Brandon Nimmo

Matz Picks Up A Grandy Win

Another Steven Matz start and another seven innings. Since coming off the Disabled List, Matz has pitched seven innings in three of his four starts. Tonight might’ve been the best start of the lot. 

Matz pitched seven shut out innings befuddling the Marlins. No Marlins player would even make it to third base.  He pitched mainly to contact, weak contact, which permitted him to once again go deep in the game. Over the seven innings, he needed just 110 pitches. 

His final line was seven innings, six hits, no runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

And Matz would get the win in this game with some help of some veterans looking to boost their trade value. 

Curtis Granderson was great just like he’s been all June. In fact, he’s been among the top three hitters in the majors during the Month of June. 

To start the game, Granderson battled back from a 1-2 count to draw a nine pitch walk against Marlins starter Jeff LockeAsdrubal Cabrera followed with a home run:

He’s been much better since moving to second base. 

The rally continued with a Jay Bruce single and a Travis d’Arnaud two out walk. In what might’ve been his best game of the season Jose Reyes delivered with an RBI single making it 3-1. 

Overall, Reyes was 3-4 with a double and an RBI. With his seventh inning single, he passed Ed Kranepool for second on the Mets all-time hit list. 

The Mets offense would go silent from there until the Marlins brought Dustin McGowan into the game. d’Arnaud got it started with an RBI single, and he’d go to third on the aforementioned Reyes single. If that ball does not hit McGowan, Reyes has an RBI. 

That RBI would go to T.J. Rivera with his RBI groundout. It appeared to be a sure fire double play ball, but at the last second, it took a strange hop on Marlins shortstop JT Riddle

After a Matz sacrifice bunt, the Marlins brought in the left-handed Justin Nicolino to face Granderson. Granderson responded by hitting a bomb:

This was the third straight game Granderson hit a home run. 

The Mets would build on this 6-0 lead in the eighth. Brandon Nimmo continued his terrific work as a pinch hitter delivering a two out RBI single giving the Mets an 8-0 lead. That’s a lead not even this Mets bullpen could blow. 

Mets are back on track for at least one day, and they look to take the series tomorrow. 

Game Notes: Robert Gsellman was put on the DL, and Matt Reynolds was called-up to take his place on the roster. Reynolds came on for defense for Cabrera in the eighth. 

Seen This Loss Too Many Times This Year

The Mets fought hard to get back into this game.  In the end, it was the usual culprits that would let the Mets down – injuries, defense, and the bullpen. 

After Curtis Granderson led off the game with a home run off Dan StrailyRobert Gsellman would just give the lead back. 

In the bottom of the first, the Marlins had runners on first and second with two outs, but Gsellman couldn’t come up with that big pitch to get out of the inning. Justin Bour singled to tie the game, and Martin Prado doubled to give the Marlins a 3-1 lead. 

It was one of those nights where you knew Gsellman probably wasn’t long for the game. You’d be right, but not for the reason you’d expect. 

In the fourth, Lucas Duda got a rally started with a one out double, and it appeared as if the Mets would strand him there. Travis d’Arnaud came up with the big two out RBI single pulling the Mets within one. 

Then came the Gsellman injury. Gsellman would ground out to the pitcher. On the play, he’d vacillate between jogging and busting it. It led to a leg injury. Rather go on a rant here about another injury, it’s best to leave it to Ron Darling:

This led to Paul Sewald getting thrown into the game. He did a great job pitching three scoreless innings keeping the Mets in the game. It allowed d’Arnaud to tie the game with a solo shot off Kyle Barraclough

The hit got the Mets going, and it seemed as if the Mets might take the lead. Brandon Nimmo worked out a pinch hit walk, and Granderson smoked a grounder up the middle. 

That’s when JT Riddle made a phenomenal play on the Granderson grounder to get a 6-6-3 inning ending double play. 

With the game tied at 3-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh, Terry Collins went to Neil Ramirez and his 6.66 ERA. You knew nothing good would come of this. 

Ramirez would issue a leadoff walk to J.T. Realmuto, and Riddle would smoke a grounder towards Duda. It was difficult, but Duda needs to make that play. The ball hit off his glove setting up first and third with no outs. 
Like all Mets fans, Collins had enough of Ramirez and went to Jerry Blevins, who has pitched poor of late, to pitch to Ichiro Suzuki

Being the wily veteran with 3,049 career hits entering the game, Ichiro knew just where to hit it – right by Wilmer Flores, who went in the completely wrong direction:

From there, Blevins walked Giancarlo Stanton to get to the left-handed Christian Yelich.  The move didn’t work as Yelich hit a two run single giving the Marlins a 6-3 lead. 

This loss was the same loss that we’ve been seeing all season long. This is the same loss that has derailed the Mets season. 

