Amed Rosario

Tebow and Cecchini Headline Mets Arizona Fall League Players

The Arizona Fall League is a showcase league where Major League teams have the opportunity to not only allow some of their prospects to refine their skills, but also to play in front of other team’s front office personnel. There are six teams total and teams play a 30 game schedule. Here is an in-depth look at who the Mets have assigned to the Scottsdale Scorpions:

Tom Goodwin

Goodwin has been the Mets first base coach since the 2012 season. Goodwin is also responsible for the Mets outfielders and base running instruction.

Goodwin was named as the Scottsdale Scorpions manager leading a team comprised of Mets, Angels, Giants, Phillies, and Yankees minor leaguers.

Gavin Cecchini

The 22-year old Cecchini was the Mets 2012 First Round draft pick and is Mets Minors sixth ranked Mets prospect.

Cecchini was recently added to the Mets 40 man roster, and he was a September call-up.

With the emergence of Amed Rosario, Asdrubal Cabrera having another year on his contract, and Cecchini having defensive issues at shortstop, Cecchini started the transition to second base late in the AAA season. Presumably, Cecchini should see the bulk of his playing time at second base at the Arizona Fall League.

At the plate, Cecchini is a gap-to-gap line drive hitter who has steadily improved and hit for more power at each stop of his minor league career. Last season, his first season in AAA, Cecchini hit .325/.390/.448 with 27 doubles, two triples, eight homers, and 55 RBI.

In his brief playing time with the Mets, we saw a player who was ready to hit major league pitching with the ability to drive the ball into the gap. As he ages and continues to fill-out some of his doubles may eventually turn into home runs.

Marcos Molina

The 21-year old Molina was signed by the Mets in 2011 as a 17 year old international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. If he is not added to the 40-man roster, Molina will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

When Molina takes the mound for the Scorpions, he will be throwing his first pitch in the 2016 season. After a rough start to the 2015 season, which was in part due to a torn UCL in his pitching elbow. Molina initially tried rest to deal with the injury. However, after three ill-fated and ill-advised outings in August, he would be shut down for the season, and he would undergo Tommy John surgery on October 31st.

Like with any pitcher returning from Tommy John, it is difficult to ascertain what he will be when he finally takes the mound. Prior to his injury, Molina was a pitcher with poor mechanics, which may or may not have attributed to his injury.

When healthy, he had a mid 90’s fastball with an advanced changeup and slider for his age. As noted, his mechanics are still raw, and a result, he has a tendency to change his arm angles on each pitch, which would obviously telegraph the pitch to more experienced hitters.

In his last healthy, season, he dominated in the New York Penn League making 12 starts going 7-3 with a 1.77 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9. For a comparison, he had the type of year Harol Gonzalez had this year with similar stuff at a similar age. However, Gonzalez doesn’t have the mechanical issues Molina did.

Matt Oberste

The 25 year old Oberste was the Mets 2013 seventh round draft pick. If he is not added to the 40-man roster, Oberste will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

Oberste is coming off a mediocre season for AA Binghamton. While he had appeared to make strides offensively and defensively last year in St. Lucie, he seemed to regress this season in both aspects. In the field, he does not have the range or the arm for third base. With that in mind, he is best suited for first base, where he has shown himself to be an adequate defender. The main issue there is Oberste does not have the bat to play first base.

In his four year professional career, Oberste has not hit for power as evidenced by his career .399 slugging percentage. While he has averaged 22 doubles over the past three years, he has yet to hit double digit homers. Oberste’s bat could justifiably play in the majors at second or a utility position. However, Oberste hasn’t shown the range to prove he could effectively handle either role.

On the bright side, Oberste did have a strong finish to his 2016 campaign. Over July and August, Oberste hit .305/.376/.455 with six doubles, two triples, five homers, and 28 RBI. Overall, Oberste hit .283/.340/.409 with 21 doubles, two triples, nine homers, and 54 RBI for the 2016 season. Obviously, he did most of his damage in July and August. He needs to carry forward what he did those two months into the Arizona Fall League and beyond.

Tomas Nido

Unlike the other Mets prospect, Nido is a taxi squad player meaning he is only available to play on Wednesday and Saturday. The 22-year old Nido was the Mets 2012 eighth round draft pick. If he is not added to the 40-man roster, Nido will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

No one made a bigger leap in the Mets organization this season than Nido. When drafted, Nido was seen as a good defensive catcher with a strong arm. While he was seen as a player with some offensive promise with some power, that did not prove to be true in his first four major league seasons.

This year Nido put the full package together winning the Florida State League batting title. In 90 games, Nido hit .320/.357/.459 with 23 doubles, two triples, seven homers, and 46 RBI. Behind the plate, he continued to be a good receiver who threw out 42% of base stealers. Nido has a bright future ahead of him, and he appears to be the catcher of the future.

Corey Oswalt

The 23-year old Oswalt was the Mets 2012 7th round draft pick. If he is not added to the 40-man roster, Oswalt will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

Oswalt is a right-handed pitcher that once projected to be back-end rotation starter. However, Oswalt is being hampered by his mechanics and his inability to repeat his delivery. He was also hampered by his needing knee surgery back in 2013 which has slowed the former high school pitcher’s development. Another issue is Oswalt still has not developed his slider of changeup to the point where they can be an effective pitch for him.

Mostly, Oswalt relies upon a low 90s four-seam fastball and a high 80s two-seam fastball. With him mostly relying on those pitches, he made 13 starts and one relief appearance for St. Lucie going 4-2 with a 4.12 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9. If Oswalt is unable to develop his other pitches, he may be best suited to moving to the bullpen to see how well he could pitch putting maximum effort on his fastballs for an inning or two.

