The Mets have an impressive history of bringing highly touted players up through their system. Once they reach the majors, however, the results have rarely lived up to the hype. Amed Rosario’s first two seasons in the majors were remarkable for how unremarkable they were. As Rosario makes a push to buck that trend, he has made himself an integral part of the Mets second-half resurgence.
I feel about Mets “top prospects” the way I feel about movie sequels: I’m generally excited they exist and can’t wait to see them, while also recognizing that I’ll likely be disappointed. The Mets don’t often have the best players. Even in their championship and near-championship seasons, their sum was better than their parts, to some extent. So when the Mets have a player in their farm system who is considered one of the best of any player in any farm system, it’s hard to keep expectations at bay.
Fortunately, this is where having veteran (aka jaded) Mets fans as compadres comes in handy. While only a few of my friends were around for the Steve Chilcott experience, the rest of us know from Paul Wilson, Terrence Long, Billy Traber, Fernando Martinez, Shawn Abner and so many others. So, when Rosario was approaching his turn in the majors, most people knew better than to expect their new shortstop to be a game-changer. Apparently that guy is in the Bronx, where the water turns middle infielders into All-Stars while giving other people Legionnaires’ disease, but I digress. While Mets fans would have obviously been excited for Rosario to be an All-Star, most were just hoping for someone who could play every day and contribute regularly, without getting too injured. Yes, Mets fans even fantasize in mediocrity.
And for about two years, that’s what the Mets got. There were flashes of excitement, moments of near-disaster, and mostly something in the middle. Now, this is where the “fun with numbers” portion of the story comes into play. Since a June 22nd, 3-for-4 effort against the Cubs, Rosario has hit .355. If we were talking about a small sample size, like a 10-game hit streak, that batting average would be worthy of a smirk+head-nod, bad Robert DeNiro-impersonation-style. Instead, this is over the course of 47 games; that’s more than a quarter of the season. In other words, Rosario has surpassed the “hmm, not bad” barrier and broken into “wow, he’s actually pretty good” territory. More importantly, he has raised his 2019 batting average to .291. This may not seem especially noteworthy, but it’s hard to ignore the impact it’s had on the Mets turnaround.
Now, to be fair to those who are REALLY into statistics – the batting average doesn’t indicate as much hitting prowess as it used to. There are many who value a higher on-base percentage over a higher batting average, and that’s understandable. To that point, it’s important to point out that on the season, Rosario has a .329 OBP, which is essentially around league average. In fact, since that June 22nd game, Rosario has only walked 9 times. Yes, 9 times. This includes 2 walks through the first 2/3 of August. So, while he is improving at the plate, he hasn’t exactly completely turned things around. His slugging percentage, on the other hand, is above average, no doubt aided by his 7 triples (2 away from the league lead). Also, as you may remember, Rosario had a terrible fielding slump in April and May, which seems to feel even further away than a few months ago.
The story that the numbers don’t necessarily tell so well, is the role that Amed Rosario has played on this Mets team. In their recent comeback victory against the Nationals a few Friday nights ago, you know the one, Rosario kept the inning going by lining a single on a pitch that was nearly at his shoes. The ball was definitely out of the strike zone. Perhaps he shouldn’t have swung. But he did, hitting the pitch cleanly between the shortstop and third baseman. And he kept the inning alive, giving the next hitter, Michael Conforto, the opportunity to be the hero.
Maybe that’s what Amed Rosario is teaching us. He can be everything the Mets need him to be, without being THE hero, which, ironically, seems pretty heroic.
In Sunday’s game, the Mets needed someone to play left field and didn’t have anyone available on the bench. So, naturally they turned to the athletically-gifted, albeit inexperienced, Rosario as their only semi-option. Rosario went out there, fielded everything that came to him, despite reported nervousness, and pretty much took care of business cleanly, if unspectacularly. I’ll take that over a couple extra walks.
Obviously, time will tell if Amed Rosario ever lives up to the lofty expectations that non-Mets fans created for him, or even the more reasonable/less exciting expectations that Mets fans had for him. Much like the rest of the Mets have done over the past couple months, Rosario has at least given a reason to hope, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed.