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Lowrie, McNeil Insufficient Shortstop Depth

One of the areas that has plagued the Mets in recent years has their being a top heavy team with very little depth. So far, Brodie Van Wagenen has addressed that issue as it pertains to the infield. With the addition of Jed Lowrie, the Mets have a “utility” infielder who is an All Star caliber player. With him and Jeff McNeil, the Mets have to bench players who could very well be starters for a very good Major League team.

The problem is both of them are the team’s backup shortstop options to Amed Rosario. If Rosario goes down to injury, or the Mets plan on giving him days off like they did in the second half last year, the Mets are ill equipped to handle it.

Now, there was a time Lowrie was not just a shortstop, but a good defensive one. In fact, he once posted a 6 DRS and 6.7 UZR. The problem is that was back in 2008 when he was a 24 year old rookie for the Boston Red Sox. Lowrie last played shortstop regularly back in 2014. That year, he had a -10 DRS and a -1.7 UZR. The bright side was that was a massive improvement over the -18 DRS and -6.8 UZR he posted the previous season. The downside is this is proof he should not longer be playing shortstop.

The Athletics realized that. It’s why Lowrie hasn’t played shortstop in two years.

As for McNeil, he only has played 37 games at shortstop as a professional. That includes 17.2 innings at the position last year. That was the first time he played shortstop since he played 55.0 innings at the position in the 2015 Arizona Fall League. Simply put, it is unrealistic to expect McNeil to be able to fill-in at shortstop for a short-term to long-term basis.

Even if you were inclined to bet on McNeil’s baseball IQ and athleticism, you still have to bet against him at shortstop. Getting up to speed at the position would require him working out at that position during the offseason and Spring Training. He is going to have to utilize that time instead getting back up to speed in the outfield as the Mets believe he is the team’s fourth or fifth outfielder.

That leaves the Mets without a shortstop beyond Rosario, and the two options in the minors are Gavin Cecchini and Luis Guillorme.

For his part, Cecchini has struggled enough at shortstop, the Mets have moved him to second base. While you could see his ability to play short be a reason why he could compete for a utility spot, the Mets do not want him to play extended time at short at the Major League level.

With respect to Guillorme, the Mets apparently really soured on him last year. That could be due in part to his hitting .209/.284/.239 in 74 Major League plate appearances. While we know he is certainly capable of playing the position well, there is a real question if he can hit enough for the Mets to trust him enough to get extended playing time at the position.

Overall, the Mets are a deeper and stronger team than they were last year. However, they still do not have sufficient depth at the shortstop position. Fortunately for them, there are some interesting names like Freddy Galvis still available on the free agent market. At some point, the Mets are going to have to seriously pursue one of those options because the team needs more depth at an important defensive position.

35 thoughts on “Lowrie, McNeil Insufficient Shortstop Depth”

  1. MARTY says:

    RAPHAEL SANTANA WOULD BE THE ANSWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Mike says:

    I’ve thought the same thing and like the pick-up of Lowrie, but don’t fully understand it unless more moves are planned.Van Wagenen must be figuring to have Frazier as the first baseman,or moving him ,which is highly unlikely. I think I would have resigned Cabrera as a super utility instead.(in a dream world, as the roster sits now,I could see the Mets signing Machado ,trading Rosario even up for Starling Marte and solving most of the questions the Mets have. That would be do able and still be under the salary limit.)

    1. metsdaddy says:

      I much prefer Lowrie at SS to Cabrera

  3. Mule says:

    I would assume the Met’s plan B, in the event of a Rosario injury, would be Andres Gimenez. Granted, starting a 20 year old who’s never played above AA wouldn’t be ideal, and I’d love to have more depth in the high minors, but with Rosario’s age and lack of injury history I’m not sure if a replacement level SS would want to sign on to play in Vegas all year.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      My issue with that is Gimenez may not be ready

  4. harmony says:

    What I find interesting is that the Seattle Mariners, who have “stepped back” from contention, reportedly plan to start shortstop J.P. Crawford at Triple A unless Crawford’s Spring Training performance forces the issue.

    Crawford and Amed Rosario are similar players: shortstops born in 1995 with five remaining years of team control. Steamer600, which assumes 600 plate appearances for each shortstop, projects 2019 WAR of 2.1 for Rosario and 2.0 for Crawford:

    https://www.fangraphs.com/p

    ZiPS projects 2019 lines of .258/.303/.397/.700 in 513 plate appearances for Rosario and .238/.332/.392/.724 in 278 plate appearances for Crawford.

    Roster Resource projects Seattle’s Opening Day shortstop to be foundering former No. 1 draft pick Tim Beckham, whom the Mariners signed to a one-year contract for $1.75 million plus up to $250,000 in incentives.

