Dilson Herrera

Mets Season Now Hinges On Juan Lagares & Joe Panik

As bad as it looked, it sounded worse. Jeff McNeil hit the first base bag awkwardly, and he was clearly in pain hobbling and hopping around in foul territory. After the game, he and Mickey Callaway tried to put a good face on it, but they came across despondent.

Even if this isn’t the worst case scenario, it looks like McNeil will have to miss sometime. We can pray for a game or two, but it’s probably more than that.

No matter the length of time, the Mets are now going to have to rely on Juan Lagares and Joe Panik to produce instead of looking at them being complimentary players.

If you want to be glass half full, Lagares seems to be locked in recently. We saw a vintage Lagares defensive play when he robbed Yan Gomes of an extra base hit on Saturday. Last night, he was 4-for-4 against the Braves. That matched his hit total for all of July, and it was his fifth four hit game in his seven year career.

Looking back, the last time Lagares had struggled offensively and defensively like this was in 2015. Those struggles led to the Mets first trying to obtain Carlos Gomez, and then later “settling” on Yoenis Cespedes.

In 2015, after the Mets obtained Cespedes and the Mets started playing more meaningful games, Lagares stepped up god game. From August 1 until the end of the season, he hit .287/.326/.471. In that postseason, Lagares hit .348/.375/.435.

Maybe, Lagares has that ability to raise his game in these pressure situations. That’s at least the hope now.

The other hope is Panik can raise his game right now. So far, he hasn’t hit much with the Mets going 2-for-10 with a walk. However, what he has contributed has counted for something.

His single Friday led to Michael Conforto‘s walk off hit. His teaching on an error on Saturday led to J.D. Davis‘ go-ahead sacrifice fly. His RBI single Sunday was part of a three run inning to tie the game at 3-3.

That’s what the Mets need from Lagares and Panik. There’s no way they can match what McNeil gave the Mets. There’s maybe five players in all of baseball who could do that. Maybe. Instead, they need to make their hits count while also reaching back and rediscovering their Gold Glove form.

More than anything, if they give the Mets very good to elite defense, the Mets still have a chance. Both players have the skills to do it, so to that end, there’s a legitimate chance.

If they do that, they help the pitching, which in turn, lowers the bar on the amount of runs the Mets need to score to win.

The onus for scoring those runs will have to be shared collectively by the lineup. At the moment, you can’t ask more from Davis than what he’s been giving. The same goes for Wilson Ramos.

The burden shifts to Amed Rosario to pick it back up after going 4-for-23 over his last five games. Todd Frazier needs to return or get close to his June form. Pete Alonso has to get back to his first half form instead of being the guy hitting .188 in that second half hitting the occasional homer. Finally, no matter how good Conforto has been, as a leader and as a guy who’s been here before, he needs to raise his game to another level.

If these things happen, and you get a spark from one of Ruben Tejada, Dilson Herrera, and/or Arismendy Alcantara from Triple-A or a Luis Guillorme and Aaron Altherr from the Major League roster, McNeil missing any time doesn’t have to be a death knell for the season.

Overall, everyone on this roster raising their game is very possible. However, nothing is going to be possible unless Lagares and Panik raise their games. I’d they don’t do that, chances are McNeil missing time will be the reason the Mets moss the postseason.

Options To Improve Mets Depth

With Robinson Cano landing on the Injured List, the Mets depth has once again been exposed. Considering how the Mets operate, it is very likely Adeiny Hechavarria will become the team’s everyday second baseman with Luis Guillorme on the bench.

Now, you could argue the Mets should move Jeff McNeil back to the infield, but there are almost no real viable outfield options unless you believe Juan Lagares or Aaron Altherr should play everyday. With them hitting .190 and .111 respectively that is hardly the case. With that in mind, the Mets have few options to upgrade their roster.

Asdrubal Cabrera is about the only free agent available worth investigating. The 33 year old was designated for assignment after hitting .235/.318/.393 in 93 games for a Rangers team falling out of contention. He was not very good in the field either with Cabrera having a -3 DRS in 793.0 innings albeit with a 2.7 UZR.

Cabrera has not been the same player hitting .233/.307/.393 (82 wRC+) since leaving the Mets in the July 27, 2018 trade to the Philadelphia Phillies. Prior to that trade, Cabrera hit .279/.339/.464 as a Met. That includes his phenomenal second half in 2016 which helped propel the Mets to the top Wild Card spot. Part of the reason for that is as Baseball Savant notes Cabrera having below average exit velocity and hard hit percentages. Despite these numbers, it may well behoove the Mets to have Cabrera as a late inning pinch hitter off the bench especially considering his penchant for heroics in big spots.

