Daniel Murphy

Nationals Losing Presents Mets With Opportunity

Look, it is only April, and Bryce Harper has been an absolute monster this season, but with the Washington Nationals losing 5-1 to the Colorado Rockies today, they are now a game under .500 at 6-7, which is something they last did in 2015.

We can pinpoint various excuses why this has happened.  Daniel Murphy has started the year on the disabled list, and Adam Eaton, who had a great start to the season, also landed on the disabled list.

They also ran into a buzz-saw with the Mets pulling out all the stops to sweep them at home, and their loss today was against a Rockies team who was in the postseason last year.

Bring up all the caveats you want, they still have had six games against the Braves and three against the Reds.  With those teams, they had enough to build a real cushion because that’s what good teams do – they beat up on the lesser teams.  Instead, they split the two series they have played against the Braves.

That right there is why the Nationals are under .500.  Depending on how this series goes against the Rockies, their set in Flushing, and then a West Coast trip facing off against the Dodgers and Giants before coming home to face the Diamondbacks, this Nationals team MAY be in a little trouble.  They COULD be in a lot of trouble.

The Nationals don’t have Dusty Baker as the manager anymore.  Yes, Dusty had his faults.  However, he knew how to navigate his team through this.  Remember, the Nationals fell apart in 2015 under the weak leadership of Matt Williams, and Dusty came in the following year and rescued that team.  We don’t know if Dave Martinez has that in him to get the Nationals to turn things around against what is going to be a tough early season schedule.

If the Nationals cannot figure things out, they are going to dig themselves an early season hole, which may be too deep to climb, at least as the NL East is concerned.

Overall, the Nationals are vulnerable right now.  Perhaps, they are more vulnerable than anyone could have predicted heading into this season.

Ultimately, this means the Mets have a chance right now to put some real distance between themselves and the Nationals.  If they put up enough distance, the Nationals may be fighting for one of the two Wild Cards and not for the division.

As the old adage goes, you cannot win the division in April, but you sure can lose it.  If the Mets do their job, they can help ensure the Nationals will lose the division in April.

Mets Making a Statement

In the Mets first two games against the Washington Nationals, they have let them know this isn’t going to be a repeat of the 2017 season.  The Mets are back, and they are once again a force to be reckoned with.

Really, this series has been a time warp back to August 2015.  There is Yoenis Cespedes hitting a big home run.  Jacob deGrom out-pitched Stephen Strasburg.  Every time the Nationals seem to get ahead, it seems like their bullpen lets them down while Jeurys Familia and the Mets bullpen steps up.

We’ve seen the Mets catchers in Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki do a masterful job pitch framing.  Their pitch framing has led to called third strikes directly leading to Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon getting ejected in consecutive games.  Yes, the Rendon one was suspect, but when you’re so frustrated, you’re flipping the bat at home plate, you create an opportunity for an over-eager umpire to eject you.

Sure, you can say the Mets are not beating the Nationals at their best.  Daniel Murphy is on the disabled list.  Arguably their best player to start the season, Adam Eaton, went on the disabled list.  They’re going to miss Max Scherzer in this three game set.

Name all the caveats you want, the Mets went to Washington, and so far, they have taken the first two games of this and the season series.  As a result, the Mets are off to their best start since 2006.  That season, the Mets were the best team in baseball, and they ran away with the division.

With Mickey Callaway at the helm, that and much more is possible.  That much has been proven with the Mets taking the first two games from the Nationals.

Who’s Better: 2015 or 2018 Mets?

Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets.  Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry.  However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes.  When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.

With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right?  Let’s take a look:

CATCHER

2015: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki
2018: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki

Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation.  In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.

The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer.  Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well.  Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.

Things changed at the tail end of 2017.  Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become.  d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September.  As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.

VERDICT: 2018if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close

FIRST BASE

2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez

In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI.  He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.

Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.

VERDICT: 2015 Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw

SECOND BASE

2015: Daniel Murphy
2018: Asdrubal Cabrera

We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.

For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.

VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one

THIRD BASE

2015: David Wright
2018: Todd Frazier

This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.

Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.

VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy

SHORTSTOP

2015: Ruben Tejada
2018: Amed Rosario

Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015.  After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores.  Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half.  Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.

