Last year, we saw Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and T.J. Rivera become significant contributors to a Mets team who claimed one of the two National League Wild Cards. Their contribution was as pleasant as it was surprising. In fact, no one truly could have predicated the slate of injuries that befell the Mets last year. This year? Well, that’s a different story all together.
With David Wright already questionable for Opening Day, and the Mets prospects performing better in Spring Training than many originally anticipated, many fans question not if, but when will we see these prospects contributing for the Mets. With that in mind, here are five prospects, who have yet to appear in a major league game, we may very well see at Citi Field in 2017.
Once Akeel Morris was traded to the Braves for Kelly Johnson, Roseboom became the closer for the Binghamton Mets last season. Roseboom blossomed in the role and made it an eight inning game for the B-Mets. He saved 14 out of 15 games while posting a 1.87 ERA in 52 games on the year. From July 2 to the last regular season game on September 5, Roseboom held opponents to a .130/.193/.383 slash line, and a 0.92 ERA. This work has caught the Mets attention, and he was a non-roster invitee giving the Mets coaching staff an opportunity to get an up close look at him.
At a minimum, he could very well be the second left-handed reliever the Mets covet in the bullpen. With the struggles we have seen from Josh Edgin this Spring, that could be sooner rather than later.
#2 Paul Sewald
What is interesting about Sewald is his terrific results have not gotten him the attention he deserves. Seemingly every pitcher struggles in Las Vegas, and yet in the second half, Sewald converted 10 save opportunities while posting a 1.85 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. While naysayers will point to his high 80s to low 90s fastball, Sewald has clearly shown the ability to get batters out even in the most difficult of pitching environments. As teams go through multiple relievers year-t0-year, it may only be a matter of time before Sewald finally gets his well earned chance to pitch in the majors.
This Spring, we have already seen Wright become questionable for Opening Day, and Lucas Duda need shots in his hip and have back spasms. For a Mets infield that already had injury questions to start the season, things are already progressing quite poorly. The Mets have talked about experimenting with Jay Bruce at first. Wilmer Flores has already shown he can be part of an effective platoon there as well. Neither player is the long term answer. That’s Smith.
Smith is a terrific fielding first baseman who reported to his first major league camp in the best shape of his professional career. So far, the only concern about him is if he will hit for power. He quieted some of those concerns in the final 58 games of the season. During that 58 game stretch, Smith hit .355/.426/.537 with 16 doubles, one triple, seven homers and 42 RBI. Extrapolating that over the course of a 162 game season, that would translate to 45 doubles and 20 home runs. That type of production can definitely play at first base especially when Smith has the promise to do even more.
#4 Amed Rosario
Across baseball and the Mets organization, Rosario has been dubbed a superstar in the making. The only question is when his star will begin shining at Citi Field. Arguably, he is further away from Citi Field than Smith as Smith played a full season in Binghamton last year. Moreover, you probably want to give both players until the All Star Break before you even begin to consider calling them up to the majors. And yet, as Michael Conforto proved in 2015, if you are a truly special talent, you can come to the majors and contribute for a World Series caliber team in the thick of a pennant race.
In Rosario, the Mets have a game changer in the field and at the plate. Should any infielder go down, room can be made for Rosario. Certainly, Asdrubal Cabrera has shown in his career he can play second and third. Also, do not discount the Mets trying to play Rosario at third this season so he can become more versatile, and quite possibly open a spot for him on the major league roster this year.
#5 Chris Flexen
Arguably, this spot could go to P.J. Conlon, but Flexen is on the 40 man roster. Also, Flexen pitched a full season for St. Lucie last year, whereas Conlon only pitched half a season there. Another issue is Flexen’s stuff plays better in the bullpen as Flexen has a mid-90s fastball and a plus curve ball. If the Mets were to be willing to move Flexen to the bullpen, he can rocket through the Mets system.
In addition to Conlon, another name to consider is Corey Taylor. He’s got terrific stuff, and the minor league closer is already drawing Jeurys Familia comparisons. Overall, the Mets farm system has plenty of players who should be able to contribute at the major league level at some point next year. It should give you some hope the Mets should be good in 2017 even if there is a rash of injuries. It should give you more hope that the Mets should be good in years to come.
