During his time in the minors, Jeff McNeil wore a couple of different numbers. Last year, he wore 12 with Las Vegas, and he wore 1 with Binghamton. Overall, he’d wear a variety of numbers including 3, 5, and 10. Naturally, when the Mets called him up to the majors, McNeil was assigned the number 68.
The significance of 68? Well, it was just next in line.
It was something the Mets seemed to start in 2016. That year, the Mets gave T.J. Rivera the number 54, and Ty Kelly was given 55. When Kelly Johnson returned, Kelly was given 56. Over the ensuing years, we’d see the number gradually climb up and up to the point Kelly would wear 66 last year, and eventually McNeil wearing 68.
Now, this is not a practice reserved for all prospects, and it has not been a practice always in place. For example, when Jose Reyes and David Wright were called up, they were given their now iconic 7 and 5 numbers. For that matter, when Eric Campbell was called up to the majors in 2014, he went from 24, a number somewhat unofficially retired by the Mets, to 29.
Now, McNeil is going to wear the number 6, a number which was available all of last season. For that matter, Rivera is going to wear 19, which was a number that Jay Bruce had before he was called up to the majors. It should also be noted the 3 he wore with Las Vegas was worn by Curtis Granderson.
Now, there are some restrictions with uniform numbers. For example, recent uniform history suggests Gary Carter‘s 8 and Keith Hernandez‘s 17 are unofficially retired. They may also want to try to preserve numbers for their top prospects like how Peter Alonso was assigned 20 this Spring Training.
Still, there is a wide chasm between not allowing a player to have a certain number and giving them a number in the 50s or 60s. These players have achieved something by making it all the way to the majors. They should be treated as such by giving them a real uniform number, especially as we saw in the case with Dilson Herrera and Juan Uribe, you are going to make the young player switch when a more established player wants the number.
As a side note, it’s more fan friendly as well because if you are someone immediately attached to a player like McNeil, when you go out and get the jersey, or even shirsey, you have the right number and aren’t out money when the player is finally deemed good enough to pick their own real baseball number.
Back in 2015, the New York Mets season was falling apart at the seams. The Mets needed offense, and the fans wanted Michael Conforto. Scouts and talent evaluators said the Mets 2014 first round draft pick was ready, but the Mets consistently insisted Conforto wasn’t ready.
Instead of Conforto, the Mets trotted out people who weren’t good and weren’t ready. The Mets were happy trotting out John Mayberry, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Darrell Ceciliani in the outfield. Briefly, the Mets would even try Eric Campbell in left field. For the most part, the Mets mostly stuck with a clearly injured and hobbled Michael Cuddyer in left field. He fell apart in June hitting just .211/.237/.311 in 25 games.
Finally, both Cuddyer and the Mets both had enough, Cuddyer would go the Disabled List, and Conforto would finally get called-up to the majors. At that time, the Mets had lost two in a row and five of their last seven. For a team that once had a 4.5 game lead in the division, they would fall to three games back.
It turns out Conforto was indeed ready. He would play 56 games hitting .270/.335/.506 with 14 doubles nine homers, and 26 RBI. He was a big part of the Mets turn-arond with the team having been 10 games over .500 in the games he played. He was also a big part of the Mets postseason run. He hit three homers in the postseason including two in Game Four of the World Series.
It’s possible Conforto needed every bit the time he had in Double-A. Maybe the extra time he spent in Doube-A put him in position to succeed when he came to the majors. It’s also likely Conforto was ready well before the Mets did what they didn’t want to do when they called him up. Fact is, we’ll never know. The only thing we do know is Conforto was very good when he was called up to the majors, and he has an important part of the Mets success in 2015.
The Mets are in the same exact situation in 2017.
The team has seen Asdrubal Cabrera struggled offensively and defensively, and he has landed on the Disabled List twice. His primary back-up, Jose Reyes, has statistically been the worst infielder in the major leagues this year, and he appears to be getting worse. Now, Neil Walker has suffered an injury that will keep him on the Disabled List for an extended time frame.
Unlike 2015, the real issue for this Mets team is defense. As a team, the Mets rank last in the majors with a -13 DRS, and it is not likely to improve. Reyes is not only struggling offensively, but he is struggling defensively as well. The other players on the roster aren’t much better.
The Mets took the starting shortstop position away from Wilmer Flores for a reason. The Mets also transitioned T.J. Rivera from shortstop to other positions because he couldn’t handle the position defensively. Same goes for Gavin Cecchini who is now a second baseman. Matt Reynolds is actually a good defensive shortstop, but he can’t hit enough to play everyday.
