Amed Rosario Key To Mets 2020 Season
Looking at the Mets offseason thus far, they didn’t do much of anything to address the needs they have. The lineup is effectively the same. That means a team who had a National League worst -93 DRS will have to hope the defense improves and improves drastically with the talent already on the roster getting significantly better.
That puts the focus directly on Amed Rosario.
Right before he was called up to the Majors, John Sickels, then of Minor League Ball, noted Rosario was a gifted defender noting he is a “superior defender with plus arm strength, range, instincts.” The anticipation was while he may struggle a bit offensively, he was going to be a plus defender who could one day win a Gold Glove.
So far, that has not happened. In each of his two full Major League seasons, he has posted a -16 DRS. Since his Major League debut on August 1, 2017, he has a career -31 DRS. That makes him the second worst defensive shortstop in the majors, and he is also just the third worst defender in all of basball.
It is of no small coincidence that over that time frame Mets pitchers have yielded the ninth highest BABIP in the majors despite their inducing the softest contact. It is one of the reasons why the Mets have a 4.13 FIP (ninth best) while having a 4.32 ERA (16th best) over that stretch.
This is an issue which appears like it is poised to be exacerbated. In 2020, the Mets will have a full season of Marcus Stroman who has a career 2.61 GB/FB. Replacing Zack Wheeler in the rotation will be sinkerball pitcher Rick Porcello with his 1.48 GB/FB. This is going to put a premium on infield defense, which is problematic given Rosario’s early career defensive struggles.
The good news is Rosario took a significant step forward in 2019. The -16 DRS he amassed last year was all from the first half of the season. After the All-Star Break, the eye test said Rosario was much better than that, and the numbers bore that out with his having a 0 DRS.
While not entirely Rosario dependent and the issues with small sample sizes at play, we saw a real impact on the pitching staff. In the first half, Mets pitchers had a .311 BABIP, which was the third worst in the Majors. In the second half, the BABIP dropped to .296, which was the 13th best in the Majors. That had a significant impact the pitching staff which went from a 4.88 ERA to a 3.48.
That’s part of the reason the Mets went from 10 games under .500 to a 46-26 (.639) record in the second half. Another reason was Rosario’s breakout offensively. After an 88 wRC+ in the first half, which was on par with his then career 84 wRC+, he had a 114 wRC+ in the second half.
Again, while many factors were at play, Rosario’s emergence on both side of the ball played a key role in the Mets resurgence. With his hitting, the Mets had more than just Pete Alonso to provide balance to a lineup who counts on production from mostly left-handed hitters. And again, the defense really helped turn hits into outs.
For the Mets to once again be the team they were in the second half, they will need Rosario to be that player. Considering the team not adding a center fielder, and their new focus on ground ball pitching, this makes Rosario the key to the season. Fortunately, we have seen Rosario is capable of being that type of player, and more than that, with his being just 24, we know he is capable of doing more.