Dillon Gee

Five Prospects To Watch This Spring Training

The one thing that is interesting about Spring Training is you never know which prospect is going to make a name for themselves.  Personally, the one that always comes to mind is Dillon Gee having good Spring Training causing then Mets manager Jerry Manuel to take notice.  With that, Gee had an important champion in the Mets organization, and when the opportunity finally presented itself, Gee would get a call-up to the majors despite struggling in Triple-A with an injured shoulder.  From there, Gee has put together a nice MLB career.

This Spring Training, there are a number of Mets pitchers who will now have the opportunity to impress new manager Mickey Callaway.  Aside from the big names like Dominic Smith, here are five names to keep an eye on during this Spring Training:

RHP Tyler Bashlor

MMN Rank: 14

Bashlor was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft because he has great stuff highlighted by an upper 90’s fastball.  He combines that pitch with a sharp curve which has led to the flamethrower putting up big strikeout numbers in the minors.  His stuff was a big reason why he quickly went from closing in St. Lucie to closing for a Binghamton Rumble Ponies team who was fighting for a postseason berth.

If there’s any issue with Bashlor, it’s the walks.  In his career, he’s walked 5.0 batters per nine, and he walked 5.4 batters per nine in 34 appearances for St. Lucie.  Those are unsustainable numbers.

Still, he has immense talent which could one day lead to him closing for the Mets one day.  Before we get to that point, he has an opportunity to work with Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Triple-A pitching coach Mickey Abbott to help him eliminate the walks.  If he does, he’s going to contribute at the Major League level next year.

LHP P.J. Conlon

MMN Rank: 24

For the second straight Spring, Conlon finds himself as a non-roster invitee with a an outside chance to make the Opening Day bullpen as a left-handed reliever.  Certainly, Conlon has earned the chance as he knows how to get batters out, especially left-handed batters.

Last year, he limited left-handed batters to a .252/.273/.358 batting line, and in 2016, he was even stingier limiting them to a .216/.267/.288 batting line.  Conlon does this because he located well, and he has a great change-up.

However, with his topping out in the 80s, it appears the Mets have their doubts about Conlon’s viability as a Major League starter.  In Spring, Conlon is both going to get the chance to prove his stuff will work in the Majors similar to what we have seen with Jamie Moyer and Bartolo Colon.  More than that, he’s going to get a chance to show he belongs in the Majors right now to fill a now vacant second left-handed reliever spot in the bullpen.

RHP Corey Oswalt

MMN Rank: 12

Oswalt is coming off an outstanding year in Binghamton, and as a result, he was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.  Oswalt did this because he was able to locate all four pitches, and he has shown the ability to throw his fastball in the mid 90s. While all of the Double-A took notice of Oswalt, the Mets did as well adding the starter to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

It is no secret the Mets have health issues with their starters.  Over the past two seasons, almost every Mets starter currently on the 40 man roster has had injuries requiring DL stints lasting more than half a season, requiring surgery, or both.  As of the moment, the Mets have not added another starter to the roster, which has created an opportunity to show he should be at the front of the line when the Mets inevitably need another starter.

2B Luis Guillorme

MMN Rank: 10

Right now, the Mets have a trio of injury prone second baseman in Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Wilmer Flores.  If one or any of the three go down with injury, there will be an opportunity for Guillorme, who is arguably the best defensive middle infielder in the Mets organization.

At the moment, we know he’s a great fielder.  The question mark on him is whether he can hit enough to play in the Majors.  To that end, early indications are Guillorme has increased his launch angle.  If true, and the transformation is a successful one, Guillorme’s career will transform to not if he can be the Mets second baseman of the future, but when he will be the Mets second baseman.  Given the aforementioned injury histories, he may get his chance next year.

C Patrick Mazeika

MMN Rank: 28

With Tomas Nido‘s BABIP normalizing, he had a disappointing year at the plate for Binghamton last year.  While the Mets are understandably high on him due to his defensive skills, Nido’s struggles do present an opportunity for another catcher to distinguish himself.