Past Cabrera, the Mets best internal infield options are Ruben Tejada and Dilson Herrera.

Tejada is probably the one option who could fill-in at shortstop if needed, and he has arguably been hitting better this year than any point in his professional career. In 64 games for Syracuse, Tejada is hitting 343/.421/.498 with 17 doubles, a triple, six homers, and 35 RBI.

The caution with Tejada is he has not played in the majors since 2017, and he hit .230/.293/.283 that year for Baltimore. Tejada played for Triple-A Norfolk the following year hitting .230/.291/.298 in 101 games. When looking at things from that prism, Tejada has made adjustments this year, and as a result, is a much better player; a player who could help contribute at the Major League level.

Like Tejada, Herrera is having a strong season in Syracuse hitting .250/.331/.538 with 23 doubles, one triple, 22 homers, and 48 RBI. Unlike Tejada, Herrera does not play shortstop. However, he may be more versatile with him playing first (28 games), second (24 games), third (31 games), left field (six games), and right field (four games) this year. Ultimately, if he was added to the roster, Herrera could prove to be a right-handed power threat off the bench which the Mets have not had since J.D. Davis has been pushed into everyday duty with Dominic Smith‘s injury.

Herrera still has played 10 games in the outfield for Syracuse, and he was a -2 DRS in 56.0 innings in left for the Reds last year. While that’s an extremely small sample size, it also speaks to how little experience Herrera has in the outfield.

With that in mind and with the Mets lack of outfield depth, the best option in Syracuse would be Rajai Davis, who notably hit a pinch hit homer for the Mets earlier in the year. Unfortunately, he is not an option as he has been on the IL since July 17. Beyond Davis, none of the other outfielders in Syracuse really present even a hypothetical upgrade.

In the end, the Mets decision may be between signing Cabrera or calling up one of Tejada or Herrera. That assumes Herrera is fine after fouling a ball off his shin on Saturday. If he is not good to go, that further limits the Mets already limited options.

Wilson Ramos Defense Giveth, His Bat Finally Taketh

Wilson Ramos was terrible tonight. He wasn’t getting pitches for Marcus Stroman. Stroman was also charged a wild pitch on what should’ve been ruled a passed ball. Ramos allowed two stolen bases.

Again, like he’s been all of this season, he was flat out terrible behind the plate.

But at the plate, he was vintage Ramos. He had an RBI single in the first to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Overall, he was 3-for-4 including a huge go-ahead two run homer in the eighth:

As shocking as that was, the homer was set up by a Robinson Cano double. This probably marks the first time this year Ramos and Cano have combined for back-to-back big hits.

That gave the Mets a 4-3 lead with the other non-Ramos run coming off a Jeff McNeil pinch hit homer in the seventh. McNeil sat after struggling the past few days with a sore wrist. Taking his spot stop the lineup was Amed Rosario, who continued to hit well with a 3-for-4 night with a walk and a stolen base.

Up until the homers, the Mets trailed 3-1 in Stroman’s debut.

As noted, Ramos was not helping him at all. The combination of Ramos and a stingy home plate umpire led to a 35 pitch first inning. In that inning, he allowed a run to score before he got an out, and he walked in a run. Things would’ve been worse if Stroman wasn’t a Gold Glover on the mound:

Stroman did well to settle in until the fifth. In that inning, he’d leave with one out and runners on the corners. With his being on a pitch limit due to a prolonged time between starts resulting from the trade, he was done, and Luis Avila came in. He’d walk a batter and hit another to force home a run.

Surprisingly, Jacob Rhame kept the Mets in the game pitching 1.1 scoreless. There was also scoreless frames from Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo. It was setting up for an interesting ninth with a struggling Edwin Diaz to get the save in a one run game.

That trepidation fell by the wayside with Ramos hitting a bases clearing double in the eighth giving the Mets a 7-3 lead. It was Ramos’ first six RBI game of his career, and it was his first 3 RBI game since May 25.

As it turns out, the Mets needed the insurance with Diaz allowing a two run homer to Starling Marte in the ninth. Diaz settled back in and got the final outs to preserve the 7-5 win.

The Mets are back to two under .500 as a result of a huge come from behind victory. They need to keep this up as they’re nearing a return to Citi for a huge homestand.