Rosario is the future of the Mets.  Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate.  However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better.  He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time.  For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.

VERDICT: 2018 Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high

OUTFIELD

2015: Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson
2018: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce

Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets.  Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting.  Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup.  He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist.  Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.

With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets.  To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player.  This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.

VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.

BENCH

2015: Michael Cuddyer, Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, Juan Lagares
2018: Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes

From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers.  They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits.  In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well.  Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.

The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player.  Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder.  Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015.  Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.

VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important

ROTATION

2015: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Bartolo Colon
2018: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Jason Vargas

When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then.  Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.

VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then

BULLPEN

2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald

Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen.  This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year.  Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness.  One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.

When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins.  Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.

VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside

MANAGER

2015: Terry Collins
2018: Mickey Callaway

For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015.  When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived.  Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.

Right now, Callaway looks like a genius.  He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth.  He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late.  His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire.  However, the season isn’t even a week old.  Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.

Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series

VERDICT

If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation.  The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager.  Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw.  However, in reality, it’s not.  That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.

That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager.  If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level.  If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.

Nationals Are Vulnerable

As Mets fans, we obsess over the Mets, and we magnify each and every flaw in our favorite team’s roster.  We see a team overelying on an aging player with a bad back in Adrian Gonzalez instead of going with their optimal lineup and defensive alignment.  We see a pitching staff unable to stay healthy.  We see the same thing with many of the position players.  As a result, we may not be as excited about the 2018 season as we would normally be.

What is interesting, at the same rate, we do not look as in-depth into other team’s rosters to see their very same flaws.  Specifically, we do not look at the Washington Nationals roster are really identify how that is a very flawed team at the moment, and just like in 2015, they may very well be a team ripe to be knocked out of their perch.  Here’s why:

Rotation Issues

Over the past few years, Max Scherzer has emerged as quite possibly the best pitcher in all of baseball.  He’s a virtual lock for a Top 3 spot in the 2018 Cy Young voting.  After him ensues a group of question marks similar to what we see in Flushing.

Stephen Strasburg is great, but that is only when he stays on the field.  He has only thrown 200 innings in a season once, and that was four years ago.  While not quite as catastrophic as the injuries we have seen with the Mets pitchers, he continues to get nicked up, and he is usually good for at least one stint on the disabled list.

Gio Gonzalez may have had a bounce-back year last year with his finishing in the Top 10 of Cy Young voting, but the advanced numbers suggest he’s due for a messy regression.  Last year, Gonzalez led the league in walks, and his strikeout rate continued its four year downward trend.  Really, he was a large beneficiary of an unsustainable .258 BABIP and 81.6% stranded rate.  That’s why his FIP was 3.93 and xFIP was 4.24.

Behind them Tanner Roark is coming off a disappointing year that saw him have a career worst 4.67 ERA, 1.335 WHIP, and 3.2 BB/9.  For the fifth starter, the Nationals will start with the unproven A.J. Cole, who had a 5.20 FIP in 11 games for the Nationals last year.

Key Regression Candidates

One of the reasons why the Nationals had a great year last year was they had a numbers of unexpected career years.  Heading into the 2018 season, the Nationals will be reliant on those players duplicating those dubious numbers.

First, there was Michael Taylor who shocked everyone by hitting .271/.320/.486.  For Taylor to replicate that season, he is also going to have to go out there and repeat his insanely high .363 BABIP.  For Taylor, it was not just at the plate, but in the field.  Heading into last year, Taylor had a -7 DRS in 1287.0 innings played.  Last year, he had an 8 DRS in 940.1.  Even with him approaching his prime, it’s hard to believe Taylor is a truly transformed player.

Ryan Zimmerman seemed to bounce-back from two poor offensive seasons, and the injury plagued Nationals star put up a Zimmerman season of old.  Like with Taylor, we did see those stats were BABIP fueled.  For his career, Zimmerman has a .307 BABIP, but he had a .335 BABIP last year.

And while they were only brought in to be bench players, the Nationals are relying Howie Kendrick and Matt Adams, two players who had tough 2016 seasons, to repeat their strong 2017 offensive seasons.