Essentially, Mazeika is everything Nido isn’t.  In his career, Mazeika has shown himself to be a good hitter, who is quite adept at getting on base.  What is interesting with him is he has shown glimpses of power; however, it should be noted those flashes have mostly come when he is filling in at first base for extended stretches.

What remains at issue is his defensive abilities.  It is an area where the 6’3″ catcher continues to make strides, but ultimately, the question is whether he is progressing quickly enough.  With him being a non-roster invite to Spring Training, he is going to get the benefit of getting in work with Major League coaches like Glenn Sherlock, which could help him make the adjustments necessary to take the next step in his career.

Ultimately, if the Mets coaching staff sees what they like with him, he may soon find himself in the Major League mix at catcher.  Having watched Travis d’Arnaud‘s injuries the past few years as well as Kevin Plawecki having mostly struggled in the Majors, his chance may come sooner than expected.

Overall, the Mets have a number of Minor Leaguers who are going to get a chance to go out there and show the Mets why they should be an important part of the future.  In the end, it is up to them to emulate Dillon Gee and make the most of this opportunity.  If they do, we may see them in Queens sooner than anticipated.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMN

Former Mets In The Postseason

When determining which team to root for this postseason, the general rule of thumb is to root against the Mets rivals.  With the Mets making a number of trades this season, you could also root for teams according to their Mets connections:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

East – Boston Red Sox

Assistant Pitching Coach – Brian Bannister (2006)

Bannister made the Mets out if Spring Training in 2006. His tenure was short lived as he injured his hamstring, and Omar Minaya rebuilt the rotation in-season pushing a healthy Bannister out. He’d be moved that offseason in an ill-fated trade for Ambiorix Burgos.

RHP Blaine Boyer (2011)

Boyer pitched just five games for the Mets before leaving via free agency. He would not pitch in the majors again until 2014.

RHP Addison Reed (2015 – 2017)

Acquired on the eve of September, Reed quickly became an important seventh inning reliever on the Mets pennant winning team. He was even better the next season helping pitch the Mets back to the postseason. With Jeurys Familia‘s suspension and injury, Reed became an effective closer before being traded for a trio of Red Sox relief prospects at the trade deadline.

OF Chris Young (2014)

After a few down years, the Mets took a one year gamble on Young. He struggled all year, and he was released with the Mets eight games under .500 and 10.5 games back in the division. Since that time, Young has been a much more effective player.

Central – Cleveland Indians

First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. (2007 – 2009)

Alomar ended his playing career playing eight games with the Mets in 2007.  He would then begin his coaching career with the Mets serving two years as a special catching instructor.

RF Jay Bruce (2016-2017)

Bruce went from bust who struggled mightily after being acquired at the trade deadline last year to fan favorite this year. Fortunately for the Indians, Bruce wouldn’t repeat his struggles helping propel the Indians to 102 wins.

RHP Joe Smith (2007 – 2008)

Smith went straight from being a third round draft pick in 2006 to being a very good reliever for the Mets in two seasons.  Ironically, he moved as part the three team J.J. Putz trade intended to improve the Mets bullpen.

West – Houston Astros

DH Carlos Beltran (2005 – 2011)

Seeing him in the postseason again will certainly evoke memories of Adam Wainwright, but he was so much more than that in a Mets uniform.  Beltran was the best center fielder in Mets history and perhaps their best outfielder ever.

Juan Ceteno (2013 – 2014)

Ceteno is a strong defensive catcher who played just 14 games over two years before he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Bench Coach Alex Cora (2009 – 2010)

Cora joined the Mets in the hopes of being an important utility player on a playoff caliber team.  Unfortunately, injuries and a ballpark ill-suited for the talents of the players on the roster brought that run to an end.

Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens (2011 – 2014)

Hudgens was the Mets hitting coach who was entrusted with helping the Mets adapt to a new ballpark.  While he was much embattled in the position, Mets offensive highlights during his tenure included Ike Davis hitting 30 homers and the last great season from David Wright.

Pitching Coach Brent Strom (1972)

Strom was the Mets 1970 first round draft pick.  He appeared in just one season with the team going 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.

Third Base Coach Gary Pettis (2003 – 2004)

Pettis served as the first base and outfield coach during the Art Howe Era.

