Dominic Smith

Can Eduardo Nunez Be Michael Conforto’s Replacement?

With the news of Michael Conforto straining his oblique, he will likely miss Opening Day, and it is possible he will miss approximately a month. That is a month to figure out what is the best way to manage his absence. That is a problem all the more problematic given how the Mets only have two outfielders who are everyday caliber with Conforto being one of them.

There are a number of potential solutions, each of which are fraught with with their own problems.

The Mets could go with J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith in the corners. However, with their OAA and sprint speed that is not a viable defensive solution. They could also go with Jake Marisnick in center, but he was a well below average hitter and among the worst hitters at his position even when he knew what pitch was coming.

The Mets could better mix and match in the outfield if they could put Jeff McNeil back in a corner outfield position. As we saw last year, he was a good defender out there, and as we saw, he was an All-Star in left last year. However, in order for that to happen, the Mets need to have a replacement for him at third as McNeil is slated to be the everyday third baseman.

On that note, Eduardo Nunez is having a good Spring Training, and according to reports, he feels the healthiest he has in years. As reported by Tim Britton of The Athletic, Nunez took time off to heal as he said, “Last year, I couldn’t even play defense, I couldn’t hustle, I couldn’t steal any base, I couldn’t hit for power, so it was really tough.”

If he’s completely healthy, which Nunez asserts wasn’t the case in Boston, he appears to be on track to making the Opening Day roster. More than that, he could insert himself into the everyday lineup with Conforto’s injury.

In his 10 year career, despite his speed, Nunez has never been a good defender. In fact, he is a negative defender at every infield position. That said, his best infield position is third base. That’s not exactly inspiring with him having a -22 DRS there in his career. However, notably, he amassed a -12 DRS in his two years with the Red Sox.

Prior to the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Nunez had not been all that bad at third. After posting a -4 DRS in 2014, he had a -3 DRS over the ensuing three seasons with two of them being at a 0 DRS or better. It should be noted his OAA numbers were not all the positive with a -6 in 2017, 0 in 2018, and -3 in 2019.

All told, he is just not good at third. However, what he appears to be is playable there over a shorter duration. Of course, the question is whether it is worth playing him there. On the surface, the answer is probably not. In his two years with Boston, Nunez’s wRC+ was 70, which is worse than Marisnick.

Of course, that number was dragged down by Nunez’s woeful 2019 season. Looking back to the three seasons prior to Nunez’s Boston years, he had a 106 OPS+ making him slightly above league-average. Slightly above league average with the bat and below league average as a fielder isn’t a bad mix for a solid utility player.

However, for an everyday player it is less than ideal. In fact, it is not a recipe for success. Ultimately, this means Nunez shouldn’t be the solution for Conforto in his absence. That would then mean McNeil stays at third, and the Mets are left with either a center fielder who can’t hit or a pair of first baseman in the corners.

Right now, if the Mets don’t make a move, they are going to need Yoenis Cespedes to make unexpected progress, or they are going to need Luis Rojas to show deft touch in mixing a matching his lineup. That is not an enviable position to be in, but that’s where the Mets stand due to their not addressing their outfield depth this past offseason.

Mets Only Have Two Everyday Outfielders

Part of Spring Training is getting through healthy and ready for Opening Day. Fortunately, Brandon Nimmo‘s heart is fine, and his neck is not presenting any further issues. We are awaiting news on Michael Conforto. Right there, the Mets have had injury issues already with their two everyday outfielders.

Yes, there are only two.

Going over to Baseball Savant, there are only four players on the Mets really capable of playing the outfield on an everyday basis. Conforto led the Mets with a 6 OAA last year, Nimmo was not too far behind with a 3 OAA. After that Jeff McNeil had a 0 OAA indicating he could handle the position. In terms of McNeil, he is no longer part of the everyday outfield equation as he is slated to be the Mets everyday third baseman.

As good as Conforto was last year in the outfield, Jake Marisnick was even better with an 8 OAA in center last year. So defensively, the Mets have three outfielders. The problem with Marisnick is he can’t hit.

