With the way the Mets built their team, someone was going to be squeezed out of playing time. This meant players were going to have to take their opportunity and prove why they should play everyday. That is exactly what Jeff McNeil did. So far, he has been the Mets most consistent player, and he has firmly established himself as the everyday left fielder.
Todd Frazier had the same chance. With J.D. Davis utterly incapable of fielding his position, and Jed Lowrie‘s injury, Frazier had a clear path to show the Mets why he should be the team’s everyday third baseman.
There was every reason to believe he could do it. He’s easily the best defensive infielder on the team. In fact, you may be surprised to find out his 18 DRS since 2015 is the best out of any infielder on the roster, and it is seventh best among all Major League third basemen.
At the plate, Frazier would frustrate people with his low batting average and high strike out numbers. However, in the seven years prior to this year, his only year as a below league average hitter was last year. Overall, he had entered this season with a career 109 OPS+, and that includes his being a 107 OPS+ from 2016 – 2017.
One positive trend is his career was his improving his walk rate. He had gone from a 6.5 percent in 2015 to 9.6 percent in 2016 and 14.4 percent in 2017. His HR/FB rate is characterized by Fangraphs as great.
In total, Frazier had his flaws, but he was a good player. In fact, he was a player who averaged a 3.3 WAR over 2016-2017. The reason is because this was a good defender who provided a decent bat in the lineup. No, Frazier wasn’t the guy you wanted in the middle of the lineup, but you could do much worse than him in that sixth or seventh spot in the lineup.
Even with last year’s down year, there were positive signs for Frazier. In every way, it was a career worst year for him as he landed on the Disabled List twice, and by his own admission, he would rush back from the injuries. Still, Frazier had a 1.9 WAR because he was still good in the field. While it was a career worst year for him, there were some positive signs like his hard hit rate and his hitting well in April, which was just about the only time he was healthy all last year.
Unfortunately, Frazier was injured in Spring Training, and it would be a lengthy rehab assignment before he would return. So far this year, Frazier has been excellent defensively. Among players who have played 100 innings, Frazier’s 2 DRS is fourth best in the National League. His 1.8 UZR is second best in the National League.
Without him, the Mets pitching staff had a 5.66 ERA and a .325BABIP. Since his return, Mets pitchers have a 3.50 ERA and a 2.83 BABIP. This wasn’t all Frazier, but his playing well at third stopped the bleeding with all the base hits going through the left side of the infield unchallenged.
However, as good as Frazier has been defensively, he has been that bad at the plate. So far this year, he has not drawn a walk, and he has struck out 32.7 percent of the time. He has a career worst ground ball rate (a pattern developing among Mets hitters under Chili Davis‘ tutelage) with a career worst hard hit rate. This is all a long winded way of saying what everyone can see. Frazier is lost at the plate.
Depending upon your perspective, there are reasons to believe Frazier will or will not rebound. Normally, a team could give him time to figure things out and get back to being the hitter the Mets know he is. However, the Mets also have Lowrie coming off the Injured List on Friday.
While Lowrie may not be the fielder Frazier he, he is far from the butcher Davis is. Lowrie has also been a much better hitter than Frazier. When Lowrie comes off the Injured List, there is no doubt he should take over as the every day third baseman.
As for Frazier, who knows where he goes from here. Perhaps, going to the bench will light a fire under him, and he will rebound. Certainly, his glove and late inning defense will be a positive. With the way Mickey Callaway double switches, Frazier will get his opportunities. In the end, you never know how things shake out on the injury front, and perhaps Frazier will get another opportunity to prove himself.
Unfortunately for him, he didn’t do it now, and now he is going to find himself on the bench fighting for playing time.
Chris Paddack came into this start upset he lost out on Rookie of the Month honors to Pete Alonso. He was not just vocal about his displeasure, but he also threw down the gauntlet without being disrespectful of Alonso. That said, Paddack felt he had something to prove, and he set out to do it.
Just based on tonight, he made his case. He overpowered Alonso in Alonso’s first at-bat. Overall, Alonso was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a pop out against Paddack. To be fair to Alonso, he wasn’t the only Met to struggle against Paddack.
Paddack struck out 11 Mets and allowed just four hits over 7.2 innings. He was as dominant as you get, and he wasn’t really challenged all night. Seeing how feckless the Mets offense was, you could tell this was a Jacob deGrom start.
With there being no rain delay (although there was the rare threat of rain in San Diego), deGrom was great. Really, the only Padres batter who could touch him was Hunter Renfroe, who followed hitting a walk off grand slam against Kenley Jansen last night by going 2-for-3 with a double and homer off deGrom.