Wild Card – New York Yankees

RHP Luis Cessa

Cessa was the other pitching prospect the Mets sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade.

Wild Card – Minnesota Twins

Pitching Coach Neil Allen (1979 – 1983)

While Allen had a noteworthy Mets career of his own, he will forever be known as one of the two players traded by the Mets in exchange for Keith Hernandez.

RHP Bartolo Colon (2014 – 2016)

“Big Sexy” became a fan favorite and a mentor to the young pitchers in the clubhouse.  There are a number of highlights you can choose from his Mets career, but the one that keeps coming to mind was the unbelievable home run he hit in San Diego last year.

RHP Dillon Gee (2010 – 2015)

Gee is an example of a pitcher who has gotten everything out of his ability.  He has been resilient overcoming a number of injuries in his career with his career highlight possibly being his named the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

East – Washington Nationals

OF Alejandro De Aza (2016)

De Aza had an interesting year with the Mets.  He was terrible to begin the year, and he then had a great July helping propel the Mets second half run to the Wild Card.

Pitching Coach Mike Maddux (1993 – 1994)

Maddux pitched two years for the Mets pitching to a 4.16 ERA as a reliever before departing via free agency.

2B Daniel Murphy (2008 – 2015)

Somehow Murphy has become one of the most divisive players among the Mets fanbase.  Many still fondly remember his for his time witht he Mets, especially his incredible NLDS and NLCS propelling the Mets to the pennant.  Others see a player who annihilates the Mets since leaving the team.

LHP Oliver Perez (2006 – 2010)

Believe it or not, there was a time where Perez was beloved for his Game 7 performance and his start the final game of the 2008 season.  He then fell off a cliff upon receiving a huge contract.  Things got so bad, he refused a minor league assignment, and his last appearance as a Met would be the team throwing him into the 14th inning on the last game of the season just to get the game over with.

Central – Cubs

Quality Control Coach Henry Blanco (2010)

“Hank White” was brought on as a defensive back-up, and he excelled in the role throwing out 50% of base stealers.

C Rene Rivera (2016 – 2017)

Rivera was a defensive specialist who helped Noah Syndergaard overcome his issues holding on base runners.  It was more than Syndergaard, Rivera served as a mentor for young starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman who helped pitch the Mets to the Wild Card.

West – Dodgers

Bench Coach Bob Geren (2012 – 2015)

Geren served as the bench coach for the Mets serving as a mentor for the Mets catchers.  Since his departure, we have seen Mets catchers regress in their pitch framing, and we have certainly seen Travis d’Arnaud regress in nearly every aspect of his game.

OF Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2017)

Granderson is one of the finest men to ever put on a Mets uniform.  He also came up biggest when the Mets needed him most.  Granderson kept the Mets afloat in 2015, and if not for some blown leads, he was in line to be the MVP of that series.  His big outburst to end the 2016 season helped lead the Mets back to the postseason.

3B Justin Turner (2010 – 2013)

Turner was an effective utility player in his years with the Mets who was really non-tendered because he was arbitration eligible.  Turner would find himself a home in Los Angeles where he has become a terrific player.

Third Base Coach Chris Woodward (2005 – 2006)

Woodward was a valuable utility player for the Mets for two seasons having the second best season of his entire career in 2005.

Wild Card – Diamondbacks

RHP Matt Koch (2012 – 2015)

Koch was one of the two minor league pitchers traded by the Mets for Addison Reed.  While Koch is on the 40 man roster, it is not expected he will be on the postseason roster.

Wild Card – Rockies

None

Based on the sheer volume of Mets affiliations, it would appear Mets fans would be pulling for the Astros in the American League and either the Nationals or Dodgers in the National League.  Considering the presence of Chase Utley on the Dodgers and the recent rivalry with the Nationals, most Mets fans will understandably choose rooting interests for different reasons all together.

 

Thank You Sean Gilmartin

When you have a magical season like the Mets had in 2015, there are a number of players that step forward to have remarkable seasons.  For the Mets, one of those seasons came from the unlikeliest of sources in Sean Gilmartin.