Like in 2015, the fans are clamoring for the Mets top prospect, and like in 2015, everyone but Sandy Alderson seems to believe he’s ready. In 65 games for Las Vegas, he’s hitting .336/.378/.500 with 15 doubles, four triples, seven homers, 47 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. Based on the offensive statistics, he seems ready, but that’s not an in depth analysis. Truth is considering the hitting environment that is the Pacific Coast League, we probably don’t know how much improvement a player is making until they get to the majors.
However, the Mets don’t need Rosario for his offense even if anything else is likely better than what Reyes is providing. No, the Mets need him for his defense, and the Mets need him sooner rather than later.
After losing last night’s game, the Mets are five games under .500, and they are 10.5 games back in the division. Like in 2015, the Mets promising season is falling apart. Instead of the team calling up the player who could help address the team’s needs, they are being stubborn in insisting the top prospect isn’t ready. They are once again letting the season slip away. Unlike 2015, things are much more dire.
Sure, the Mets could be right in saying Rosario isn’t ready. After all, it is very well likely they know more than anyone about where Rosario stands in his development. Maybe, just maybe, the Mets know what they’re doing, and when they finally bring Rosario up to the majors, he will have the success and impact Conforto did in 2015.
Hopefully, there is still a season to salvage whenever the Mets get around to calling up Rosario.
Its astounding how much 2016 is paralleling 2015. This year, like last year, 46 games into the season, they trail the Nationals in the division. Interestingly enough, this is not where the parallels end.
Last year and this year, Travis d’Arnaud had a significant injury forcing him to miss a significant period of time. This pressed Kevin Plawecki into assuming the starting catcher’s job, and he struggled. However, Plawecki kept on catching because his backup was a good defensive poor hitting catcher. Last year was Anthony Recker. This year it’s Rene Rivera.
Last year, the Mets faced the prospect of not knowing when or if David Wright could return due to his back problems. As a result, Eric Campbell played many more games than the Mets ever anticipated he would. The same thing is happening now as a result of Lucas Duda‘s stress fracture in his lower back.
Minor Leaguers Not Ready for the Majors
With the rash injuries last year, the Mets trotted out the likes of Daniel Muno and Darrell Ceciliani to try to fill in the gaps. It didn’t work. This year the Mets have pressed Matt Reynolds and Ty Kelly into action. Reynolds and Kelly are having similar difficulties.
Last year, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee were having the worst years of their careers thereby putting the pressure on the other starters. The Mets were stuck in a holding pattern about making a change as the obvious replacement, Noah Syndergaard, still needed a little more time. This year it is Matt Harvey struggling while the obvious replacement in the rotation, Zack Wheeler, still needs more time to get ready to pitch in the majors.
At this point last year, Bartolo Colon was 7-3 with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.20 This year Colon is 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. This year and last year the Mets have been able to count on Colon to take the ball every fifth day and give them a chance to win.
Mid 30’s Corner Outfielder
Through May 25th last year, Michael Cuddyer was hitting .250/.328/.372. This year Curtis Granderson is hitting .204/.304/.413. Like Cuddyer last year, the Mets are relying heavily on Granderson, and unfortunately, they are not getting the production they need from them.
Second Year Starter Stepping Up
Last year, Jacob deGrom went from Rookie of the Year to All Star. He emerged as the ace of the staff. This year that honor belongs to Syndergaard. Syndergaard has been dominating on the mound like deGrom did last year. He’s a likely All Star, and he’s quickly become the staff’s ace. Honorable mention should go to Steven Matz here as well.
Call for the AA Prospect to Get Called Up
Last year with a rash of injuries and offensive ineptitude, Mets fans shouted from the rooftops that Michael Conforto should be called up to the majors from AA. This year the fans have begun the same with Dominic Smith due to Duda’s injury and Campbell playing there everyday.
Last year, Famila was as dominant as anyone at the end of the game. He started the year a perfect 13/13 in save chances. This year Familia is back to his dominant form. He’s a perfect 16/16 in save chances. As in 2015, Familia is going to slam the door shut.
The Two Team Race
Last year the Braves were the upstarts that faltered. This year will be the Phillies. However, when the dust clears, this is really a two team race between the Mets and the Nationals for the NL East.
