On the play of Amed Rosario

Through games of Friday, the National League averages 4.42 runs per game and the Mets are above average with a 4.62 mark. That feels a bit unreal as the lineup is composed of four anchors and three under-performing starting outfielders. Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes appear to be coming around at the plate, which will certainly help things. But it still leaves the Mets with decisions on what to do at catcher, first base and shortstop.

At catcher, the Mets have suffered bad luck, as no team would look good if the two catchers on their major league roster went out with injuries at the same time. At first base, the Mets made a bad gamble and it’s working out about the way they should have expected. But the play of Amed Rosario is not so cut and dry.

You could argue that what Rosario has produced so far is exactly what the Mets should have expected based on what he did last year. Or you could say that you expected more after he got his feet wet last year. To me, the more interesting question is not what a surprise what he’s done so far is – it’s what we should expect from him going forward.

Neither Steamer nor ZiPS is particularly bullish in this regard. Steamer projects a .661 OPS for the rest of the season while ZiPS pretty much agrees, forecasting a .669 mark. Let’s assume that’s the right ballpark of what to expect. Can the Mets live with that?

The three under-performing positions are in a way all inter-related. In the NL, it’s assumed that every team will have an anchor from the pitcher’s spot and most nearly every team will have another spot in the order which is mostly dead weight. The question is how strong is the rest of your team? Is your offense so good that you can handle one-third (or more) of the lineup being anemic? For most teams, and most likely the Mets, the answer is no.

It’s why there’s been so much virtual ink about upgrading the catching position. It’s why it’s so frustrating that the team continues to give PA to a guy with a giant fork in his back. And it’s why the Mets need to seriously address the Rosario question.

There’s no answer at shortstop in either Triple-A or Double-A. If we didn’t know better, we might think there’s an answer in Las Vegas. Former first-round pick Gavin Cecchini is finally hitting like a top prospect in the PCL should. After putting up an .838 OPS in Vegas in 2016 and a .709 mark last year – both in 440-plus samples – Cecchini has a .352/.403/.563 mark in 71 PA this year.

The easy thing to do would be to chalk this up as a sample size thing. But Cecchini has a different approach at the plate this year, as he’s embraced the launch angle philosophy. After GB/FB ratios of 1.41 and 1.75 the last two seasons in Vegas, Cecchini has a 0.75 mark this year, thanks to a 43.6 FB%. And he’s not just hitting the ball in the air, either. He’s pulling the ball at a high rate. After pull percentages in the 40s the past two seasons, he’s pulling it 58.2 percent of the time. And the results have been noticeable. While hitting for a high average, 12 of his 25 hits have gone for extra-bases.

But unless he’s overhauled how he’s throwing the ball, he’s not equipped defensively to be a shortstop in the majors. If he’s able to keep up this kind of hitting, he might force the Mets’ hand in a couple of months. However, at this point, that seems to be wishful thinking all the way around. If the Mets really believed in him – and they’ve given little reason to think that they do – you could argue for switching guys around the infield and let Cecchini play 2B. But that seems highly unlikely so let’s move on.

Jose Reyes has done nothing at the plate and it’s been years since he’s been an asset in the field. Asdrubal Cabrera is hitting everything in sight but still gives us reminders of his range limitations, even at the less demanding position of second base. An interesting ploy might be to go back to Davey Johnson times and use Todd Frazier at shortstop. But it’s hard to seriously make that suggestion when the team is in first place by half a game.

So, there are no answers either in the majors or high minors. The Mets would likely get held up as much on a deal for a front line shortstop as they would for a front line catcher. At this point, their best plan of action is to monitor the trade markets for both catcher and shortstop but play the status quo at both positions and hope for some internal improvement.

First base is another thing entirely, though. Bruce apparently doesn’t want to play there. But even if he doesn’t really mind – which we have to consider as a possibility – he’s saying and doing all of the right things. He’s showing respect for the veteran incumbent by saying he doesn’t want to play the position. But he’s also pointing out that he’s an employee and he does what he’s told. And right now that’s taking grounders at the position, getting ready for game action there.