Game Notes: Michael Conforto was not available to pinch hit after getting hit on the wrist in Sunday’s game. Erik Goeddel pitched 1.2 scoreless. He has three scoreless innings in three appearances this year. 

Mets Need To Play Their Veterans Everyday To Maximize Trade Value

It is interesting to hear the Mets are selling because the news came just one day after the Mets said they were going to move Asdrubal Cabrera to second base to allow Jose Reyes to stay at shortstop when Cabrera comes off the disabled list.  Naturally, this move blocks both Gavin Cecchini, who has played fairly well over the past four games earning him a longer look at the the position, and Amed Rosario, who is considered an Über prospect.

If you are team looking to sell, you have really announced you want to clear your veterans out of the way to both get some prospects in return and to give your young players some time at the major league level.  However, it could behoove the Mets to play their veterans as much as possible now to increase their trade value.

For example, in the outfield, the Mets have four caliber starting outfielders.  There is no way the team is going to bench Yoenis Cespedes under any circumstances, nor should they.  This means the team has two spots for three left-handed hitting outfielders.  The Mets have control over only one of them after this season.

For the long term, the Mets need to get Michael Conforto as many at-bats as possible.  With that said, would it harm his development to be a part-time player for the next month?   He has suffered a back injury to some unspecified severity.  He has slumped in June albeit while keeping a more than respectable OBP.  If sitting him potentially leads to a better return for Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson, shouldn’t the Mets at least try to get the most value from those players?

Same goes for the infield.  The Mets are going to have to clear some room for their presumed infield of the future including Dominic Smith, Rosario, and possibly Cecchini to take form.  If playing Reyes for the next month gets some major league team interested in him as a late inning pinch runner or utility player, shouldn’t the Met do that?  Maybe that seemingly low rated prospect becomes something.  Remember, Wuilmer Becerra was seen as a throw-in to the R.A. Dickey trade, and he has become a real prospect over the past few years.

The same thing goes for Cabrera.  The Mets need to get him going to get teams interested in him.  Presumably, moving him to second has more to do with showing teams he can be the answer at second as well than making a spot for Reyes.

Overall, the Mets need to maximize the returns for everyone to build up the team not just for 2018, but for the oncoming seasons. Up until the trade deadline, getting the most in return for the veterans has to be the Mets singular focus.  Conforto can sit for a while or go to Triple-A.  Rosario and Smith can wait an extra month.  However, the veterans cannot wait.  The Mets need to get them going to try to maximize the return on them.  To do that, they need to be in the lineup everyday.

However, once August 1st rolls around, those veterans not shipped out needs to be put on the bench.  At that point, it is l about playing Conforto, Cecchini, Brandon Nimmo, Rosario, and Smith.

Eleven Mets Minor Leaugers To Protect In An Expansion Draft

In the NHL draft tonight, the Vegas Golden Knights will be drafting players from each of the other 30 NHL rosters.  There is a provision that players who have less than two years of service time are automatically protected thereby not making a team choose between a significant player and a huge prospect.  It does beg the question about what would happen if that provision were removed.

Better yet, what would happen if teams were forced to protect just 10 of their best prospects in an effort to permit the new team to stock their minor league system.  If the Mets were put in the position to select eleven players with under two years service time, who should they select?

1.   SS Amed Rosario

By any account, Rosario is among the top prospects in all of baseball if not the top prospect.  He has more than justified that billing this year.  Through 69 games, Rosario is hitting .325/.368/.479 with 15 doubles, four triples, seven homers, 48 RBI, and 12 stolen bases.  He’s great, and there is no circumstance in which the Mets should even think about losing him to another team.

2.   1B Dominic Smith

The Mets have been aggressive promoting their 2013 first round pick through the minor leagues.  Last year, he was the youngest player in the Eastern League.  This year, he has been among the youngest in the Pacific Coast League.  Through it all, he has held his own, played a terrific defensive first base, and is developing power at every stop.  He is the first baseman of the future for a team who will likely lose their current first baseman at the trade deadline or free agency.

3.   RHP Justin Dunn

Last year’s first round pick has terrific stuff, and he showed it off last year.  While he struggled this year, he has been better off for those struggles.  Since being demoted to the bullpen to help him find himself, Dunn has gone 3-1 with a 0.86 ERA and an 8.1 K/9.  When you have a player that struggles and improves this much, this is a player you make sure to keep.

4.  RHP Robert Gsellman

Gsellman started last year pitching in Double-A, and he finished it helping pitch the Mets into the postseason.  He’s had an up and down 2017 season, but he has shown flashes of his tremendous talent.  He is just 23 years old, and he still has the stuff he did last year when he posted a 2.42 ERA in eight games.  With a better infield behind him, which we should see with a Rosario promotion, we will likely see a return of the stats we saw last year.

