If I may misquote T.S. Eliot: “May is the cruelest month.” Since the calendar changed, very little has gone right for the Mets, and now that the team has come back to Earth after their hot start, fans are looking for someone to blame.
Michael Conforto is slumping hard (despite his .347 OBP), and anyone not named Noah or Jacob has consistently gotten throttled by opposing lineups. These are reasonable criticisms. But another name that I continue to see popping up on #MetsTwitter is that of our 22-year-old shortstop, Amed Rosario. And while he hasn't lived up to expectations so far this season, it feels like a lot of this criticism is unfair.
Rosario has slashed .234/.273/.309, and his highly-touted speed has resulted in a whopping zero stolen bases in two attempts. The hype that came from Rosario's prospect status makes it easy to forget he's just 22. When I was 22, I was at my first desk job and completely baffled by Microsoft Outlook, succeeding just enough to not get fired (until, of course, I got fired).
No one signed me to a multi-million dollar signing bonus when I was 16 to do that job either, so I get that the analogy is not perfect. But my point is that we should be focusing on whether or not Rosario is improving as a very young player without even a full season under his belt, and many of the numbers indicate that he is.
The biggest criticism of Rosario coming into this season was that he never saw a pitch that he didn’t want to take a hack at. According to FanGraphs, last season Rosario swung at 45.5% of pitches out of the strike zone (which is extremely high), while walking only 1.8% of the time (which is extremely low). For comparison’s sake, a player whom most would consider a below average hitter, Juan Lagares, has a career chase rate of 34.6%, while walking 4.6% of the time. Rosario was swatting at anything that moved
But in 2018, Rosario has shown slight improvements across the board, something we as fans should be excited about. He’s now only chasing 40.5% of pitches outside of the zone, which is still far from ideal, but it should be encouraging. He’s also already surpassed last year’s walk total in half the plate appearances, and his hard-hit percentage is up from last year’s, too (24.1% to 29.6%).
Let’s also keep in mind that the alternative to Rosario is Jose Reyes, who has looked bad at the plate and is all but certainly washed. Even with both players struggling offensively, Rosario is vastly better defensively than Reyes, who was abysmal last year and is looking even worse in limited time this year. What's more, even during a year in which the Mets have playoff aspirations, wouldn’t you want most of the innings at shortstop going toward the development of a young player instead of a nearly 35-year-old veteran?
Ultimately, we as fans need to show a bit more patience with Rosario, just as Mickey Callaway has done so far this season. He’s still a baby in baseball terms, and he is showing signs of improvement. And even though many of us have fond memories of Reyes’ first tenure with the team, his replacement is demonstrably worse. Give Amed some time, let him develop, and with any luck, we’ll have the shortstop of the future on our hands.
Photo credits:Steve Mitchell – USA TODAY Sports