Editor’s Note: I consulted Michael Mayer while making my list, and he pointed out to me he wrote a similar column for Mets Merized Online. His list is slightly different as he includes Champ Stuart. As Michael is one of the most knowledgeable people on the Mets farm system, please give his article a read as well.
Looking over the Mets infield, there are two things that squarely stand-out. The first is that this is an aging group of players coming off significant injuries. The second is this infield is not a particularly good defensive infield.
John Dewan of Acta Sports, and Fielding Bible fame, projected the Mets to have the worst defense up the middle in 2017. The projection calls for Neil Walker to be a -1 DRS next season, which is what he has averaged over the past three seasons. Asdrubal Cabrera is projected to post a -9 DRS, which is worse than the -7 DRS he has averaged over the past two seasons. While you would certainly want both Walker’s and Cabrera’s bats in the game, certainly, the Mets would benefit by having a better glove in the game when there is a lead late in the game.
That is exactly what the Mets have done with Juan Lagares. After the team acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the 2015 trade deadline, Lagares has served as a defensive replacement late in games. The Mets doing this has served two important purposes. First, it has helped the Mets preserve leads by putting their best defense on the field. Second, it helps save some innings, and by extent wear and tear, on players like Cespedes and Curtis Granderson. It is a large reason why the Mets will be returning Lagares to the same role in 2017.
It is something the Mets should consider for their infield. The issue is the Mets do not have the bench to do it.
Jose Reyes has averaged a -9 DRS at shortstop over the past three years, which would indicate he’s a downgrade from Cabrera. Wilmer Flores had a -10 DRS as the starting shortstop in 2015, and he has a -6 DRS as a second baseman in 576.0 major league innings. The other options being considered for the bench, T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly, are hardly terrific defenders in their own right. Certainly, you are not taking the steady handed Walker and Cabrera off the field for them.
No, the only good defensive player who is a realistic option to make the Opening Day roster is Matt Reynolds.
Reynolds is not a gold glover in the middle infield. However, he does have the same steady hands Walker and Cabrera have while having better range at the position. He certainly has the arm to play second, short, and third. That also makes him an option to take some innings away from David Wright at third. Overall, Reynolds is most likely the best defensive infielder the Mets not named Amed Rosario. The fact that he is also capable of serving as the team’s fifth outfielder makes him an all the more enticing roster option.
What is going to hurt his chances of making the team is his bat. He hit .225/.266/.416 in 47 games with the Mets last year. He has played 254 games in the hitter’s haven that is the Pacific Coast League, Reynolds has only hit .284/.342/.411. Overall, he’s not a great hitter. It’s quite possible that even with him putting in extra time with Kevin Long he will never develop into a good hitter.
But the Mets don’t need hitters. They have plenty of them on this team. What they need are good defenders. With Lagares, they have that in the outfield. With Reynolds, they would have that in the infield as well.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
It would take a minor miracle if the Mets Opening Day lineup lasts the full season. It is very likely that one of Lucas Duda (back), Neil Walker (back), David Wright (body), or Asdrubal Cabrera (knee) doesn’t have a stint on the disabled list. With that in mind, the Mets infield depth is going to be more important than ever. Fortunately, they seem to have more choices than they have ever had in the past:
2016 Stats: 60 G, 279 PA, 255 AB, 45 R, 68 H, 13 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 24 RBI, 9 SB, 2 CS, .267/.326/.443
In many ways, it was the Reyes of old last year with the electricity on the basepaths which created a buzz in both the dugout and the stands. There are two areas of caution with Reyes. He had a poor .326 OBP which is not an outlier as Reyes’ OBP over the past three seasons is .321. The other issue is he struggled against right-handed pitchers hitting .239/.293/.371 off of them last year. With that said, Reyes does seem rejuvenated being in a Mets uniform, and he can now completely focus on baseball giving hope for much better results.
2016 Stats: 103 G, 335 PA, 307 AB, 38 R, 82 H, 14 2B, 16 HR, 49 RBI, SB, CS, .267/.319/.469
Simply put, Flores mashes left-handed pitching having hit .340/.383/.710 with 11 of his 16 home runs off of them. While fans have soured on him as a shortstop, he still can capably handle all four infield positions. Based on the numbers, when there is a left-handed pitcher on the mound, the Mets needs to find a way to get him in the lineup. When there’s a right-handed pitcher, the Mets would be better off looking in another direction.