Just remember that no matter how bad things got last year, the Mets still won the division by seven games. This year the Mets have a much better team across the board. We may sometimes forget this when the Mets slump or have a couple of injuries. However, this is a much better Mets team that can win the division. This is still a World Series contender. That’s the overriding lesson from 2015.
That didn’t take long, did it?
Michael Conforto is the best position player on the Mets.
Conforto was drafted tenth overall in the 2014 draft. He was in Double-A last year. He played in the Future’s Game. The Mets organization swore up and down that he was not ready to make the jump from Double-A to the majors despite trotting the likes of Darrell Ceciliani in the outfield. Finally, the Mets reached a breaking point, and they were forced to call him up.
As a rookie, Conforto hit .270/.335/.506 with 14 doubles, nine homeruns, and 26 RBI. That was good for a 132 OPS+ and a 135 wRC+. He was better than advertised defensively with a 7.5 UZR and a 9 DRS. He had a 2.1 WAR in a little over one-third of a season. He showed off a strong and accurate arm in the outfield. He went on and had a terrific World Series including hitting two homeruns in Game Four.
So far this year, he’s even better. Overall, he’s hitting .343/.427/.614 with 10 doubles, three homeruns, and 15 RBI. His OPS+ is 178 and his wRC+ is 175. He’s already at a 1.1 WAR. He’s hitting the ball harder than anyone in the big leagues. Everyone expected him to improve this year, but he’s improving at a much faster rate than anyone realistically could’ve hoped or expected. In fact, he’s playing like a seasoned veteran.
His mental preparation is that of a seasoned veteran. That is something you rarely see. Days like today, he’s hitting balls off the left-field wall and then catching a changeup out front and hitting it out to right. That is just devastating to pitchers. It’s fun to watch because he’s doing this at 23. The sky is the limit for a guy like that. He’s as humble as they come.
Very quickly, Conforto has gone from the guy the Mets were too afraid to call up to the gut they’re too afraid to have out of the lineup. He has already arguably become the best position player on the Mets.
Last year, the Mets saw lengthy absences from David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud. Daniel Murphy and Michael Cuddyer were nicked up most of the year. Other Mets players got bumps and bruises along the way. The Mets depth got tested early and often in 2015, and it was ugly.
Dilson Herrera and Kevin Plawecki showed they weren’t ready to hit major league pitching. For his part, Plawecki had to stay in the lineup because Anthony Recker and Johnny Monell weren’t either. Eric Campbell and John Mayberry, Jr. showed why they weren’t everyday players, let alone middle of the order bats. There were other forgettable debuts from players like Darrell Ceciliani and Danny Muno. In 2015, the Mets bet against their farm system, and it nearly cost them the season.
In the offseason, the Mets made sure to build a deeper roster. They moved Wilmer Flores to a utility role. Alejandro De Aza is here as a fifth outfielder. Juan Lagares is a part time player who will start against lefties and come on as a late defensive replacement. Herrera is back in AAA where he belongs for now. Campbell and Plawecki are on the 25 man roster, but they are asked to do much less. Hypothetically, it’s a much deeper team.
Well, that hypothesis is now being put to the test.
Yoenis Cespedes has been dealing with a thigh issue due to his jumping in the stands and an awkward slide. As for now, he’s not DL bound. Yesterday, d’Arnaud left the game early with pain in his throwing shoulder. While he may not have been the best at throwing out would be base stealers, his throws were uncharacteristically poor. He will be examined today before a DL decision is made. Whether it will be one day, one week, one month, or more, the Mets will miss Cespedes and d’Arnaud.
No matter how much time if will be, this Mets team is better built to sustain these losses. Having a De Aza/Lagares platoon is a much better option than Ceciliani. Plawecki has another year of development under his belt. Hopefully, this translates to him having a better year at the plate.
The Mets better hope so. The Nationals look like a different team than they were a year ago. The Mets aren’t going to be able to coast for two – three months with subpar players. This is a new year. Fortunately, this is a new Mets team that’s built for just these types of situations.
After last season, you would want to believe that the Mets wouldn’t want to underestimate their own pitching prospects and expose them to the Rule 5 draft.
The Mets got very, very lucky with Logan Verrett. Everyone underestimated him. Perhaps it was a result of a low 90’s fastball. Perhaps it was because he relies on control, changing your eye level, and working both sides of the plate rather than blowing a 100 MPH fastball by you like Noah Syndergaard.