Among center fielders with at least 300 plate appearances, his 86 wRC+ ranked 26th. Keep in mind, that was when Marisnick knew what pitch was coming.

With the way Marisnick hits, or better put can’t hit, the Mets are looking for more offensive options in the outfield, As a result, the Mets plan on playing J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith in the outfield on an everyday basis with Marisnick as a defensive replacment. Presumably, Davis is going to get the bulk of the playing time. Simply put, that is a very bad idea.

Last year, Davis had a -7 OAA in left field. Some want to argue he was just thrown out there, and he will get better with more playing time. That argument overlooks Davis not having the skill set to succeed in the outfield.

Davis is not a fast runner. In fact, his sprint speed is only 26.3 ft/second. To put it into perspective, that makes him slower than Pete Alonso. Essentially, this means Davis has the speed of a first baseman in the outfield. As we saw with Daniel Murphy in 2009, just because you got away with it for a portion of one year, you should not rely on it going forward because you are going to get burned.

What was said about Davis applies to Smith as well. Even with a vastly superior -3 OAA, he is a step slower than Davis. What this highlights is you should not count on first basemen in the outfield for anything other than a start here or there.

Keep in mind, Davis and Smith having strong arms are non sequiturs. If you can’t get to a ball, it doesn’t matter how strong your arm is. A strong arm will never compensate for playing outs into hits and singles into extra base hits because you can’t get to a playable ball.

So, when you break it down, Conforto and Nimmo are everyday Major League outfielders. Beyond them, McNeil is a third baseman now, Marisnick can’t hit, and neither Davis nor Smith can be relied upon to adequately field the position.

Overall, this puts the Mets in a situation where they need to find another third baseman to move McNeil to the outfield, or they can just go out and sign Yasiel Puig. Keep in mind, that’s what they need to do when everyone is healthy. Things become much more dire if Conforto gets bad news.

Why Haven’t The Mets Signed Yasiel Puig Yet?

The New York Mets initial plan for the 2020 season was to have just two everyday outfielders in Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. That’s it.

The plan was to fill-in here and there with some combination of J.D. Davis, Jake Marisnick, Dominic Smith, and maybe Jeff McNeil. As for McNeil, he’s slated as the everyday third baseman making his filling-in as an outfielder a rob Peter to pay Paul situation.

In sum, the Mets are very shallow in the outfield. The situation worsens when you consider there isn’t any real Triple-A depth. That makes hoping Yoenis Cespedes can return into NEEDING Cespedes to return.

Seeing Troy Tulowitzki‘s inability to return from the same surgery, that’s not an enviable position. That goes double when you consider Tulowitzki didn’t suffer a broken ankle during rehab like Cespedes did.

All told, the Mets cannot sustain an injury to either Conforto or Nimmo because that leaves them with two outfielders who should not be playing everyday in the outfield.

Already this Spring, Nimmo has had a heart scare, and now, Conforto is being evaluated for an oblique injury. Throw in Davis’ shoulder, and the Mets shallow outfield depth is already being tested.

This should be a reminder Yasiel Puig is still a free agent, and as explained earlier, he’s a perfect fit for this Mets team. That becomes increasingly more obvious with every injury scare.

The Mets supposedly have designs in winning the 2020 World Series, and their purported plan is to have depth across the board. That only works if you have depth, which the Mets don’t have in the outfield.

Sooner or later, the Mets are going to need Puig. The longer they wait to sign him the more they run the risk of his not being there when they become truly desperate.

It’s time to stop messing around and pretending like two everyday outfielders are sufficient. It’s time to sign Puig.

Mets Best 2020 Promotions For Kids

Let’s get it out of the way. The best promotions of every season is the bobbleheads, and there are some good ones with Pete Alonso, Jacob deGromJeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, Noah Syndergaard, and Robinson Cano having their own bobblehead days. In fact, with Alonso having a Marvel superhero bobblehead, there are two for him.