2016 Stats: 33 G, 113 PA, 105 AB, 10 R, 35 H, 4 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 16 RBI, .333/.345/.476
In September, we saw that Rivera can not only hold down a position due to injuries. More importantly, we know he can rise to the occasion. While he may not walk enough to justify putting him in the everyday lineup, his ability to hit can justify his presence on a major league roster. Those justifications are only enhanced when you consider he is also capable of playing all four infield positions.
2016 Stats: 47 G, 96 PA, 89 AB, 11 R, 20 H, 8 2B, 3 HR, CS, .225/.266/.416
Whereas the aforementioned players primarily rely on their bats, Reynolds is a terrific defensive player. In one game last year, he surprised us all not by playing a representative left field, despite never playing there previously, but also by hitting a monster home run to give the Mets a lead.
2016 Stats: 4 G, 7 PA, 6 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 2 2B, 2 RBI, .333/.429/.667
Cecchini is a promising hitter who should be able to hit for more power as he ages. Despite having all the tools, he has struggled as a shortstop. Those struggles along with the rise of Rosario, Cecchini should find himself playing second base next year. With the increased versatility, he should be able to help the Mets at either second or short if the need arises.
2016 MiLB Stats: 120 G, 527 PA, 479 AB, 65 R, 155 H, 24 2B, 13 3B, 5 HR, 71 RBI, 19 SB, 8 CS, .324/.374/.459
With Rosario it is just a matter of time before the shortstop of the future becomes the Mets everyday shortstop. With a little more seasoning, he may become a superstar. There’s no limit to his talent. He just needs a little more seasoning in Las Vegas. Depending on when or if someone goes down, the Mets may want to call up their best prospect to the majors. Once he gets called up, the Mets are going to have a hard time justifying sending him back down.
As seen above, the Mets are much deeper in the infield than they have been in year’s past when players like Eric Campbell were making the Opening Day roster. In the case of Cecchini and Rosario, one injury may just open the door for them to claim the position not just for 2017 but for years to come.
While the Mets have a terrific Opening Day infield on paper, the infield that may materialize later on into the season may be even better.
Asdrubal Cabrera had a terrific year at shortstop for the Mets in 2016 even if he did not have a good year defensively. Now, there are many things you can point to otherwise to say he did. His .986 fielding percentage was the fourth best in the major leagues last season. Certainly, he passed the eye test as he seemingly never botched a ball hit his way. Moreover, he certainly looked much better at the position than Wilmer Flores looked in 2015.
And yet, despite him looking good out there, Baseball Info Solutions ranked him 29th among the 35 shortstops it was able to rank defensively. Why?
According to Ben Jedlovec, president of Baseball Info Solutions, ““Cabrera makes the plays on the balls he can get to. His issue is more the balls that he doesn’t get to.” (John Harper, New York Daily News).
For those that rely solely on the eye test to believe Cabrera was good defensively last year, Jedlovec has an explanation for that. He states, “Sometimes the things we’re good at perceiving are only part of the picture.”
Now, Baseball Info Solutions has an advantage many fans don’t. They have the time, know-how, and ability to break down each and every play. They factor in a number of variables including ball speed, defensive positioning, and how often a similar play has been made by other players at the position. It is a painstaking process, with admittedly some gray areas. Ultimately, Jedloven says, “We try to be as objective as possible. We have access to multiple (TV) angles, multiple broadcasts. We can slow it down, replay it. If it takes 10 times to get the hit location and the times exactly right, that’s what we do.”
And with that, the end result was Cabrera was a shortstop lacking in range. In fact, over the past three seasons, Cabrera has averaged a -4.9 UZR. And yet, if you are a Mets fan who cannot shake the feeling this data is skewed because you rarely if ever saw Cabrera make a mistake out in the field, you would actually be correct. Over the course of the season, Cabrera only made 11 misplays over the course of the season. Ultimately, this means that although Cabrera has some limited range, he does make up for it with the ability to make the sure-handed plays.
Making the sure-handed plays is one way to offset the lack of range. The others? Well, Sandy Alderson put it best when he said, “Positioning can compensate for range. Nothing compensates for poor hands, except for maybe a really good bat!”