Injury Concerns

After having microfracture surgery in the offseason, Daniel Murphy is going to start the season on the disabled list.  It is expected he is going to be available mid-April, but that is only if he suffers no setbacks.  And even if he does return and hits the way we all know he is capable of hitting, Murphy, who has never been a strong defender, may find himself even more limited in the field.

There is also a legitimate question what type of player Adam Eaton will be a year after having surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus.  This isn’t comparing apples to apples because they are much different players, but in his first year back from his own torn ACL, Kyle Schwarber struggled mightily last year.

Also, Anthony Rendon is a bit injury prone.  He has only played 150+ games in just two of his five Major League seasons.  If he should suffer an injury, the Nationals may be in trouble because this offense is not on the same solid footing it was last year.

Catching Sitaution

The Nationals have one of the worst catching situations in all of baseball.  Matt Wieters is not only bad at the plate (81 OPS+ since 2015), but he continuously ranks as one of the absolute worst pitch framers in all of baseball.

Behind him is Miguel Montero, a player the Cubs released after he complained about how his pitching staff holds on runners.  For his part, Montero has just a 90 OPS+ since 2013, and his pitch framing abilities had a noticeable drop last year.

New Manager

There were many reasons why people do not believe in Dusty Baker as a manager.  Really, you need not look any further than his decision to bat a completely washed up Jayson Werth second in a do or die game.  That’s an indefensible decision from your manager.

However, while his strategy may have left much to be desired, Dusty was always able to control a clubhouse.  Remember, this was the guy who inherited the mess Matt Williams left behind.  Dusty had to manage a team who had both Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon.  Dusty made it work because that’s what he does.

Now, despite the Nationals winning the division in consecutive years in franchise history, Dusty has been replaced by Dave Martinez.  For many, Martinez was an inspired hire, and he very well might be.  However, he is also largely unproven, and as such he remains a question mark.

Counter-Argument

Ultimately, many will point to just how much better and deeper the Nationals are on paper.  The team also has top prospect Victor Robles waiting in the wings, and he could be a complete game changer next season.  Another major consideration is the Nationals bullpen looks poised to be their best in years.  With everything put together, you see why many are picking the Nationals to be the National League representative in the World Series even despite the team having never won a postseason series.

Now, it’s entirely possible the prognosticators are right, and the Nationals are that good.  That would surprise no one.  However, at the same token, let’s not pretend the Nationals winning the National League East is a fait accompli.  It isn’t because the Nationals are dealing with a much narrower margin of error most believe they are as the season begins.  Ultimately, while they are the favorites on paper, this is a team who is vulnerable.

Even if they are vulnerable, it’s going to take the Mets to give them everything they got.  This Spring, the Mets looked and felt like a different team under Mickey Callaway.  Maybe, just maybe, that is enough to help push this Mets team over the top.  It will be fun watching the next 162 games to find out.

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Our Expectations For the 2018 Season

Well, Opening Day is a week away, and Mets fans are getting excited for Mets baseball.  Whether this will turn out to be 2015 or 2017 again remains to be seen.  Depending on your point of view, you could argue the Mets winning the World Series just as competently as you could argue them having to once again sell at the trade deadline.  With this season really up in the air, we turned to our Roundtable, and we asked them what they expect the Mets to do in 2018:

Roger Cormier (Good Fundies & Fangraphs)

What do I expect? I expect hope. Pain. Happiness. Sadness. Great tweets. Bad tweets. Excitement. Anger. A reminder of the second half of 2015. A reminder of moments. “Payroll flexibility”. Health. Injuries. Complicated high fives. Announcers giggling. Anxiety. Feats of power. Feats of nonsense. And I dunno, 83 regular season wins?

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

I know I am being optimistic, but I actually think Mets will be in contention for a wildcard all year, and if the rotation is healthy, could push the Nats for the NL East. I don’t say this as a Mets fanboy (and I think my record is very clear on how critical I can be), but as someone who believes the new on-field regime can take this club to whole new level. A competent manager who understands pitching, a bench coach who clearly knows what he’s doing, and a pitching coach who’s proven he can do more with less, for the first time since Bobby V and Bob Apodaca changed the culture in 1997, this team has the right guys in place. 90 wins.