Those are always the best and most fun, but that’s only if you can get them. Fact is, the lines are way too long for them, and those lines can get a bit aggressive with people pushing forward to try to get one of the bobbleheads. Up until the Mets choose to be like big market teams like the Milwaukee Brewers, we’re just going to have to deal with the unnecessary inconvenience the Mets create by having bobbleheads for roughly half of those in attendance.

The good news for parents is the bobbleheads aren’t the only fun promotions during the 2020 season. There is also the Michael Conforto Funko Pop on August 25th, but it is safe to assume that day will have bobblehead type issues. Looking at the schedule, here are some other fun ones specifically geared towards kids:

April 19 – Player Poster
May 31 – Player Poster
July 5 – Player Poster
July 19 – Slime
August 2 – Toy Truck
August 16 – Baseball cards
August 30 – Player Poster

In terms of the player posters, the specific players have not yet been named. However, as we saw when the Mets were miked, Dominic Smith especially, this is a fun and likeable Mets team. Chances are any poster you get is going to be great.

The same goes for the baseball cards.

The toy truck and slime are fun because those are more traditional kids toys, but they will have a Mets theme to them. If your kid loves baseball, that’s right up their alley.

Of course, no discussion on fun promotions for kids is complete without mentioning the Mr. Met Dash. In terms of the Mr. Met Dash, be prepared.

Be ready to leave the game early and wait on line. That can be partially circumvented by joining the Mr. Met Kids’ Club, but only partially.

Another note is the Mets don’t do it for Sunday Night Baseball, so before you get your tickets just make sure the matchup isn’t one which could get flexed to prime time.

One final note here is if you think your children are old enough to learn about and appreciate Mets history, go to the June 13 game when Jerry Koosman‘s 36 is going to be retired.

Overall, Citi Field is a fun place for kids, especially for Sunday day games. Take advantage of it and help make your child a lifelong Mets fan.

Mets Need An Andres Gimenez Plan

Too much was made of Andres Gimenez‘s down year last year. He was a 20 year old shortstop playing in Double-A with a wrist injury. While it appeared he struggled, he was an above-average league hitter (105 wRC+) despite his being 4.1 years younger than the competition.

If there was any doubt the dip in his production based upon prior years was related to his wrist, he would have a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League hitting .371/.413/.586. So far, he has followed that up with a very strong Spring Training.

We should be wary of relying upon small sample sizes like we see in the Arizona Fall League and this Spring Training. We should also be wary of overreacting to a player not having the year you would expect when he plays through an injury. Instead, we need to focus on the player and his skill set.

What we saw in the Arizona Fall League and in Spring Training right now is a tinkered swing from Gimenez designed to help him generate more power. While we didn’t see the fruits of it when he had an injured wrist, we are seeing it now. The challenge for Gimenez is to continue this into the regular season with Triple-A Syracuse.

The challenge for the New York Mets is to figure out exactly what the future is for Gimenez because as things stand right now, he is completely blocked.

Amed Rosario is the everyday shortstop, and he is under team control through the 2023 season. Robinson Cano is the second baseman, and he will be paid $20 million by the Mets through the 2023 season. Jeff McNeil is the everyday third baseman, and he is under team control through the 2024 season. Really, there is no spot for Gimenez in the infield for an additional three years, and he is going to be ready to be called up to the majors well before that.

If Gimenez is the top 100 player he was before outlets arguably overreacted to his 2019 season, he is a talented player who can be part of a core of a World Series winning team. For him to be that, at least in Queens, the Mets have to have a spot for him. There needs to be a plan.

At the moment, there does not appear to be one. In that sense, the Mets are putting themselves in a situation not too different than the one they found themselves with Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith. With those players, they had two top 100 prospects who were at the same position and were going to be Major League ready at the same time.

They didn’t move one in a blockbuster trade to help the roster win a World Series. No, they moved a player in Jarred Kelenic, who they actually needed given the dearth of real outfield prospects in the Mets farm system. On that note, the Mets still do have a future (and current) hole in center, and they still have not prepared for how to best fill that hole.