And the good bat is one of the things that stood out for Cabrera in 2016. Once he came off the disabled list, he was perhaps the best hitter in all of baseball hitting .345/.406/.635 with 11 doubles, a triple, 10 homers, and 29 RBI. Despite him being on one knee, he helped will the Mets back to the postseason.
So while Cabrera may not have been one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, he was certainly one of the best. Ultimately, he was exactly the shortstop the Mets needed to carry them back to the postseason.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
Recent reports state the Mets and Neil Walker are in the midst of extending Walker’s current one year $17.2 million deal into a three year deal that may be worth north of $40 million. Now, if Walker is truly healthy and capable of repeating the numbers he put up in 2016, this deal could very well be a massive discount for the Mets. But, we don’t know if he can. It’s one of a few reasons why this may not be the time to extend Walker.
Declining Production Against RHP
Much has been made about the turn-around Walker had as a right-handed hitter. Overall, he was a completely different hitter from that side of the plate. The improvement from the right-hand side of the plate masked Walker’s three-year decline as a left-handed hitter:
- 2014: .269/.339/.491
- 2015: .276/.337/.456
- 2016: .266/.333/.433
Now, it is possible this was the result of the back issues. It also could be the result of what could be the natural continual decline of a now 31 year old player. Fact is, it is too soon to know, and if that is the case, how can you re-invest in that player?
If Walker was not extended, he is going to be a free agent along with the teams first baseman Lucas Duda. The Mets also have an $8.5 team option on Asdrubal Cabrera. Potentially, the only infielder that could be back next season is David Wright, who no one can count on to play a full season. On the surface, this is very problematic.
Any concerns that are raised by the pending free agents should be alleviated by the depth of the Mets farm system. For example, the Las Vegas 51s infield will be loaded:
Rivera is the least regarded prospect of the group, and we just saw him hit .358/.378/.552 with two doubles a triple, three homers, and 13 RBI when he took over second base in September. Coincidentally, Rivera was put in that spot due to the injuries to both Walker and Wilmer Flores.
Rivera could be competing for a spot at second base with Cecchini, Flores, or possibly Cabrera. If the Mets pick up Cabrera’s option, he could slide to second while Rosario takes over at shortstop. Overall, even without Walker, the Mets have plenty of middle infield options remaining, and that is before you take into account the possibility Jose Reyes re-signs with the team.
Regardless of the infield permutations in 2018, it seems reasonable to assume the infield will incorporate both Smith and Rosario. With those two being major league ready next year, the Mets re-signing Walker becomes much less of a priority.
Signing The Starting Pitchers
The young players being able to step in and contribute is important because these players will be extremely cheap. Whereas Walker would probably demand an average annual value of approximately $13+ million per season, Cecchini, Rivera, and Rosario would cost around $500,000. That’s a significant difference. And the Mets can use that money.
Matt Harvey is due to be a free agent after the 2018 season. Zack Wheeler will be a free agent the following year. Jacob deGrom will be in his final arbitration year the year Wheeler hits free agency. Noah Syndergaard will be arbitration eligible next year, and Steven Matz will be arbitration eligible the following year.
These pitchers are about to become extremely expensive. Considering they are the foundation of the Mets success, the Mets need the payroll room to re-sign them and pay them what they will earn in arbitration. Giving $13 million or more to Walker potentially impedes with the Mets ability to pay their pitching. This isn’t a matter of the Mets still being considered to be on austerity; it is a matter of the Mets only being able to spend so much money.
Walker being paid $13 million certainly stands in the way of that happening. If Walker is not capable of playing everyday, or has diminishing skills like most players in their mid 30s, that will create an even bigger issue.
Walker Is An Unknown
If Walker is healthy, he is an All Star caliber player at second base. Regardless of the prospects in place, Walker certainly gives the Mets a safer choice. In fact, Walker could provide the Mets with a better bat than the aforementioned prospects. For a team that is considered a World Series contender, Walker could be an important piece of the puzzle.
However, no one knows what he will be after his discectomy. He could remain healthy, but he could show some effects of the surgery leading to decreased mobility and power at the plate. He could suffer another herniation leading to him needing more surgery. Presumably, he could show no ill effects, and he could return to form. At this point, no one knows, nor can anyone be confident in what Walker will be when he steps foot in the field.
