Five Mets Players Who Need A Bigger Role Now
The Mets have unofficially announced they are focusing their attention to the 2018 season. Gone are Addison Reed and Lucas Duda, and in their stead are four promising minor league relievers. The Mets have added AJ Ramos with an eye towards him being the primary set-up man for Jeurys Familia next year. Amed Rosario has already played his first game with the Mets, and according to Sandy Alderson, Dominic Smith is not far away.
Seeing Ramos in the bullpen is a good start. Rosario and Smith are even better. However, that’s not enough. As the 2017 season comes to an end, the New York Mets are going to have to find out about a number of players and how they factor into the 2018 season:
INF Wilmer Flores
2017 Stats: .287/.320/.486, 14 2B, 3B, 11 HR, 32 RBI, SB, 0.2 WAR
With Neil Walker being an impending free agent, Asdrubal Cabrera possibly having his option declined, and David Wright‘s continuing health issues, the Mets will enter the offseason with question marks at both second and third base. Ideally, Flores could slot in at one of those two spots.
It was just two years ago, the Mets thought Flores could be the everyday shortstop for a playoff caliber team. Since then, we have seen uneven performances at the plate and on the field. The Mets have seemingly come to terms with him being a platoon bat, but lost in that is the fact he is still just 25 years old and an improving player. That is exhibited by him being much better against right-handed pitching hitting .281/.326/.467 off of them. If Flores can continue hitting like that against right-handed pitching, he could conceivably play everyday.
The key for him is to find a position. That’s easier said than done, but he is a significantly better second than a third baseman. In 667.0 innings at second, he has a career -7 DRS and a 0.3 UZR. In 911.0 innings at third, he has a -16 DRS and a -4.4 UZR. With that said, let Flores focus on second and see if he can be a solution there next year.
RHP Rafael Montero
2017 Stats: 1-7, 5.56 ERA, 21 G, 7 GS, 56.2 IP, 1.729 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, -0.4 WAR
Montero has survived this long on the roster, and he has finally shown the Mets some glimpse of the talent that caused the Mets to keep him on the 40 man roster. Since his latest last chance to prove himself, Montero has a 4.14 ERA, 1.297 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9. In this stretch, we have seen him pitch into the seventh inning, and we have seen him meltdown.
While there have been promising signs, his usage runs counter-intuitive to his utility to the Mets. If Montero is going to be with the Mets next year, it is going to have to be in the bullpen as there will be no room for the Mets to even consider him being a part of the rotation next year. This means the Mets should be utilizing the rest of the season to see how he pitches out of the bullpen whether it is using him as a long man or as a late inning reliever.
The Mets need to do this because Montero is out of options. This means he either makes the Opening Day roster in the bullpen, or the Mets stand to lose a player they have stubbornly held onto for so long. Before making that decision, they should at least see if the new and improved Montero can hack it in the bullpen.
2017 Stats: 16 G, 25 PA, 21 AB, 7 H, 2B, 2 RBI, .333/.440/.381
While the Mets left side of the infield defensive deficiencies have been oft discussed, not nearly enough attention has been paid to the centerfield situation. On the season, Mets centerfielders have a 0 DRS, which may not sound so bad on the surface. However, consider this is 19th in all of baseball. Also, consider this number has been propped up by Juan Lagares having played 216.0 innings at the position posting a 7 DRS.
The Mets answer lately has been Michael Conforto, who has a 0 DRS, which is remarkable considering he has never really played there full-time at any level. There is still the possibility he could be adequate there, but shouldn’t the Mets first find out about Nimmo first?
Nimmo has been a center fielder throughout his minor league career. While there is some debate over his ability to play the position, he does have the experience out there, and he deserves to benefit from the same major league coaching that has helped Conforto play there.
More than that, Nimmo has shown the ability to be a top of the order hitter who can get on base. At a minimum, he has showed enough to earn the opportunity to serve as part of a center field platoon with Lagares.
Lastly, Nimmo was the first first round pick of the Sandy Alderson Era. Doesn’t the team owe it to themselves to see what a player they heavily invested in can do at this level before looking to further address the outfield situation in the offseason. Consider that once the Mets sign another outfielder, whether that is Jay Bruce or Lorenzo Cain, the Mets have effectively made a first round pick a fourth or fifth outfielder without so much as giving him an opportunity to win a job.
RHP Paul Sewald
2017 Stats: 0-3, 8 H, 4.07 ERA, 35 G, 42.0 IP, 1.238 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, o.4 WAR
After being used in a variety of roles this season, Sewald has found himself being used in the seventh inning or later in his last 10 appearances. In those appearances, Sewald is 0-1 with six holds, a 2.79 ERA, 1.034 WHIP, and an 11.2 K/9.
Even with him walking five batters over that stretch, Sewald has shown he should get a closer look in one of the two primary set-up roles. With Reed going to the Red Sox, and Ramos presumably becoming the new closer, there is no reason why the Mets wouldn’t use Sewald as their eighth inning reliever to close out the season, or at least until Familia comes off the disabled list.
If Sewald shows he can handle the stress of protecting a late inning lead at the major league level, the Mets are that much closer to building a bullpen that can compete in 2018.
3B Neil Walker
2017 Stats: 63 G, 266 PA, 233 AB, 35 R, 62 H, 13 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 34 RBI, .266/.347/.455, 0.9 WAR
Since Wright went down with spinal stenosis, third base has been a black hole for the Mets. With Wright presumably missing the entire 2017 season, it is now clear the Mets cannot rely upon him to return to play third or any position next year. With no prospects coming through the pipeline, it is likely the Mets will have to address the position in free agency or via trade.
If they are going the free agency route, it may behoove them to re-sign Walker. The two sides were interested in a long term contract extension this offseason. Just because the two sides were unable to reach an accord does not prevent Walker from returning.
Considering Walker’s back issues as well as his getting older, he may be best suited to playing third base. Certainly, the way he has hit as a Met, he does have the bat to play the position. The only question remaining is if he can play the position. The Mets have 59 games to find out.
If Walker can do it, the Mets know they have a team player who has been a liked figure in the clubhouse. They will also have a veteran who can help show Rosario and Smith the ropes. More than that, they have a middle of the order bat to really extend the lineup.