Game Notes: Dilson Herrera left the game early in Syracuse. Mets claimed Donnie Hart off waivers prior to the game.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Split Subway Affair

The Subway Series is over, and the big moments remaining in the Mets season appear to be over as well:

1. Mets fans who cheered Brodie Van Wagenen and chanted his name for attending a game he committed to attend deserve this season.

2. It’s funny, Mets fans will boo Robinson Cano when he’s 400 feet away, but they won’t when Van Wagenen is there.

3. It was sold as getting Zack Wheeler an extra start, and perhaps it was, but it’s certainly suspect Van Wagenen switched the pitchers so he wouldn’t have to sit out there for a Jason Vargas start.

4. On Vargas, the nonsense calling him an ace needs to stop. First, the Mets still have Jacob deGrom. Second, he’s failed to go five innings in 42.3% of his starts. Finally, he has just three quality starts in 14 starts (21.4%).

5. This is the time of the year Wheeler gets going. He limited the Yankees to two earned on one walk and five hits over 6.1 innings while striking out eight.

6. Over Wheeler’s last three starts, he has three quality starts and a 1.86 ERA. The team who gets him at the trade deadline is going to be very happy.

7. Wheeler was a bit snake bit by bad defense. J.D. Davis doesn’t have the range or instincts for LF as evidenced by balls dropping in front of him and his throwing to the wrong base. Also, Wilson Ramos has to look the runner back.

8. Honestly, no one could have predicted the Ramos signing going this poorly. Not only is he experiencing a power outage, but we also see deGrom and now Noah Syndergaard wanting to pitch to Tomas Nido.

9. While you couldn’t have imagined things going that poorly, many did say the Mets needed to go the extra mile for Yasmani Grandal, a catcher who just so happens to be the best in the game right now.

10. Seeing Gio Urshela make three great plays in the field, you’re reminded that defense actually matters. As Mark DeRosa pointed out it’s something the Mets have ignored for far too long.

11. Just like when they activated Yoenis Cespedes to DH last year, it was just predictable the team would activate all of their relievers before the Subway Series.

12. Wilmer Font getting knocked around a bit putting the game out of reach is a reminder the bullpen is/was an arm or two short even when everyone is healthy.

13. That arm can’t be Steven Matz. As previously noted, the Mets don’t have anywhere near the organizational depth or financial wherewithal to make him a reliever

14. All players have slumps, but some, like Michael Conforto, are treated more harshly by fans than others. Then, when he delivers a go-ahead double, everyone remembers how great he is.

15. There is way too much talent for the Mets to have the second worst record in the NL, but they do thanks to an incompetent GM who was cheered.

16. Say all you want about the Knicks whiffing on Durant and calling off a meeting with Kawhi. Dolan is still not a worse owner than the Wilpons. Not even close.

17. It’s going to be fun to see the Pete Alonso in the Home Run Derby.

18. Despite Adeiny Hechavarria batting just .223./.255/.394, the Mets still let Dilson Herrera opt out of his deal even if Herrera would’ve been a better bench and pinch hitting option.

19. Eduardo Perez‘s idea to have all MLB starters wear 45 on July 5th because that was the day Tyler Skaggs was supposed to pitch was an inspired one. Hopefully, MLB takes his suggestion.

20. Have a healthy and safe Fourth of July.

Mets Completely Mismanaging Upper Levels Of Minor Leagues

Tim Tebow is a problem because the Mets are making him one. So far, he has played in 60 of Syracuse’s first 79 games. Essentially, this means he is playing fairly regularly despite his hitting just .150/.232/.209. It should come as little surprise he’s not getting better with June being his worst month of the season.

If the Mets problems handling the player assignments and playing time at the Double-A and Triple-A level were limited only to Tebow, you can overlook things a bit. After all, whether you like to admit it or not, the Mets operate a business, and they are going to attempt to use Tebow to generate revenue for their newly acquired Syracuse franchise. Unfortunately, the problems run deeper than Tebow.

Entering the season, the Mets had a glut of infielders with Robinson Cano, J.D. Davis, Todd Frazier, Jed Lowrie, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario. The Mets added to this glut by first signing and then calling up Adeiny Hechavarria. Considering the situation, the last thing the Mets needed were veterans taking up space on the Syracuse infield.