Given Gimenez’s defensive skills, perhaps the Mets should move Rosario to center. On that note, Rosario has the speed and agility to thrive out there. However, it is difficult to make that change now when he is your starting shortstop. That leaves the Mets to look to move Gimenez out there this season. He certainly has the skill-set to play well out there.

Or maybe, the Mets best play is just to trade one of Rosario, McNeil, or Gimenez after the season to help them withstand the potential loss 2/5 of their rotation with Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello being pending free agents.

Ultimately, there are many potential paths on how to handle Gimenez and the rest of the roster. Whatever the case, the Mets need to set a plan now because Gimenez is starting the year in Triple-A, and based upon what we are seeing, he is going to be ready to contribute at the Major League level sooner rather than later.

Mets Players Shine When Miked Up By ESPN

During the Mets Spring Training game against the St. Louis Cardinals, ESPN miked up Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, J.D. Davis, Jeff McNeil, and Dominic Smith. If baseball was hoping to make players more accessible and let their personalities shine to grow the sport, they chose the right team and the right group of players.

That goes double when it comes to Alonso and Smith.

With Alonso, he was exactly what he’s been since day one. He was cheering on his teammates like Marcus Stroman when he recorded a strikeout, and he talked about his hitting philosophy and approach. It should come as little surprise that the player who coined #LFGM would drop not one, but two F-bombs:

What’s funny is while he was miked, we caught Brandon Nimmo saying the word “crap,” which is pretty funny considering the squeaky clean image he has as a player.

While Alonso being miked up was good enough, and you got fun insights from players like McNeil, the clear star of the broadcast was Smith. Of all the players, he was the one whose personality and sense of humor shined the most. We saw that when he make Astros’ sign stealing related jokes at his expense not once, but twice:

With Smith, you really got a sense of how funny and self depreciating a person he is. In addition to cracking jokes at his and his teammates expense, noting they call McNeil “Squirrel” all the more knowing he hates it, he also spoke about the impact the RBI program had upon him personally.

Smith was so engaging ESPN opted to bring him back on before the end of the telecast. Of course, part of that could’ve been attributed to his having ear piece troubles and his completely talking over Davis.

Overall, Smith was the most engaging and likable player to be mikes up. That’s really saying something considering Alonso was one of the other players. On that note, we’re going to be lucky to get more Alonso during the season as there will be a microphone at first base at Citi Field this year.

Now, there are some pitfalls to this. Certainly, it was a bit awkward when Matt Vasgersian asked Alonso and Cano about Andres Gimenez pushing Amed Rosario with Rosario standing right there.

That said, the ability to get to know these Mets players is worth it, especially Smith. Really, he’s everything MLB wanted from this experiment, and he can only grow in popularity from this, and he should because this experience highlighted what a great guy he is.

Overall, this was a great day for baseball and the New York Mets because we got a sense of the great personalities there are on this Mets team. These are easy guys to root for, and when they win, it’ll be all the better because we’re getting to know and love them for more than their baseball prowess.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you want to listen to it, it’s provided here.

If You Give A Met a Cookie

If you give a Met a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of 2% milk,
When you give him the milk, he is getting ready to hit like Straw,
When the Met is done eating his cookie,
He’ll want another and another and another.

He will go outside to get an Insomnia Cookie.
When he is outside he will see the Home Run Apple,
Seeing the apple will make him want to crush baseballs.

The pitcher will have to pitch a ball,
The outfielders ready with their gloves.
To the pitcher, he’ll look strong like a Polar Bear with his bat.

The pitcher will throw a pitch,
He’ll hit a HOME RUN!

He’ll do a bat flip and dance like a Squirrel to celebrate.

When he starts to dance, the press will want to take his picture.
When he sees his smiling face, he’ll want to text the picture to all of his friends.

When they get the text, they’ll want to know the story.
So he’ll tell them the story of how he scooted around the bases.
He’ll get so excited telling the story, he’ll want to talk to his teammates.

