Last year, Yoenis Cespedes was activated after spending over two months on the Disabled List seemingly for the sole purpose of serving as a DH in a post All-Star Game series against the Yankees. A still clearly hobbled Cespedes came up in the top of the fourth and hit a home run.
In that game and in that moment, the well under .500 Mets had the most juice they had since, well, Cespedes landed on the Disabled List. At that time, the Mets were still over .500 and a viable contender in the division. In his time with the Mets, that is the way it has gone with Cespedes.
We first saw it in 2015. After the Mets acquired him at the trade deadline, Cespedes played the best baseball he ever played in his life. While many pinpoint the Cespedes acquisition as the point in which the Mets become contenders, Cespedes was more than that. Cespedes was the player who made the Mets interesting.
Cespedes hit prolific home runs, and when he hit them, he would occasionally have equally prolific bat flips. On the bases and in the field, when he turned on the jets, there were few quicker than him. When there was a chance to nail a base runner looking to get that extra base, Cespedes would unleash a laser. With the Mets, he was every bit the five tool player teams covet.
But, he was more than that. Cespedes was the player you had to watch. When he was up at the plate, you needed to see what he would. When the ball was hit to him, you needed to see if the base runner dared challenge him. When Cespedes was on the field, he not only made the Mets better, he made them more interesting.
He made them interesting with the antics. He had his car collection. There was his sending out clubhouse attendants to purchase the right waffle irons. He owned a ranch and used his money to purchase animals at state fairs. He loved playing golf and talked about how it helped his baseball swing.
With all due respect to the current Mets players, they don’t rise to the level of Cespedes in terms of attracting attention and intrigue. Jacob deGrom‘s starts came close last year. Noah Syndergaard does try by doing different things like his battles with Mr. Met and actually having ridden a horse next to Cespedes, but it’s just not the same. Pete Alonso does hit the tape measure shots, but he does not have the same flair Cespedes had.
Ultimately, when Cespedes underwent double heel surgery and now broke his ankle the Mets lost something. No, not the ability to sell him as a trade deadline “acquisition.” Rather, they lost just being that much more interesting and entertaining. If he was healthy, they did lose the chance to be better.
It’s a real shame because no matter what you thought of Cespedes, he did make the Mets more fun and interesting. We can only hope his rehabilitation from his surgery and broken ankle allows him to be that player in 2020.
Every so often, you hear a quote in a press conference which causes you to snap to attention so quickly you risk paralysis. You have to go back on multiple occasions just to make sure you heard it correctly because you cannot possibly believe it was said. Yesterday, Brodie Van Wagenen had one of those gems:
Van Wagenen, “I will be the one, along with the rest of the front office team, that will continue to make improvements to this roster as we go forward like we have today with the purchase of Hector Santiago’s contract.”
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayerMMO) May 20, 2019
On a day where the Mets were starting Wilmer Font, announced Seth Lugo was heading to the IL, and Yoenis Cespedes broke his ankle ending his already tenuous ability to return this season, Brodie Van Wagenen stood up there and said he improved the roster by adding Hector Santiago to the roster.
We shouldn’t be too sure to dismiss this as a mistake. After all, in February, Van Wagenen said, “Hector Santiago is an All-Star at the major-league level.” (Matt Ehalt, Yahoo).
You can spin this however you want. You can say this is part of his sales job as the General Manager. After all, he did say the Mets were the team to beat despite not having a fifth starter or starting center fielder. You could say this was meant to say Santiago is an upgrade over what was already there. However, his comments do jive with what he said during Spring Training.
No matter how you look at it, Van Wagenen is once again over-selling us on a below replacement level player. He is doing it while the Mets are paying Santiago a pro rated $3 million instead of say using that money on Gio Gonzalez as the fifth starter. Of course, the Mets couldn’t do that because they’d have to guarantee him a spot in the rotation over Jason Vargas, and we know he can’t do that to a former client even if it meant improving the club.