Joe Maracic (Loud Egg)

It may be my lack of sleep from having a 1 year old, but I believe the Mets will win the East. Before the past few seasons started if the Mets were predicted to win, they lose. This year looks good for us, especially if at least 3 out of the 5 starting pitchers stay healthy.

Michael Mayer (MMO & MMN)

I expect the Mets to contend for Wild Card, though if the rotation returns to health and productivity we could see them at least hang around late in the season for the division.

I believe the Mets left side of the infield defensively is going to give the pitching staff a little boost as well.

If that rings true, the key to the season could come down to what Sandy Alderson does at the deadline to fill needs.

Metstradamus (Metstradums Blog)

For your latest, my expectation is 84 wins, factoring in reasonable injury expectation. This bullpen has the ability to make a lot of starters unhappy and that will keep the win total down. Come back to me if they sign Greg Holland.

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

The Mets’ general creakiness at several positions concerns me, as does their tendency toward fragility, but what fun is pessimism? The Mets will compete better and longer than they did last year, and let the wins pile up from there.

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

I can’t answer these questions, because I’m a Mets fan, and I’ve always – literally, always – been convinced that we’re a few pieces, at most, away from being a pennant-winner. Look at this team – we’ve got what could be a very solid rotation, a lineup that could rake if the dice fall the right way, and a guy who has the potential to be a top closer in baseball when he’s healthy. Are things going to go that well? You tell me (the answer is no). But what fun is it to go through all the nightmare scenarios and predict which one will happen? For now, I’m sticking with the optimistic scenario: we come out of nowhere and shock the world. Doesn’t it sound both desperately far-fetched and surprisingly realistic?

Mets Daddy

Like most Mets fans, I’m an optimist on Opening Day.  Right now, I expect Todd Frazier to be the 1999 Robin Ventura.  I foresee Matt Harvey putting his career back together.  I am all the more excited watching Michael Conforto healthy and already hitting homers.  If you ask me right now, I’m going to say World Series contender.

Putting my enthusiasm aside, I’ll say this – The NL East is a little more open than we originally believed it to be.  Daniel Murphy wont’ be ready for Opening Day, and who knows when he’ll come back.  For that matter, who knows what he’ll be when he returns.  No one can reasonably expect Ryan Zimmerman to produce like he did last year.  It was an outlier.  The Nationals are relying way too much on Michael Taylor having figured it out, and Matt Wieters isn’t good behind or at the plate.  Also, they lost Dusty Baker, who was a manager who seemed to resonate with that clubhouse.

We take for granted the Nationals will win the division because the Mets have so many question marks and because we have seen the Nationals have great year after great year.  They may very well have another one, but it’s far from a certainty.  Immaculately, I think this is a closer race than we may have originally thought it to be.

So overall, the Mets Bloggers seem to be a little more bullish on the Mets than many other places.  If you are curious why they feel this way, please click on the links next to their names to see their superb work which expounds upon their opinions about the Mets further.

OF Wilmer Flores? Why Not?

When it was announced the Mets were going to try Wilmer Flores in the outfield, it was met with a collective groan from Mets fans.  That shouldn’t be surprising as Wilmer has established himself to be not exactly fleet of foot, nor has he shown himself to be a great defender anywhere the Mets have dared to put him.

As a result, Mets fans were reminded of the horrors of watching Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, and Todd Hundley in the outfield.  With injuries to Juan Lagares and Jay Bruce this Spring, we are a step closer to seeing that happen.

Given this being Spring Training, and with the Mets health perpetually being what it is, this is exactly the time of year you are supposed to be experimenting with these types of moves.  Maybe, just maybe, Flores could handle the position.

Let’s start with the obvious – Wilmer is slow.  That is something not just proved by the eye test but also by Statcast data.

As published on Baseball Savant, Flores had a sprint speed of 25.7 feet per second.  To put that in perspective, Flores ranked 398th out of the 451 MLB players ranked.  While this isn’t surprising, it is surprising Flores was ranked ahead of two outfielders – Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp.

Now, no one should consider Bautista or Kemp good fielders anymore.  Last year, Bautista posted a -8 DRS in 1,242.2 innings in right, and Kemp posted a -17 DRS in 851.2 innings in left.  Using Fangraphs parameters, that puts Bautista and Kemp in the poor to awful range.