With the way the Mets offense has been of late, Renfroe’s fifth inning homer was effectively the game clinching run. His seventh inning double set up a Ty France sacrifice fly giving the Padres a 2-0 lead.
From there, Justin Wilson made his first appearance since being activated off the IL, and he would allow two runs in the eighth, all with two outs. At 4-0, there was zero chance of a Mets comeback win.
In total, the Mets were challenged today by Paddack, and they shrunk from the challenge. Maybe it was the travel. More likely, this is now a bad hitting club whose approach under Chili Davis is really not working right now. After all, that’s seven runs over six games.
This past offseason in an effort to build outfield depth, Brodie Van Wagenen traded prospects Adam Hill and Felix Valerio along with Bobby Wahl to the Brewers for Keon Broxton. With Wahl suffering a torn ACL in his knee, it does not appear like the players given up by the Mets will haunt them this year. It will be quite a while before Hill or Valerio have a chance to establish themselves, and by that point, this trade will largely be a distant memory.
When looking at this trade, the issues aren’t so much the prospects traded. It is about Broxton as a player.
After impressing as a 26 year old rookie in 2016, Broxton has not been a good baseball player. In his only full season as a starter, he had an 85 wRC+ and a – DRS meaning he was subpar at the plate and in the field. Certainly, this was one of the reasons which drove the Brewers to sign Lorenzo Cain as a free agent.
As a bench piece last year, Broxton did show some value as a defensive replacement. In 134.1 innings, he had an 11 DRS and a 6.5 UZR. Now, the UZR was a complete outlier for him, but it should be noted Broxton did have a 9 DRS two seasons prior. In essence, there was every reason to believe Broxton was a good defensive outfielder. He may not have been great, but you could make the case he was good.
When you look at the Mets team, they didn’t have a need for that type of player. In fact, the Mets already had that in Juan Lagares, who the team was already scheduled to pay $9 million. Considering Lagares’ contract was going to be next to impossible to move, the team was really adding a duplicative player who played worse defense.
There could be an argument here that even at 28 Broxton had some untapped offensive potential. After all, this was a guy who had good power, and he had a very good 24.1 percent HR/FB ratio. If you could get him to stop striking out at an insanely high clip (36.9 percent) and get him to lift the ball more (1.45 GB/FB), maybe you had something there. Reasonably, the Mets could have believed Chili Davis was the hitting coach to bring that out of him.
Herein lies the issue with Broxton. The Mets needed a contingency for what if Davis couldn’t get through to him right away. Typically speaking, you’d like to send a player like that down to the minors, especially since you have a player like Lagares on the roster. However, the Mets can’t do that because Broxton is out of options.
To make matters worse, the Mets are bereft of outfield depth. That’s one of the reasons why Jeff McNeil became an everyday outfielder on this team (the other is the team has far too many duplicative infielders). Partially due to Broxton’s presence, the Mets sat idly by while quality outfielders like Curtis Granderson (who also could have served as a left-handed bat off the bench) signed cheap free agent deals with other teams.
So far, the Mets have made a mistake bringing Broxton aboard. He is someone who is duplicative, and he is someone without options. Unless Van Wagenen is willing to do to Broxton what he did to Travis d’Arnaud, Broxton is going to continue taking up space on this roster while contributing very little. There is time for that to change, but it’s hard to see it changing without Broxton getting the at-bats he needs to improve as a player.
For the second time this year, the Mets faced an NL Central team who could be a Wild Card contender, and the Mets lost 2/3. Certainly, in this series, the Mets roster moves and decisions didn’t help matters:
1. It was raining, Corey Oswalt was fully rested and called up for the game. Jacob deGrom was coming off the Injured List. Naturally, the Mets opted to have deGrom wait around for nearly three hours in the rain.
2. While deGrom has had his struggles this year, it should be noted they all coincide with rain delays.
3. It’s getting harder to defend Oswalt even if he’s rarely given situations conducive to proving his ability.
4. Noah Syndergaard has peripherals in line with his best years. That, when you have three consecutive five inning starts where you allow five plus runs, it’s hard to notice.
5. Syndergaard’s comments about the baseballs being like ice confirm everyone’s suspicions about a juiced ball. With the ball, Thor has said he’s losing confidence in his secondary offerings.
6. Certainly, a different ball could explain the Mets starters struggles. If these is indeed a new ball, we should still have confidence this very good staff figures it out eventually.