5.   SS Andres Gimenez

The 18 year old dominated the Gulf Coast League last year showing off his skill set that had him one of the highest regarded international free agent signings in 2015.  He has skipped short season ball and held his own during his 37 games for the Columbia Fireflies.  He has a good bat regardless of position.

6.   LHP Thomas Szapucki

Szapucki is potentially a top of the rotation starter with a mid to high 90s fastball and a very good curve ball.  He used that to be completely dominant in rookie ball.  After an injury to start the year, he has just returned from the disabled list, and he is rounding into form.

7.   CF Desmond Lindsay

The man dubbed as the “Offensive Machine” when he was drafted has certainly taken off lately.  While he struggled to start the year, he has adjusted to the Sally League, and he has begun dominating.  Since June began, he has been hitting .333/.400/.694 while playing a good center field.  It seems he may have put his leg issues behind him, and he is taking the next step.

8.   C Tomas Nido

After years of struggling at the plate, Nido broke out last year winning the Florida State League batting title.  After a slow start to the season in Double-A, he is once again showing he is as complete a catcher as they come hitting .300/.353/.483 with 10 doubles, four homers, and 22 RBI in his last 32 games.  He is proving last year was no fluke, and he is the Mets catcher of the future.

9.   RHP Marcos Molina

Despite missing a year due to Tommy John surgery, the Mets believed enough in Molina to add him to the 40 man roster.  They were right to do so.  In five starts for St. Lucie, he was 2-3 with a 1.26 ERA, 0.767 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9.  That has earned him a promotion to Double-A and a clear path towards the major leagues.

10.  RHP Seth Lugo

With spin rates, we know Lugo’s curve ball is the best in the majors.  He has used that to help propel him not just to the majors, but also to have success in the majors.  In addition to that, he has a fastball he can get into the upper 90s when he needs a big out.  He used this repertoire to help pitch the Mets into the postseason last year.  He has used it again this year to be effective in the rotation upon his return to the rotation from his elbow injury.

11.  LHP Anthony Kay

The Mets have long wanted him.  After failing to sign him out of high school in 2013, they made him their second first round draft pick last year.  That is because he has a fastball he can get into the upper 90s with a promising curve ball and change.  Like many college pitchers, his arm was abused by his coach, and he has suffered an injury requiring Tommy John surgery.  He should be able to bounce back and be the pitcher the Mets have long thought he could be.

In the above list, the Mets have lots of pitching talent, but that would also leave a lot of pitching talent exposed.  If the Mets went this route, they could lose a Harol Gonzalez or Jordan Humphreys, both of whom are having terrific years.  There is also the potential position player cost.  Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini are both former first round picks who are close to being regulars at the major league level.

Even if you were to make some amendments to the above list, you are still going to leave a very talented player exposed.  This speaks to the depth of the Mets farm system that the Mets continue to improve with each draft and each international signing period.

Mets Squandering Chances In Game . . . East

There’s one fatal flaw if the strategy against the Nationals is to get into their bullpen – you have to actually get into their bullpen. With how dominant Max Scherzer has been against the Mets, and how dominant he’s been this year, that wasn’t happening tonight. 

That’s not to say the Mets didn’t have their chances. The Mets grounding into three double plays only confirms the Mets had their chances. Like all double plays, these were back breakers. 

In the second, Mets had first and second with no outs and a chance to take the lead. Travis d’Arnaud grounded into the double play. The Mets wouldn’t score when Jose Reyes flew out to end the threat. 

The following inning, Steven Matz tried to help his own cause with a lead-off single, but he was erased when Michael Conforto grounded into the double play. The shock here was that entering tonight’s game, Conforto actually hit Scherzer well going 6-15 with three homers off him. Tonight, Conforto was 0-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. 

Finally in the sixth, the Mets had runners on first and second with one out. That rally ended with Wilmer Flores grounding into the inning ending double play. It was the latest sign Flores is cold. After scorching through May and earning a starting job, Flores is 2-19. 

The squandered opportunities cost the Mets. It put Matz, who was making his second start off the Disabled List, in the unenviable position of having to be perfect. Unfortunately, Matz was just good. 

While he generally kept the Nationals off the basepaths, he was victimized by the long ball. Matt Wieters and Michael Taylor went back-to-back to start the third. In the sixth, Anthony Rendon hit an opposite field two run homer that just cleared the wall. 

With that, the Nationals were up 4-0 and in position to win despite the Matz pitching fairly well. His final line was seven innings, eight hits, four runs, four earned, no walks, and four strikeouts. 