Judging from Kemp and Bautista, Flores ceiling in the outfield is probably being a poor outfielder.  As Mets fans, we already have that expectation no matter where Flores plays.  Last season, he had a -14 DRS.  Being a versatile and poor fielder is kind of Flores’ thing.

However, unlike Kemp and Bautista, we shouldn’t expect to see Flores spend the majority of his time in the outfield. Basically, what is instructive is Flores is just fast enough to fake it in the outfield.  However, the issues is whether he can field enough out there.

When it comes to fly balls and pop ups, Flores has never had a real issue fielding the ball, so long as he doesn’t have to deal with a bat boy (who aren’t in the outfield):

Really, when it comes to Wilmer his defensive issues have typically been range and arm.  That’s a big reason why he didn’t work at shortstop and why he has shown himself to be a poor fit at third.  Again, as noted throughout his career, he’s not a real fit anywhere.

Really, it could be he’s as poor a fit in the outfield as he is in the infield, so why not?  If he’s hitting, they are going to want to find a spot for him in the lineup.  If this team repeats their injury issues from last season, and 2018 has not gotten off to a great start, the team may be forced to put him out there.  At a minimum, you’d be hard pressed to argue he could be any worse out there.

 

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Who We Are Watching This Spring

After the positive feedback we received after our first Mets Blogger Roundtable, the Mets Bloggers have decided to come back for at least a second week.  This week, we tackle the question “Which Mets player are we most excited about watching this Spring Training?”

Michael Baron (MLB.com)

Dominic Smith is the first player that comes to my mind, although there are several interesting stories to watch this spring. Here’s a guy who has spent a number of years now battling weight issues, and therefore reputation issues, and it’s no secret the organization has concerns with him. And, obviously, signing Adrian González clearly indicates that as well. I am looking for him to step up and look like the player and prospect everyone expects him to be, similar to howMichael Conforto performed last spring. If Dom does that, he’ll make for a tough decision a month from now, which is always a good internal conversation for Mets brass to have.

Roger Cormier (Good Fundies & Fangraphs)

Do we all remember when Bret Booneabruptly retired a few days into Mets spring training camp in 2006? He admitted Jose Reyes “just kind of stared” at him “with that smile on his face” and realized the joy of playing baseball in himself was long gone. Well, I’m hoping Adrian Gonzalez looks at Dominic Smith, smiling and loving life with his old and new svelte physique, and realizes his future as a full-time top sub sandwich enterprise ambassador should be his present. Smith did not earn the full-time first baseman gig last season, but he’s already earned it before the first ST game. He wasn’t even in this good of shape last spring, so I’m looking forward to seeing the Dom Smith everybody warned with a smile was about to enter our lives last summer.

Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)

The player I am most excited to watch at Spring Training might surprise a few people. It’s Brandon Nimmo. I am by no means trying to say he’s an all-star, but I think he is often overlook for the value he brings to a team. First of all, his defense in center field (while not as good as Juan Lagares) is good. For me, I am more impressed with his approach at the plate. He’s one of the more disciplined hitters on the team, especially when it comes to his knowledge of the strike zone. Sure, his .260 batting average last year is not too impressive, but his on-base percentage was more than 100 points higher at .379. Despite not looking like he’s going to have a starting spot out of the gate, Nimmo is going to be an important piece on this team coming off of the bench. And knowing how hard he works, if there’s an injury, he’ll be ready to go in a pinch. It’s hard not to root for the kid.

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

Player I am most excited about? Great question. I know if the Mets had been smart enough to sign Joe Smith, he’d have been my answer. I guess I have to let that one go, though. Steven Matz is the other. There are certain guys I love to watch pitch, and Matz is the latest version of that.

I have been a vocal critic of how Terry Collins and Dan Warthen handled the pitching staff for the last several years, and think the staff’s effectiveness in 2015 was despite their best efforts. I think how Matz was handled has been an organizational failure, but with Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, they finally have people who truly understand how to get him to the next level. A healthy consistent Matz would be a huge assist to this rotation, so that’s what I am most excited to see.