8. Seeing d’Arnaud out there was more evidence the Mets needlessly rushed him back.
9. Based on his struggles, you can certainly understand the Mets designating him for assignment, especially with Tomas Nido playing well in Syracuse.
10. Make no mistake, this was a clear double standard. In the end, d’Arnaud, a backup catcher, was held to a higher standard than Jason Vargas, the fifth starter.
11. Vargas can’t go five innings, and yet the Mets won’t so much as have him lose his rotation spot, so they can sign Gio Gonzalez, who showed on Sunday, he was a clear upgrade. Guess there are different rules for Brodie Van Wagenen’s former clients.
13. After starting the year hitting .424, McNeil is hitting .235 over his last nine games. Hopefully, teams aren’t figuring him out.
14. Pete Alonso rebounded nicely from an 0-for-11 stretch going 3-for-5 in Saturday with a homer.
15. One benefit of bunching the lefties a bit with Alonso in the middle is a manager being almost forced to have a LOOGY pitch to Alonso. We saw Alonso crush a homer off Alex Claudio as a result.
16. Steven Matz was once again very good, and for a pitcher whose mental makeup is always maligned, it’s interesting to see how he follows bad starts with a string of very good ones (when healthy).
17. With Mike Moustakas homering off Matz, I’m well beyond being done with the 2015 Royals.
18. With Robinson Cano being hit on the hand again, and really all the Mets batters being hit on the hand, maybe it’s time Chili Davis figures out a way to get it to stop. Either that or Mets pitchers find non-bush league ways to retaliate.
19. With Amed Rosario struggling offensively and defensively, it’s very interesting to see Jed Lowrie get a rehab start at SS. Who knows? Maybe if Todd Frazier continues playing well defensively and delivering in RBI spots, Rosario’s roster spot could become tenuous.
20. There are reasons to criticize the Mets bullpen, but they do know how to hold a lead. The Mets hand won every game they had a lead in the sixth. One reason why is Edwin Diaz being phenomenal. He’s a perfect 8-for-8 in save chances with a 0.84 ERA and a 16.9 K/9.
With the way J.D. Davis has hit in the minors, there has been a feeling among some that if he were to get a chance, he would prove himself at the Major League level. With the depth in the Astros organization, it was fairly clear Davis was not going to get his chance there. When he was traded to the Mets, it wasn’t entirely clear he was going to get his chance in New York either.
Heading into Spring Training, Davis was third on the third base depth chart behind Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie. As a utility player who could play the corners, he was behind both Lowrie and Jeff McNeil. As such, his most likely role with the Mets would to be to resume Wilmer Flores‘ role as a weapon against left-handed pitching.
Since Spring Training has begun, Lowrie and Frazier have suffered injuries. Lowrie has a strained knee, and Frazier has a strained oblique. Neither player has a timetable as to when they can return to working out let alone playing games. This creates a void at the third base position thereby giving a player an opportunity.
While Davis has spent time at first, left, and even pitcher, he is a natural third baseman. While his range is limited, he has good hands and a strong arm. When he gets to a ball, no matter how tricky the hop, he is going to field it, and he is going to make a strong throw across the diamond.
Certainly, you can live with his defense at the position over the course of the season. That goes double if you organization is doing their job on the scouting and analytical fronts shifting Davis into the right spot on the field to maximize his skill-set.
Really, the question for him is going to be his bat. Lost in the .342/.406/.583 batting line he put up in Triple-A last year were some concerning peripherals. Cbief among them was his 40.6 percent ground ball rate. In the majors, that rate has been worse with him having a 60.5 percent ground ball rate in 2017 and a 50.0 percent ground ball rate in 2018.
Behind that ground ball rate is power. With his posting a very good 19.3 percent HR/FB in Triple-A last year, you see a batter who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. The challenge currently before him and hitting coach Chili Davis is getting him to lift the ball. If that should happen, many, including Baseball America, believe Davis could hit 30+ homers a year.
It should be noted Davis does have a good eye at the plate and has the ability to draw a walk. This should help him as part of the process in not just learning how to lift the ball but also identifying which pitches he can lift to knock the ball out of the park.
Much like we saw with Miguel Andujar last year, sometimes all a promising player needs is that chance. Should the injuries to Frazier and Lowrie linger, Davis is going to get his chance. It’s up to him to see if he can make good on that chance like Andujuar did last year. If he doesn’t take advantage of this opportunity, he’s likely going to watch on as McNeil, T.J. Rivera, or even David Thompson gets that chance.