David Roseboom

The 24-year old Roseboom was the Mets 2014 17th round draft pick. He was named Mets Minors Reliever of the Year.

The collegiate starter was immediately made a bullpen arm by the Mets organization despite his low 90s fastball. However, Roseboom was able to make a name for himself this season by not only combining that fastball with an effective slider and changeup, but also trust his stuff and pounding the strike zone.

Given his success, trades, and promotions, Roseboom found himself as the Binghamton Mets closer. As the B-Mets closer, Roseboom made 26 appearances converting 14 out of 15 saves. In that stretch, Roseboom had a 0.92 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP. Batters were only hitting .110 off of him. All season long, he showed the ability to get both righties and lefties out with righties hitting .189 off of him and lefties hitting .141 off of him. Ultimately, he is a platoon neutral left-hander who has the ability to pitch in high pressure and high leverage situations.

Champ Stuart

The 23-year old Stuart was the Mets 2013 sixth round draft pick. Another player that has to be added to the 40 this offseason to protect from the Rule 5 draft.

Stuart is an elite defensive outfielder that has speed on the bases as evidenced by him stealing 40 this season. The issue with Stuart is that he is a maddening offensive player. He went from hitting .265/.347/.407 in 71 games for Advanced A St. Lucie to hitting .201/.264/.261 in 43 games for AA Binghamton.

While Stuart has tremendous speed, he has not been able to use that speed to get extra base hits. This was the first season he has ever had double digit doubles, and he only had 12. While he has speed, he is still unable to take full advantage of it as he doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Ultimately, while the Mets should be fully willing to see how far Stuart’s speed and glove will carry him, if he does not start hitting, he may never make it to the major leagues.

Corey Taylor

Taylor was the Mets 2015 17th round draft pick.

Taylor was a dominant collegiate reliever, and he has proven to be a dominant reliever in the low levels of the minor leagues. Taylor does it with a low 90s fastball and a still developing slider. Basically, he is your prototype of what you think is a Mets pitcher. While he has been working to develop a changeup, it is not yet at the point where it is a reliable pitch for him in games.

Taylor is successful because he uses his fastball to generate an almost inordinate amount of groundballs. In his minor league career, he has a 1.92 ground ball out to fly ball out ratio. Taylor used this pitch to help him have a successful season as the St. Lucie Mets closer. In 45 games, Taylor converted 20 out of 23 save opportunities. Overall, Taylor was 4-5 with a 1.87 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.

Tim Tebow

As many people know, Tebow was signed by the Mets after he put on a showcase for major league teams. At the showcase, the one skill Tebow showed more than anything else was he had natural power. Everyone saw that power in effect when he hit a home run in his first ever professional at-bat in the Instructional Leagues.

Both Tebow’s proponents and detractors will say he is in the Arizona Fall League to boost attendance and revenues for the Arizona Fall League. As we have seen in Tebow’s NFL and very short baseball career, he attracts a crowd, and assuredly, much like Michael Jordan did back in 1994, he will bring record numbers to the ballpark.

If you are a proponent, you point out how this is a good thing because more revenue and attention is always good for baseball. Furthermore, it is a good thing because it will bring more attention to the players who are playing in the games.

If you are a detractor, you believe this is a bad thing because it is merely a distraction which creates a circus like atmosphere that is not conducive to the true intentions of the Arizona Fall League which is prospect development.

One way Tebow fuels his detractors is that he will get playing time that should have gone to another prospect. However, those 30 games isn’t going to change a team’s opinion on a player. Whether or not Tebow deserves to be on the roster, he is there.

In his short duration in the Instructional Leagues, he did show some ability to play baseball. Given his profile and, yes his marketability, the Mets have every interest in seeing how far he could go as a professional baseball player. The Arizona Fall League will help them in that assessment.

Tebow and the other Mets get their chance starting today as the Scottsdale Scorpions visit the Glendale Desert Dogs at 2:35 PM. Tebow will indeed be in the lineup today to make his AFL debut.

As of right now, there is no published TV schedule for any of the Arizona Fall League games.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors

Vote Eric Campbell

The MiLBYs are the minor league equivalent of the ESPYs where fans get to vote for the best players and best plays from over the course of the 2016 minor league season.  In the voting, Mets fans can come out and vote for their favorite player:

Top BlooperEric Campbell

No, it is not what most Mets fans think with Campbell, the player Mets fans love to hate.  Campbell hit a ball that went more than halfway to the dugout, and then spun back in play:

I guess we can now spin rate joins hard hit percentage as the uncanny skills Campbell has.

Other players you can vote for are Amed Rosario as the Breakout Prospect  and P.J. Conlon as the Top Starting Pitcher.

Rosario split time between St. Lucie and Binghamton, he hit .324/.374/.459 with 24 doubles, 13 triples, five homers, and 71 RBI.  Each and every one of those statistics was a career best for Rosario.  He did that while also being an elite defensive shortstop.

Conlon split time between Columbia and St. Lucie, he made 24 starts and one relief appearance pitching 142.0 innings. Colon would finish the year with a 12-2 record with a 1.65 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and a 4.67 K/BB ratio. Conlon’s combined 1.65 ERA was the best ERA at any level of professional baseball for qualified starters. In the Mets minor league system, Conlon would finish first in WHIP and K/BB ratio.

The Brooklyn Cyclones were nominated for Game of the Year for their season opener that lasted 20 innings. The Cyclones had to use two position players to pitch in a game they lost to the Staten Island Yankees and had to use two position players to pitch.

The Columbia Fireflies were nominated for Promo of the Year when they wore purple jerseys and launching purple fireworks to honor what would’ve been Prince’s 58th Birthday. 