Adrian Gonzalez was an All-Star caliber player in his prime. But he was below average for the position in 2016 and he posted a .642 OPS in an injury-plagued year in 2017, which was his age 35 season. This year he has a .612 OPS after 71 PA, with a mark that high only due to a BB% double that of a year ago. You might think that he’s making up for things with timely hits. But you would be wrong, as his WPA sits in negative numbers. And it’s not like he’s wowing us defensively to make up for things. UZR has him at 0.1 while DRS has him at (-1).

Moving Bruce allows the club to get either Brandon Nimmo or Juan Lagares into the lineup. When given the opportunity, Nimmo has continued to build on his 2017 late-season success, as he has a .487 OBP. And while Lagares is hitting even more grounders than normal after spending the offseason working on his launch angle, the BABIP gods are smiling on him and he remains the best defensive outfielder on the club by a large margin. Both are significant improvements on what Gonzalez has given the team so far.

The plan for the Mets right now has to be to hope for continued improvement from the OF, make the first base switch and fingers crossed for the best with Rosario and the catchers. As unimpressive as Rosario’s been at the plate, we have to recognize that it could be worse, as he sits currently with a .333 BABIP. And much like Gonzalez, he’s got a WPA in negative numbers, with a (-0.44) mark. It’s ugly and as one of the masses who called for him to be promoted earlier than he was last year, it’s caught me off guard. But at this point all we can do is hope he makes the plays defensively and earn his keep that way.

17 comments for “On the play of Amed Rosario

  1. Pete from NJ
    April 29, 2018 at 11:06 am

    I’m looking at Amed to finish the season with a .260-.270 BA, low OBP and plenty of strikeouts. But aside for some rookie type of fielding errors, he brings an infield glove we’ve haven’t seen in years.

    He’s certainly not to blame for the other holes in the lineup.

    • Rae
      April 30, 2018 at 9:51 am

      Rosario has a good arm and glove but he does not run plays out, and he is kinda lackadaisical wheres someone like Jeff McNeil or Phillip Evans, and Luis Guillorme are always hustling. One of these guys needs to be brought up, and Evans and McNeil do play multiple IF/OF positions plus Evans can be used as an emergency catcher while Guillorme plays an excellent 2B. SS and 3B. These guys all hustle which Rosario seems unawares to doing, and he has appeared somewhat spacey when playing short as he does not attempt to do the right thing. All three of these afore-mentioned guys always have their minds on the game whereas Rosario does not seem to be laser focused on the game nor does he get his body in front of the ball which has thus far accounted for most of his errors. Keith has mentioned this about Rosario that he needs to get in front of the ball but to me it seems like he just cannot be bothered with getting in front of the ball which is definitely where he needs to be, Again, he is much too lackadaisical, and this mind set of his needs to be changed, and what better place to do it in then a demotion to Vegas?

  2. TexasGusCC
    April 29, 2018 at 11:07 am

    I don’t have time to check right now, but I’d assume Rosario is hitting similarly to most shortstops in the NL, too, he’s a rookie.

    The problems with this lucky first place team all straddle the right field line: Rightfielder, First Baseman, and Catcher. All three are below average and way below. All three talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. Not offensively, not defensively. Further, the bullpen has been unreliable and pitchers haven’t found their groove yet.

    • April 29, 2018 at 11:35 am

      The average NL SS – including everyone who’s played the position – has a .684 OPS while Rosario has a .615 mark. As for NL starting SS, he ranks 12th out of 14 who qualify for the FG leaderboards. The two guys he’s ahead of have BABIPs 30-40 points below average while Rosario sports a .333 mark in the category. And those two have been better in the field. Overall Rosario’s been as bad at SS as Gonzalez has been at 1B.

      • TexasGusCC
        April 29, 2018 at 12:14 pm

        Thanks for that Brian.

      • Mike Walczak
        April 29, 2018 at 12:54 pm

        Rosario’s big problem at the plate is that he has no plate discipline and he never walks.

  3. Eraff
    April 29, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Rosario is struggling and flashing…he’s surviving, and I believe he needs to play at the MLB level. The only reason to consider sending him down would be a sustained collapse—otherwise, he’s really doing pretty well. Stay above 600 OPS…Field SS… get to 200/300 ab’s. He’ll be ok.

  4. Reese Kaplan
    April 29, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    My biggest issue with him is that he’s seemingly forgotten the stolen base as a weapon in his limited offensive arsenal.