With the return of Matt Harvey and the signing of Michael Cuddyer, the Mets were letting the baseball world know 2015 was going to be their season.  There was just one small problem.  They never could quite get the LOOGY they needed.  Jerry Blevins was supposed to have that role, but he broke his pitching arm.  Josh Edgin and Jack Leathersich would join him on the disabled list.  The team traded for Alex Torres, but he was a disaster.  That meant the only real lefty they had in the bullpen was Rule 5 pick Gilmartin.

Except, Gilmartin wasn’t a LOOGY.  In essence, Gilmartin was a pitcher.  In fact, prior to joining the Mets, Gilmarting had spent the entirety of his minor league career with the Braves as a starting pitcher.  As a starter, Gilmartin had neutral to almost reverse splits.  To that end, he wasn’t the guy you wanted as the LOOGY.  Still, Gilmartin knew how to pitch, and when he was given the opportunity, he showed that to the Mets.

It took about a month and a half, but Terry Collins finally figured out Gilmartin’s role.  Gilamartin becaume the long man out of the pen.  It may not be the most glamorous of bullpen jobs, but it is of vital importance.  You need a pitcher who can go out there and keep his team in the game.  If there is an injury or a starter that just doesn’t have it, you need the long man to give the team an opportunity to make the comeback.  In extra innings, you need the guy who can go out there and reliably soak up two or even three innings and put up zeros.  Mostly, you need someone reliable who can save the bullpen.

Gilmartin was exception in that role.  During the 2015 season, Gilmartin made 18 multiple inning relief appearances accounting for 37% of his relief appearances.  Beginning on May 20th, which was really when he was made the long man, Gilmartin made 16 multiple inning relief appearances over his final 33 relief appearances of the season.  Essentially, half the time Gilmartin was used for multiple innings about half the time thereby saving the bullpen.  Namely, Gilmartin was saving Jeurys Familia, who Collins used over and over again because he was just about the only guy Collins trusted out there.

In Gilmartin’s multiple inning appearances, he was dominant.  When he pitched multiple innings, he pitched 32.2 innings going 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA, and a 0.704 WHIP.  Perhaps the key to this was the fact Gilmartin grew stronger as he pitched.  He did his best work between pitches 26 – 50 limiting batters to a .161/.235/.194 batting line.

As for a highlight, pick one. There was his first career win.  The Mets found themselves in a rare slugfest after Dillon Gee was bounced after 3.2 innings having allowed eight earned.  Torres wasn’t much better.  Gilmartin was the first pitcher to enter that game to put up multiple scoreless innings.  He stabilized the game, and he put the Mets in position to win.

There was the July 19th 18 inning game against the St. Louis Cardinals.  At that time, the Mets were so inept offensively, you could load the bases with no outs and start the batter with a 3-0 count, and the Mets still couldn’t score a run.  Gilmartin came on in the 14th inning, and he pitched three scoreless to give the Mets a chance to win that game, which they eventually did with two runs in the 18th.

On August 24th, Gilmartin was overshadowed every which was possible.  The Mets were off and running afte rthe team obtained Yoenis Cespedes.  It was David Wright‘s first game since he came off the Disabled List, and he homered in his first at-bat back with the team.  Lost in the shuffle was this was the rare poor start for Jacob deGrom with him being unable to get out of the fourth.  Gilmartin came on and pitched 3.1 scoreless to give the Mets a chance to come back from an early 7-2 deficit.

More than that, Gilmartin got his first career hit and run scored.  His sixth inning single got yet another rally started.  He scored on a Daniel Murphy three run homer, the Mets lead had actually expanded to 12-7.

Ultimately, it was Gilmartin’s August 24th relief appearance that was the essence of what it means to be a long man in the pen.  He not only went out there and saved the bullpen by tossing 3.1 innings, but he also gave his team a chance to win.  It was a tremendous effort that was overlooked because Wright played in his first game in four months, and the Mets overcame a five run deficit to blow out the Phillies.

Initially, Gilmartin was left off the postseason roster, but after Erik Goeddel‘s struggles in the NLDS, the Mets did the right thing and put Gilmartin back on the roster.  He’d make just one appearance pitching 0.2 scoreless in Game Two of the World Series.  Part of the shame of that World Series was there were multiple occasions to bring on Gilmartin.  Instead his role had gone to Bartolo Colon, who just wasn’t as effective in the role as Gilmartin.