The Las Vegas 51s and the Brooklyn Cyclones were nominated for Photo of the Year

Voting ends on October 25th, and the winners will be announced from October 26 – November 4th.  Please make sure you go out and vote for your favorite Mets prospects and teams.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors

Is the Glass Half-Empty or Half-Full with Rafael Montero?

The Mets who were long said to have organizational pitching depth are once again at the point where they are pitching Rafael Montero in a pennant race.  Worse yet, the Mets are pitching Montero in this spot because Jon Niese cannot make the start because he had knee surgery.  With that said, it’s Montero who his making the start in place of the injured Jacob deGrom.

Keep in mind this is the same Montero who the Mets were apparently done with Montero this season.

The Mets were disgusted with him last year because they wanted him to pitch because there was a fundamental disagreement between him and the team regarding whether his shoulder was injured enough to pitch.  After pitching horribly in his first Spring Training start, he was one of the first players sent down to minor league Spring Training.  The Mets called him up briefly in April to help a struggling bullpen, but Collins almost refused to pitch him.  After being put on the shelf for a week, he struggled.  Montero then struggled in AAA when he was sent back down leading to his demotion to AA.  With important prospects like Amed Rosario needing to be added to the 40 man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, it appeared Montero’s days in the Mets organization were coming to an end.

Now, with a rash of injuries, the Mets turn again to Montero to make a critical start during a pennant race.  Once again, the Mets hope Montero can be the pitcher they always thought he would be.

In Montero’s first start of the season, he pitched five shutout innings against a Marlins team that was ahead of the Mets in the Wild Card standings.  In those five shutout innings, he gave the Mets a chance to at least outlast Jose Fernandez and get into the Marlins bullpen to eke out a victory.  On the glass half-empty side, you see a pitcher who allowed six walks and was constantly on the brink of disaster.  He was a pitcher who needed 100 pitches to get through those five innings helping tax the Mets bullpen.  On the glass half-full side, you see a pitcher who, despite getting squeezed by the home plate umpire, battled his way and kept his team in the game.  You finally saw Montero persevere.

Tonight, we’re going to find out once again if the glass is half-empty or half-full.  Montero is pitching against a bad Reds team in a hitter’s ballpark. The glass half-full Montero beats a team that he needs to beat.  The glass half-empty Montero struggles in a hitter’s park.  So far, the glass has been half-empty with Montero, but there is still time to change that.

Gavin Cecchini Needs to Be Up Here Now

Last night, the Mets received some devastating news when it was discovered that Neil Walker was going to miss the rest of the season due to a herniated disc that is going to require surgery.  With Walker done for the year, the Mets are missing not only a good defender, but also a good bat.  Someway, somehow the Mets are going to have to replace Walker’s .282/.347/.476 batting line and his 23 homers.  It is no easy task.

The obvious solution is a Wilmer FloresKelly Johnson platoon.  That tandem should be able to replicate Walker’s production as both are incredibly hot at the plate.  Flores hit .306/.346/.542 in August with five homers and 19 RBI.  Better yet, he is hitting .340/.386/.691 with 10 homers and 26 RBI off lefties this season.  For his part, Johnson is hitting .289/.353/.511 with eight homers and 20 RBI in 60 games for the Mets.  Over the last month, he is hitting .288/.348/.576 with five homers and 14 RBI.  Johnson also had that game winning bases clearing RBI double last night that helped the Mets win the game.

If second base were the only issue, that would be fine.  However, the Mets have issues at first base and shortstop that needs to be addressed.

At first base, the Mets have a floundering James Loney.  In the month of August, he hit .213/.222/.447 with just one extra base hit.  Worse yet, these numbers were with Terry Collins shielding him against left-handed pitching.  As we saw last night, Collins is going to be forced to play Flores at first and Johnson at second.  When you couple that with Asdrubal Cabrera dealing with a knee injury, the Mets do not have much margin for error.

Even with the rosters expanding today, that remains to be true as the players on the 40 man roster leave a lot to be desired as an everyday replacement.

the 40 man roster, the Mets have enigmatic options.

Eric Campbell is once again dominating AAA hitting .297/.396/.428 with 13 doubles, four triples, five homers, and 40 RBI. Yes, four triples. However, this follows a stint where he didn’t hit in the majors going .159/.270/.222.

Ty Kelly is coming off a decent stint in the majors where Collins shielded the switch-hitter against left-handed pitching.  Since his demotion Kelly is hitting .258/.314/.290 with only one extra base hit in the extremely hitter friendly Pacific Coast League.

Finally, there is Matt Reynolds who hit .211/.231/.382 in 37 games with the Mets. After the AAA All Star Break, Reynolds has been hitting .255/.333/.294 with only four doubles in 102 at bats.

Keep in mind, T.J. Rivera is not an option at the moment as he needs to remain in the minors until next week because he was sent down to make room for Rafael Montero‘s spot start.  This means that even though the Mets have warm bodies available to play the middle infield, they do not have players who can play everyday at the major league level.

With these three not hitting or having established they are not capable of hitting at the major league level, the Mets need to turn in another direction for help. With that in mind, the Mets best option is their 2012 first round draft pick Gavin Cecchini.

While playing shortstop this season, Cecchini has been hitting .327/.388/.449 with 27 doubles, two triples, seven homers, and 53 RBI. Over the past month, Cecchini is hitting .358/.378/.480 with nine doubles, two homers, and 12 RBI. While many have knocked his defense as he has a woeful .929 fielding percentage, it is notable that Cecchini has gone his last 14 games without an error.

For what it is worth, Cecchini has only played one game at secondin his minor league career, and that was Thursday.  It should be noted with the rise of Amed Rosario and the trade of Dilson Herrera, Cecchini’s future will be second base.  Given the fact that Collins had no issue throwing Reynolds into left field in a game without him having ever played there before, the concerns about him not being a second baseman are a bit overblown.

