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This season is pivotal for Amed Rosario

Amed Rosario in 2017. Photo by Ian D'Andrea via Flickr.

Amed Rosario took some big strides in 2019, showing that he has the potential to be a very good major league shortstop. In 157 games and 655 plate appearances last season, Rosario hit .287/.323/.432 with 15 home runs, 72 RBIs and 75 runs scored.

It was a significant jump from his first full campaign in 2018 when he hit .256/.295/.381.

In 2019, his Baseball-Reference oWAR of 3.6 was No. 58 in the entire MLB, No. 11 of players who played the majority of their innings at shortstop and No. 4 on the Mets behind just Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto.

Rosario, like multiple of his teammates, was also significantly better after the All-Star break than before it. After the break, Rosario hit a great .319/.351/.453, with his batting average and on-base percentage each being 50 points higher than it was pre-break and his slugging percentage being almost 40 points higher.

He went from having the No. 20 ranked OPS of qualified shortstops before the All-Star break to the No. 10 ranked OPS after the All-Star break.

His OPS+, which was 89 before the break, was 112 after the break and ended up at 102 for the season.

As for his Statcast numbers, it’s he shines in some areas and not so much in others.

The good: He’s in the 90th percentile for expected batting average, which of all qualified batters puts him No. 22 in the MLB and No. 2 of shortstops. He’s also in the 94th percentile for sprint speed, though you wouldn’t guess that by looking at his 19-for-29 stolen base record last season.

The average: He’s in the 54th percentile for exit velocity and 49th percentile for hard-hit percentage, which isn’t bad, but it’s not turning any heads. He’s also slightly above average in strikeout percentage, sitting in the 67th percentile, as well as sitting in the 53rd percentile for whiff percentage.

The bad: Despite being so high in expected batting average, he’s only in the 37th percentile for expected weighted on-base percentage, the 35th percentile for expected slugging and 18th percentile for barrel percentage. Yes, shortstop is historically a lighter-hitting position, but he’s by no means near the top in the positional rankings either. He’s also in the 6th percentile for outs above average, so his fielding ability is certainly far from ideal.

This would all be moot though if there wasn’t anyone else in the organization who could play shortstop at a major league level. As a former top organizational prospect, he is already granted the benefit of time. With this upcoming season being only his third “full” season in the big leagues and being under team control through 2023, he’ll likely be given a couple more years before the team has to make a decision on whether to move on from him or not.

Enter Andres Gimenez.

One of the top international signings out of the 2015 class (the same class that included Vladimir Guerrero Jr.), Gimenez is now 21 and was supposed to start this season in AAA. However, due to COVID-19, minor league seasons are no longer happening. Instead, teams now carry a 60-man roster that will have 30 of those players active to begin the season.

Gimenez is one of the 60.

Already an above-average fielder, Gimenez hit .250/.309/.387 in AA last season as a 20-year-old. He’s still finding his footing at the plate, and while he may never turn into a superstar hitter, he does have the potential to be a very solid average-first guy with good speed and a great glove. He might not be ready yet but the hope is he’s major-league ready soon, and if Rosario struggles, the fans and media might start calling for the Mets to give Gimenez a shot to take the starting gig.

What if Gimenez has to be forced into action this year and he does well? That could expedite the process and shorten Rosario’s leash. He likely won’t get any regular playing time even if he’s called up to the bigs, but if Luis Guillorme has to be sidelined this season it would leave the Mets without any suitable backup who can play shortstop. If Rosario has to be sidelined there’s an even bigger chance Gimenez could play, seeing as Guillorme is a solid defensive replacement but really isn’t an every-day starter. The Mets could then potentially platoon Gimenez and Guillorme at short.

They do have Eduardo Nunez and Max Moroff in their 60-man player pool and both do have experience at shortstop in the MLB, but even though Gimenez has only played as high as AA, seeing what he can do might be the preferable option. Nunez has only played short sparingly over the past couple of years and hasn’t played the position extensively since 2017. Oh, and he had an OPS of just .548 last season, so it’s not like his bat is expected to bring much. As for Moroff, he’s played at least one MLB game every year 2016 but only played in 104 total games in that span, putting up an OPS of .596 playing primarily second base and shortstop.

That’s why this year is so pivotal for Rosario — he needs to establish himself as the shortstop of the future because his replacement is really just one step away from the bigs.

That’s not even mentioning Ronny Mauricio, a 19-year-old shortstop who is already the No. 1 prospect in the Mets’ system. He’s at least a couple of years out, but his approximate MLB ETA lines right up with when Rosario is set to hit free agency.

Rosario was relatively unchallenged for the starting shortstop spot in the beginning of his career, but that’s about to end. If he flounders this season, it could really hurt any future he has with the organization.

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