Despite that, the Mets signed Danny Espinosa, who is a career .221/.297/.344 hitter and hit .197/.286/.344 between 2016-2017 and did not play in the majors last year. To make matters worse, he leads the team in games played. Second on the team is Travis Taijeron, who has established himself as not being a Major League caliber player. Fourth in games played is Gregor Blanco, who hit .217/.262/.317 last year.

Those three players right there are not just taking up space on the roster, but it is also taking away at-bats from players who truly needed it.

It’s easy to forget Dilson Herrera is just 25 years old, but he is making him a young player with potential to develop. To be fair, he is third on the team in games played. However, it was not until recently the team has sought to develop him more into a utility player. Prior to June, he had only played two full games in left field and none at any other position but second and third.

To be useful to the organization, Herrera needed to be playing first, second, third, and all three outfield positions. However, he can’t partially because those spots are taken by Espinosa, Taijeron, and Blanco, three players who were never going to be a factor for the Mets in 2019. When you add Tebow, that’s four.

This has a necessary trickle down effect. Players like David Thompson and Gavin Cecchini, who just came off the IL, have been assigned to Binghamton. At this stage in their professional development, they need to be in Triple-A working on things. For both, that means become more versatile and becoming better hitters. However, they can’t be in Syracuse getting regular playing time because the Mets are wasting playing time on two has beens and two never will bes.

Those players being in Binghamton has a trickle down effect interfering with playing time for players like Luis Carpio. Carpio was someone once regarded as a top prospect, but he would suffer shoulder injuries. On that front, he has gotten healthy and shown some promise. Of course, that promise only goes as far as the team’s willingness and ability to get him playing time.

There are other issues like Braxton Lee, a 25 year old who plays good defense and has good speed, being forced to Double-A instead of getting real development time in Syracuse. There’s also the fact Luis Guillorme is in Triple-A splitting middle infield playing time instead of just playing over Hechavarria at the Major League level.

Really, the list goes on and on, and that is before you consider Rene Rivera catching everyday leaves the Mets having Patrick Mazeika and Ali Sanchez sharing catching duties in Binghamton instead of them being split up to allow them both to get regular playing time and thrive.

While we rightfully focus on what has transpired with the Mets, the organization’s problems run deeper than just the team in Queens. The same shortsightedness and reliance on under-performing players over promising young players is also very present in Triple-A.

If things continue this way, this will prove to be not just a lost season in Queens but Syracuse as well.

Guillorme May Play An Important Role In 2019

Last year, Luis Guillorme struggled at the Major League level. In 35 games, he had a -0.3 WAR and a 53 wRC+. His defense, which was his calling card, was far from the Gold Glove level many expected it to be. In fact he would have just a 0 DRS in 41.0 innings at second and a -3 DRS in 98.2 innings at third. To make matters worse, even though he was on the 40 man roster, the Mets would not call him up in September.

Heading into the 2019 season, the odds were really stacked against Guillorme. Not only did the organization seem to sour on him, but the team seemed to move past him. During the offseason, the team not only signed Jed Lowrie, they would also sign Adeiny Hechavarria. The team would also add Dilson Herrera to an already crowded Syracuse infield mix.

Seeing the Mets decisions, it was fair to question whether Guillorme would remain a part of the organization for a full season let alone get another opportunity at the Major League level. Guillorme took it upon himself to answer those questions.

While the Mets were finishing another .500 season, Guillorme traveled to Europe to play in the Super 6 Baseball Tournament. In the tournament, he would hit .333/.435/.944 with a triple, three homers, and six RBI, and he would lead Spain to the bronze medal. That would be just the start of an offseason where Guillorme would work hard to get himself ready for the 2019 season.

Put another way, despite the considerable odds stacked against him, Guillorme came to Spring Training ready to force the issue. Everyone would soon take notice:

In 18 games this Spring, Guillorme has hit .361/.465/.556 with four doubles, a homer, and four RBI while playing well defensively. With his play on the field, he would outlast all of his competition for a roster spot. That included Herrera, and it would eventually include Hechavarria. He is now poised to make the Opening Day roster, and he is in a position to impress while Lowrie is on the Injured List.

This means Guillorme will once again have an opportunity to impress the Mets. If he builds off of what he did well last year, he will.

Specifically, Guillorme was quite good off the bench. In 15 pinch hitting attempts, Guillorme was 3-for-11 with a double, four walks, and an RBI. Overall, he would enter 21 games as a sub, and he would hit .375/.524/.438 in those games. One of the reasons why is despite his power, he makes a high rate of contact at the plate, which was evidenced by his 4.1 percent strikeout rate at the Major League level last year.