After the 2015 season, the Mets wanted to use Gilmartin as a starter.  With a loaded major league rotation, that meant Gilmartin started the year in Vegas.  He was doing well there until the Mets started messing with him.  With the bullpen not having the effective long man that Gilmartin was in 2015, this meant the team had to call him up to the majors on multiple occasions.  This meant Gilmartin would have to fly cross-country, and the Mets would insert him into games despite his not having had full rest.  He’d develop a shoulder injury.  It may not have been enough to need surgery, but Gilmartin was never the same.

Instead of putting Gilmartin in a position to succeed, the Mets messed around with him until the point they felt his was expendable.  For some reason, with this Mets team again needing a Gilmartin in the bullpen, they refused to give him a chance instead going with Josh Smoker and Neil Ramirez and their pair of ERAs over 7.00.

Gilmartin deserved better than this.  He was a good pitcher who had a significant impact on a pennant winning team.  It disappointing the Mets never again put him in a position to succeed.  With that said, getting designated for assignment by the Mets was probably the best thing for his career.  He will once again have an opportunity to be a good major league pitcher.

While the Mets have overlooked his importance, and fans have become frustrated with him, there are those that never forgot what he once meant to this team.  Personally, I will always be grateful for his 2015 season, and I hope him nothing but success.  He’s still a good pitcher, and he should soon remind everyone of that.

Thank  you and good luck Sean Gilmartin.

 

Depressing: Gee Outpitched deGrom

Here’s the best way to synopsize both this game and the 2017 season ➡️ Dillon Gee allowed half the amount of runs in this game than Jacob deGrom did. And no, Gee was not good tonight. 

The former Met allowed four runs over 3.1 innings allowing solo homers to Juan LagaresAsdrubal Cabrera, and Neil Walker. The most impressive of these was Lagares, not just because he hit one, but because it went opposite field:

It was almost four homers, but Jay Bruce got robbed by Jared Hoying:

The other run came in the first and was set up when Michael Conforto led off the game with a double. He later scored on a two out RBI single by the red hot Lucas Duda

For his part, Lagares was uncharacteristicly good at the plate going 4-5 with a homer. 

It wouldn’t matter as deGrom couldn’t hold any lead. He just couldn’t protect a 1-0, 2-1, or a 4-3 lead. He allowed runs in every inning he pitched. 

It started when deGrom couldn’t get his footwork right in the first inning. Adrian Beltre grounded into what should’ve been an inning ending 3-6-1 double play, but deGrom was searching for the bag with his feet instead of stretching for the throw. Instead of getting out of the inning unscathed, deGrom allowed the tying run to score. 

In the second, deGrom lost a 2-1 lead. Rougned Odor hit a double after a Jonathan Lucroy single to set up runners at second and third and no out. Hoying hit an RBI ground out, and Delino DeShields followed with a sac fly to make it 3-2. 

The Mets took the lead, and deGrom gave it back in the third on a Joey Gallo two run homer. On the play, Bruce had a NL opportunity to return the favor to the Rangers by stealing a homer himself, but he fell just short:

It all came crashing down in the fourth for deGrom. With runners on second and third with no outs, deGrom threw a wild pitch while walking Shin-Soo Choo to make it 6-4. The seventh run scored when Elvis Andrus hit into a double play. Unfortunately, deGrom still couldn’t get out of the inning before allowing a solo homer to Nomar Mazara

It was a tough night for deGrom.  His final line was four innings, 10 hits, eight runs, eight earned, one walk, and just two strikeouts. Not too long ago, he seemed to turn the corner. This is now his second poor start, and his ERA has ballooned to 4.75. 

The best thing you could say scour the night was deGrom seems more devastated by his struggles than Mets fans are. 


From there, the Mets had little choice but to bring in Josh Smoker and his 7.43 ERA into the game. Things could’ve gone worse, but he still allowed two runs over his two innings pitched raising his ERA to 7.56. If you really want to be depressed, consider Neil Ramirez was the Mets best pitcher on the night. 