In reality, the only thing preventing the Mets from calling up Cecchini right now is the fact that he’s not on the 40 man roster.  However, with the Jon Niese and Neil Walker injuries, the Mets have the opportunity to move either of them to the 60 day disabled list freeing up a spot for Cecchini.  Keep in mind, the Mets are going to have to add Cecchini this offseason anyway to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

With the Mets needing to patch things together on the right side of their infield, they need as many options as possible.  They also need some insurance for Cabrera’s knee.  They could use another shortstop who could take over for Cabrera late in games to allow him to rest his knee.  Furthermore, given the Mets team speed, they could use someone who could be available to pinch run late in games.

Cecchini could fulfill each of these roles quite well.  Furthermore, if given the opportunity, he might just prove more valuable than that.  At this point, there is really no good reason to keep Cecchini in AAA.  He needs to be up in the majors now helping the Mets return to the postseason.

Editor’s Note: this article also appeared on Mets Minors

A Huge Game for the Mets, A Bigger One for Rafael Montero

It’s hard to think of a time when there was so much riding on one game not just for a team, but also for the team’s starting pitcher.

For the Mets, the largeness of the situation is obvious.  The Mets are entering a four game set against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.  The Mets are currently one game behind the Marlins in the race for the second Wild Card, and they are 2.5 games back (three in the loss column) of the St. Louis Cardinals.  By winning three out of four, the Mets will go from one game back of the Marlins to going two games ahead of them in the Wild Card race.  The hope is also that the Mets make up some ground against the Cardinals and Pirates as well.

For Rafael Montero, there is so much more at stake.  For Montero, his future with the entire Mets organization could very well be coming to an end.  The Mets have notable prospects like Amed Rosario, Gavin Cecchini, and Marcos Molina who will need to be added to the 40 man roster or be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft.  Given Montero’s failures at the major league level, and the fact that the team has been frustrated with him for well over a season now, Montero’s future with the Mets looks bleak.

It never looked bleaker than when he was demoted to AA earlier this season.  However, something strange happened there.  For the first time in his career, Montero responded to adversity.  In eight starts, Montero has gone 4-2 with a 1.70 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP.  It is clearly the best Montero has ever pitched in his entire career.  Part of the reason why is because Montero’s command is much better in AA, and his changeup has been better.  Given his repetoire, both were always a necessity for him in order to succeed.  Another possibility for Montero’s success was his facing presumably weaker batters in AA.  This has all lead to him having more confidence on the mound, and him returning to the type of pitcher that once was regarded as a better prospect than Jacob deGrom.

The Mets need that Montero tonight against a Marlins team that has a habit of breaking the Mets’ hearts.  It’s a Marlins team that is sending their ace, Jose Fernandez, to the mound tonight.  Not only is Fernandez an ace, but he has dominated the Mets in his young career.  In seven starts against the Mets, he is 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA, 0.951 WHIP, and an 11.9 K/9.  He has limited the Mets’ batters to a .181/.247/.236 batting line.  The Mets are going to need Montero to be lights out in order to keep them in the game.

If he is, Montero will not only help the Mets postseason chances, he will also help himself.  He can change what the Mets perception of him will be.  He can once again find himself a part of the Mets future instead of being a guy who may very well be on his way out the door.

 

Rafael Montero Is a Non-Starter for the Mets

In the offseason, the Mets have more 40 man roster decisions looming.  Here are some notable Mets minor leaguers who will be needed to be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft:

  1. Amed Rosario
  2. Wuilmer Becerra
  3. Gavin Cecchini
  4. Marcos Molina
  5. Paul Sewald
  6. Travis Taijeron
  7. Paul Paez
  8. Phillip Evans
  9. Champ Stuart
  10. Chase Bradford

There are many other roster choices the Mets will have to make aside from the aforementioned players.  With that the Mets are going to have to make some tough 40 man decisions.  With the Mets refusal to call-up Rafael Montero, he certainly stands to be one of the first people cut from the roster.  With that in mind, isn’t it in the Mets best interests to find out what they have in him?

At this point in his career, Montero was supposed to be a fixture in the Mets rotation, or at the very least, a part of the Mets bullpen.  Instead, he is stuck in AA, and he appears on his way out of the Mets organization.

The beginning of the end was last year when he complained of a shoulder injury after being demoted.  The Mets insisted he should be able to pitch through it while Montero stated he couldn’t.  It led to Terry Collins giving him a pep talk during a Mets road trip to Miami last August.  Collins then lectured Montero in Spring Training about how he needed to step it up; how it was supposed to be him instead of Bartolo Colon for the fifth spot.  Montero wouldn’t make it out of the first inning in his first Spring Training start, and he would be part of the first group of players demoted to Minor League Spring Training.

Due to a short Steven Matz start and a taxed bullpen, Montero would get called up to pitch out of the bullpen.  Even in obvious situations to use him, Collins refused.  Montero would go over a week without pitching a game, and when he did pitch, Montero would show his rust.  In his two appearances, he pitched 2.1 innings with an alarming 11.57 ERA.  Montero would be demoted.  It wouldn’t be his last demotion.

After going 4-6 with a 7.20 ERA and a 1.888 WHIP in 16 AAA starts, he was sent down to AA where he has thrived.  In eight starts, Montero has gone 4-2 with a 1.70 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP.  It is the best Montero has pitched in his professional career.  Arguably, Montero has become the Mets best minor league pitcher.  Still, the Mets have routinely passed him over.