In any event, maybe Van Wagenen was right. After all, the Mets are now 1-0 in the Hector Santiago era.
When Jim Riggleman was hired as the bench coach this past offseason, the running joke was the Mets hired their interim manager. With the Mets faltering, Mickey Callaway‘s seat grows hotter by the day, and it would appear this is less of a joke than it is becoming a reality. Or is it?
Not only is Rojas a rising star, baseball runs through his veins. From the moment he was born, baseball encapsulated his entire life. This is the way things are when you grow up in country like the Dominican Republic. It’s also that way when your father is famed player and manager Felipe Alou, and your brother is Moises Alou. Taking a look at the bloodlines, you could almost see being a Major League manager as Rojas’ destiny.
For his part, Rojas believed this upbringing has influenced not just his career choice but also his views. Rojas would tell Anthony Dicomo of MLB.com, “Growing up in that environment was very impactful, very influential in my baseball growth. Just being born in a baseball atmosphere, right away opening my eyes on baseball from the beginning of my understanding was just really helpful. Right away, I wanted to follow my brothers’ steps. I wanted to follow the family’s steps.”
Obviously, Rojas was never the baseball player he brother was. From 1999 – 2005, he was a part of the Orioles, Marlins, and eventually Expos farm systems. He’d play 37 games for the Expos Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2004 hitting .240/.315/.352. Two years later, Rojas would begin his managerial career for the Expos Dominican Summer League team.
After that one season, the Mets jumped on Rojas, and they made him their DSL Manager for one season. The team then brought him stateside to serve as a coach for two years in the Gulf Coast League. Finally, in 2011, at the age of 29, Rojas would be named the manager of that same affiliate. From that point until this year, Rojas has been a manager in the Mets farm system.
During his time as a manager in the Mets system, he has managed a number of Mets prospects including current Mets Pete Alonso, Tyler Bashlor, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Drew Gagnon, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Amed Rosario, and Daniel Zamora. Put another way, Rojas has helped develop the current Mets core become not just Major League players, but in some instances, All-Star caliber players.
He’s certainly left an impression on each of these players. When hired, Alonso shared a story about Rojas’ enthusiasm for his players saying, “He was jumping up and down, arms waving in the air. I honestly think Luis was happier than [Nick Sergakis].”
But it’s more than enthusiasm and relationships, Rojas can coach. It’s one of the reasons why the Mets see him as a rising star and why they were so enthusiastic to name him the team’s first ever quality control coach. In addition to those duties, he is also the team’s outfield coach.
We are seeing his impact as an outfield coach right now. Entering this season, McNeil had played all of 26.1 innings in left field over a six year span. It was up to Rojas to get McNeil up to speed. As he explained, Rojas’ plan was to begin “with the basics: pre-pitch, stance, route, reads off the bat and we progress into other things that we are taking here into camp and then some of the drills that we bring in with some of the outfielders.” (NY Post).
With Rojas coaching McNeil, McNeil has quickly become good in the outfield with a 2 DRS, which is sixth best in the league. It’s also important to note when Conforto was drafted, the knock on him was his defense. He worked with Rojas on his defense, and he has been really good out there. Now that he’s reunited with Rojas, Conforto has a 3 DRS which is good for sixth best in the majors.Credit is due to the players, but they got to that point because they are working with an excellent coach.
Rojas is not just a coach who is able to connect with this players, he is also comfortable not just with analyzing advanced data, but also putting it in terms which are useful to the players. As noted by MMO‘s Michael Mayer, it is Rojas’ responsibility to streamline the data to the players.
While comparisons of this nature tend to be unfairly lofty, in some ways Rojas does remind you of Alex Cora. Rojas has shown the ability to understand not just the fundamental aspects of the game, but he is also well versed and comfortable handling analytical data. He is an excellent communicator and coach. He loves the game, and he loves his players.