The Mets bats went mostly silent after the third with the team scoring just one run in the 10-5 loss. The team was 2-13 with RISP, and they were only able to score one run when they had bases loaded and one out in the eighth. They were one big hit away from getting back in the game. Instead, they made three quick outs. 

However, the bats reawoke in the ninth. After a Flores lead-off single, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud went back-to-back to get within 10-8. After a Lagares single and a Conforo walk, the Mets were really in business. Asdrubal Cabrera struck out, and then Bruce hit into a game ending double play. 

The Mets need to get going soon because the Nationals aren’t slowing down anytime soon. 

Game Notes: Duda (2-5, HR) and Wilmer Flores (3-5) continued to hit. Travis d’Arnaud played poorly going 0-4 leaving five runners on base. DeShields also stole two bases off of him. 

Sandy Alderson Miscalculated

Yet again, the Mets have had to turn to Rafael Montero to make a start because there weren’t better options for the Mets.  There weren’t better options because Sandy Alderson believed the Mets had enough starting pitching to never need to sign a veteran signing pitcher.  As we have seen, this was a miscalculation.

Lost in the excitement of the Mets having seven starting pitchers was the fact that pitchers break down.  This pitching staff exemplifies this axiom.  Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz were coming off season ending surgeries.  For his part, Matz is seemingly never healthy.  Zack Wheeler hadn’t pitched in over two years due to his having Tommy John surgery and the ensuing complications therefrom.  Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo were terrific in September of last year, but it was against some fairly weak competition.  Also, it is likely both were going to be on some form of an innings limit.  Finally, there was Noah Syndergaard, who seemed indestructible.

Now, we could have anticipated Matz doing down, but the other manner in which the Mets have turned to Montero and Adam Wilk has been a surprise.  No one expected Lugo to suffer a torn UCL.  Syndergaard tearing his lat never could have been reasonably anticipated, nor was the Mets needing to suspend Harvey.  Still, given the relative injury histories, it was certainly plausible the Mets would be down three plus pitchers at any point of the season.  It was also plausible because pitchers break.

Despite this, Alderson moved both Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa to the Orioles in separate deals.  Both moves were defensible because the Mets needed space on the 40 man roster to accommodate free agent signings.  Still, those arms needed to be replaced by cheap veterans who could be stashed in Triple-A, or the Mets could have signed a swingman who could have served in long relief and be available to make a spot start.

Now, we know players like Doug Fister and Colby Lewis likely weren’t signing unless they got minor league deals.  Still, there were pitchers like Jon Niese and Dillon Gee available.  Mets fans may not love them, but they are certainly better than Montero.  There was also Scott Feldman who has served in both relief and long man roles, and he signed with the Reds for just $2.3 million.  There are several other names like Jake Peavy who at least has the veteran guile to gut through five innings.  Instead, the Mets stuck with Sean Gilmartin, who they won’t even trust to make a start, and they signed Wilk who is not a viable major league pitcher.

And now, the once vaunted Mets starting pitching is a mess, and it is up to Alderson to fix it.  This is the same Alderson who has been very cavalier in moving pitching the past few seasons to help fix the weaknesses in teams he has built.  So far, his answer has been Milone who has a 6.43 ERA in six starts this season.  That’s hardly an answer.

Likely, Alderson’s real answer is to hope for some health with presumably both Matz and Lugo will be ready by the end of the month.  Maybe this time the health plan with work.

Trivia Friday – Most Opening Day Starts

With Noah Syndergaard slated to go on Monday, this marks the sixth straight year the Mets have had a different Opening Day starter.  Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Bartolo Colon, and Matt Harvey each got a turn, but they never got the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter in a subsequent season.  Hopefully with Syndergaard, this year begins a long run of Opening Day starts for a pitcher that is on threshold of being an all time great.

If Syndergaard does that, he will join nine other Mets pitchers who have made multiple Opening Day starts.  Can you name them?  Good luck!