When Matt Harvey went down for the season, the Mets turned to Logan Verrett.  When Verrett proved he couldn’t be a starting pitcher at the major league level, the Mets went to Jon Niese and his 5.20 ERA to take the fifth spot.  The Mets chose a struggling Gabriel Ynoa as insurance for Niese.  When Steven Matz first had his start skipped, the Mets went with Seth Lugo in the rotation.  Now that Matz is on the disabled list, Lugo is firmly in the rotation.  With Niese going on the disabled list and Robert Gsellman performing admirably in relief last night, Gsellman is going to take Niese’s sport in the rotation, which used to be Verrett’s spot, which used to be Harvey’s spot.  Point is the Mets are going through a lot of pitchers before even considering Montero.

The Mets didn’t even so much as call-up Montero to take Ynoa’s or Gsellman’s spot in the AAA rotation.  They didn’t go to Montero for a spot start or to go back to the bullpen.  The Mets went with Ynoa and Gsellman despite them not being relievers and with Montero having experience as a reliever.  It’s likely the Mets won’t turn to Montero unless there is another rash of injuries to the pitching staff, and perhaps not even then.  It is possible the Mets will call him up September 1st, but given Collins apparent unwillingness to use him, it’s extremely doubtful he will even appear in a game.

Fact is Montero is done with the Mets, and he is merely occupying a very valuable 40 man roster spot.  A roster spot the Mets could have used to protect Dario Alvarez, a very valuable reliever the Mets lost for  nothing.  A roster spot the Mets will need to protect a prospect who still has a future with the team.  Montero has no future with the Mets, and the Mets aren’t even going to see what they have in him before he leaves the team.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors

Is the Mets Window Closing?

Right now, the Mets are four games out of a Wild Card spot, and they are desperately hoping with Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera coming off the disabled list this week that the team goes on a run that will bring them back into the postseason.  Whether or not that works, it is fair to ask if this is the Mets last chance to win the World Series.

The foundation of this team is its starting pitching.  Matt Harvey has gone from Opening Day starter to question mark with his season ending surgery to address his thoracic outlet syndrome.  There is no telling how effective he will be if he is able to come back.

Zack Wheeler was supposed to be back by the All Star Break.  Now, it appears that he will miss his second consecutive season.  While rehabbing from the surgery, Wheeler has had to have a second surgery to deal with forearm irritation caused by stitches, sensory nerve irritation, and now a flexor strain.  He had been treated by Dr. Dave Altchek, and he sought a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews.  We are continuously assured there are no structural issues, and yet, time and again there is a new excuse why he can’t pitch.  At the end of the day, it does not matter if he is unable to pitch due to his elbow or for other reasons.  Who knows when he can return or how effective he will be when returning.

There are more question marks in the rotation.  Steven Matz has yet to have a healthy season in the majors.  Bartolo Colon will be 44 years old next year meaning there is no guarantee that he pitches beyond this year.  Even if he does, there is no guarantee he will be this effective.  Logan Verrett has shown he is not capable of being a member of the starting rotation.  Sean Gilmartin‘s season ended early with shoulder problems.  The Mets aren’t going to pick up Jon Niese‘s option, and even if they did bring him back, you should probably expect more of the same from him.

The Mets other options are Gabriel Ynoa and Robert Gsellman, both of whom are probably not ready to start in the majors.  Even if they are, both realistically project to be middle to back of the rotation starters.  That certainly helps, but that also a huge drop off from someone like Harvey.

As if the starting pitching wasn’t a big enough issue, there is the issue of the Mets offense.

As we saw this year, you cannot rely upon David Wright at all.  The Mets have no internal options to replace his bat in the lineup.  Worse yet, there is a lack of very good options on the free agent market choices available even if the Mets were so inclined to add a bat.  Keep in mind, they may also have to replace Lucas Duda at first base.  In 2015, Duda had a disc issue.  This year, Duda will miss almost the entire season with a stress fracture in his back.  There is a very real chance that he is a non-tender candidate.  The Mets do not have a first base option in the minors who is on track to play in the majors next year, and again, the free agent market is less than promising.  That means James Loney can once again be the Mets best option, and as we have seen, he is not a terribly good everyday option.

This isn’t even the Mets biggest problem, not by a long shot.

Cespedes can opt out of his contract at the end of the season, and he will easily become the best free agent available.  The narrative coming out of last offseason was how much Cespedes wanted to be a Met, and that is why he returned.  That’s the hope why he will stay.  However, it’s more narrative than fact.

The fact is Cespedes didn’t get a fair market value offer on the free agent market.  Judging from the free agent contracts handed out, teams placed a higher value on Jason Heyward and Justin Upton.  The teams you would think would be interested in Cespedes gave the money to somebody else.  The Nationals were interested, but due to budgetary constraints, they only offered Cespedes a largely backloaded deal. It is possible that after another postseason berth, and Jonathan Papelbon‘s salary off the books, the Nationals could make another run at Cespedes in the offseason.  It is also possible that the Giants, Dodgers, Rangers and/or the Angels could emerge as suitors for Cespedes.  There’s always the phantom mystery team that could join the bidding.

It is certainly plausible the Mets get outbid from Cespedes, or they simply move on from him.  Keep in mind, there were rumblings all over that the Jay Bruce trade was made, in part, as insurance for Cespedes leaving in the offseason.  If that is the case, the Mets outfield will yet again be left without a true center fielder.

The main task may first fall to Curtis Granderson, who has struggled mightily this year and should not be counted on to rebound in 2017.  The Mets could go with a Juan Lagares/Brandon Nimmo platoon in center, but that would leave no room for Michael Conforto to play everyday.

Speaking of Conforto, there is another major issue with this Mets team.  Both Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud have regressed this year.  Certainly, Conforto’s wrist and d’Arnaud’s shoulder are factors, but the fact remains, they have regressed.  Couple that with Kevin Plawecki not progressing at all, there is a major issue.  Either the Mets young talent is not as good as anticipated, or there are impediments at the major league level that is preventing them from reaching their full potential.  In order for the Mets to remain contenders, they will need their young players to step up.

