will not soon walk a lot, but he may strike out a whole bunch for 2-3 years. The development he needs can only happen at the MLB level.

  7. TexasGusCC
    September 25, 2017 at 9:52 am

    I’ve read that the first winter is usually where a good player can find himself. By clearing their heads and reviewing how the season went, we hear of many players making some sort of adjustment. Let’s see if Rosario can.

    While it’s not fair to put pressure on Rosario, if he can learn pitch recognition, he could be the #2 hitter the Mets need. Nimmo/Rosario has the talent to be a strong top two, and create many opportunities for Conforto, Cespedes and Flores.

  8. Jimmy P
    September 25, 2017 at 10:11 am

    I am not worried about Rosario. The talent is there. He’s on the learning path. Plate discipline and pitch identification — same thing, really — will not happen overnight.

    I’m a believer.

    It’s interesting to me how Smith’s numbers get cherry-picked to purportedly show a positive trend, whereas Rosario is viewed as a whole.

    I’m much more concerned about D. Smith’s ability to contribute.

    If I’m Alonso, I’m seeing a pretty clear path.

  9. TexasGusCC
    September 25, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Amed Rosario is hitting .341 (15-for-44) with eight runs scored this month (13 games). Rosario is hitting .300 (27-for-90) with two home runs, five RBI and 10 runs scored over his last 25 games dating to Aug. 18.

    Improvement, albeit SSS…

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