With Dusty Baker understandably not wanting to go to his bullpen, a tiring Scherzer pitched the eighth. Things got a little interesting with Reyes leading off the inning with a homer, and Curtis Granderson sending one to the wall in his pinch hitting appearance. 

This is where Scherzer showed how great he is. He was clearly on fumes, but he bore down. He made quick work of Conforto before entering a battle with Yoenis Cespedes. Despite Scherzer quickly getting up 1-2 in the count, Cespedes fouled off a number of pitches, and the count would go full. On the 11th pitch, Scherzer finally got his strikeout. 

Still, it was within striking distance at 4-1. That’s when the Mets defense blew their chances. 

Taylor led off the inning with a well placed bunt single. Flores made a nice play, but with his arm, he had no shot at Taylor. Same went for d’Arnaud when Taylor stole second.  Taylor was certainly helped by Fernando Salas not even bothering to hold him on. 

Despite all of that, the Mets had a chance to get out of the ninth inning unscathed. There were runners at the corners with one out, and Brian Goodwin hit a tailor made double play ball.  For some reason, T.J. Rivera lollipopped it over to Reyes, who had no shot to get the speedy Goodwin. 

After a Bryce Harper single, Ryan Zimmerman hit a single to left. Goodwin seemed like he would score with ease, and for some reason, Harper headed to third. Cespedes made a one hop throw to third Flores could not field. It at least appeared if Flores fielded it cleanly, Harper would’ve been out before Goodwin scored thereby negating the run. 

It didn’t happen that way and because official scorers do that the do, Cespedes was charged with the error despite his heads-up play and good throw. 

Then Terry Collins does what he does best. He made a questionable move. 

After walking Daniel Murphy intentionally to load the bases, Collins brought in Neil Ramirez and his 7.3 BB/9 into the game. To a surprise to no one, Ramirez walked in a run to make it 7-1. 

Despite the Nationals bullpen being bad, they’re not six runs in the ninth inning bad. The real shame is the Nationals bullpen pitched as expected with Jay Bruce greeting Shawn Kelley with a lead-off home run in the ninth to make it 7-2. The Mets would get no closer. 

The Mets have had two cracks at the Nationals to help them make some headway in the National League East. They responded by playing some of their worst baseball this month. They were not fundamentally sound, nor were they smart. They didn’t effectively work counts to get into that bullpen, and they played poor defense. 

The most the Mets can hope for now is a split. If they continue playing like this, it won’t happen. 

Game Notes: Mets pitchers have allowed 13 home runs over the last four games. Brandon Nimmo and Matt Reynolds were called up, but they did not play. 

How The Mets Handle Injuries

Ray Ramirez and Barwin Method jokes aside, do we really know who to blame for all of these Mets injuries?  Thi has seemingly been an issue since Pedro Martinez was with the Mets when in three straight seasons the Mets suffered a rash of injuries to their starting rotation.  It should be noted, Pedro put some blame on Jeff Wilpon’s shoulder for making him pitch hurt, but that doesn’t address how Pedro go hurt in the first place.

We saw it again last year with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz needing season ending surgery.  It is happening again this year with Harvey and Matz both landing on the Disabled List.  We also have seen Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Tommy Milone, and Josh Smoker land on the Disabled List.

It goes further than that.  The position players keep getting injured too.  This year, Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, Asdrubal Cabrera (twice), Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares (twice), and Brandon Nimmo have all landed on the Disabled List.  If you’ll notice, you will have seen many of those names pop up on the Disabled List last year.

There’s a simple reason for that.  Here’s example of how the Mets handle the situtaion:

Maybe if the Mets continue handling training and treatment of injuries the same way, maybe they’ll have a breakthrough. Just like the Futurama clip, it’s not going to happen.

2017 Mets Minor League Rosters Best of the Best

With the full season minor leagues having their Opening Day on Thursday, the Mets have announced the rosters for each of their minor league affiliates. Each team includes an interesting group of prospects. Each team also features a particular strength of each aspect of the Mets farm system. Keeping in mind each particular group is viewed not just in terms of how good the players are now, but also how they project going forward, here are the best of the best:

Best Starting Pitching – St. Lucie Mets

Starting Rotation: Andrew Church, Justin Dunn, Marcos Molina, Nabil Crismatt, Kevin Canelon, Chase Ingram, Thomas McIlrath, Joe Shaw

The St. Lucie rotation features a number of pitchers who may very well make their way to a major league mound. The former second round draft pick Church fixed both his hip and his mechanics, and he had a breakout season last year. Dunn is already a top 10 Mets prospect a year after he was drafted. Molina is back from Tommy John surgery, and he has looked good in both the Arizona Fall Leauge and Spring Training. Crismatt more than held his own against the vaunted Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic. This is as exciting a rotation as there is in the minor leauges, and possibly, you will see some version of this rotation with the Mets one day.