Whenever the time comes, Rojas should prove to be a good manager for the Mets. He is everything an organization and its players want in a manager. Being the communicator he is, he should also be able to handle the press well. Hopefully, another team doesn’t realize what the Mets have in Rojas and grab him before the time the Mets have a chance to elevate him into the manager’s role he was destined to be seemingly since the day he was born.
Recently, there has been a number of questions from the media regarding Mickey Callaway‘s job status. Based upon the roster and his statements yesterday, maybe the media should instead be asking Brodie Van Wagenen if he knows what he’s doing.
Back in January, the Mets obtained Keon Broxton from the Milwaukee Brewers for Bobby Wahl, Adam Hill, and Felix Valerio. In the press release announcing the deal, Brodie Van Wagenen said, “Keon is a dynamic athlete with the ability to impact the game in the outfield, on the bases and with his bat. He adds depth to our major league roster for 2019 and into the future.”
In 34 games that did not prove to be the case as Broxton was about as you can be. He had an 8 wRC+ while striking out 41.5 percent of the time while posting a -1 DRS in the outfield. Really, every time he took the field you failed to see not just how he could help the Mets, but also why the Mets would give up three players for him.
Everyone has been frustrated by it, Broxton included. After he struck out to end the game against the Nationals, he said, “From the start of the season I’ve been surprised. I haven’t been playing too much, I haven’t gotten as many opportunities. It’s not like I started out bad. It is what it is though. They got a plan and they’re working with it, so all I can do is try to be ready.”
With his being designated for assignment, he’s going to try to be ready somewhere else.
Van Wagenen addresses the decision before yesterday’s loss against the Marlins. In his comments, there was certainly a bit of revisionist’s history:
Clearly, we gave up a few players for Keon. We said publicly then, and I think it’s played itself out here now that Keon’s move was potentially redundant by design.
The Mets General Manager stood in front of reporters, and he told them he gave away three players for someone he now for the first time admits was redundant.
It needs to be reiterated. Van Wagenen admitted he used prospects and a roster spot on a player with no options and could refuse an assignment to the minors. He did that with full knowledge Broxton was redundant because of Juan Lagares.
He utilized assets and a roster spot for a redundant player.
Van Wagenen did that despite the team entering the season with just two caliber starting outfielders on the roster. He did that despite there being a plethora of veterans available who’d sign a minor league deal to serve the same purpose. Veterans like Gregor Blanco, Rajai Davis, or Carlos Gomez.
Do you want those guys starting games? No, of course not. However, those are the types of players who could serve as redundancies to a backup. But now, in his infinite wisdom, Broxton designates Broxton for assignment for Gomez, someone who they signed without giving up three players.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, the Mets need the depth now. Michael Conforto is on the IL with a concussion, and given the nature of the injury, no one can know when he can return. Jeff McNeil has not landed on the IL, but he’s dealing with an abdominal issue.
It’s also bizarre Van Wagenen suddenly decided Lagares wasn’t going to be injured this year. Lagares has been on the disabled list in each of the past three years and five of his last six. After the Mets played 42 games and lost two of their starting outfielders, Van Wagenen decides the team doesn’t need their redundancy for Lagares.
Even better, the player replacing Broxton is the injury prone Gomez.
In the end, Broxton did little to prove he belonged on the roster. In some ways, he reminded you of Alejandro De Aza, who was terrible to open 2016 with fans begging he be designated for assignment. Of course, De Aza came up huge in July and September to help that Mets team make the postseason.
There will be no such redemption story for Broxton because Van Wagenen decided the team needed LESS outfield depth with their top two outfielders injured. Apparently, the Mets also no longer need redundant players on the roster (as if any team ever needs that).
Of course, despite having effectively throwing away three players for a player Van Wagenen saw as a redundancy, he gets to answer questions about Callaway’s job status. He also gets to make a decision (or have input on the decision) to fire Callaway for his inability to win games with a roster full of underperforming redundant players.