Agree with Michael on Smith. I’m not sure excited is the word, but I am really interested to see how Matt Harvey starts off this spring. Reports are he can feel the ball again and, in my opinion, this will probably be his last season with the Mets. If he dominates, Mets won’t pay him. If he stinks, bye bye.

The Mets player I’m most interested in seeing this spring is Yoenis Cespedes. The slugger is coming off a season that saw injuries limit him to only 81 games. He’s trained differently this offseason including doing yoga to make sure he is more agile and not simply bulked up like in 2017. It will be interesting to see if his offseason training can help him regain his decencies prowess that helped him win a gold glove in 2015. Also have to see if he can make it through all spring without a muscle injury which seemed to be a weekly occurrence for him last season.

When healthy, Cespedes has been everything the Mets hoped for when they traded for him and signed him to a four-year deal. The Mets are not going to be contenders in 2018 if Cespedes plays only 81 games and spring will be a good time to see if anything has changed for Yo.

I’d actually like to see what Wilmer Flores and Gavin Cecchini do this spring. For Flores, I’d like to see if he takes to the outfield. I kinda hope he doesn’t, only because I’d rather he be placed at one position instead of some utility player who is bad at five positions. As for Cecchini, the Mets are going to need a second baseman next year. This is his last shot to prove he deserves a longer look. Because hey … Daniel Murphy is a free agent next year!

I’m looking forward to seeing uniformly healthy Mets in Spring Training and Mickey Callaway overwhelmed by a plethora of great options as he fills out his roster.

To me, the question comes down to, who has the most potential to be a complete game-changer for the season, with a good spring? So for that reason, while both of those guys will be important, I’m going with Amed Rosario. Obviously, people are excited about Amed – he was one of the top prospects in baseball before he came up – but I don’t think people have really let themselves imagine what kind of difference he could make if he lives up to the hype. Imagine if our starting shortstop suddenly hits .285/.350/.450, or around there, or even better, with great speed and defense, and solid power. I’d say that instantly makes our lineup significantly more dangerous than we expect right now. And even more than that, if Amed is for real, it’s a sign; it’s a message to every Mets fan that whatever happens, we’ve got a present and a future to look forward to. We’ve all seen the effect that one player can have on a season, no matter how badly the season goes: we all got excited every fifth day in 2013, even while we were losing 88 games, because of Matt Harvey. So, if Amed starts the season, and hits for power, plays great defense, steals bases, makes contact, gets on base…he could very quickly become a defining part of the Mets’ season. Unfortunately, if he falls apart and gets demoted, that will probably be a defining moment too, for a season that probably won’t end nearly as well. But being an optimist, a Mets fan, and an Amed believer, I think he’s got everything he needs, and I’m hoping he shows it this Spring.

Mets Daddy

While I didn’t initially feel this way, my opinion changed when I saw the Mets had put T.J. Rivera on the 60 day Disabled List to make room for Jason Vargas on the 40 man roster.  As a result, I am really interested to follow what is happening with David Wright this Spring Training.

With the signing of Todd Frazier and Wright’s comments to the press, it seems like everyone is getting closer to admitting the truth – Wright’s days as a baseball player are all but done.  However, I also get the sense Wright sees just one more chapter for himself.  That chapter may just be one random inning in September with expanded rosters, or maybe, just maybe Wright thinks he can help this team as a bench player.  If any of that is true, we are eventually going to see Wright doing something in terms of baseball activities.

Until that point, it is important to note Callaway does see value in Wright, and he seems to want him around the team.  As a Mets fan, I want him to forever be around this team.  I just hope Wright is able to do something this Spring that will allow him to actually appear on the field – even if it is just for one more game.

Again, I want to thank the various writers for coming onto the site to participate in this roundtable. Please return the favor by visiting their sites (link is in the parenthesis next to their name).  I hope you will enjoy their work as much as I have.

Meet The Mets Fan: Mets Daddy

During the course of the 2018 season, my hope is to feature a new Mets fan each and every week by having them answer five quick questions about their particular fandom.  For me, this is part of a natural outgrowth of the site because part of my intention was to discuss my experiences as a father raising my sons to be Mets fans.

