The response to and emotions shown to David Wright Saturday after his likely final game with the Mets was a rare occurrence in sports, let alone for the Mets.
Since they have Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, Jacob deGrom and others, the Mets will not be without leadership next season just because Wright is gone. The fact is, despite his reputation always hovering above the team, any physical leadership he provided the past few years was done mostly from afar.
That said, despite three other players having the potential to be the next homegrown player that achieves great things, makes us proud and does it only ever wearing a Mets uniform, only one guy has the necessary tools needed to be like Wright...
Is it Jacob deGrom?
It's rare that a starting pitcher is the face of a team, let alone the face of a generation of that team's fans. Tom Seaver did it, and Doc Gooden could have done it had he not derailed his career. The thing is, even Seaver didn't play his entire career with the Mets like Wright. DeGrom, however, hasn't left yet, though he is a free agent in two years and clearly wants a contract extension.
Jake has been great, but age is working against him. He's already 30 years old, meaning he probably only has 4-5 years left to be awesome, even if he re-signs with the Mets. After that, he'll naturally start to decline. To compare, by 30 years old, Seaver had already pitched in 316 games for the Mets and produced 66 WAR, compared to deGrom's 139 games and 25 WAR.
Regardless of what happens beyond this season, deGrom is already among the 10 best pitchers to ever wear a Mets uniform. However, though he's likely going to eclipse Jerry Koosman, he's going to need to sustain his current success for multiple season -- plus have the Mets give him a massive contract -- in order to move above Gooden. And, no matter what he does, he'll never catch Seaver...
In terms of inspiring teammates and fans, though his on-the-mound demeanor is intense and motivational, he's out front only once every five days. And before, after and in between those starts, he's mostly quiet, rarely smiles and only makes himself available to reporters on days that he pitches.
In other words, while his physical talent is undeniable, because of his age, soon-to-be free agency and his low-key personality, I don't see deGrom taking the torch from Wright.
Is it Amed Rosario?
Rosario, 22, joined the Mets as an amateur free agent when he was 17 years old.
Exactly like Jose Reyes was in 2003, Rosario made his big-league debut for the Mets while ranked as the top prospect in all of baseball. Also like Reyes, Rosario is fast, upbeat, naturally gifted, has the potential for power, and often plays with a reckless abandonment that is equally frightening and exciting.
He is under team control through 2023, again, the same age that Reyes was when he became a free agent and signed with the Marlins.
To date, Rosario has produced an acceptable, but hardly star-worthy 1.8 WAR during his first 200 games. By comparison, by the time he reached 200 games, Wright had already produced roughly 7.0 WAR.
Upon his arrival, FanGraphs predicted Rosario would net between 12-15 WAR by 2023, at which point he'll be 28 years old, which is interestingly the same age of Reyes when he left the Mets for the Marlins.
Given the average start to his career, it's going to be really, really difficult for Rosario to take the torch from Wright. However, it's worth noting Rosario hit .285/.319/.416 five five homers, 10 doubles, two triples. and 13 stolen bases after August 2 this past season. If he continues and builds on those results, he has the personality and motivational quotes to inspire the fan base in a way that Wright and Reyes never did. Amed has the voice and passion to be a major personality across all of baseball, not just New York. To do it, though, he'll need to start exceeding -- or at least meeting -- expectations as soon as next season.
Is it Brandon Nimmo?
Without question, Nimmo has the innocence, story, personality and smile to be as emotionally important to us as Wright. Frankly, he's already making us proud, as well as passionate about his future.
Nimmo joined the Mets in 2011, when he was selected with the team's first pick in the draft.
He's a fascinating case because, even if he is never the team's best player in a given season, he may very well be the most popular among fans and media. His quotes and infectious smile and personality are adored by the fans.
In many ways, Nimmo has already exceeded expectations by producing 4.5 WAR this past season and finishing with the second-best OBP in the National League among players with at least 500 plate appearances. If he does this, plus cuts down on his strikeouts and knocks a few more balls over the wall, he's going to become an elite player. And, given his personality and charm, if he hits that way during the next four seasons, he'll hit free agency an admired superstar all across baseball.
Similar to deGrom, at that point, will he be offered enough money and re-sign with the Mets? He strikes me as the kind of guy -- much like Wright -- who will take a slight discount to remain with the Mets because I think he will value and work for the kind of legacy and love that was established by Wright.
In other words, Nimmo has all of the tools needed to take the torch from Wright, but only if he continues to exceed expectations and produce above and beyond the level he did in 2018.
Is it Michael Conforto?
Yes, I think he's the most likely to step in do what we witnessed from Wright.
Technically, Nimmo had a better 2018 season than Conforto. However, despite Conforto playing 154 games, he did most of it while clearly still recovering from last summer's unprecedented shoulder surgery. He wasn't supposed to return this year until May, yet worked to be in the Opening Day lineup. And yet, he still finished with the 12th-most WAR among National League outfielders who had at least 500 at-bats.
In the event he remains mostly healthy the next three years, after which he'll be eligible for free agency, it's reasonable to think he will have around 160 career home runs and close to 500 RBI, both of which will have him ranked among the team's all-time elite hitters in those categories before he's 29 years old.
The above numbers will skyrocket if the Mets ever put a young, dominant right-handed hitter behind him, such as Manny Machado, who is a free agent this winter. Conforto with Machado behind him would give the Mets two MVP candidates in 2019. Mark it down...
At that point, even without Machado, by signing any sort of extension to keep him in a Mets uniform after 2021, and so long as he doesn't suffer the sort of injury that derailed Wright, Conforto will quickly become the team's best-ever hitter.
In addition to already having made an All-Star team and having played in the World Series, Conforto is a born-and-bred professional athlete. He says all the right things all of the time, he's mentally tough, hard on himself, he's self aware, he loves the game, loves his teammates, seemingly appreciates everyone around him, he smiles for the camera, talks and walks a big game and -- after several seasons in New York -- he will be a household name... just like Wright.