Honorable Mention: Columbia Fireflies. A rotation with Jordan Humphreys, Merandy Gonzalez, and Harol Gonzalez is a very interesting minor league rotation. It would have been more interesting with Thomas Szapucki, but he is slated to miss time due to a shoulder impingement.

Best Bullpen – Las Vegas 51s

Bullpen: Paul Sewald, David Roseboom, Ben Rowen, Beck Wheeler, Erik Goeddel, Chase Bradford)

The 51s bullpen features Sewald and Roseboom who were both extremely effective closers last season. Certainly, both impressed the Mets enough to get long looks during Spring Training. Prior to having bone spurs removed, Goeddle was an effective major league reliever. Rowen gives you a different look with his sidewinding action on the mound. Arguably, this could be a major league bullpen that could hold its own.

Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The Rumble Ponies bullpen has Corey Taylor, who has been favorable compared to Jeurys Familia, as its closer. There are some other interesting names like Ben Griset, who is a very promising LOOGY, and Luis Mateo, who was once a very well thought out prospect before he faced some injury issues.

Best Catching Tandem – Las Vegas 51s

Catchers: Kevin Plawecki, Xorge Carrillo, Jeff Glenn

If nothing else, Plawecki has established he can handle a major league starting staff. More to the point, Plawecki has shown himself to be a very good pitch framer. While his bat has lagged in the majors, at 26, he still has time to improve. Behind him is Carrillo, who is a good defensive catcher that won the Gold Glove in the Mexican Winter Leagues this past offseason.

Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Tomas Nido seemingly put it all together in St. Lucie last year, and he appears poised to take the mantle as the Mets catcher of the future. Binghamton very easily could have been named the top catching tandem off that, but some deference was paid to Plawecki showing he can handle the position defensively at the major league level.

Best Infield – Las Vegas 51s

Infield – 1B Dominic Smith, 2B Gavin Cecchini, 3B Phillip Evans, SS Amed Rosario

When the weak point of your infield is a player who is coming off a season where he won the Eastern League batting title, you know you have something special. Rosario and Smith are considered two of the best prospects not only at their positions, but in the entire game. Cecchini played well enough last year to be put on the 40 man roster a year ahead of schedule and earn a September call-up where he hit two doubles in six major league at-bats.

Honorable Mention: St. Lucie Mets. The team features a pair of 2016 draft picks in 1B Peter Alonso and SS Colby Woodmansee who showed real ability during their time in Brooklyn. Due to that success, they both skipped Columbia and joined an interesting second base prospect in Vinny Siena and a promising hitter at third base in Jhoan Urena.

Best Outfield – Columbia Fireflies

Outfield – Desmond Lindsay, Gene Cone, Jacob Zanon, Tim Tebow

No, this isn’t because of Tebow. This is mostly about Lindsay, who has been labeled as an “offensive machine” by the Mets organization. He is a five tool prospect that with a little health will arrive at Citi Field sooner rather than later. Another interesting five tool prospect is former Division II player Zanon. He certainly has all the tools to succeed. It is a question whether those tools can translate against better competition. Cone is a player who has a good baseball IQ, but he still needs to translate that and his talent to on the field success

Honorable Mention: Las Vegas 51s. The outfield got demonstratively better with the recent signing of Desmond Jennings. It will get better with either Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto playing for them again. That depends on Nimmo’s health as well as the health of the major league outfield. It will also be interesting to see how Matt Reynolds handles taking on what was Ty Kelly‘s role last year in being a utility player that mostly plays left field.

Overall, the Mets have a number of good to very good prospects who are either close or project to be major leaguers. Some of those players like Rosario will be stars. Others should have long major league careers. While we are getting excited for another year of Mets baseball, we also have a lot to be excited about for years to come with these prospects.

 

Five Mets Who Should Improve In 2017

With the Mets returning almost of the entire 2016 team that lost the Wild Card Game, the team is going to have to count on the players they have now improving in order for the team to advance further than the Wild Card Game.  Fortunately for the Mets there are some players who appear poised to have a much better 2017 season:

C Travis d’Arnaud

After the 2015 season, d’Arnaud seemed poised to take the next step.  After all, his 130 wRC+ trailed only Buster Posey among major league catchers with at last 200 AB.  His pitch framing was simply outstanding.  While he was never known for his arm, he was able to throw out 33% of base stealers, which was actually higher than league average.  Entering his age 27 season, he seemed primed for an All Star selection or more.

Injuries once again got in the way for d’Arnaud as did his problems throwing out base stealers.  He also regressed offensively hitting a paltry .247/.307/.323 in 75 games.  After a season like that, the only place d’Arnaud could realistically go is up.