As we know being a fan is a unique experience for everyone, and I’m sure my sons will have a much more unique experience than I have had as a fan.  The hope is to have a fun mix of fans – celebrity, media, and average fans like you and me.

So to that end, I will start off the new feature answering the same five questions butchers, bakers, and the people on the streets will be answering.

The Mets Fan:

For my readers, I am the self dubbed Mets Daddy.  To my sons, I am just daddy.  To my detractors, I am someone that just needs to go away.

Alongside my work here, you can also find my work on Metsmerized OnlineMets Minors, and Gotham Baseball.  With a newborn in the house and a four year old, there’s not much opportunity for me to sleep, so it’s more entertaining to write about the Mets than to watch the same terrible late night TV night in and night out.

How You Became a Mets Fan:

My father grew up in a household where my grandfather was a New York Giants fan, his younger brother was a New York Yankees fan, and he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan.  Given that environment, you could understand why he would look to ensure his children grew up Mets fans.

As a little kid, my dad saw an opportunity with my love of strawberries.  He told me about how the Mets had this great player coming to the team named Darryl Strawberry.  When Strawberry was called up to the Mets, he took me to my first ever Mets game to see him play.  Seeing my first ever baseball game at Shea Stadium helped make me the diehard fan I am today.

Favorite Mets Player:

When I think of my favorite Mets player, there are a few names I consider.  As noted above, Strawberry is on the list.  Gary Carter was always a favorite of mine, and growing up, I wanted to become a catcher because of him.  In more recent vintage, Daniel Murphy was a person favorite, and how could he not with the 2015 postseason he had.  Like any other Mets fan, I love David Wright.

However, my guy will always be Mike Piazza.  When he came to the Mets, this went from a nice little team to a World Series contender.  I still remember all of the homers including the one after 9/11, which for my money is the biggest home run ever hit.  More than that, Piazza is a guy who wanted to big stage, and when Cooperstown came calling, he chose to be a Met partially due to us fans.

Favorite Moment In Mets History:

I’ve been exceedingly lucky as a fan.  I was there for the Todd Pratt homer clinching the 1999 NLDS.  I was in the park the night of Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single.  There was also the Bobby Jones one-hitter.  My first real memory as a fan was watching Mookie Wilson‘s little roller up the first base line go through Bill Buckner‘s legs.

However, despite all those classic moments, the one I will always treasure most was going to Game 3 of the 2015 World Series with my dad and brother.  It also helped that Noah Syndergaardstood 60’6″ away, Wright hit the first World Series homer in Citi Field history, and Curtis Granderson hit a homer to give the Mets the lead for good that game.  The fans even got a chance to sing along to Piano Man with Billy Joel.

Going to a Mets World Series game with my dad and brother had long been a dream of mine.  Seeing them win a World Series game and feeling that euphoria leaving Citi Field that night will be next to impossible to top.

Message to Mets Fans:

Some of the best Mets seasons are never the ones you expect.  The 1969 team was never supposed to win.  The 1999 Mets were put together on a wing and a prayer.  Back in 2006, it was hard to believe anyone would ever unseat the Braves as the NL East Champions in the Wild Card Era.  Heading into the 2015 season, Bryce Harper was asking where his World Series ring was after the Nationals signed Max Scherzer.  As Mets fans, we had Michael Cuddyer.

Point is, even if you are extremely frustrated by the Wilpons and how they choose to operate this team, just remember, when you least expect it, that old Mets Magic is right around the corner.  After all, Ya Gotta Believe!

Can’t Bear To See Smoker And Bradford Go

Each and every offseason, I have seen the Mets part with players who are easy to root for.  In my life, I have seen the Mets part ways with Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Daniel Murphy, and many more.  Having seen my some of my all-time favorite players depart has never made it easy to see the team depart with some of the players I have come to respect and root for during their time in a Mets uniform – no matter how long it lasted.

Recently, the Mets parted with two relievers, each of whom played less than two full seasons in a Mets uniform.  Presumably, the moves were necessary as the Mets needed to make room on the 40 man roster for the newly re-signed Jay Bruce and Jose Reyes.  Still, seeing those two relievers, you question if the Mets made the right decision.

The first reliever the Mets designated for assignment was Chasen Bradford.