Tom Seaver Dwight Gooden Tom Glavine Johan Santana Bobby Jones Al Leiter Roger Craig Al Jackson Craig Swan

The deGrom-Lugo Parallel

Back in 2010 when Jacob deGrom was drafted out of Stetson University as a shortstop, you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the Mets organization that truly believed deGrom would not only be a future Rookie of the Year, but also one of the top pitchers in baseball.  In fact, deGrom wasn’t even seen as such when he was first called-up to the Mets in 2014.

At that point in time, the Mets were in a year of transition, and they were at the point of trying to figure out who could be a part of the team in 2015 when the Mets were really intent on becoming contenders.  One of the players called-up was obviously deGrom who was was 4-0 with a 2.58 ERA and a 1.278 WHIP in seven starts in AAA.  This was a marked improvement from the pitcher who was 4-2 with a 4.52 ERA and a 1.467 WHIP in 14 starts in AAA the previous year.  During said 2013 season, deGrom had made 10 starts in AA going 2-5 with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.483 WHIP.  Sure, there were reasons to expect he could eventually pitch in the majors.  He was a four pitch pitcher that had a mid 90s fastball and a good slider.

When Dillon Gee went down with an injury, the 26 year old deGrom was called up to the majors to make a start in his stead.  There was no timetable on how long deGrom was going to either stay in the majors or in the rotation.  However, if push came to shove, the Mets were more inclined to move deGrom into the bullpen and let Rafael Montero stay in the rotation.  At that point, Montero was seen as a much better and more polished prospect who had good command and was a groundball pitcher.  What transpired was deGrom proved that his 2014 AAA season was no fluke.  He went on to make 22 starts that season going 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA and a 1.140 WHIP en route to becoming the National League Rookie of the Year.

He had surpassed Montero who had not pitched as well in his opportunity and who dealt with some injuries thereby opening the door for deGrom to forever solidify not only his place in the rotation, but also the Mets plans.

Right now, the Mets have a pitcher in Matt Harvey who is injured, and that is going to open the door for a pitcher to get a chance to show that they are capable of being part of this Mets rotation.  Much like in 2014, the prospects that are battling it out is a 26 year old in Seth Lugo who was never expected to be in this position and a 23 year old pitcher in Gabriel Ynoa who relies upon his control and groundballs to get outs.  Much like in 2014, the Mets have deemed the younger pitcher to be the better prospect.  In many ways, this could be the case of history repeating itself.

So far, Lugo has made one major league appearance.  In that one relief appearance, he showed that he has the stuff to get hitters out at this level.  Like deGrom, he has seemingly taken his game to the next level once he got called-up to the majors.  Right now, the only thing that really separates him and deGrom is the fact that deGrom got his chance to establish himself in the major league rotation.  Of course, it was easier for the Mets to give deGrom his shot in 2014 when the team was going nowhere.  It’s a lot harder to justify such a decision when the team is in the thick of both the NL East and Wild Card races.  And yet, with that in mind, the Mets should want to put the guys in the rotation that have the best chance to get batters out.

Arguably, that pitcher is Seth Lugo.  He just needs to get the chance deGrom did to prove it.

Hansel Was Hot Tonight

Four pitches into the game disaster struck. Whit Merrifield lined a ball off Bartolo Colon‘s hand knocking him out of the game. The Mets are beginning a stretch of 20 games without a day off, and they were left scrambling to fill in 8.2 innings tonight. 

Hansel Robles stepped up big time. He would pitch a career high 3.2 innings, and he throw a career high 65 pitches. He was terrific. It started with him combining with Travis d’Arnaud for a strike em out, throw em out double play to end the first.  The only run he surrendered was in the fifth, when he was stretched beyond his limits. He might’ve gotten out of the game if Wilmer Flores didn’t pull a Roger Dorn

Erik Goeddel came in and got out the jam. He would pitch two scoreless innings.  Jerry Blevins added a scoreless seventh stretching his scoreless inning streak to a career high 12 innings (over 20 appearances). Addison Reed set the Royals down 1-2-3 in the eighth, and Jeurys Familia would not blow the save against the Royals. 

The Mets were able to eke out a victory using the long ball. In the first, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a homer, and it was up to Rene Rivera to take off his helmet:

  

Of course, the other homer came from Yoenis Cespedes who hit it out to straight center. Cespedes would also add in a move over the shoulder catch to end the sixth. 