Between the aforementioned free agent market and lack of major league ready prospects, the Mets only real hopes of improving the roster is on the trade front.  The problem there is the cupboard is getting bare.  The Mets have already moved big pieces in Michael Fulmer and Dilson Herrera.  They’re not willing to move Amed Rosario, and they are really unlikely to move Dominic Smith.  The Mets could move Nimmo, but that depletes from their depth for next season, and as we have seen, the Mets need all the depth they can get.

Keep in mind that over the past two seasons, the Mets have also moved Robert Whalen, Luis Cessa, John Gant, Akeel Morris, and Casey Meisner.  They lost Matthew Bowman and Dario Alvarez without getting anything in return.  Their departures leaves a gap of mid-tier prospects the Mets could move for upgrades.

Yes, the Mets can field a very competitive baseball team next year.  As long as you have pitchers like Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, you are going to have a chance to compete.  With another year of Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia, it is a seven inning game for the Mets.  It’ll become a six inning game if Hansel Robles takes the next step.  But after that?

You’re counting on Neil Walker returning, which is not a guarantee.  You’re counting on Asdrubal Cabrera developing more range at shortstop while hitting better than .255/.308/.410.  He was a .249/.307/.405 hitter from 2013 – 2015.  You’re counting on Jose Reyes to hit better than his .250/.302/.466 and be healthy all of next year.  Reyes hit .274/.310/.378 while hitting in two of the best hitter’s parks last year.  You’re counting on Wilmer Flores being able to learn to hit righties.  You’re counting on the Mets not having to rely on the Eric Campbells and Ty Kellys on the world for prolonged stretches of time over the next season.  It’s all possible, but it’s not likely.

As things look right now, the Mets better start winning some ballgames and make a run because there is no guarantee that the Mets window to contend will remain open past this season.

Trading Dilson Herrera Was a Bad Idea

Coming into the season, the Mets were high on Dilson Herrera, and they viewed him as the second baseman of the near future.  It is why the Mets let postseason hero Daniel Murphy walk, and they eschewed other long term free agent options to trade for Neil Walker who was a year away from free agency.  However, the Mets made it perfectly clear they were willing to forego Herrera as the second baseman of the future if the right player came along.  That is why the Mets doggedly pursued Ben Zobrist in the offseason.  For the right piece or for the right price, the Mets were going to move on from Herrera to make the team better.

It is just hard to believe that player was Jay Bruce.

There is a lot to like about Bruce.  He is a traditional slugger who is leading the league in RBI.  He has a very affordable team option.  He is insurance against Yoenis Cespedes missing an extended period of time this year, and quite possibly insurance against him leaving in free agency.  He also helps with a sluggish Mets offense and with the Mets inability to hit with runners for scoring position.  He is also more of the same.

This is a Mets team full of low OBP, high slugging outfielders – Bruce, Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, and Michael Conforto.  With the exception of Cespedes, all of the Mets current outfield options are left-handed batters.  What this team doesn’t have is a center fielder.  Currently, the best defensive center fielder on the team is Alejandro De Aza.  While he is the team’s hottest hitter and best defender, it is hard to imagine he is going to be an everyday player while the team sits one of Granderson or Conforto everyday.  In sum, Bruce is a nice offensive upgrade, but he doesn’t solve the teams problems.  With that in mind, it seems like Herrera was a steep price to pay for someone that doesn’t solve what ails the team.

It’s also selling low on Herrera in what has been a tough year for him.  Herrera has gone from a .327/.382/.511 hitter to a .276/.327/.462 hitter in AAA this year.  He has had nagging shoulder issues, and he has fallen into some bad habits at the plate.  It has been the first time the 22 year old has struggled at the minor league level.  However, given the fact that he is still young for his level, and the fact that his struggles are closely associated with an injury, there is every reason to believe Herrera will rebound and become the All Star second baseman the Mets envisioned he would become.  That is a steep price to pay for a duplicative player that does not solve the Mets problems.

We are just seeing it now with Michael Fulmer in Detroit.  Fulmer was the big time prospect the Mets traded last year.  He is the leading Rookie of the Year contender, and he is certainly in the Cy Young conversation with him going 9-2 with a 2.50 ERA and a 1.089 WHIP.  With each and every dominant start, it is a stark reminder how much the Mets need him this year with Matt Harvey‘s season ending surgery and Zack Wheeler being well behind schedule to return to the rotation.  Overall, the idea behind trading Fulmer was to trade from depth to acquire a missing piece . . . a missing piece that was an imperfect fit.  As we see last year, the Mets supposed depth was an allusion.

Now, the Mets did trade from depth with Herrera.  Gavin Cecchini could move from shortstop to second, which now seems to be his destiny with the meteoric rise of Amed RosarioWilmer Flores could move over there next year.  The Mets could always re-sign Neil Walker or another free agent or make another trade.  Depending on David Wright‘s health, Jose Reyes could move from third to second.  There are any number of factors at play, but as we see again this year, the Mets can never have enough depth as this team seems more snakebitten than any other team in the majors.  With that in mind, the Mets are now less deep at second base, and they are quite possibly without their best second base option for next year.

The Mets traded away another big time prospect for another slugging corner outfielder.  Hopefully, Bruce will have a similar effect on the Mets as Cespedes did last year.  The Mets are going to need that type of performance to help them get back to the postseason.  They are going to need that type of performance to help Mets fans forget about the player they gave away in Herrera.

Who To Trade?

