MIAMI — Two years ago, before playing in his first and only Futures Game, Michael Conforto proclaimed himself capable of contributing to the Mets.
Twelve days later, he showed up at Citi Field, all the way from Double-A Binghamton. Turns out he was right, and Sandy Alderson finally relented.
Don’t look now, but the identical scenario could be unfolding with Amed Rosario, who didn’t hesitate Sunday when asked that same question posed to Conforto in 2015.
Are you ready for the majors?
Replied Rosario, “One hundred percent ready.”
The answer was translated by Tomas Nido, his locker neighbor in the World Team clubhouse and the Mets’ catching prospect at Double-A Binghamton.
As for what Rosario can do on the field, that doesn’t seem to need interpretation despite what had to be a personally disappointing Futures Game at Marlins Park on Sunday. He struck out twice in two at-bats in the World team’s 7-6 loss to the United States.
In the first inning, Rosario swung over a nasty changeup from the Rays’ Brent Honeywell. The next time up, in the fourth, he whiffed on a 96-mph fastball from the Tigers’ Beau Burrows.
Obviously, that doesn’t detract from his 83 games with Triple-A Las Vegas. He’s hitting .327 with seven homers, 52 RBIs and an .839 OPS.
Although the Pacific Coast League is notoriously hitter-friendly, there comes a point when a player such as Rosario, the top-rated prospect in the Mets’ system, has nothing left to prove in the minors. And he probably is feeling awfully close to that despite his denials of any creeping frustration. “No, I don’t focus on that,” he said.
Conforto was the 10th overall pick out of Oregon State and spent only 133 games in the minors. He started the 2015 season with Class A St. Lucie before jumping to Binghamton. Rosario signed as an international free agent in 2013 and has logged 441 games in the minors. Conforto was promoted at 22. Rosario won’t turn 22 until November.
But the Mets have used the same excuses they once used with Conforto to defend keeping Rosario in Las Vegas. First it was service-time concerns. Then, when the Super-2 deadline for arbitration passed, the front office leaned on a familiar refrain. Club officials didn’t want Rosario to face the pressure of being perceived as a savior. They hoped to spare him the psychological damage of being called up and falling flat. Once he was promoted, they said, it had to be permanent.
Rosario, however, knows that failure is part of the game. In the second half of June, he fell into a 4-for-32 funk, including nine strikeouts, in an eight-game slide from June 17-26. He rebounded to hit .415 (17-for-41) with a double and two triples in the next nine games before arriving in Miami for the Futures Game. “It’s a learning process,” he said.
As for his continuing education, he speaks to Jose Reyes frequently and considers him a mentor. The two became tight in spring training, but it puts Reyes in the odd position of potentially blocking Rosario’s path to the majors. Rosario chooses not to view the situation in that way.
“Whenever my time is,” he said, “I’m going to be ready.”
Just as Conforto did before him, Rosario gives off that vibe, a blend of confidence and maturity that carries beyond the field.
But he has fun, too. Rosario pops up occasionally on Twitter and Instagram. Before the Futures Game, he wore a T-shirt that featured a cartoon silhouette of his face, framed by his signature beard. “Like [Jacob] deGrom’s hair,” Rosario said, smiling.
Fitting in with the rest of the hirsute Mets clearly won’t be a problem, and when asked what people should expect once he does arrive at Citi Field, Rosario came up with a few traits he’d like to be known for. “As a leader,” he said. “As someone who goes out there every day giving 100 percent. And a happy person.”
He’ll no doubt cheer up a disgruntled fan base, one that hasn’t displayed his level of patience.