When the Mets signed Jed Lowrie, all indications were he was going to be the Mets third baseman. Of course, he has been injured, and as a result, the team has had to find someone else to play the position. The first option should have been Todd Frazier, but he began the year on the Injured List. So the Mets moved onto Plan C, which was J.D. Davis, who hit but could not field the position.
Since Frazier has returned from the Injured List, the team has not been able to decide on a third baseman. Since Frazier was activated off the Injured List on April 22nd, he has started 13 games, and Davis has started seven games. Over those 20 games, neither player has been able to get into a groove.
Since, April 22, Frazier is hitting .148/.164/.259 (12 wRC+). When you’re hitting like a pitcher, you are not justifying your spot in the lineup. With Frazier hitting that poorly, it should come as no surprise Davis is hitting much better. However, that does not mean he is hitting well. Since April 22, Davis is hitting .278/.297/.333 (75 wRC+). As if being a below league average hitter wasn’t enough, Davis’ has arguably been lucky to have that level of production as he has a .400 BABIP over that span.
The luck isn’t the real issue with Davis. It’s the defense. His defense has been unplayable with a -8 DRS and -3.1 UZR. Among players with 180 innings, Davis’ DRS is the worst in the Majors, not just among third baseman. No, he’s the worst fielder in the entire game.
With respect to Frazier, he has been solid with a 1 DRS. If you look to his 25.8 UZR/150, he’s the third best third baseman in the game with at least a 100 innings played. That said, when you hit like a pitcher, you need to be fielding even better than that to be in the lineup.
That’s the Mets dilemma. They have one third baseman who can hit but can’t field, and they have another who can field but can’t hit. If you look at the history, you could believe Frazier will eventually hit, but with each passing game, that is becoming harder to believe. With his Triple-A stats and early season production, you may believe Davis could become at least a league average hitter, but again, with each passing game, you believe less and less in that and his ability to field his position.
In the long run, it is hard for either player to hit or for Davis to get up to speed defensively if they’re getting irregular playing time. The bouncing back-and-forth between the two players isn’t going either player any good, and in the long run, it is doing the Mets a disservice. Ultimately, the team is acting like they don’t have a player they can trust at the position, and they are flipping a coin everyday.
In the end, the Mets inability to decide on a third baseman is hurting this team, and it will continue to hurt the team until one of Davis or Frazier steps up and claims the job. Based upon what we have seen so far, that’s not happening, nor is Lowrie going to show up and bail the team out.
In the end, considering how things have played out, the answer might just be to move Jeff McNeil to third and play Juan Lagares in center. Sure, Lagares isn’t hitting much either, but his 70 WRC+ isn’t far off the mark Davis is giving the Mets, and his defense is better than Frazier’s, and it is coming from a premium defensive position. Really, seeing how things are with the Mets right now, you’d be hard pressed to argue this isn’t the best option right now.
When Jason Vargas on the Injured List and Steven Matz unable to make his start due to injury, the Mets needed to find a starter. Instead of recalling Corey Oswalt or Chris Flexen or making a 40 man move to call-up Hector Santiago or Casey Coleman, the Mets opted to make a trade for Wilmer Font, a 29 year old reliever with a career 6.39 ERA.
When the Mets are making trades to acquire relievers for emergency starts, you get the sense of just how poor this Mets Major League ready pitching depth is. You also see how desperately the Mets need one of their pitching prospects to step up and force their way to the Majors.
Fortunately for the Mets, Anthony Kay has not just been the organization’s best starting pitcher this year, he has arguably been the best pitcher in Double-A this year. In eight starts this year, Kay is second in the Eastern League in ERA while leading the league in complete games and shutouts. He’s second in the league in wins, fifth in the league in strikeouts, and third in WHIP. More than the numbers, he has been dominant.
We saw that again last night. In a complete game seven inning shutout (second game of a doubleheader), Kay allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out eight. In the game, only one batter would reach as far as second base, and Kay would retire 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.