This may be a case where it is better to see Walker play now and have to pay more later. It would be better to pay a production player closer to market value than to try to get a discount and be stuck with an albatross of a contract the next few seasons. Given the depth of the Mets farm system, you really have to question whether this is a worthwhile or necessary gamble.
Last season, other than Wilmer Flores, Terry Collins showed an unwillingness to move players out of their natural position. With the Mets returning four infielders who each had significant injuries last year requiring stints on the disabled list, Collins may not have the same luxury. To that end, the Mets appear prepared to better handle to withstand injuries next season.
As the Mets report to camp, it appears that each player has come ready to either learn how to play another position or become more proficient at a position they have played in the past.
For starters, Jose Reyes comes into the season having already played shortstop and third base. In addition to those responsibilities, Reyes is going to spend time in Spring Training learning how to play the outfield. As Mets fans remember, Reyes once played second base. Certainly, he can play there in a pinch if needed.
Last year, the Mets were unwilling to move Neil Walker off of second base. This year might be a different story. As Walker reported to Spring Training, he brought a third base and a first baseman’s glove with him. Depending on not only the health of his teammates, but his own health, it is very possible Walker finds himself playing some games away from second.
His double play partner Asdrubal Cabrera has been working away from shortstop this offseason. During Winter Ball, Cabrera played both shortstop and third base. Before Carlos Guillen surprisingly left him off the roster, Cabrera was set to play short and third for Venezuela. Previously when he was a member of the Washington Nationals, Cabrera had played second in addition to short.
While each of these players have infield experience, the Mets are looking to gain some versatility with their outfielders as well. While Collins has largely shot down rumors of Michael Conforto trying first base, it appears Jay Bruce will get some exposure there during Spring Training. This move makes sense for both the team and the player. The added versatility should help the Mets replace Lucas Duda‘s power at first should he suffer another back injury, and the added versatility should help Bruce as he plays his last season before becoming a free agent.
In addition to the aforementioned players, we know that Ty Kelly, T.J. Rivera, and Matt Reynolds can play a multitude of positions as well as left field. Top to bottom, the Mets promise to have a versatile roster.
The versatility helps because it will allow the Mets to keep the best remaining bats in the lineup in case of injury, but it also can clear room for Gavin Cecchini, Amed Rosario, or possibly Dominic Smith to play everyday when/if they are ready. Overall, the Mets are in the best possible situation to withstand injuries now. All that is left is Collins’ willingness to play people outside of their main positions.
That remains to be seen.
In an interview with Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, Jose Reyes said all of the right things. He spoke about how his actions were inexcusable and how he wants to be a better man. After what must have been trying year for both him and his family, Reyes ultimately stated, “You can go through the process and realize what you need to do. I think it helped me to be become a better husband, father and man.”
There is no reason to question the veracity of Reyes’ statements or question his improvement as a husband, father, or man. Reyes and his family are the best arbiters of that. From a fan standpoint, all we can hope is that those statements prove to be true.
While we know many acts of domestic violence remain unreported, there is some comfort there were not repeat incidents . . . at least known incidents. The comfort may be naive, but it could also be the truth of the matter. We simply don’t know at this point.
What we do know is that he has served his time, and he has gone through the requisite treatment prescribed by Major League Baseball. On the surface, it at least appears he came out better for it, which is all you want both as a fan and a human being.
On the field, he is going to be an important part of the Mets. With David Wright still not having thrown the ball, and no one knowing how many games he can play, it appears Reyes will be the Mets third baseman for much of the year. He’s also going to be the primary backup option for Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Furthermore, with him learning center field during Spring Training, he could help spell Curtis Granderson in center. Overall, while Reyes is projected to be a utility player, he really could wind up playing everyday. He could be the most important player on the roster.
To that end, as Mets fans we all hope he has a successful season. More importantly, we hope he continues what appears to be significant progress with his family.
In 2017, more than anything, I am rooting for Reyes both on and off the field.
While most are focused on the bullpen, this Mets team has some other areas it needs to address prior to the start of the 2017 season. One of the main issues facing this team is which player is going to get the last spot on the bench?
At first blush, this may not seem like it is a major issue. If any of the infielders with an injury history go down, it is expected that Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes can more than capably handle any one of the four infield spots. If two were to go down, we have seen enough from both Flores and Reyes to know that they can at least be a good stop gap option at a position. However, lost in the confidence you would have in Flores or Reyes is the fact that once they are moved to a starting position, the player who is the last man on the roster will begin to take on a larger role on the team.
