The Mets have a number of players on the threshold of stardom. With health, more experience and a better supporting cast, a few players could take their games to the next level and go from potential star to all-star. Brandon Nimmo enjoyed a breakout year last season that we hope he can build upon. Jeff McNeil was a wonderful surprise. Steven Matz stayed healthy for a full season and Zack Wheeler had a spectacular second half. Hopefully, 2019 is a coming out party for Pete Alonso. But, two players in particular seem to be on the cusp of emerging as team centerpieces – Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario
Conforto figures to be our starting right fielder on opening day. He’s shown flashes of all-star talent with that smooth, compact lefty swing and enough speed to turn long singles into doubles and make some good plays out on the outfield grass. In 2015, Conforto was a mid-season call-up who only appeared in 56 games, but he opened some eyes, contributing a .270/.335/.506 slash line at age 22, in the midst of a pennant chase. Conforto struggled under the weight of expectations in year two and had to be demoted after a rough start. His third season was cut short by a freak injury, but a robust .939 OPS earned Conforto his first All-Star nod. In his first full season in 2018, Conforto slugged 28 home runs and got on base at a .350 clip, but his strikeouts climbed and his batting average dipped. A slow start after shoulder surgery brought his numbers down for sure. Now 100 percent healthy with the benefit of more lineup protection, this could be the year Conforto puts it all together and blossoms into a potent middle of the order bat.
A former top prospect, Rosario got his first taste of big league pitching at age 21 in 2017. In 46 games, he slashed 248/.271/.394 – not bad for a very young rookie shortstop, but not what we were all hoping to see. At first glance at the back of his baseball card, it looks like Rosario made a modest offensive improvement last year, raising his OPS from .665 to .676, but there’s more to that story. For starters, he played his first full season – 154 games and 592 plate appearances. He looked more comfortable in the field, ranging to more balls, turning smooth double plays. He also looked more at home on the bases, swiping 24 bags. He showed some pop, hitting 43 extra base hits. Most telling of all, was the in-season improvement. Over the last two months of the season, Rosario slashed .303/335/.444. While his season ending numbers weren’t all that impressive, some peripheral numbers tell a different story. His strikeout rate dropped from 29 to 20 percent, his modest walk rate rose from two to five percent, and his hard hit rate rose from 25 to 32 percent. So far in spring training, he’s been knocking the cover off the ball. Still just 23, Rosario seems poised for a big year.
If the Mets go far in 2019 it will be because at least one of these two players emerged as a consistent offensive threat.