Anthony Kay was masterful today for the @RumblePoniesBB: 7 innings 3 hits 0 runs 1 walk and 8 strikeouts. A complete game shutout.
Kay has a fastball with movement that can get up to 95 to go with a superb changeup and a decent curveball. He has been amazing this year. pic.twitter.com/k3OD62E1gZ
— Yehuda Schwartz (@yaschwa30) May 15, 2019
When you have a complete game shutout, there are a number of areas where you can draw your attention. When it comes to Kay and his development, the main focus from yesterday should be his issuing just one free pass. In his brief professional career, Kay has had control issues walking 3.5 per nine and 4.2 over his first six starts of the season.
Recently, Kay has had better command. In his last two starts, he has pitched seven innings and issued just one walk. He has gone from throwing strikes 60 percent of the time to throwing strikes 70 percent of the time. His pounding the strike zone has permitted him to befuddle hitters and go deeper into games. When he is pounding the strike zone like this, you really take note of his stuff.
The first thing which stands out is his curveball. According to Baseball America, it has an average spin rate of 3,000 RPM. That’s Seth Lugo territory. In addition to a high spin rate on his curveball, Kay has an excellent spin rate on his fastball. His fastball typically sits in the lower 90s, but he is able to ramp it up around 96 MPH. Combine that with a change-up with a 10 MPH difference than his fastball, and you have the makings of what could be a very good starting pitcher at the Major League level.
Before even discussing him at the Major League level, the Mets first need to see Kay in Syracuse. He needs to work with Mickey Abbott to further hone his delivery and control. The Mets need to see him against a higher level of competition to make a better evaluation of whether he is ready to pitch at the Major League level. Considering how Kay has been dominating in the Eastern League and the Mets not having a Triple-A pitcher they want to slot into their rotation, it would seem the time is now to send Kay to Syracuse.
Once Kay is in Syracuse, the Mets can get a much better read of how he performs against better competition, and they can better determine if he is going to be a part of the 2019 Mets pitching staff in some capacity. Considering the depth, the Mets should find this out sooner rather than later, which is why Kay’s next start should be in Syracuse.
Much like the Mets were forced to make a decision with Adeiny Hechavarria when he exercised is opt out, the team is going to have to make a decision on Carlos Gomez on June 1st. That is the date Gomez can opt out of his deal and become a free agent.
With the way Gomez has been playing, he’s sure to opt out. Over his last 13 games, Gomez is hitting .373/.431/.686 with four doubles, four homers, and 15 RBI. One of the benefits of this being Syracuse and not Las Vegas is the results are more reliable. With this recent streak, you could see Gomez being the All Star caliber player who almost came back to the Mets in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores.
The issue for Gomez is whether he can actually be that player at the Major League level.
Since that 2015 season, Gomez has been a .232/.312/.394 (90 wRC+) hitter. In the field, he has not been the Gold Glover he once was. Over the last three seasons, he has a -9 DRS in center over 1,594.1 innings. Still, Gomez did prove himself to be quite a capable outfielder. With him seeing more time in the corners, he had a 7 DRS over 825.2 innings for the Rays last year.
Looking at Gomez, this is a player who is a good corner outfielder who can fill-in capably in center. He has speed on the basepaths, and he still has some power in the bat. As a bench player, he could have real value.
There are some impediments there. Gomez has been an injury prone player landing on the disabled list in each of the past four years. In 77 career pinch hitting appearances, Gomez has hit .188/.240/.304. More than that, the Rays transitioned Gomez to more of a part-time role last year, and he struggled.
Still, when it comes to Gomez, the question is whether he is better suited to the bench right now than Keon Broxton. Looking at how Broxton has been playing, the answer is a definitive yes.
Broxton has been terrible so far this year. He has a 15 wRC+ partially fueled by a a 42.0 percent strike out rate and a complete absence of power. He has not been the fielder he was advertised to be posting a -1 DRS in 106.1 innings between all three outfield positions. That’s a far cry from his 13 DRS last year which was mostly fueled by an 11 DRS as a center fielder.