And that’s where he is trending this Spring Training.  With his work with Kevin Long, he has abandoned the wrap in his batting stance, and we have seen him hit much better in the Spring.  While his throwing is not exactly where you want it yet, but with Glenn Sherlock as his catching coach, we should see d’Arnaud improve again behind the plate.

And with d’Arnaud improving offensively and defensively, and with a little luck on the health side, we may finally see d’Arnaud play at an All Star level.

RF – Jay Bruce

In his 50 games with the Mets, Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 with eight homers and 19 RBI.  While the trade for Bruce may not have been popular, and the Mets being unable to trade him this offseason being even less unpopular, let’s keep in mind Bruce has been a far better player than this in his career.

In his nine year career, Bruce is a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged 27 homers and 82 RBI.  In each season he has played 150 games, he has hit 30 homers and 97+ RBI.  He has shown the ability to be patient at the plate having posted .353 and .341 OBP in his career.  The overriding point here is that Bruce is capable of so much more, and fortunately, Bruce is with a team that can get it out of him.

Since Kevin Long became the Mets hitting coach, he has taken players like Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, and Asdrubal Cabrera, and he has gotten them to hit for more power and get on base more frequently.  As James Wagner of the New York Times reports, the Mets have begun that process by sharing advanced data with him and by helping him change his approach at the plate.  So far, Bruce has been a willing student.

Considering Bruce is willing to listen and improve, and the Mets have the people in place who help hitters improve, there is every expectation that we should see a much better version of Jay Bruce than we saw last year.

SP Jacob deGrom

The 2016 season was a tough one for deGrom.  He started the year with an injured oblique and a sick infant.  He didn’t have his velocity even when he was presumably healthy, and then he had to have season ending to repair the ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow.

Whereas deGrom was throwing around 94 MPH in 2016, this Spring, he is back to the 96+ MPH he was in 2015.  That was a pitcher who was 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA, 0.979 WHIP, and a 9.7 K/9.  That was a pitcher who finished seventh in Cy Young voting.  That was a pitcher who out-dueled Clayton KershawZack Greinke, and Kyle Hendricks in the postseason.  That pitcher was an ace.   By all accounts, that pitcher is back.

SP Steven Matz

There were glimpses of the ace Matz could be during last season.  In an eight start stretch from April 17th to May 31st, Matz was 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA, 0.913 WHIP, and an 8.7 K/9.  From that point forward, Matz had difficulty pitching through what was described as a massive bone spur in his pitching elbow.  Matz lost a tick on his fastball, and he had to reduce the amount of sliders he threw.  He struggled, and he eventually had to have season ending surgery.

Looking at him this Spring, Matz is back to the form he was when he was at his best last year.  Maybe, just maybe, he might be even better.  After working with former Met Scott Rice this offseason, Matz has a slightly new leg kick which functions to keep both base runners and batters off balance.  With the new delivery, Matz could possibly be better than what we saw from him over the past two seasons.  With the bone spurs gone, and with him presumably no longer sleeping on couches, his injury problems are hopefully in the rear view mirror.  Then again, with this latest bout with the elbow, who knows with him?

Overall, with him reportedly feeling good after throwing off flat ground, and I’m choosing to believe the MRI is precautionary. I’m going to choose to believe Matz will be good to go in 2017, and he will have a breakout 2017 season.

LF Yoenis Cespedes

Last season, Cespedes hit .280/.354/.530 with 31 homers and 86 RBI.  Using OPS+ as a barometer, it was the third best season of his career.  It is all the more amazing he had that type of a season when you consider Cespedes played out of position most of the year, and he dealt with a right quad injury most of the year.

In 2017, Cespedes should be playing in his natural left field position where he won the 2015 American League Gold Glove despite playing only 102 games there.  He should also be more comfortable with a large guaranteed contract with a Mets team in which he loves.  We have seen the effects of that with Cespedes showing up to camp in terrific shape, and he has been all about business this Spring.  No car show.  No waffles.  Just baseball.

And by the way, he is absolutely killing this Spring.  He’s sending moon shots all over the place including one over the batter’s eye at First Data Field.  By the look he has in his eye this Spring, Cespedes looks like he may put together a better run than he did when he first joined the Mets in 2015.  Seeing how he’s playing now, it is tough to rule that out.

Certainly, with improved seasons from the aforementioned five players, the Mets should have enough to overtake the Nationals once again and win the National League East.  When you take into account bigger contributions from players like Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares or with young players like Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, or Gavin Cecchini being ready to contribute the minute the Mets call them up to the majors, this team should do better than the 87-75 record from last year.  They should do better than the Wild Card.  Maybe, just maybe, they can do better than the 2015 team.