  

As the Mets hit two homers, they won the game. In true Mets fashion, they beat the reigning World Series Champions after getting swept by the worst baseball team assembled since maybe the 1962 Mets. 

It was made possible largely because of a terrific Robles performance. He got a well earned win. 

Game Notes: X-rays on Colon’s hand were negative. Former Met Dillon Gee relieved Royals’ starter Ian Kennedy in the fifth, and he shockingly entered to boos. He pitched a scoreless inning. In his first game back from the DL, d’Arnaud would go 0-3. 

Shades of 2015

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.

Catcher

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.

Back Issues

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.

Rotation Issues

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.

Colon Dependability 

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.

Jeurys Familia

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.

Thor Trying to Avoid Tommy John Surgery

Going into the 2016 season, there is one fear each and every Mets fan has. We dare not speak its name, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still present. That fear is that a pitcher will get seriously injured. 

Looking at this year’s list of pitchers who could befall the dreaded “Verducci Effect,” Noah Syndergaard headlines that list. If Syndergaard was to suffer a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery? it would greatly hinder the Mets chances of winning not only the World Series, but also making it to the postseason. It’s something that not just Mets fans fear, but as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports, Syndergaard fears it also:

I’ve thought about it quite a bit. But I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level. 

The fear is justified. Syndergaard threw 65.2 innings more last year. He throws over 95 MPH more than anyone in the game. He’s working to add the fabled Warthen Slider to his already dominant repertoire. Name a risk factor for UCL years requiring Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard meets most if not all of them. 

One risk factor not readily discussed is the team he plays for. Look at the projected Mets rotation when healthy: Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Put aside Syndergaard for a moment. What do the other four have in common?  They are all hard throwing pitchers under the age of 30 who have already had Tommy John surgery. 

Go outside this group. Since Warthen took over as the Mets pitching coach, the following homegrown Mets have sustained arm injuries: Jon Niese (shoulder), Dillon Gee (shoulder), Jeremy Hefner (two Tommy John surgeries), Rafael Montero (shoulder), Bobby Parnell (Tommy John), Josh Edgin (Tommy John), Jack Leathersich (Tommy John). There are more, but you get the point. 

Now, is this an organizational problem since Warthen took over, or is it just bad luck?  Could this all have been avoided?  Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Mets developed pitchers like Tom SeaverJerry KoosmanNolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack. These pitchers threw more innings than the pitchers today, and yet, Matlack was the only one of this group that suffered an arm injury. 

In the 80’s, the Mets had Dwight GoodenRon DarlingSid Fernandez, Rick AguileraRandy Myers and David Cone. Of this group, only Doc and Cone had arm issues. It should be noted that Doc had many other issues as well, and Cone’s problem was an aneurysm later in his career. 

In the 90’s, Generation K was a bust, and the Mets haven’t developed the caliber of starting pitchers like they have in the past until now. However, this generation seems to befall injuries far more often than their predecessors. Is it organizational?  Is it bad luck?  Is it preparation?  For his part, Harvey wonders what if:

I think now, there are things I could have done better in high school or in college to maybe prevent it. But I don’t know. I’m not saying [Syndergaard] works that much harder than everybody else, because we all work hard. I think as time progresses, guys pay more attention to stretching the shoulder, strengthening the shoulder. If I could go back — I don’t know if this would’ve prevented me from having [surgery], but if I could go back and really do 20 extra minutes of stretching and arm care, you never know what could happen. 

That’s the thing. We really don’t know why one guy suffers elbow and shoulder injuries while others don’t. Is it preparation?  Is it good genes?  Is it just good luck?  Much time, energy, and money has been spent on this issue, and yet pitchers still get injured. Pitchers get injured despite teams doing everything in their power to try to prevent it. 

It will help Syndergaard being in a clubhouse with players who have had Tommy John surgery. They each will have advice for him on why they suffered the injury and what they could’ve done differently. More importantly, Syndergaard appears to be a hard worker who takes the health of his arm very seriously.  There is no doubt he is doing everything he can do to avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery. 

Based on what we’ve seen, if anyone can avoid it, it’s him. 

Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsmerizedonline.com