Last year, that player was Eric Campbell. While Campbell may have had his positive attributes, he was certainly not capable of playing everyday. And yet, when Lucas Duda and David Wright went down that was the position Campbell found himself. In 2017, there is no reason to believe that Duda or Wright could last a full season. Same goes for Neil Walker, who just had season ending back surgery, and Asdrubal Cabrera, who played with a knee injury for the entirety of the 2016 season. The long story short here is the Mets need a deep bench for the 2017 season to prevent a player of Campbell’s caliber being a starter for two or more weeks.
For the past two seasons, the Mets have made trades to obtain Kelly Johnson to serve as a bench player. He has proven himself to be a useful player who has hit .260/.319/.441 over two brief stints with the Mets. Last year, he was clutch as a pinch hitter hitting four pinch hit home runs. He is versatile in his ability to play second, third, and both corner outfield positions. In 2015, we saw him play shortstop in a game. If given Spring Training to work on it, he could add first base to his repertoire. The main issue facing Johnson is he remains unsigned, and at this point, it is questionable whether the Mets have interest in him with the team already espousing that they need to cut payroll entering the 2017 season.
The next in line would likely be Terry Collins‘ favorite Ty Kelly. Like Johnson, Kelly is versatile in his ability to play across the infield and his ability to play the corner outfield positions. While he is a switch hitter, Kelly showed he was a better hitter against left-handed pitching in what was a very small sample size. Late in the season, Collins used Kelly as a pinch runner late in games. Overall, while Kelly does nothing outstanding, and is clearly best suited to being a bench player at the major league level, Collins has shown that he appreciates what Kelly can bring to the table.
In addition to Kelly, T.J. Rivera was the other standout 27 year old Mets rookie during the 2016 season. Late in the season with the injuries to Walker and Flores, Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job and hit .333/.346/.476 in 33 games. Unlike Johnson and Kelly, Rivera has played a fair amount of games at shortstop. With that said, there is a reason why the Mets began transitioning him away from short beginning in AA. With that said, RIvera can legitimately play all four infield positions. When he was passed over for promotion to the majors, he began working in LF in AAA meaning it is possible he can play the outfield if necessary. The main sticking point with Rivera is the fact that he is an aggressive hitter that rarely draws a walk.
Last, but certainly not least, is Matt Reynolds. Unlike the aforementioned players, Reynolds is a legitimate shortstop who quite possibly has the best range out of all the major league options the Mets have at the position. For one glorious day game, Reynolds showed he can play left field, and he can get that clutch hit to help the Mets win the game. On the downside, Reynolds is the worst hitter of the bunch. In his 47 games with the Mets last year, he only hit .255/.266/.416. In the hitter’s haven that in the Pacific Coast League, he was only a .264/.336/.357 hitter last year. Ultimately, Reynolds is the guy you want out there defensively, but he is not the guy you want at the plate.
Unless the Mets sign Johnson, it looks like the fight will be between Kelly, Rivera, and Reynolds for the last spot on the bench. IN those three players, the Mets have three intriguing if not flawed players. Ultimately, that is your best bet when looking to round out your major league bench. The good news for the Mets is if one should falter, there are two more behind them that can pick up the slack. If the Mets face a number of injuries like they did in 2015 and 2016, the Mets have a couple of options that have proven they can be useful major league players. With that, it seems the Mets bench should not be a problem for the first time in a good number of years . . . at least that’s the hope.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
In the three seasons before Yoenis Cespedes became a New York Met, he was a .263/.316/.464 hitter who averaged 24 homers and 87 RBI. Since becoming a New York Met, Cespedes has been a .282/.348/.554 hitter with 162 game averages of 41 homers and 111 RBI.
In Curtis Granderson‘s first year with the Mets, he was a .227/.326/.388 hitter with 20 homers and 66 RBI. Over the past two seasons, Granderson has been a .248/.350/.460 hitter who has averaged 28 homers and 64 RBI.
In the three years before the Mets acquired Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Walker was a .264/.336/.438 hitter who averaged 18 homers and 67 RBI. In his Pirates career as a right-handed batter, Walker was a career .260 hitter with just six home runs over the course of seven seasons. Last year, Walker was a .282/.347/.476 hitter with 23 homers and 55 RBI in just 113 games. From the right side of the plate, he was a .330/.391/.610 hitter with eight homers.