More than that, Guillorme has always been a smart player who has gotten the most out of his talent. As we are now seeing, he is responding to getting knocked down by coming back a better player. We have seen him play well defensively, and we have seen him perform well as a pinch hitter. Ultimately, he has proven he has the talent to play at the Major League level.

Now, he will have an opportunity to prove he can play well at the Major League level while being a key component of a postseason contender. Based upon his entire professional career, we may see him have a similar impact on the Mets that Joe McEwing once had for the 1999 and 2000 Mets.

Checking Mets Depth Chart, Tebow On The Opening Day Roster Is Laughable

With Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier suffering injuries during Spring Training, the Mets depth is being tested early. Most will point to how this clears the path for Pete Alonso. You could see how this in an opportunity for J.D. Davis. While the Mets may not initially want to move Jeff McNeil to third, if they would it could present an opportunity for Dominic Smith to make the roster.

You can also make a case for T.J. Rivera, Rajai Davis, Gregor Blanco, Gavin Cecchini, Luis Guillorme, and many more. Really, when you break it down, you can make a case for almost anybody:

Okay, well almost anybody. Really, to suggest Tim Tebow has an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster borders on the absurd. Really, just look at the Mets complete left field depth chart:

  1. Michael Conforto
  2. Jeff McNeil
  3. Brandon Nimmo
  4. Juan Lagares
  5. Keon Broxton
  6. Rajai Davis
  7. Gregor Blanco
  8. J.D. Davis
  9. Rymer Liriano
  10. Dominic Smith
  11. T.J. Rivera
  12. Dilson Herrera
  13. Danny Espinosa
  14. Kevin Kaczmarski
  15. Braxton Lee

Also consider the Mets have the option to move players like Cecchini to the outfield. As the season progresses, players like Desmond Lindsay may move ahead of Tebow. However, this is about right now, and right now there is nothing to suggest Tebow is anywhere close enough to cracking the Mets Opening Day roster. Really, the mere suggestion of it is beyond absurd.

Curious Free Agent Market Leaves Jose Bautista Unemployed

With the way the free agent market has played out, Manny Machado signed an arguably under-value contract after position players reported to Spring Training. Many cite top end free agents like Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, and Craig Kimbrel still being on the market as a sure sign there is a problem with free agency.

Those making that claim are right, but the problems do go deeper than that.

Take for example Jose Bautista. Last year, the Mets literally signed Bautista while he was sitting on his couch. He’d fly to New York, and he would prove himself to still be a capable Major League player.

In his time with the Mets, Bautista was an above league average hitter (104 OPS+). In 83 games, he hit .204/.351/.367 with 13 doubles, nine homers, and 37 RBI. He’d play all over the diamond as well, and he would actually play well defensively. Bautista was actually a 1 DRS in 109.2 innings in left. He was serviceable elsewhere with a -2 DRS in right and a -1 DRS at third base. He would show himself to be quite a versatile defender also playing 14.2 innings at first and even an inning at second base.

What is interesting is when Bautista was traded to the Phillies, who were still fighting for a postseason spot, Bautista raised his game. In 27 games for the Phillies, Bautista would hit .244/.404/.467 with four doubles, two homers, and six RBI.

Now, there is no question Bautista’s skills have diminished. He is far from the All-Star and MVP candidate he was in 2015. Still, not all of his skills have eroded. He still has a good eye at the plate, and he has maintained an excellent walk rate (16.8 percent). He had an above-average .175 ISO and 13.1 percent HR/FB. Ultimately, this is a player who still has power and a flair for the dramatic:

At this stage in his career, the 38 year old Bautista is no more than a bench or utility player. He is a power source off your bench. As he showed last year, he still has something in the tank. Really, in a normal free agent market you would see a team signing him to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

Remember, Bautista showed last year he was not above that. He signed such a deal with the Braves, and he spent time in the minors to prove himself as a third baseman. It didn’t work there, but it did with the Mets and the Phillies in a different role. Bautista could work well for another team in 2019 if just given the chance.

From a Mets perspective, you could see why they haven’t brought him back. They have Gregor Blanco and Rajai Davis fighting for outfield spots. Younger players like J.D. Davis and to a certain extent Dominic Smith are fighting for a Major League bench spot. There’s also Dilson Herrera, Gavin Cecchini, Will Toffey, Luis Guillorme, and David Thompson who could be fighting for a role not just for the Major League team but also the Syracuse Triple-A team.