Mets Need To Sign Drew Stubbs

While the Mets had been blessed with good health for most of Spring Training, the injuries are now starting to mount. The latest is Juan Lagares‘ oblique strain. 

Back in 2014, Lagares had a similar injury costing him 22 games. If this latest oblique strain is similar in nature, Lagares will assuredly begin the season on the disabled list. With the relative unpredictability of oblique injuries, no one can really guarantee when Lagares will be able to play again. That’s a huge problem as he’s the only true center fielder available. 

Curtis Granderson is the team’s everyday center fielder, but that’s a product of his offense.  Given his age, 36, and his having to be moved away from center earlier in his career, the Mets need a backup to help share some of the load. 

This could be able place for Brandon Nimmo, but he’s dealing with a hamstring injury from the World Baseball Classic. 

The Lagares and Nimmo injuries could create an opportunity for Michael Conforto. However, Conforto is not a center fielder, and the Mets want him getting regular at-bats. 

The Mets other potential options like T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly aren’t center fielders. The Mets have toyed with the idea of Jose Reyes in center, but he hasn’t played much there. Moreover, this also means the Mets would have to go with Wilmer Flores at third. Ideally, that only works if a left-handed pitcher is on the mound. 

Essentially, the Mets are faced with a number of bad options in center until Lagares returns . . . whenever that happens. 

Fortunately for the Mets, the perfect solution for their current center field problem has emerged with Drew Stubbs opting out of his contract with the Minnesota Twins. 

Stubbs is a career .244/.314/.397 hitter. From 2010 – 2014, Stubbs was an everyday player who averaged 19 doubles, three triples, 15 homers, 50 RBI, and 27 stolen bases a year. 

Clearly, Stubbs isn’t a great hitter, but he is two things the Mets need: (1) right-handed and (2) speedy. Notably, Stubbs is a career .272/.348/.444 hitter against left-handed pitchers. This is much better than the .276/.322/.412 hitter Lagares is. 

To that extent, Stubbs presents an upgrade over Lagares. However, as we all know Stubbs isn’t in the same class as Lagares defensively as no one is. 

In center field, Stubbs has averaged a -1 DRS and -1.3 UZR in center field. These are hardly outstanding numbers, but the numbers do establish Stubbs can handle center competently. When you consider the alternatives, the Mets could do a lot worse. 

Overall, Stubbs is a good fit for a Mets team that needs a center fielder, a right-handed bench bat, and some speed. Having a player like him available at this point in Spring Training is a godsend. 

Doesn’t matter. 

According to Anthony DiComo of mlb.com, the Mets aren’t interested. 

This is a mistake. The Mets need a center fielder. The Mets need a right-handed bench bat. The team could use some more speed. The Mets need to break the habit of relying on injured players. 

They can break that bad habit by signing Stubbs. 

Mets Individual Performances In The WBC

With the USA beating a Puerto Rico team with deep Mets ties, a thrilling World Baseball Classic has come to an end. Now, we look forward to Opening Day with the hope that the Mets could make a great run just like the USA and win the World Series this year. IF that were to happen, the Mets will need contributions from the Mets players who played in the World Baseball Classic.

Looking over the players, it is clear some of these players are ready for Opening Day while others may need some more time to get ready for the season.

COLOMBIA

RHP Nabil Crismatt G, 3.0 IP,

Despite never having pitched above A ball, or having one full season as a starter, Colombia turned to Crismatt to beat a Dominican Republic team with a lineup featuring Manny Machado, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, Carlos Santana, Nelson Cruz, and Gregory Polanco. The 22 year old hurler more than held his own relying on locating his fastball and using his terrific change to keep Colombia in the game. He kept the Colombian hopes alive while giving the Mets real hope he could be a major leaguer one day.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

RHP Jeurys Familia 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 4 G, 2 SV, 3.1 IP, 5 K, 0.60 WHIP

Familia was primed and ready for the WBC throwing fastballs up to 100 MPH. After the Wild Card Game, he reminded everyone why he is a dominant MLB closer. The only issue for him in the WBC was the Mets complaining about how he was used, which was a surprise to everyone including Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena.

RHP Hansel Robles 0-0, 2.45 ERA, 4 G, 3.2 IP, 4 K, 0.82 WHIP

Like Familia, Robles showed he’s ready to go for Opening Day with the lone run scored against him coming in the opener against Canada. Robles had all of his pitches working, and he showed better command of the strike zone than he has typically shown in his Mets career.

SS Jose Reyes 4 G, 18 AB, 2 R, 5 H, 2 2B, SB, .278/.316/.389

Reyes split time at shortstop with Machado and Jean Segura, but ultimately Reyes was the country’s top choice for both shortstop and a lead off hitter. Reyes was that spark plug at the time of the lineup that helped power the Dominican Republic team to an undefeated record in Pool C play and had the Dominicans ever so close to advancing to the semis. The only issues with Reyes were the same ones he has shown over the past few years. He is no longer suited to being an everyday shortstop, and he doesn’t get on base as much as he did in his prime. With that said, Reyes seems ready for Opening Day.