Last year, the Mets parted with number of pitching prospects in a drive to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2006.  Over the course of this past year, we have seen some of them actually pitching in the major leagues:

  • In 16 starts for the Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer is 9-2 with a 2.50 ERA and a 1.089 WHIP.  He is the leading candidate for the American League Rookie of the Year Award, and he should receive some Cy Young Award votes at the end of the season.
  • The Tigers traded Luis Cessa in the offseason to the New York Yankees.  Cessa has pitched briefly out of the bullpen for the Yankees this year.  In his six appearances, he has pitched 13.2 innings going 1-0 with a 3.95 ERA and a 1.244 WHIP.
  • The Atlanta Braves do not seem quite sure what to make of John Gant and his quirky delivery, but they seem to be convinced he’s a major league caliber pitcher.  Out of the bullpen, Gant has made seven appearances with no record, a 6.17 ERA, and a 1.714 WHIP.  As a starter, Gant has performed considerably better going 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.179 WHIP.

As we know, the Mets got Yoenis Cespedes for Fulmer and Cessa.  Gant was part of a trade that netted the Mets Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.  The Mets also made trades of varying success to obtain Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, and Eric O’Flaherty.  Overall, the Mets gave up valuable pieces to obtain major league players that helped them win the National League Pennant.

As of right now, the Mets are in a similar situation to where they were last season.  They need to assess what they need (starter, reliever, and right handed bat off the bench) and what they are willing to trade to obtain those pieces.  Sooner or later, the right player is going to come along, and the Mets are going to have to decide whether to trade next year’s Fulmer for this year’s Cespedes.  The issue becomes who do you and who do you not trade.  Here is a look at the Mets top prospects teams are sure to be inquiring about.

Amed Rosario

Each and every team is going to inquire on Rosario, and the answer time and time again is going to be no.  It’s for good reason as well.  When the Mets signed him out of the Dominican Republic, his defense was seen as a given, but there were concerns about his bat.  Rosario has put many of those concerns to bed by hitting .321/.372/.464 with 19 doubles, 12 triples, three homers and 56 RBI between St. Lucie and Binghamton.  He was a Florida State Leauge All Star, on the Team World Roster for the Future’s Game, and he was named MLB.com‘s 18th best prospect.  Unless you are talking a Mike Trout trade, Rosario is off the table.

Dominic Smith

This is where things start to get a little interesting as Smith has really taken off since Rosario joined him in AA hitting .336/.398/.626 with five doubles, one triples, eight homers and 27 RBI.  Smith is starting to show the power that could take him from a very good prospect to an elite prospect with the ranks of Rosario.  Already, Smith is a plus defender at first base, and he has the ability to drive the ball gap-to-gap.  If you trade him, you could be trading away the next John Olerud or worse if his power game continues to develop.  If you keep him, you risk him becoming the next James Loney.  Yes, Loney has been a quality major league first baseman, but Loney should never be what stands between you and getting an All Star or difference maker at the trade deadline that could put the team over the top.

Dilson Herrera

It seems that since Herrera came to the Mets in the Marlon Byrd trade, he was touted as the Mets second baseman of the future.  He was someone who could handle the position well defensively while being a real force at the plate.  He showed that he has unique power for the position.  Due to injuries in 2014, the Mets brought him up from AA to play in the majors.  Last year, he was seen as an offensive spark when a number of players went down due to injury.  This year he hasn’t been a consideration at all.  He has struggled in AAA hitting .277/.331/.471 in the Pacific Coast League which is a hitter’s league.  Part of that might be teams figuring him out.  Part of that may be him dealing with a shoulder injury sapping him of some of his offensive ability and having him fall into bad habits at the plate.  He is less patient at the plate, and he is lunging for balls he wouldn’t last year.  If you move him, you are moving the guy that could be a multiple time All Star.  If you don’t, you just might be hanging onto a guy that may never figure it out.

Gavin Cecchini

Cecchini is in a tough position in the Mets organization.  He isn’t seen as good a prospect at short as Rosario, and he has had some trouble handling the position at Cashman Field, who has an infield that is not kind to infielders.  He’s a good hitter hitting .315/.392/.441 with 18 doubles, two triples, five homers, and 40 RBI, and he reminds you of a right-handed Daniel Murphy at the plate.  However, he is not considered as good of an offensive prospect as an Herrera.  Furthermore, his bat does not have the power profile that would play at third or the outfield.  By many accounts, Cecchini will play in the majors one day.  What you don’t know is what he will be.  Will he be the next Murphy at the plate with similar defensive versatility?  With that in mind, will he develop power as he gets older and fills out like Murphy did?  Will he turn into the next Matt Reynolds – a major league utility player?  Again, you don’t want to lose the next Murphy for a rental, but you also don’t want to miss out on someone because you wnated to keep another Reynolds or Joe McEwing type of player.

Kevin Plawecki

Most Mets fans would jump at the opportunity to trade him.  He hasn’t hit at all in the majors despite given extended looks on two different occassions.  However, Plawecki has been a good defensive catcher and pitch framer.  He was also once considered a prospect who could push Travis d’Arnaud for playing time.  Keep in mind that since his demotion, Plawecki is hitting .291/.347/.512 with four doubles, five homers, and 21 RBI in 27 games.  These numbers aren’t exciting, especially in the Pacific Coast League, but it shows he is starting to become more patient at the plate and more selective swinging at pitches.  Also keep in mind that catcher is a position that players tend to develop later in their careers than other positions.  Plawecki could still very well be the Mets catcher of the future, or he could be a solid backup.  He may not be the type of player who should hold up a deal, but he definitively is a player you want to protect if at all possible.

Ultimately, it seems like one of the aforementioned players are going to have to be traded if the Mets want to acquire an impact player like Jonathan Lucroy.  However, they need to be very careful about which one.

In an ideal world, Rosario and Smith are non-starters.  These are two players who are excelling in AA at a young age, and they appear primed to contribute to the Mets sooner than expected.  You do not ever want to give up a Rosario or a Smith.  These players should prove to be fixtures in the Mets lineup for ten plus years.  Still, you’re going to have to give up someone if you are going to want to add that last piece who could put the Mets over the top in 2016.