Now, if Davis does do the job and plays to his full potential, he’s going to make it very difficult for the Mets to take him out of the lineup even when Frazier and Lowrie return from their injuries.
Assuming the Mets carry five bench spots, which is the norm for a National League team, the race for the last spot on the bench became much more crowded and complicated with the team’s signing of Adeiny Hechavarria. That question becomes further complicated when you question just what exactly the Mets real intentions are with Peter Alonso.
Assuming Alonso begins the season in Triple-A, the Mets already have bench spots allocated to Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton. One of Juan Lagares or Jeff McNeil is going to play everyday meaning the other is going to be on the bench. That is three bench spots spoken for with two remaining. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.
Considering the Mets parted with a package headlined by Luis Santana in what has been an oft criticized trade, you could see the pressure to carry J.D. Davis. Aside from the pressure, whether it be real or imagined, Davis does have the ability to play both corner infield spots adequately, and despite his deficiencies out there, the does have outfield experience.
The real positive for Davis is the power he could provide off the bench, but in order for that to be realized, he is going to have to increase the launch angle in his swing and his corresponding high ground ball rates. There is also a real question whether Chili Davis is the hitting coach to get him to realize his full power potential.
If the Mets are looking for a versatile infielder who can play the outfield, there is forgotten man T.J. Rivera. Rivera missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, but reports this Spring have been overly positive. While we know Rivera is not a particularly good defender, the Mets also know Rivera can be trusted to start at any position over a long stretch. Between the 2017 season and the World Baseball Classic, we have also seen him able to raise his game in big games.
The issue both players have is neither plays shortstop. For that matter, neither does Jed Lowrie, which arguably led to the Mets signing Hechavarria to a minor league deal. The one thing we do know with Hechavarria is he can play shortstop and play it well. Over the last four seasons combined, he has amassed a 26 DRS. The problem with him is he can’t hit as evidenced by his career 72 wRC+.
Hitting was also an issue for Luis Guillorme. In his brief time with the Mets, he was only able to muster a 53 wRC+ in 35 games. That is partially because Guillorme received uneven playing time. It is also because he has never been considered to be a great hitter. Still, there are two factors in Guillorme’s favor. First, like Hechavarria, he is a good defender. Second, Guillorme did show himself to be an adept pinch hitter last year hitting .273/.467/.364 in 15 pinch hitting appearances.
Now, if the Mets are looking for a more offensive oriented middle infielder who could play shortstop, the team does have Gavin Cecchini. Heading into last season, Cecchini had worked on his swing, and it had paid dividends with him hitting .294/.342/.468 in 30 games for Las Vegas before fouling a ball off his leg effectively ending his season. If Cecchini shows he is able to hit the same way, he could make a case for a bench spot for himself.
Standing in Cecchini’s way is his not being on the 40 man roster and his shortstop defense having pushed him to second base. The same could also be true for Dilson Herrera. For his part, Herrera was never truly considered anything more than a second baseman and that was before his shoulder injury. That shoulder injury cost him some of his offensive output until he rediscovered his stroke last year hitting .297/.367/.465 for the Reds Triple-A affiliate.
One other overlooked name for the Opening Day bench is Dominic Smith. If Alonso were to start the year in Triple-A, the Mets would have to find playing time for Alonso, Gregor Blanco, Rajai Davis, Rymer Liriano, and Tim Tebow between first base, three infield spots, and DH. Even with how down the team may be on Smith, it is difficult to believe they would leave him in Syracuse to fight for playing time between those three spots.
Instead, the team could carry him on the Major League roster. Certainly, Smith reporting to camp with not just his keeping the weight off but also adding muscle, helps improve his chances. His being a good defensive first baseman capable of playing left field in a pinch should also help him.
Of course, Smith would have to compete with all of the aforementioned players as well as Danny Espinosa just to claim a bench spot. He would also have to count on the team not putting Alonso on the Opening Day roster, which judging from the improvements Alonso has made, is not a safe assumption.
Really, when breaking it down, the Mets have plenty of options to fill out their bench, and ultimately for this team to reach its full potential, they are going to have to find the right mix of players to complement their everyday players. Hopefully, everyone comes to play making this as difficult a decision as the Mets will have all year.
Yesterday, there were two bits of relatively important news. First, we discovered Curtis Granderson intends to play another season. Second, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said the team was not prioritizing the outfield as he believes the team is set there partially because Jeff McNeil is going to move out there.