In any event, the Orioles decided he was worthy of a Rule 5 pick but not worthy of making their Opening Day roster. The Rangers scooped him up and decided after six games he couldn’t help them. He was returned to the Mets. He pitched well out of the bullpen and in spot starts. This year he’s made two spot starts and hasn’t allowed a run in 12 innings. The Mets needed him more than they ever knew. Fortunately for the Mets, the Orioles and Rangers never realized what they had in Verrett. The Mets got very lucky.
This year the Mets may not be so lucky with Matt Bowman.
Bowman was taken by the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft. Partially due to Jordan Walden opening the year on the DL, Bowman made the Opening Day roster. So far this year, Bowman has appeared on five games pitching 6.2 innings. He has a 1.35 ERA and a 0.900 WHIP. He’s predominantly throwing a 93 MPH sinker. He mixes in the occasional slider (88 MPH) and splitter (82 MPH). It’s a short sample size, but Bowman looks good out of the bullpen. There’s no reason to believe the Cardinals will let him go.
The head scratching part was there was no excuse for why the Mets let Bowman become a Cardinal. The Mets had roster space. They could’ve protected Bowman. To make matters worse, they lost what appears to be a good bullpen piece. How did this happen?
In answering, this question it is important to note teams typically keep a roster spot open so they can make a pick in the Rule 5 draft in the event there’s a player out there who can help them. It’s how the Mets acquired Sean Gilmartin last year, and he became a valuable part of the bullpen. So in reality, the question was who should the Mets have left off the roster in place of Bowman.
The Mets did subsequently lose Kirk Nieuwenhuis on waivers. The Mets traded Darrell Ceciliani for cash. Carlos Torres and Ruben Tejada were initially offered contracts only to subsequently be released. The Mets also could’ve realized what they had and did the unconventional and just put Bowman on the roster barring them from making a Rule 5 draft pick. The Mets didn’t. Instead, they exposed Bowman in the draft in the oft chance they could’ve found someone of his caliber in the Rule 5 draft. How did this happen?
Simply put, like Verrett, Bowman didn’t have lights-out stuff. He is a four pitch pitcher that was projected to be, at best, a back of the rotation starter or bullpen arm. He really regressed his first full year in AAA. In 2014, he was 3-2 with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.294 WHIP in six starts and one relief appearance. In 2015, he made 26 starts and two relief appearances. Bowman would finish the year 7-16 with a 5.53 ERA and a 1.679 WHIP. Entering the 2015 season, he was seen as a back of the rotation starter or a bullpen arm. His 2015 season reasonably cast doubt on those projections. At age 25, it appeared like the former 13th round draft pick’s development had stalled.
It didn’t, and it shouldn’t be surprising as Bowman has looked for ways to improve. He has tried to emulate Tim Lincecum‘s delivery. While in college, he studied Sabermetrics, and he has sought to use it to find ways to improve. Basically, there’s no rock this former 13th round pick will leave unturned to he better. He’s built himself into a major league pitcher.
However, Bowman is pitching for the Cardinals, and the Mets have nothing to show for it. Worse yet, the Mets could’ve used him. With Jacob deGrom‘s lat injury (and problems with his son), Verrett was thrust into the starting rotation. Rafael Montero was recalled to help in the bullpen, but Collins has been loathe to use him.
Perhaps Collins would’ve trusted Bowman and allowed him to pitch. Unfortunately, we will never know. The Mets will not get lucky with a Rule 5 pick returning to the organization. Bowman is a Cardinal likely never to return.
Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsminors.net
Yesterday, the Mets signed Roger Bernadina to a minor league deal. Anytime the Mets sign a player on a minor league deal, I think it’s a great low risk high reward move.With that said, I’m curious why the Mets signed Bernadina.
Bernadina is a 31 year old outfielder that was originally signed by the Montreal Expos. He played three full seasons with the successor Nationals before being released. Bernadina bounced around a bit since, and he spent all of 2015 in the minor leagues. He’s a career .236/.307/.354 hitter. He’s played all three outfield positions in his career reasonably well. Considering the Brandon Nimmo injury and the Darrell Ceciliani trade, this was a good depth move. Or was it?
His current deal with the Mets he has a June 15th opt out clause. That’s the same day the Mets can trade Alejandro De Aza without any restrictions. This begs the question whether Bernadina was signed as minor league depth, or whether he was signed so the Mets could trade De Aza? Is Berndina slated to be the fifth outfielder or is he really just depth to protect against injury?
Time will tell. In either scenario, this was a solid organizational depth move by the Mets.