That piece appears to be between Herrera and Cecchini.  The Mets may very well have a preference between these two players, and coming into this season, it seemed like Herrera.  However, that does not mean they still feel the same way, nor does it mean that other teams think similarly.  Regardless of how the Mets feel, a team may force their hand to trade one or the other to hopefully trade for this year’s version of Yoenis Cespedes.  In the end, it seems like the Mets will be giving up a Herrera or a Cecchini like they did with Fulmer last year if they want to make a move.

The hope is that the player has the impact Cespedes did last year and that the Mets take the next step and win the 2016 World Series.

Editor’s Note: this was also published on Mets Minors

 

Latest Mets Trade Rumors

With the trade deadline Monday, there are going to be a number of rumors involving the Mets as the Mets were very active in the trade market last year, and they are in the thick of the Wild Card race.  Now, with the Marlins making the first big deadline trade acquiring Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea, Fox Sports Jon Morosi believes it will get the ball rolling with a number of teams, like the Mets, making a number of deals.

The Jonathan Lucroy Sweepstakes

According to ESPN’s Jerry Krasnick, the Tigers are out on the Jonathan Lucroy Sweepstakes.  This might be one of the reasons the Brewers have re-engaged the Mets on Lucroy.  As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal’s Tom Haudricourt reported, the Brewers aren’t getting the offers they thought they would receive in exchange for Lucroy, and they also want to make sure they canvass the area to make sure they get the best possible return they can get for the catcher.

Lucroy would be a huge upgrade over what Travis d’Arnaud has provided the Mets this season.  So far this year, d’Arnaud is hitting .246/.299/.333 with five doubles, two homers, and 10 RBI.  Additionally, d’Arnaud has already had a stint on the disabled list.  Lucroy has been the second best catcher in baseball this season hitting .300/.361/.486 with 17 doubles, three triples, 13 homers, and 50 RBI.  It is not much of a surprise that the Brewers already rejected a straight up deal of Lucroy for d’Arnaud.  According to Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal, the Brewers informed the Mets that they want some high end prospects in addition to d’Arnaud in exchange for Lucroy.  In order to get those prospects, Haudricourt says the Brewers would consider bundling Lucroy with one or two of their coveted relievers, which include Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith.

The Mets will have to get creative as, according to ESPN’s Adam Rubin, the Mets do not anticipate either Amed Rosario or Dominic Smith.  Further complicating matters is, as MMO and Mets Minors own Michael Mayer reports, Dilson Herrera has been dealing with a sore shoulder causing him to miss the last four games.

Trade With the Tampa Bay Rays

According to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, the Rays will trade Steve Pearce prior to the trade deadline, and it appears that Matt Moore is the pitcher they will most likely be willing to trade.

According to Crasnick, the Mets are very interested in Rays’ Steve Pearce.  In his career, Pearce has predominantly played first base and outfield.  However, the Rays have not played him in the outfield this year.  Instead, he has played mostly first base with some time at second, third, an DH.

Pearce would certainly fulfill a need for the Mets as he is hitting .312/.384/.528 with 11 doubles, one triple, 10 homers, and 29 RBI on the year.  He has hit a respectable .288/.348/.452 against righties, but he is flat out mashing lefties hitting .377/.476/.736 against lefties.  The Mets could desperately use him given some of the splits we have seen with the Mets starters against lefties:

This does not even include Neil Walker who is hitting lefties well this year, but is still a career .262/.320/.357 career hitter against lefties.  Given the injuries to Jose Reyes and Yoenis Cespedes as well as Juan Lagares again being put on the disabled list with the torn ligament in his left thumb, the Mets are going to have to play two or more of the aforementioned players against lefties.

The Mets could also have some interest in Matt Moore, who is 7-7 with a 4.08 ERA and a 1.269 WHIP in 21 starts.  Moore would be an upgrade over Logan Verrett, and he could be insurance against Steven Matz and the bone spurs in his left elbow.

However, the chances of the Mets acquiring either player is not particularly good at the moment as the Rays intend to drive a hard bargain.  According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the Rays asked for Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto in exchange for Moore and Jake Odorizzi.

Relief Help

The Mets were earlier linked briefly to Jon Niese given Matt Harvey‘s season ending surgery.  However, it does not appear as if those talks have gotten anywhere beyond the preliminary stages at this point.  Now, the struggling Niese is in the bullpen alongside Pirates closer Mark Melancon. Melancon is having another strong year as the Pirates closer going 1-1 with a 1.51 ERA and a 0.960 WHIP while recording 30 saves.

According to Rosenthal, the Nationals have been in active trade discussion with the Pirates about Melancon after Jonathan Papelbon has had a rough stretch to the season.  Rosenthal further reports trading the pending free agent Melancon would not signal the team is waiving the white flag.  Instead, the Pirates remain active on the trade market themselves, and they intend to replace Melancon with either Tony Watson or former Texas Rangers closer Neftali Feliz.

Frankly, it wouldn’t be a trade deadline unless the Nationals were trying to displace their closer.   According to Rosenthal, the Nationals are also in on Royals closer Wade Davis, who is having another great year recording 21 saves while recording a 1.60 ERA and a 1.099 WHIP.

Neither Melancon nor Davis have been linked to the Mets.

The Final Cost

As we see with the ask for Lucroy, the prices are going to be steep at the trading deadline.  In reality, the only thing that helps the Mets chances there is the fact that the Mets are not on Lucroy’s no trade list.    Perhaps the most discouraging sign of all is Passan’s latest report that the Phillies could obtain three to four prospects in exchange for Jeremy Hellickson.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online