In retrospect, it is interesting the Mets were even in a position to DFA Bradford.  For a number of years, he had been Rule 5 eligible with the rest of MLB not giving him much of a look.  The Mets didnt’ either, and if not for the series of injuries that beset the Mets this past season, it’s possible Bradford would have departed the team as a minor league free agent without getting so much as a chance.

Well, Bradford got his chance, and he proved he’s a MLB caliber pitcher.  In 28 appearances, he was 2-0 with a 3.78 ERA and a 1.277 WHIP.  After a somewhat tough July, he went on a 12 appearance stretch where he allowed just one run in 16.2 innings.

In fact, from August until the end of the season, he had a 2.93 ERA in 27.2 innings over 23 appearances.  During that stretch, he had amassed 20 scoreless appearances, and he had nine appearances over an inning in length.  In sum, Bradford showed he could go out there and get Major League batters out no matter the situation.

There other reliever designated for assignment was Josh Smoker.

Smoker’s story is one of perseverance.  After being the Nationals 2007 first round draft pick, he would suffer a torn rotator cuff and labrum.  This would cause the Nationals to release him thereby putting his professional baseball career in jeopardy.

A healthy Smoker proved himself in the Frontier League leading to his getting signed by the Mets.  Two years later, Smoker found himself part of a bullpen that helped pitch the Mets to the postseason.  Given his talent and perseverance, it was not surprise Smoker would be a part of the 2017 Opening Day bullpen.

What was a surprise was how Terry Collins used him.  Really, his manager showed a willful disregard for a pitcher with a history of shoulder issues.  It was almost as if Collins learned nothing from his handling of Johan Santana and Jim Henderson.  Eventually, Smoker had another shoulder injury.  Thankfully, it was not as serious as it would not require seasons ending surgery.

Once again, Smoker would have to re-prove himself, and re-prove himself he did.  In the second half, Smoker was 0- 0 with a 2.63 ERA and a 10.5 K/9 in 22 appearances.  Perhaps of more importance, Smoker found himself a capable pitcher against left-handed batters making him an even greater weapon in the bullpen.

However, like Bradford, Smoker will be a weapon in someone else’s bullpen.

After being designated for assignment, Bradford signed a minor league deal with the Mariners.  To risk not losing him on waivers, Smoker was traded to the Pirates for minor league left-handed reliever Daniel Zamora.  With that, the Mets have ridded themselves of two relievers who not only provided themselves capable of getting out Major League batters, but also two relievers who showed perseverance in getting themselves to this point.  That’s no small thing to lose.

As we learned during Player’s Weekend, Bradford’s nickname is Black Bear, and Smoker’s nickname is Brown Bear.  While it may seem a bit much, considering their nicknames, it’s fair to say it’s difficult to bear knowing neither pitcher will be a part of the Mets next season.

Fortunately for both of them, they are now with new organizations who likely value them all the more.  They deserve that, and all Mets fans should wish them the best of luck.

Trivia Friday – Mets Second Baseman Since 2015

Despite Daniel Murphy winning the 2015 NLCS MVP, the Mets seemed all too happy to let him depart via free agency.  Instead of Murphy, the Mets first sought after Ben Zobrist, who spurned them for the Cubs, before trading Jon Niese for Neil Walker.

Walker was supposed to stabilize the position, and there was hopes he would be a Met for the long haul with the team offering him the qualifying offer.  Instead, Walker had two injury riddled years before he was traded to the Brewers for minor league right-hand relief prospect Eric Hanhold.

Now, the Mets are once again in the position of finding out who their next second baseman will be.  That task becomes all the more difficult when Ian Kinsler rejected a trade to the Mets, upper management rejected a trade for Jason Kipnis, and the Mets are reportedly not entertaining trading Brandon Nimmo for Josh Harrison.

The end result likely is the second base quagmire will continue.  That quagmire has seen the Mets play 12 different players at second base over the past two seasons.  Can you name them all?  Good luck!


Kelly Johnson T.J. Rivera Wilmer Flores Matt Reynolds Ty Kelly Eric Campbell Jose Reyes Gavin Cecchini Phillip Evans Asdrubal Cabrera Travis d’Arnaud