ISRAEL

UTIL Ty Kelly 6 G, 24 AB, 6 R, 5 H, 2B, .208/.321/.250

Kelly served as the number two hitter and third baseman for an Israeli team that was the biggest surprise of the WBC. Kelly said of the team’s upset of the Netherlands, “Definitely the most stressful game I’ve been a part of. But it was worth it.” That was surprising considering Kelly had a pinch hitting appearance in what was then a scoreless Wild Card Game against Madison Bumgarner. Kelly’s statements only go to show how important the WBC was to the players. As for Kelly, he did not have as strong as he would have liked, but he certainly did his heritage proud.

ITALY

SS Gavin Cecchini 4 G, 15 AB, 2 H, 2B, RBI, .133/.333/.200

The highlight for Cecchini in the World Baseball Classic was a game tying single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth sending the game against Venezuela into extra innings. Aside from that single, the WBC was a mixed bag for Cecchini. He showed discipline at the plate, and he showed his extra base power. He also struggled defensively at short, which will only further justify the Mets decision to transition him to second base.

CF Brandon Nimmo 3 G, 11 AB, 3 R, 2 H, HR, 2 RBI, .182/.308/.455

Nimmo had a good WBC as the leadoff hitter for Italy. He had an RBI single off left-handed reliever Oliver Perez to help Italy’s furious five run ninth inning to shock Mexico. In the surprising effort against Venezuela, Nimmo hit a home run off Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon. Unfortunately, Nimmo also injured his hamstring which could have effected Italy’s chances of advancing in the WBC, and it also might have impacted his chances of making the Opening Day roster.

MEXICO

C Xorge Carrillo 2 G, 8 AB, R, 2 H, .250/.333/.250

While he did not start the opener, which was a shocking loss to Italy, Carrillo got the start in Mexico’s final two games. The minor league defensive specialist was fine behind the plate. In an upset over Venezuela, he had a base hit and a run scored. Unfortunately for him and his countrymen, the win was for naught as they were eliminated from the WBC due to tiebreakers. He should be better from this experience as he looks to continue to improve in the minor league next year.

RHP Fernando Salas 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 2 G, 1.0 IP, K, 3.00 WHIP

Due to visa issues, Salas was not able to report to Mets camp prior to the WBC. In Salas’ two games in the WBC, he showed that rust. As Salas continued to have visa issues after the WBC, it was good he was even able to participate in the tournament because it provided him some opportunity to face living pitching.

PUERTO RICO

SP Seth Lugo 2-1, 4.20 ERA, 3 G, 3 GS, 15.0 IP, 12 K, 1.07 WHIP

Lugo was the ace of the Puerto Rican staff, and he pitched like it. His three games were against the vaunted Venezuelan and United States lineups. Lugo not only held his own, but in his first two starts he was dominant pitching to a 2.45 ERA and a 0.64 WHIP. In the championship game, he was getting his fastball up to 95 MPH, and he recorded five strikeouts. Unfortunately, the walks caught up to him, and he left the game down 3-0. Overall, Lugo made a good case for him making the Opening Day roster whether as the fifth starter or as a member of the bullpen.

IF T.J. Rivera, 7 G, 24 AB, 3 R, 4 H, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .167/.192/.458

In six of the seven games in the WBC, Rivera played first base, and he played a good defensive first base. For a player that is trying to market himself as a versatile infielder for the Mets, Rivera certainly proved he can handle a position he rarely played in the minor leauges. At the plate, he didn’t hit much, but when he did get a hit it counted. His home run in the semi-final gave Puerto Rico a brief 3-2 lead in a tightly fought game that went into extra innings.

C Rene Rivera 2 G, 8 AB, R, 3 H, 2 2B, RBI, .375/.375/.625

Surprisingly, Rivera got into two games in the WBC, and he did not catch in either of them. In Pool D, he entered the game as a DH against Italy. In a meaningless game against Venezuela, Rivera got the start at first base. At the plate, he was as good as can be expected. However, with respect to the 2017 season, it would have been better if he got in some play behind the plate to get ready for the season.

And because everyone is obviously interested, Yoenis Cespedes younger brother Yoelqui had a strong WBC. In five games, the 19 year old Cespedes hit .250/.250/.313 with two runs, a double, and an RBI. He also showed good range and a strong throwing arm in right field. Perhaps, there may come a time in the future when the younger Cespedes gets the opportunity to play in the major leagues like his older brother.