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.
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.