To that extent, you understand the Mets not bringing back Bautista. But that’s just the Mets. What are the other 29 Major League team’s excuse?

Breaking Down Mets Opening Day Bench Options

Assuming the Mets carry five bench spots, which is the norm for a National League team, the race for the last spot on the bench became much more crowded and complicated with the team’s signing of Adeiny Hechavarria. That question becomes further complicated when you question just what exactly the Mets real intentions are with Peter Alonso.

Assuming Alonso begins the season in Triple-A, the Mets already have bench spots allocated to Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton. One of Juan Lagares or Jeff McNeil is going to play everyday meaning the other is going to be on the bench. That is three bench spots spoken for with two remaining. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

Considering the Mets parted with a package headlined by Luis Santana in what has been an oft criticized trade, you could see the pressure to carry J.D. Davis. Aside from the pressure, whether it be real or imagined, Davis does have the ability to play both corner infield spots adequately, and despite his deficiencies out there, the does have outfield experience.

The real positive for Davis is the power he could provide off the bench, but in order for that to be realized, he is going to have to increase the launch angle in his swing and his corresponding high ground ball rates. There is also a real question whether Chili Davis is the hitting coach to get him to realize his full power potential.

If the Mets are looking for a versatile infielder who can play the outfield, there is forgotten man T.J. Rivera. Rivera missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, but reports this Spring have been overly positive. While we know Rivera is not a particularly good defender, the Mets also know Rivera can be trusted to start at any position over a long stretch. Between the 2017 season and the World Baseball Classic, we have also seen him able to raise his game in big games.

The issue both players have is neither plays shortstop. For that matter, neither does Jed Lowrie, which arguably led to the Mets signing Hechavarria to a minor league deal. The one thing we do know with Hechavarria is he can play shortstop and play it well. Over the last four seasons combined, he has amassed a 26 DRS. The problem with him is he can’t hit as evidenced by his career 72 wRC+.

Hitting was also an issue for Luis Guillorme. In his brief time with the Mets, he was only able to muster a 53 wRC+ in 35 games. That is partially because Guillorme received uneven playing time. It is also because he has never been considered to be a great hitter. Still, there are two factors in Guillorme’s favor. First, like Hechavarria, he is a good defender. Second, Guillorme did show himself to be an adept pinch hitter last year hitting .273/.467/.364 in 15 pinch hitting appearances.

Now, if the Mets are looking for a more offensive oriented middle infielder who could play shortstop, the team does have Gavin Cecchini. Heading into last season, Cecchini had worked on his swing, and it had paid dividends with him hitting .294/.342/.468 in 30 games for Las Vegas before fouling a ball off his leg effectively ending his season. If Cecchini shows he is able to hit the same way, he could make a case for a bench spot for himself.

Standing in Cecchini’s way is his not being on the 40 man roster and his shortstop defense having pushed him to second base. The same could also be true for Dilson Herrera. For his part, Herrera was never truly considered anything more than a second baseman and that was before his shoulder injury. That shoulder injury cost him some of his offensive output until he rediscovered his stroke last year hitting .297/.367/.465 for the Reds Triple-A affiliate.

One other overlooked name for the Opening Day bench is Dominic Smith. If Alonso were to start the year in Triple-A, the Mets would have to find playing time for Alonso, Gregor Blanco, Rajai Davis, Rymer Liriano, and Tim Tebow between first base, three infield spots, and DH. Even with how down the team may be on Smith, it is difficult to believe they would leave him in Syracuse to fight for playing time between those three spots.

Instead, the team could carry him on the Major League roster. Certainly, Smith reporting to camp with not just his keeping the weight off but also adding muscle, helps improve his chances. His being a good defensive first baseman capable of playing left field in a pinch should also help him.

Of course, Smith would have to compete with all of the aforementioned players as well as Danny Espinosa just to claim a bench spot. He would also have to count on the team not putting Alonso on the Opening Day roster, which judging from the improvements Alonso has made, is not a safe assumption.

Really, when breaking it down, the Mets have plenty of options to fill out their bench, and ultimately for this team to reach its full potential, they are going to have to find the right mix of players to complement their everyday players. Hopefully, everyone comes to play making this as difficult a decision as the Mets will have all year.

McNeil Finally Earned A Real Number

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.

Put another way, back then the Mets appeared to give their players real numbers. That happened even in 2015 when Daniel Muno wore 16, and Darrell Ceciliani wore 1.

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.