The New York Mets were one of my picks to win a Wild Card slot this season. My rationale was that the Nationals were too good for the Mets to overcome without absurd amounts of good luck (see 2015), but the rotation would be strong enough to make the Mets competitive, especially if Michael Conforto broke out. Well, one of those two things happened.
I was afraid that the team would do something to “Mets” things up this season, and I was at least partially right. Yes, the team has been devastated by injuries, but how they have managed those injuries is baffling. For example, having Yoenis Céspedes come off the DL when he was not 100 percent was just asking for him to reinjure himself (although thankfully that has not happened). A lifetime of Mets fandom has left me rather cynical and jaded, so I don’t know if I deserve any credit for predicting that the Mets would Mets things up.
In particular, the shortstop position has been a dumpster fire for the Mets. Their 71 wRC+ at the position is tied with the Giants for seventh-worst in baseball. Because the defense has been so bad, Mets’ shortstops have combined for almost a full win below replacement, according to FanGraphs. Only the Padres have been worse, but they are actively tanking.
Asdrúbal Cabrera is on the DL for the second time this season with a sprained left thumb. A .244/.321/.392 line could be acceptable from a shortstop if his defense were not so bad. He has not been a shortstop for years, and I was quite surprised that the Mets signed him to be one last year. As bad as he has been, José Reyes has been even worse.
As with Cabrera, Reyes has not been a shortstop for a few years now, and the Mets are just playing him there out of desperation. I would say that he has actually been better than Cabrera defensively by the eye test, and the defensive metrics back that up, but his offense has been awful. He has hit a lowly .193/.269/.303, and his 54 wRC+ is tied with Byron Buxton — whom we will get back to later — for the fourth-worst offense in baseball. Baseball Reference has him as the fourth-worst player in baseball at -1.1 WAR.
There have been plenty of articles calling for the promotion of Amed Rosario to the majors. He is one of the best prospects in baseball, and the Mets’ need at shortstop could not be more obvious. The reasoning behind that is pretty clear. The Mets have gotten a combined .277 wOBA and poor defense from the position. Cabrera and Reyes both have a buyout for next season. Reyes is mostly being paid by the Rockies too, so the Mets would lose little by designating him for assignment. Rosario is undoubtedly the future at shortstop for the Mets. He is currently hitting .327/.370/.484 at Triple A as a 21-year-old, which is over five years younger than the average age of players in that league. Even if he struggled offensively, his defense alone would make him an upgrade over Cabrera and Reyes.
Here is the thing that I believe people are overlooking: The Mets season might be over. Injuries have devastated many of their key players, some of whom will not be back for a while. They are 31-37 and 10.5 games back in the NL East. They are even further back in the Wild Card race at 12 games back, as it is looking more and more like the two Wild Card teams will come out of the NL West. According to FanGraphs, they have only a 9.1 percent chance to make the playoffs at all, and I do not know if that factors in all the injuries. Even if Rosario comes firing out of the gate, he would not make more than a dent in the Mets’ playoff chances.
I think back to when Byron Buxton was first called up by the Twins two years ago. He was the consensus top prospect in baseball at the time. The Twins were 33-28 at the time, which was much better than everyone expected. However, they were 30-20 at the end of May and were having a bad June. Calling up Buxton was intended to help turn their fortunes around. The irony is that the team was enjoying an incomprehensible amount of luck just to be where they were. Jonah Keri, then of Grantland, did a good job of covering this.
I was against calling up Buxton at the time, citing the fact that he was young, had not reached Triple A, and spent most of the previous season out with injury. It was clear that the Twins’ front office had completely misevaluated the team by believing those two-and-a-half months were representative of their true talent. I was concerned that they were being careless with their top prospect by calling him up too early to help a team that in reality was not very good at all. Sure enough, Buxton was wrecked by ineffectiveness and injury, and the Twins went 50-51 the rest of the season and missed the playoffs.
I bring this up because while I cannot prove that calling Buxton up too early was detrimental to his development, I am concerned that it did have negative effects. As mentioned before, Buxton has been terrible at the plate this season. His baserunning and stellar center field defense is what is keeping him productive right now. Hopefully he will figure things out at the plate eventually.
This is all a long way of describing my concerns over calling up Rosario. Unlike the 2015 Twins, the Mets are not excelling right now, but what the Mets might have in common with that Twins team is that they might be grossly overestimating their chances to make the playoffs, even with Rosario. The Mets absolutely cannot afford to screw up a gem like Amed Rosario.
The decision to call up Rosario should be based on only one thing: Is he ready? If he is not, keep him in Triple A because he will do little to affect the Mets’ playoff chances. If he is ready, then call him up. That is the other side to the argument. Even if the rest of the season is a bust, leaving an MLB-ready player in the minors can be detrimental to his development.
I stand by my concerns about calling up Rosario, but the fact of the matter is that I am not a prospect expert. Those that are seem to be proponents of his promotion. ESPN’s Keith Law has advocated for Rosario coming up for over a month. It is also very important to consider that Rosario plays in the Pacific Coast League, which is possibly the most hitter-friendly environment in the minors. As a result, hitters are not challenged enough to develop well. If the Mets believe that he is not facing difficult competition, then that is a good reason to call him up. Even if he struggles, let him figure it out over what is likely a lost season.
Despite my concerns, calling up Rosario is probably the best thing to do, not because it is best for the team necessarily, but because it is best for him. My guess is that the Mets are waiting for his Super Two eligibility to pass because this team is insufferably cheap. Here is hoping that all the right decisions are being made, and that Rosario becomes the game’s next superstar. I would love to have his shirsey hanging in my closet someday.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.