    The Mets might be wise to pick up a shortstop of Beckham’s ilk.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      There aren’t many of those options remaining

  5. OldBackstop says:

    Dude….you sap my will to live. At least three times I have posted Rosarios stats from 2018, dWAR, DRS….he was at the level of or was the worst defensive shortstops in the NL. So the question to ask is, considering their offense, who will gives us the best WAR? McNeil and Lowrie might add so much O that their D, compared to the gilliganesque 2018 D pf Rosario, make him a better bet.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      McNeil and Lowrie cannot play the position. They can’t.

      1. oldbackstop says:

        Your mere assertion, even aggressively repeated, is clearly counter to the Mets professional assessment.

        Lowrie has 4000 innings at shortstop. He only was moved to second base after joining Houston because they had 20 year-old Carlos Correa there. His career dWAR at SS was higher than Rosario’s just last year alone. His last year at shortstop he was better defensively than Rosario. He was consistently top five in range factor, total zone, all that crap.

        At 34 he just came off his best year and was an All Star. Lowrie can handle SS. He’ll probably take Rosario’s job.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Lowrie hasn’t played SS in over three years because he can’t play the position. I’d also note Correa didn’t play for the Astros in 2002, nor would the Astros have moved Lowrie to displace Altuve.

          Simply put, Lowrie cannot play SS, which is why NO ONE has opted to play him there in years.

          1. oldbackstop says:

            2002?

            Lowrie played most of his games at shortstop every year until signing with the Astros in 2015. They had 20 year old Carlos Correa at SS — they weren’t moving him for ANYONE. Lowrie then got traded to Oakland, who had Marcus Siemen at SS.

            Lowrie’s last year at SS he had a dWAR of -02. Rosario last year had a dWAR of -0.4.

            Here’s what I don’t get. People say “let’s move Frazier to first. Let’s move McNeil to the OF. Let’s move Cano to first.” But if you say “Let’s move 2018 Lowrie back to the position he has played all his life,” people freak.

          2. metsdaddy says:

            Meant 2012, not 2002, and I’d again note Lowrie and Correa were not on the same MLB roster.

            Also, you should note Lowrie did not play SS last year. In fact, he hasn’t played at least 200 innings there since 2014. The reason for that is he was horrendous there in 2014.

            Older players have less, not more agility and range. It’s why we see older players, like Lowrie, move off SS and CF.

            Really, there is nothing you have to suggest Lowrie can or should play SS.

  6. oldbackstop says:

    PS: where do you see your premise as McNeil playing shortstop? All they are saying about him is extra time in the OF. Needing a backup SS is why they got Lowrie. It’d be nice to have a good third string gloves at shortstop sitting around on the bench every day (and centwerfield, and catcher) but rosters don’t permit that.

    Cecchini was likely shifted because the franchise has a 22 year old starting SS, and their number one AND number three prospects are SSs, while further back in the system,

    If Rosario or Lowrie fall or fail, Cecchini is a bus ride away. We need to worry about pitching, not third string shortstops.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Callaway said McNeil was an option there, and he’s going to have to be one. And again, Lowrie can’t play the position. He can’t. There is nothing to suggest he can handle it. Nothing.

      As for Cecchini, he was moved because he struggled defensively, not because of Rosario or anyone else.

      Also, it’s completely absurd to say the Mets need to worry about pitching and not SS depth, especially because doing one does not stand in the way of doing something else.

      Finally, it’s not a third string SS. It’s a backup SS as the Mets only have one player who can play SS – Rosario.

      1. oldbackstop says:

        I’ve heard you say Lowrie can’t play short five times. What evidence do you have for that, when the Mets scouts, GM and analytics guys (and Lowrie) think he can?

        And again, he’s not spelling Ozzie Smith, he’s spelling Rosario, one of the worst defensive shortstops in the NL.

        If Lowrie makes an error here or there at SS but hits to an over .800 OPS, as he has the last few years, he will still be more valuable than Rosario (career high OPS .676.)

        1. metsdaddy says:

          The evidence is he can’t do it. There’s a reason he hasn’t played more than 200 innings there since 2014. His awful defensive stats were noted in the article.

          As for the Mets, they’re being run by an agent, an agent who signed his former client.

  7. oldbackstop says:

    “”””…..and I’d again note Lowrie and Correa were not on the same MLB roster.”””

    Well, inform BBR: https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/HOU/2015.shtml

    “”””The reason for that is he was horrendous there in 2014.””””

    He had two stints with the Astros, maybe that is what is confusing you.

    Well, if Lowrie’s minus -02 dWAR in 2014 at SS, and minus 10 rDRS was “horrendous” then what was Rosario’s -04 dWAR at SS and minus 16 rDRS last year?

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Admittedly, I did overlook his second stint when he was signed to be a utility player.

      I’d also note Rosario was not good at SS last year, but he’s still just 23 with a real opportunity to improve. I’d also note his numbers were worse before he settled in late in the season.

      More than that, I’ll trust the 23 year old improving before I trust a 34 year old turning the clock all the way back to his rookie year.