Ultimately, the question the Mets have before them is whether Broxton is broken beyond repair. After all, this is a player who had a 1.6 WAR as a bench player for the Brewers last year. As a pinch hitter, he has hit .216/.310/.541 in 42 plate appearances. According to Baseball Savant, Broxton is one of the fastest players in the game. If the Mets can get through to him and get him to turn things around, Broxton could well prove to be the outfield depth they envisioned him to be when they made the trade.
With Broxton being a year away from arbitration and still being under team control through the 2022 season, the Mets have every reason to make this work. There’s all the more incentive when you consider Juan Lagares is a pending free agent, and the Mets have no center field depth on the horizon. Looking at the offseaon, there isn’t going to be a center field free agent available.
So, right now, the Mets are invested in getting Broxton to be the player they believe him to be. However, at a certain point, that has to end. With the June 1 on the horizon, it seems like Broxton has two weeks. In those two weeks, he has to show the Mets something while simultaneously hoping Gomez cools off considerably.
If at the time things are status quo on June 1, the Mets need to make the switch. But as for right now, the Mets need to let this play out because in 17 days, the Mets are likely going to lose Broxton or Gomez, and if that is the case, they need to be 100 percent right in that decision.
When analyzing the Mets acquisition of Wilmer Font, it is important to start with who Font is before turning to what exactly the Mets parted with to obtain him. When it comes to Font, the Mets really obtained a duplicative asset who wasn’t of much, if any, value.
Font is a 29 year old reliever with a career 6.39 ERA, 1.493 WHIP, 4.0 BB/9, and a 7.7 K/9. He has a career -0.3 WAR He has never made more than 19 appearances or pitched more than 44.0 innings. Last year, he pitched for three teams. That’s the way it usually goes for players with tantalizing talent who cannot translate their success to the Major League level.
He certainly tantalized the Rays last year with a 1.67 ERA (with peripherals which screamed regression) in nine appearances for them last year. Of course, the real Font returned this year. In 10 appearances for the Rays, he had a 5.79 ERA with a 3.2 BB/9. With him being out of options, it would appear it was only a matter of time before Font was designated for assignment than being a trade asset.
As we know, the Mets would step in and make a trade for Font. Despite having Corey Oswalt and Chris Flexen, two pitchers with comparable stats to Font, the Mets made the trade for Font. Instead of signing Hector Santiago, and touting him as a former All Star, the Mets made a trade for Font. Instead of calling up Casey Coleman, a pitcher with better results at the Major League level in his career, and who was showing he was capable of being that three inning reliever Font truly is, the Mets swung a trade.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. The Mets were well within their rights to prefer Font over the pitchers they already had. Certainly, F0nt’s ability to be plugged in right away helped his case. While that may be the case, the point to remember here is Font is a bad Major League pitcher with no value whatsoever.
The Mets then traded an asset for Font. The asset was an 18 year old pitcher named Neraldo Catalina.
Now, not much is known about Catalina other than his age and the fact he signed for $150,000 out of the Dominican Republic. Yesterday, Mets Minors had a write up on him. Basically, Catalina is a power arm with a strong build who was going to debut stateside this year.
There are any number of potential outcomes with Catalina. He could be like any number of teenage pitchers who sign out of the Dominican Republic who don’t pan out to be anything. It’s certainly possible he could be nothing more than a footnote listed in the transaction portion of Font’s Baseball Reference page. He could also pan out to be like Jeurys Familia, who had signed for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic back in 2007.
But that’s the thing, Catalina has the potential to be anything. He’s an asset, and it’s why the Mets used their bonus pool money to obtain him. After all, if the team didn’t think he was worth anything, they wouldn’t have given him anything.