In the three years before Asdrubal Cabrera signed a free agent deal with the Mets, he was a .249/.307/.405 hitter who averaged 14 homers and 61 RBI. Last year, Cabrera was a .280/.336/.474 hitter with 23 homers and 62 RBI. It should also be noted he was one of if not the best hitter over the last two months of the season.
With this quartet of players, we see a definite trend of what happens when the Mets hitters being working with hitting coach Kevin Long. Whatever it is he specifically does, he has the ability to help batters not only hit for more power, but also improve their OBP. While Long’s detractors will point out there are players that haven’t performed well under his tutelage like Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto last year, there are players like the aforementioned players and Daniel Murphy who have improved. The point is overall hitters tend to improve in terms of OBP and slugging under Long.
With Long’s seeming ability to help players in these two key areas, Jay Bruce would be wise to work closely with his new hitting coach this season.
Over the course of his career, Bruce has been a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged a 27 homers and 82 RBI a season with most of his damage being done at The Great American Ballpark where he is a .254/.328/.500 hitter. Basically, Bruce has basically been a slugger that not only does not know how to draw a walk, but he is also a product of his former home ballpark. At least that was the perception. That perception was not helped when Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 in 50 games with the Mets last season.
This is a large reason why he did not garner much interest on the trade market. It may very well be a reason why he will have difficulty getting a large free agent deal next offseason.
It’s odd when you think about it because Bruce has the potential to be a 30 HR/100 RBI hitter. He is your prototypical slugger who has been a three time All Star, two time Silver Slugger, and has a top 10 MVP finish in his career. There is real talent there. He just needs help to become a more well-rounded hitter. As we have seen with most of the Mets roster, Long has helped the Mets hitters on that front.
If Bruce does improve his OBP and he hits for more power, the Mets are going to have the left-handed power threat they thought they were getting when they acquired him in exchange for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. He is also going to help garner the interest for his services that we just not present this offseason. Overall, the working relationship between Bruce and Long can be a mutually beneficial relationship.
It’s a relationship both Bruce’s and the 2017 Mets’ future hinges upon.
Due to Lucas Duda‘s broken back and Sandy Alderson believing Eric Campbell was the best possible option for the 25th man on the Opening Day roster, the Mets were forced to go out and acquire James Loney for $1 from the San Diego Padres.
Look, there are plenty of jokes you can make about the Mets getting ripped off in the deal. You can also point out to how Loney was a terrible hitter who not only couldn’t hit for power, but he also couldn’t draw a walk. In the field, you could crack jokes about how dead people are able to stretch more than Loney was able to at first base.
Behind these jokes, the simple fact was Loney was better than what the Mets had at the time. Loney was the end result of poor planning by this Mets organization. Lost in all of that was Loney was actually good for a stretch of time. From June to July, Loney was a .288/.343/.451 hitter. While it wasn’t the production you may look for out of first base, he was still a solid major league hitter. And he was a solid major league hitter at a time when Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera were mired in deep slumps. Without Loney’s bat, it is quite possible the Mets would have been further under .500 than they would have been.
There were even some clutch hits along the way like his 100th career home run that helped the Mets beat the Miami Marlins:
The main issue with Loney was he was playing above his head, and he fooled everyone into thinking he was going to keep up this level of production. He certainly convinced a Mets front office who was once again either unwilling or ill-prepared to handle the first base situation at the trade deadline.
In the end, Loney showed the Mets his best ability was his availability. That speaks volume when you consider the entire Mets Opening Day infield spent at least one stint on the disabled list. Heck, even the primary backup, Wilmer Flores, had a season ending injury that required offseason surgery.
Overall, it was not his fault he was not the hitter the Mets needed him to be. Ultimately, Loney was just Loney. It was good enough to help the Mets capture the top Wild Card spot, but ultimately, it was not enough for the Mets to beat Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card game.
Loney has now signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers thereby putting an end to the possibility of his returning to the Mets. It’s likely he won’t have a Kelly Johnson type return either. The chapter in Mets history is closed, and generally speaking, the Mets were better off for him being a part of it. And no, it’s not a stretch to say that.