      1. Mule says:

        But you will not trust a 20 year old top 100 prospect.

        I’m with the backstop here… and not just because I’ve not the scars to prove i played the position.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Gimenez has less than half a season in Double-A. I’m not sure why we should trust he’d be ready.

  8. oldbackstop says:

    “The evidence is he can’t do it. There’s a reason he hasn’t played more than 200 innings there since 2014.”

    The Astros re-signed him to a 4 year deal following 2014, specifically citing his defense. Then Correa came up, They traded him to the As, who then acquired Siemen.

    Just because a better fielder comes along doesn’t mean Lowrie isn’t a capable shortstop.

    You are misreading his team changes and the roster spots.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Lowrie’s last full year was a -10 DRS. His last two full years combined was a -26 DRS.

      He’s not a SS.

      1. oldbackstop says:

        And Rosario’s -15 in 2018 is fine?

        I’m starting to think you are his cousin or something. You doggedly haven’t commented on Rosario’s performance as among the worst in the league in SS last year in defense.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          No, I don’t think his defense was fine, nor have I suggested as such. What I’ve said is I’d bet on him before I’d bet on a guy who can’t play the position.

  9. oldbackstop says:

    “”””Also, it’s completely absurd to say the Mets need to worry about pitching and not SS depth, especially because doing one does not stand in the way of doing something else.”””””

    The Mets??? The NY Mets?? You think we are going to be spending indiscriminantly on any perceived area of need??

    1. metsdaddy says:

      The amount it costs to sign a backup SS should have no impact on the ability to sign another player.

  10. oldbackstop says:

    Here are the free agents:

    Shortstops
    Manny Machado (26 years old, 6.2 WAR)
    Jose Iglesias (29, 2.5)
    Freddy Galvis (29, 1.2)
    Jordy Mercer (32, 1.0) — Signed 1-year deal with DET (12/14).
    Adeiny Hechavarria (30, 0.4)
    Alcides Escobar (32, -0.3)
    Tim Beckham (28, -0.5) — Signed 1-year deal with SEA (1/10).
    Eric Sogard (33, -0.8) — Signed MiLB deal with TOR (12/21).
    Troy Tulowitzki (34, N/A) — Signed 1-year deal with NYY (1/4).

    Who you signing?

    I’m not sure there is a better value there then Cecchini for a bench role. He had a dozen starts last year at SS in the minors and slashed 294/.342/.468/.810. (yeah, yeah, Vegas)

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Adeiny Hechavarria is probably the most likely to sign and sign for cheap.

      As for Cecchini, he is not capable of playing SS everyday. If he could, this wouldn’t even be a discussion.

  11. oldbackstop says:

    By the way, say Wilmer hadn’t the bad knees, who would you rather have at short, him or Lowrie? Because that is the roster spot.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      If you had Flores as opposed to Davis on the bench, fine, go with Lowrie because he was the player available who gives you the best value.

      But the last guy on the bench now is Davis, and he should not block anyone.

  12. oldbackstop says:

    Ramos, Cano, D’Arnaud, Frazier, Rosario, Lowrie, McNeil, Smith/Alonso, plus Adeiny Hechavarria…..you want to carry nine IFers? Are we going to say McNeil is ordained as a good OFer?

    Adeiny Hechavarria bounced around four teams last year, doesn’t play anywhere but SS, has UTTERLY no speed or power, amassed a .279 OBP….and doesn’t even look like an extraordinary glove,

    A backup shortstop is like a third catcher…Nido….a specialist who probably can’t hit or play anyplace else….that is exactly Hechavarria. It is either a luxury or crippling in this day of the six inning starter. He should have a standing plane ticket and nothing more. You have written articles that we need deeper relievers, deeper centerfield, deeper shortstops, deeper catchers….sure, more everything. Who can disagree?

    Show me an article that adds up to 25.

    (Remember Davis is 25, plays first, third, left, has an OPS of .884 in AAA the past two years, and, as Brodie has said, has a wicked 93 mph slider and is a quite impressive pitcher for garbage time or extra innings.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      First, a backup SS is like a backup catcher. It’s an absolute necessity because you cannot fake it at the second most important defensive position.

      Also, I want to carry talented players. If that means nine infielders, so be it. I’ll allow McNeil to show his baseball IQ and speed will play well in the OF. What I’m not willing to do is to forego passing on an important position.

      As for Davis, he’s not good. There’s a reason why the Astros traded him when they needed upgrades at 1B, LF, DH, and their bench.

      Davis is slow, lacks range, and he struggles against better pitching due to holes in his swing and his propensity to hit the ball on the ground. I’ll note that’s not just me. That’s every scouting report on him.

      1. OldBackstop says:

        Did you just say a backup catcher is likely to be a backup shortstop? Can you give me five…no, three examples?

        1. metsdaddy says:

          No, I said a backup SS is like a backup C, so no, I’m not giving you any examples.

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