There are a number of ways to interpret Van Wagenen’s statement with the most likely being the team is not going to sign an everyday outfielder. This means no Bryce Harper or even A.J. Pollock. We can discuss the wisdom of that decision, and we definitely should, but at the moment, the question is whether the Mets are really set in the outfield.
Juan Lagares could be an everyday player for his glove alone, and he showed some promise at the plate. With a new approach, he hit .339/.375/.390 in very limited duty. Certainly, you could argue with this being his contract year and with Chili Davis being the new hitting coach, Lagares is primed for a big season. However, that overlooks the fact he has not played at least 95 games since 2015.
Behind him is Keon Broxton. Over the past two years, Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419. For all of the compliments of his defense, in his only full season in center, Broxton had a -7 DRS and a -2.6 UZR. Even as a part-time player, you really can’t rely on him producing.
Past Lagares and Broxton are Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco. These are two players who are over 35 years old, and they have not been productive Major League players since 2015, and it is hard to imagine 2019 will be the year they turn back the clock.
This places much onus on McNeil. There is every reason to believe McNeil can adapt to the outfield, and even with his questionable peripherals, there is a sufficient basis to believe he can hit at the Major League level. Fact is, he’s a Major League caliber player.
However, the Mets infield has a lot of age. Robinson Cano is 36. Todd Frazier will soon turn 33, and he is coming off his first injury plagued season. Behind both of them is Jed Lowrie, who has been quite good the past two years, but he will be 35 next year. When you factor in the possibility Peter Alonso may not be ready, and you are in a position where McNeil may be needed to return to the infield thereby leaving a thin outfield another outfielder short.
Granderson may be older, but he has always been durable. More importantly, Granderson has remained a productive player, and he effectively transitioned to being a part-time player. Last year, Granderson hit .242/.351/.431 with a 115 OPS+. As a pinch hitter, Granderson hit .375/.483/.500, and that doesn’t include the big pinch hit double he had in Game 5 of the NLCS.
The days of Granderson playing everyday are long gone. Still, Granderson is capable of playing for long stretches in a pinch, and he is someone who you want in your clubhouse mentoring your younger players like Alonso and McNeil. He’s a popular player, and he is someone who has shown the ability to play well in a Mets uniform.
Granderson may not be perfect, but the Mets don’t need perfect. They need a good player and someone who compliments this roster. Right now, that player is Granderson, and he should be back wearing his number three in blue and orange.
After an unplanned hiatus, it is time to start the New Year off fresh and to look at everything anew. It is time for change and resolutions to carry us through 2019. Here are the resolutions for each of the Mets players:
Robinson Cano – don’t get caught using PEDs this time
Yoenis Cespedes – find a way to DH in at least two games this year
Jacob deGrom – learn how to hit better so he can finally win some games next year.
Travis d’Arnaud – get the same surgery Wolverine got
Jeurys Familia – convince Callaway Diaz needs to be used in higher leverage situations so he can get his closer job back
Todd Frazier – find a way to sell move boxes of unsold Mets salt and pepper grinders while not falling into the same trap this year.
Drew Gagnon – keep those incriminating photos which have allowed you to survive roster cut after roster cut.
Robert Gsellman – learn how to pitch well for more than just one month out of the season
Juan Lagares – find a way to play at least half a season
Seth Lugo – when he is not given an opportunity to start and is an All Star snub, channel his inner Margot Martindale from BoJack Horseman
Steven Matz – pitch better so his grandfather will begin cheering for him again.
Jeff McNeil – find a way to hit .400 because short of that the Mets are probably not putting him in the lineup
Tomas Nido – sign up for the best travel rewards program there is because by the time 2019 is over he will be able to fly first class to Australia and back at least 10 times a month
Brandon Nimmo – life isn’t that bad, maybe he should smile every once in a while
Kevin Plawecki – hit the occasional ground ball to the left side just to shake things up.
Amed Rosario – take some mommy/baby classes so he can learn how to walk
Paul Sewald – have a print out of his game logs from Baseball Reference to remind the Mets he pitches well in shorter spurts, and that he is not superhuman and cannot handle onerous workloads. Cry when the attempts fail and he finds himself back in Triple-A
Noah Syndergaard – find an open mic somewhere to discover no one actually believes he or his Mr. Met feud is funny.
Jason Vargas – leave the Jeff Goldblum impressions in the clubhouse and stop pitching like him when he takes the mound.
Zack Wheeler – don’t even let a Mets team doctor near his arm in his free agent walk year.
Daniel Zamora – be able to spin his bad outings the way he can spin his slider