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Mets shortstop Amed Rosario primed to breakout in 2019

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TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 10: Infielder Amed Rosario #1 of the New York Mets strikes out in the bottom of 6th inning during the game two of the Japan and MLB All Stars at Tokyo Dome on November 10, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 10: Infielder Amed Rosario #1 of the New York Mets strikes out in the bottom of 6th inning during the game two of the Japan and MLB All Stars at Tokyo Dome on November 10, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
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After a strong finish to 2018, Amed Rosario is ready to take the next step for the New York Mets in 2019.

The New York Mets signing of Wilson Ramos did more than solidify the catching depth chart. The signing ended the possibility of adding J.T. Realmuto via trade and it appears any notion the Mets would move Amed Rosario can be put to rest, for now. And this should be good news for Mets fans.

Rosario is just 23 years old, and not long removed from being widely considered one of the top prospects in baseball and hasn’t yet sniffed the surface of his immense potential.

You aren’t alone if you were left feeling underwhelmed from Rosario’s first full season in Queens. Rosario slashed .256/.295/.381 with a below average wRC+ of 85.

He struggled greatly in the first half of the season, hitting a meager .246 with 6 stolen bases and just 16 walks in 90 games. However, Rosario picked it up in the second half, to the tune of .268/.302/.383 and 18 stolen bases.

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In fact, in his final 51 games, he was even better. Rosario slashed .290/.325/.421 with 15 of his 24 stolen bases and 11 of his 29 walks. It’s should come as no surprise this coincided with the Mets encouraging play to close out the year, with the team going 30-21 in these games.

But perhaps more disappointing than his shaky offensive performance in the first half was his defense. Rosario was billed as a gold glove caliber shortstop, with a plus arm and range. To say his 16 errors, -16 DRS and -5.2 UZR was disappointing, is an understatement.

However, these should be taken with a grain of salt, as advanced defensive metrics have been known to not tell the entire story. Rosario shared much of the infield last year with names like Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Wilmer Flores – none of whom are known for their defensive prowess. Reyes, yes, once upon a time, but he was a shell of his former self in the field last season.

Rosario should benefit from manning the infield with a healthy Todd Frazier, utility man Jeff McNeill, and newly acquired Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie.

This summer, Rosario continued his impressive run at the plate, across the globe in Japan, going 8-19 with two doubles, two stolen bases, one towering home run, and five runs scored for an MLB team that went 1-5 in the 2018 Japan All-Star series.  While it’s important to not to put too much stock into the performance, it’s still a great sign to see him playing well and building confidence.

Rosario also flashed power late last year to suggest he could develop into a 15+ home run per year player. Rosario’s average home run distance last year was 405 feet, including two 435 foot moonshots to dead center. This average is further than household sluggers like Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt, and JD Martinez. When he hit them, they often traveled far, suggesting the strength and power is there. Factor in around 30 steals, and a power-speed combo he’d represent would bring a previously uninhabited dynamic to the Mets offense.

When you factor in Rosario’s controllability – not eligible for arbitration until 2021 and not eligible for free agency until 2024 – you have what organizations crave. A toolsy young shortstop with immense potential, controllable for the next 5 seasons.

The increasing contact skills, diminishing strikeout percentage – down from a very high 28.8% in 2017, to 20.1%, roughly league average  – defensive reputation and surprising power display late in the year, has me thinking 2019 could be a big year for Rosario.

The Mets will most likely need the second half Rosario to show up in 2019 to have sustained success. His speed and defense alone make him a dynamic and valuable asset to the club. If Rosario can avoid a slump to start the year, look for him to quickly supplant himself as an invaluable piece of the puzzle.

The Mets correctly resisted the urge to trade their budding young shortstop this offseason, and 2019 will be the year to sit back and enjoy the fruits of that decision. The signs are too positive, and the contract too cost effective, for the Mets to have made a rash move.

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Expect Amed Rosario to make some noise for the Mets in 2019.

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