Amed Rosario is one of those players who seems as though he’s been with the Mets forever. Former splashy international signing, former top prospect in baseball, former future superstar—that’s a lot of formers for a player who is about to enter his age 24 season.
There’s no denying that Rosario’s first three professional seasons have been a disappointment, given his blue-chip prospect status. And every year that passes lowers the chances of a true star turn for the young shortstop. But he has also made significant improvements in his game every year, and 2019 finally showed a side of Rosario that offers the Mets the kind of modestly above-average overall production that would adequately cover the position for the next several years.
Rosario finally cracked league-average offense with a 100 wRC+ in 2019 and a .287/.323/.432 line. His 15 home runs were almost certainly juiced-ball-aided, but he hit the ball harder than ever before, which also didn’t hurt. And the .287 average came on the back of a .338 batting average on balls in play, but he’s the classic high-BABIP hitting profile, so that shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a red flag. As he did in 2018, he finished the season strong with an .804 OPS in the second half. He also stole 19 bases, though his 10 caught stealings point to a need to continue honing this skill.
Defense still remains a question mark in Rosario’s game. Despite coming up through the minors looking like a future Gold Glove winner, he has seemed outmatched on the field and has some ugly defensive runs saved numbers to prove it. But his struggles have been inconsistent, and 10 of his 17 errors in 2019 occurred within the first six weeks of the season. His marked turnaround suggests that his difficulties were more mental than physical, which bodes well for a continuing improvement, though the onus is still very much on Rosario to prove as much.
One pending question the team needs to resolve around Rosario is where he will be placed in the lineup this season. Over his three years in the majors, he has played the most frequently out of the leadoff slot, just over 31% of his plate appearances, though the seventh and eighth positions are close behind. His best production has been from the eight-spot, though, where he has an .816 OPS across 216 plate appearances.
Especially with a healthy Brandon Nimmo in the lineup, Rosario should see most of his playing batting eighth, where he consistently makes hard contact and rarely strikes out. His numbers at leadoff aren’t bad, though, and while he shouldn’t regularly displace teammates with higher on-base numbers, he could definitely bring some value there against left-handed starters.
Much like last year, Rosario is entering his season with a lot of promise and a lot to prove. And if he can keep his contact numbers up and keep his glove down, he might actually prove it.