  5. Madman
    April 29, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Guys,it’s a no-brained,Rosario is the shortstop. There is no one else, he was a top prospect.Its sink or swim.

  6. Metsense
    April 29, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    It took three years for Jose Reyes to have a “true” break out season at age 23 (around 1200+ at bats). I wouldn’t expect Rosario to reach his potential before the 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.

  7. April 29, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    You’ve gotta leave Rosario in as the starter (find someone reasonably successful to back him up), but why not considering Dominic Smith at first again? Wilmer Flores can play it some, but the kid was supposed to be a slick fielder and hit for average. Playing games with his free agency clock?

    • April 30, 2018 at 8:15 am

      I thought Smith got a raw deal starting the year in the minors. But he’s scuffling in Triple-A while Brandon Nimmo is doing great in the majors. It’s more of a priority right now for the Mets to find a way to get Nimmo in the lineup rather than Smith.

      • Metsense
        April 30, 2018 at 8:33 am

        Smith should check his rear view mirror because Alonso is coming up fast.

  8. TJ
    April 29, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    Rosario’s play to this point has disappointed me. More specifically, his defense looks extremely raw and choppy. Additionally, while most all agreed that he would need to refine his pitch recognition/selection at the big league level, to date his game has offered both no power and little exploitation of his speed. Almost completely absent from his game is bunting and stealing. Yes, he is still a work in process and very young, but given his prospect ranking and the many excellent performances of young stars, I expected a bit more polish,

  9. MattyMets
    April 30, 2018 at 7:53 am

    I see Rosario as developing into a clone of Alcides Escobar, and at this point, that would require improvement. He’s fading a bit now, but at his best Escobar was a good fielder, speedy base runner, and a good aggressive hitter who has hit for a decent average with a good amount of doubles, triples, and steals. The problem is that his free swinging ways and and inability to draw walks have always made him a better candidate for the bottom of the order than the top. Escobar’s career OBP is only 35 points above his BA. In eight full seasons, Escobar has only once had a decent OBP. The last three seasons it was under .300.

    I like Rosario’s glove and I think he has a decent bat. His disinclination to steal bases is inexplicable. His lack of plate discipline is alarming. At times he’ll lay off the first pitch or two like he’s trying to be a good boy. But taking a pitch is not the same as recognizing hittable pitches. This is the difference between Lucas Duda and Brandon Nimmo.

    Rosario will likely develop into a pretty good, but flawed shortstop. He’s young and quick, but that’s where the comparison ends with his contemporaries like Correa, Turner, Seager, Swanson, et al.

    On the bright side, Rosario is young, cheap and will likely develop into a player who gives us enough positives to warrant keeping at shortstop for the next five years, so long as we keep him batting in the bottom third of the order. I don’t think he’ll ever be a franchise player, but I do think he’s a guy we can win with, just like KC won with Escobar, in spite of his flaws. In fact, they managed it with another low OBP guy in their lineup, Salvador Perez – a player several on here have suggested might be the solution to our catching problem.

    • Rae
      April 30, 2018 at 11:47 am

      I agree that Rosario in an enigma in many ways. He is blessed with speed but refuses to steal. He is too much of a free swinger, and shows that he thinks his glove and arm are so good that he does not have to get in front of ground balls so he is inclined to reach out instead of being in front of ground balls which then causes him to commit more errors then he should be making. The Mets have other shortstop/infielders in their system that can hit better then Rosario, and definitely will field better then Amed and their names are Jeff McNeil and Phillip Evans along with Luis Guillorme. McNeil and Evans can hit, field and throw the ball but do not have the speed of Rosario but what speed they have they know how to use. Guillorme is a much better defender than all of these guys but he is a singles hitter, and that is ok too. He has hit 283 throughout his minor league career so he would at least be a 250 type of hitter in the Majors which is still better then what Rosario is doing plus Guillorme’s fielding and throwing are lights out compared to Rosario.

  10. Name
    April 30, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    I’m glad that people are calling Rosario out. He’s not good enough right now to start for a contending team, but there might not be anything left to learn at AAA either – tough spot to be in.

    SS can be hard to evaluate. There are guys who are impact players right away, like Lindor or Correa, but then there are also guys who are late bloomers and need 4 years to figure it out like Didi or Segura but eventually break out.

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