As Sandy Alderson stated numerous times this offseason, the Mets payroll is expected to be around $115 million. With the Mets signing Antonio Bastardo, it looks like the Mets payroll is around $115 million depending on the remaining arbitration cases. This probably means the Mets are done spending this offseason.
If the Mets are done spending, that means the Mets will need to find a right hand hitting 1B/OF from within their organization. Looking over the 40 man roster, there is one player that fits that description. Fan favorite Eric Campbell. Seriously, peruse the roster. Matt Reynolds is a 2B/SS. Darrell Ceciliani is a left-hand hitting outfielder. The other prospects are future everyday players.
No, it appears that right now Eric Campbell is going to make the Opening Day roster. For all the discussion of the Mets building a deeper, more versatile roster, we get Eric Campbell.
Now, there are some good things to say about Campbell. He’s a good pinch hitter. He’s willing to do anything and everything to play in the majors including learning how to catch. He has an unsustainably low BABIP, and he hits the ball hard. Those two things coupled together means he could have a much better year at the plate.
With all that said, how is Eric Campbell in position to make the Opening Day roster. The Mets are less than a month away from Spring Training, and they don’t have a better option than Campbell to be the 25th man on the team. How is this excusable for a team that just won the NL Pennant and wants to return to the World Series? Right now, the reason boils down to the Mets possibly having maxed out on their budget for the 2016 season before signing a better player for his spot.
I like Campbell and all he represents. He cannot be on the Opening Day roster. As of right now, he probably will be.
Note: this obviously changes if the Mets sign Cespedes. I may be in the minority, but I’m not confident that will happen.
Every year, my brother and I have the same argument. I think of Nieuwenhuis as a useful player. He’s a solid defender at three outfield positions. He is a platoon player/fourth outfielder. His problem has always been the fact that he’s overexposed by a poor Mets team needing to play him more frequently than he should.
Most Mets fans were like my brother. They saw a guy with admittedly underwhelming statistics. At times, Kirk was one of the symbols of what was wrong with the Mets. This season the Mets were so bad offensively that they had to bring back Kirk after he was released by the Angels. The Angels had originally obtained him after the Mets designated him for assignment.
When he returned, he would become the first Met to hit three home runs in a home game:
He helped send the Mets into the All Star Break with a sweep of the Diamondbacks. He helped the Mets stay within two games of the Nationals. This allowed the Mets to make some deadline moves to help overtake the Nationals. He then put the final nail in the 2015 Nationals coffin:
Kirk went from cast away to afterthought to a contributor. He would make the post season roster. Unfortunately, he won’t be on the roster next year to help the Mets defend their National League title. A title he helped the Mets obtain.
No, Kirk is now a Brewer. He was put on waivers to make room for Alejandro De Aza. I’d prefer the Mets to waive someone else. I’d like Kirk to remain with the Mets. This time though the Mets will lose a homegrown player to the Nationals. There’s no hip issues stopping this move. None. Unlike Wilmer Flores, Kirk is now an ex-Met.
Kirk will never be forgotten. He’s the answer to a trivia question. I’ll remember him more for that pinch hit homerun. I’ll remember him more for how hard he played. I’ll always appreciate him for what he did with the Mets.
Thank you Kirk.
There has been a lot of handwringing over the Mets choices over the 40 Man Roster. There are quality prospects now exposed to the Rule 5 draft. Some pointed to Eric Campbell still being on the roster. I don’t like how the Ruben Tejada situation is impacting the roster. Mostly, I don’t understand how Darrell Ceciliani is on the 40 Man Roster.
I know it was a very small sample size, but Ceciliani showed us nothing that would lead you to believe he’s a major league player. In 39 games last year, Ceciliani hit .206/.270/.279. He had more strikeouts than hits. He struck out in one-third if his plate appearances. His OPS+ was 55, which is just abysmal. Really, the only good thing you could say about him was he was an adequate fielder.
Now, he’s only 25, and he’s still a prospect. However, he’s not really a good prospect. Essentially, he’s projected to be a 4th OF. It’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s also not a reason to let better prospects walk. Keep in mind Ceciliani’s potential role with the team is already filled by Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Nieuwenhuis has at least showed that he can be a good pinch hitter, pinch runner, and/or platoon option for Juan Lagares.
Unfortunately, the Mets went with Ceciliani over the pitching prospects and/or Wuilmer Becerra. I don’t understand the logic. The Mets are sacrificing players who may very well be selected in the Rule 5 draft for a player who might not have even been claimed off waivers.
Ceciliani should not be on the 40 man roster.