It’s the same exact situation with Felix Valerio. Does anyone really know what the Mets had in Valerio? Probably not, but the problem is the Mets are included in that group of people. As reported by Fangraphs, the Mets don’t scout beneath full-season ball. This means players like Valerio, who played in the Dominican Summer League, aren’t scouted by the Mets. Considering short season affiliates have not yet started their seasons, the Mets supposedly revamped front office has not had the opportunity to self scout players like Valerio or Catalina.
To make matters worse, the Mets are trading players of whom they have little to no knowledge for players who are out of options and are on the brink of getting cut. It was Catalina for Font, and it was Valerio for Keon Broxton, who has been terrible. Yes, the Mets also gave up Bobby Wahl and Adam Hill in the Broxton deal, but that’s also the point. They included Valerio in a deal where Wahl and Hill should have been sufficient.
Should fans be up in arms over losing Catalina? Maybe. We honestly don’t know. He could be great,and he could be terrible. With him not pitching one inning in the Mets organization, no one can know anything for certain. But that’s also the point here. The Mets don’t know what they have in these players, and they are trading them anyway.
They’re doing it because they’ve become very short-sighted in their win-now mentality. That’s odd considering that mentality which does not extend to signing Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel or to guaranteeing a rotation spot to Gio Gonzalez over a terrible Jason Vargas. The Mets are also doing it because they’re playing the odds that even if Catalina does eventually succeed it will be so remote in time that no one is going to immediately link Catalina to Font or the Mets.
In the end, Catalina is a symptom of a problem. This trade is an example of the poor depth the Mets built this past offseason. It’s a further indication the team not only is unaware of the value of their assets, they also don’t understand the value of bottom of the roster players on the trade front. Mostly, it’s another sign of how the team is more than willing to do away with organizational depth and talent instead of actually spending the money which was required to build the team into the “Come get us!” team the Mets advertised themselves to be.
So far this season, the New York Mets have disappointed. When a team disappoints to this level, people begin to look for scapegoats, and almost always that is the manager. With the Mets, Mickey Callaway is a ripe target as he had a disappointing 2018 season with some real issues like having Jay Bruce bat out of order. The Mets start this season has done little to instill confidence he’s progressing.
The question is whether he is the biggest issue. Arguably, he isn’t. It’s the offense.
So far this season, the Mets rank 21st in the Majors in runs scored putting them squarely in the bottom third of the league. This is a component in their having been outscored by 27 runs so far this year. For comparison’s sake the Mets pitching staff have allowed the fifth fewest runs allowed.
With the offense, there are a number of problems. Wilson Ramos hasn’t hit at all, and he has a career and Major League worst ground ball rate. Todd Frazier hasn’t hit either, and it should come as no surprise he also has a career worst ground ball rate. Robinson Cano is struggling, and he currently has a career worst strike out rate. The list goes on and on including Brandon Nimmo and Keon Broxton.
When you break it all down, the peripheral numbers are terrible. The Mets have third worst ground ball and GB/FB rates in the majors. As a team, they’ve accumulated the fourth most strikeouts in the Majors. The team is in the bottom third in the Majors in HR/FB, hard hit percentage, and homers. For all the preaching about situational hitting, their five sacrifice flies are the third fewest in the Majors.
In total, the team’s 98 wRC+ puts them in the bottom half of the league. Put another way, this is exactly what a Chili Davis‘ offense looks like, and it is why the Mets are Davis’ third job in as many years. Overall, while his uniform has changed, he hasn’t:
|2015-2017 Red Sox||45.6%||1.34||11.7%||18.7%||101|
At the end of last season, Cubs President of Baseball Operations said, “Something happened to our offense in the second half,. We stopped walking, we stopped hitting home runs, we stopped hitting the ball in the air, and we stopped being productive. Not being able to get to two runs that many times in the second half is really unacceptable.” (MLB.com).
After the 2017 season, Red Sox Owner John Henry said, “I think we would’ve had significant power last year if we had a different approach.” (Mass Live). He would add, “I didn’t think we were nearly aggressive enough and I think our approach was lacking for a good part of the season.”
