The starter: Amed Rosario has been the Mets’ everyday guy at shortstop since he debuted in the majors at age 21 in August 2017, and that will remain the case if and when the 2020 season begins.
His two-plus seasons have been disappointing in the context of the hype with which he arrived. He was perhaps the top prospect in all of baseball when he was called up, the second coming of Jose Reyes and the Mets’ contribution to a new generation of top-notch shortstops: Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Xander Bogaerts and others.
But through another lens — one that ignores the often unfair expectations of prospect hype and remembers that player development is not a linear process — Rosario was a quality major-leaguer last year and has steadily improved.
Consider his OPS+, a sort of bottom-line hitting stat that is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, adjusted for various factors so that the average is 100. Lower is bad, higher is good.
In 2017, during his two-month rookie year, Rosario’s OPS+ was 76. In 2018, his first full major-league season, that rose to 88. Last year, it was 102 — a tick better than average and another big jump forward.
If Rosario — still only 24, 11 months younger than Pete Alonso — can take another offensive step forward like that, along with the type of stabilized/improving defense he had in the second half of 2019, he will start to look much more like the player the Mets thought they had in the minors.
The other options: The Mets’ backup much of last year was Luis Guillorme, who appeared poised to win that job again this year before MLB hit pause on spring training. During his climb through the minors, Guillorme, who also plays second and third, gained the reputation of having some of the best hands of any infielder in baseball.
Before spring training was halted, manager Luis Rojas said Eduardo Nunez was going to get looks at shortstop. Jed Lowrie, if healthy enough to play, might be an option there. But neither has played shortstop regularly in years, and it’s not clear if either has the range/ability to do so now.
A wild card: Prospect Andres Gimenez, who had a rough 2019 with Double-A Binghamton, rebounded to win the batting title in the Arizona Fall League and impressed during spring training. He could be an option if Rosario got hurt, but that seems less likely for 2020 under the current circumstances, in which Gimenez (along with everyone else) is missing out on valuable development time.
The future: Shortstop is one of the Mets’ more fascinating long-term positions, because they might have homegrown options.
Rosario isn’t scheduled to be a free agent until after the 2023 season. If he keeps progressing as outlined above, he will play.
Gimenez, 21, could leave the Mets with an awfully interesting decision if he forces their hand with a strong showing in Triple-A. He is considered an above-average defender with a bat that is more of a question mark. If he beats down the major-league door in the next 12 to 16 months and Rosario is still solid, what do the Mets do? Try one at a different position, maybe second or centerfield? The Mets have flirted with the idea of Rosario in center before, but that still is all very hypothetical. An added dynamic: Rosario has been a mentor of sorts for Gimenez in recent years.
And then there is 19-year-old Ronny Mauricio, who is widely considered the Mets’ top prospect. He spent last year with low Class A Columbia and still is years away from the majors — but he has a shot at being the best of this trio.