No names. Pick which player you would want if you could only get one:
Player A: Age 26, 248 PA, .329/.381/.471/.852, .359 BABIP, 7/8 SB
Player B: Age 23, 249 PA, .314/.341/.423/.764, .362 BABIP, 8/13 SB
My choice is the second player just based on what we see above. There seems to be more growth potential and upside. It appears both are good players. Now, let’s add the names. Player A was Jeff McNeil in 2018 when he broke into the majors. Player B was Amed Rosario’s last 249 PA last year. My previous comparison was Rosario to Xander Bogaerts, showing that Rosario is on the same trajectory so far in his career. Now however, I’d like to point out just how valuable Rosario will be to the Mets this season and why banking on him seems like a good idea.
Every player grows and often glimpses of improvement can be seen, or even breakout, and the last two months of Rosario’s 2019 are showing breakout. Here the target was a similar amount of plate appearances in order to show how close Rosario was to McNeil’s production, yet three years younger. We all felt McNeil could have been a quality player based on that performance sample, so why can’t Rosario be the same? Sure, there’s some prospect fatigue as Rosario has been around for three years and he has struggled on both sides of the ball. But, good things may be coming and the Mets need it from him. Truth is, there isn’t really anyone else to play SS full time.
In every position on the roster there’s a semblance of a Plan B. Every position on the field has a backup or combination of backups, that can hold the position and give production close to the starter’s. Every position except SS. Let’s examine the backup possibilities: Andres Gimenez hit .250 in AA last year; he’s not even MLB ready. Jed Lowrie? Can he find a bigger brace? And Brodie Van Wagenen doesn’t know how he got hurt, what is wrong with him or if he’s better – and that’s after not knowing what was wrong last year either. That’s the GM, and he has no answers. So can’t expect much from Lowrie. Luis Guillorme is a nice fill-in, but that is because he’s sure handed. However, Guillorme has little speed, no power, and since he’s a second baseman, his range can be questioned. That brings us back to Amed Rosario.
As it appears, Rosario will be batting ninth this season and is in great position to be a second leadoff hitter and set up the top of the order. That he will have one less plate appearance per game isn’t a problem because his power hasn’t shown itself yet and so the Mets won’t be losing production by putting him that low. However, hopefully he has been putting time in the weight training room to strengthen his body and drive the ball better.
On the field, Rosario appeared to be much steadier as the season progressed out of the horrendous first month when he made seven errors in just six games. After that, he only averaged two errors a month and didn’t have any more clusters of errors. He still has issues going to his right, but in 2019 he also stood three feet closer to home plate on defense and was the third closest to the plate in his position (Ben Clemens, FanGraphs, March 3, 2020). That aggressive fielding will buy him time to make plays but limit his lateral range.
While we all hope Rosario can be the player everyone feels he can be, it’s important to just have him stay healthy because the other options are a big downgrade. It seems Van Wagenen has plenty of confidence in Rosario to not bring in a decent backup, or he feels Lowrie will magically heal. Sorry, couldn’t resist one more joke.