Ultimately, when you look at the numbers and what the Cubs and Red Sox had to say, the Mets should not be surprised with their offensive output this season. Looking at the numbers, the Mets are getting exactly what they should have expected when they hired Chili Davis.
With the way the Mets built their team, someone was going to be squeezed out of playing time. This meant players were going to have to take their opportunity and prove why they should play everyday. That is exactly what Jeff McNeil did. So far, he has been the Mets most consistent player, and he has firmly established himself as the everyday left fielder.
Todd Frazier had the same chance. With J.D. Davis utterly incapable of fielding his position, and Jed Lowrie‘s injury, Frazier had a clear path to show the Mets why he should be the team’s everyday third baseman.
There was every reason to believe he could do it. He’s easily the best defensive infielder on the team. In fact, you may be surprised to find out his 18 DRS since 2015 is the best out of any infielder on the roster, and it is seventh best among all Major League third basemen.
At the plate, Frazier would frustrate people with his low batting average and high strike out numbers. However, in the seven years prior to this year, his only year as a below league average hitter was last year. Overall, he had entered this season with a career 109 OPS+, and that includes his being a 107 OPS+ from 2016 – 2017.
One positive trend is his career was his improving his walk rate. He had gone from a 6.5 percent in 2015 to 9.6 percent in 2016 and 14.4 percent in 2017. His HR/FB rate is characterized by Fangraphs as great.
In total, Frazier had his flaws, but he was a good player. In fact, he was a player who averaged a 3.3 WAR over 2016-2017. The reason is because this was a good defender who provided a decent bat in the lineup. No, Frazier wasn’t the guy you wanted in the middle of the lineup, but you could do much worse than him in that sixth or seventh spot in the lineup.
Even with last year’s down year, there were positive signs for Frazier. In every way, it was a career worst year for him as he landed on the Disabled List twice, and by his own admission, he would rush back from the injuries. Still, Frazier had a 1.9 WAR because he was still good in the field. While it was a career worst year for him, there were some positive signs like his hard hit rate and his hitting well in April, which was just about the only time he was healthy all last year.
Unfortunately, Frazier was injured in Spring Training, and it would be a lengthy rehab assignment before he would return. So far this year, Frazier has been excellent defensively. Among players who have played 100 innings, Frazier’s 2 DRS is fourth best in the National League. His 1.8 UZR is second best in the National League.
Without him, the Mets pitching staff had a 5.66 ERA and a .325BABIP. Since his return, Mets pitchers have a 3.50 ERA and a 2.83 BABIP. This wasn’t all Frazier, but his playing well at third stopped the bleeding with all the base hits going through the left side of the infield unchallenged.
However, as good as Frazier has been defensively, he has been that bad at the plate. So far this year, he has not drawn a walk, and he has struck out 32.7 percent of the time. He has a career worst ground ball rate (a pattern developing among Mets hitters under Chili Davis‘ tutelage) with a career worst hard hit rate. This is all a long winded way of saying what everyone can see. Frazier is lost at the plate.
Depending upon your perspective, there are reasons to believe Frazier will or will not rebound. Normally, a team could give him time to figure things out and get back to being the hitter the Mets know he is. However, the Mets also have Lowrie coming off the Injured List on Friday.
While Lowrie may not be the fielder Frazier he, he is far from the butcher Davis is. Lowrie has also been a much better hitter than Frazier. When Lowrie comes off the Injured List, there is no doubt he should take over as the every day third baseman.
As for Frazier, who knows where he goes from here. Perhaps, going to the bench will light a fire under him, and he will rebound. Certainly, his glove and late inning defense will be a positive. With the way Mickey Callaway double switches, Frazier will get his opportunities. In the end, you never know how things shake out on the injury front, and perhaps Frazier will get another opportunity to prove himself.
Unfortunately for him, he didn’t do it now, and now he is going to find himself on the bench fighting for playing time.