When talking, they’ll talk about how to play the game the Wright way.
They’ll talk about scouting reports, camaraderie, and giving the extra 2% on the field.
Talking about the extra 2% will remind them they’re thirsty.
So, they’ll get a glass of milk.

And chances are . . .
If they gets themselves a glass of milk, they’re going to want a cookie to go with it.

Adapted from Laura Numeroff books, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” “If You Give a Dog a Donut” “If You Give a Pig a Pancake

Mets Need To Sign Yasiel Puig Now

We haven’t completed the first week of Spring Training games, and suddenly, the Mets are moving towards being put in a position where they will need to find their Opening Day left fielder. Arguably, we are not yet at that day, but from the looks of it, that day of reckoning may soon come.

Yoenis Cespedes has been rehabbing from his double heel surgery, and according to indications, he is doing roughly 85% of what the other Mets players are doing. Cespedes has been pushing hard, but no one quite knows if he is going to be able to be ready for Opening Day, and if he is, no one knows if he can play everyday.

To some, Cespedes was seen as a luxury because the Mets had other options in the outfield. Depending on how things shake out, that may no longer be true.

J.D. Davis dove for a ball at third, and he is being at least temporarily shut down. He has a “pre-existing” labrum tear and inflammation. Davis says he will be ready for Opening Day, but we heard the same refrains from Jed Lowrie last year, and when we look at history, the Mets have a terrible history diagnosing and handling injuries.

Brandon Nimmo, who was supposed to be ready to go for Opening Day, is now dealing with a cardiac issues. He is undergoing cardiac screening, and at this point, we don’t know what the exact issue is, and really, we don’t know how this issue (to the extent there is one) will limit him.

Right there, the Mets are potentially down three outfield options. That leaves Jake Marisnick, who was a below average hitter even when he knew what pitch was coming, and Dominic Smith, who suffered a stress fracture playing the outfield last year. Keep in mind, where the Mets stand right now, they are in a position to play Marisnick and Smith everyday with their backup outfielder being Jeff McNeil, who is also their everyday third baseman.

The question is what then happens when or if either Marisnick or Smith go down? There just isn’t the depth in Triple-A to sustain an injury. When you look at it, the Mets are getting increasingly shallow in the outfield, and that is before the season even begins.

Fortunately for them, Yasiel Puig is still a free agent, a player the Mets arguably should have already signed this offseason.

With Puig, the Mets are getting a good fielder, who even at his worst, is a league average bat. No, Puig is not the superstar many thought he’d be when he debuted with the Dodgers. Rather, he is a solid, good, durable, and reliable everyday Major League outfielder. Put another way, he is exactly what the Mets don’t have.

Now, it is possible Cespedes will be ready by Opening Day. Davis’ shoulder and Nimmo’s heart may not keep them out of the Opening Day lineup. Marisnick could have a career year, and after a full offseason, Smith could be ready to play everyday in the outfield. Still, that is a lot of question marks, and it is unwise to hinge your season on all of that breaking in the Mets favor.

Seeing that is the case, the Mets should be acting quickly to sign Puig. If nothing else, they’ll put themselves in a position to have too many player for too few spots. That’s a much better problem to have than not having Major League caliber players to play the outfield because the Mets waited too long to act and some other team signed Puig at the precise moment they needed him most.

 

Michael Conforto Making Case To Be Mets Next Captain

Since David Wright has retired, there has been some question over who should be the next captain of the New York Mets, or even if there should ever be another captain. In the event the Mets do ever seek to name a new captain, they have a roster full of homegrown players who could step up and be exactly that leader the next Mets captain needs to be.

The popular choice is Pete Alonso. That choice is inspired, and Alonso has shown himself worthy. In addition to a record setting rookie season, he showed himself to be a great teammate by and through his friendship with Dominic Smith, and he showed true leadership with the 9/11 cleats.

Another very worthy candidate is Michael Conforto.

In his five year career, Conforto has seen it all. He was the phenom how helped the Mets win the 2015 pennant. He was there for the Mets tearing down that roster to build it back up. He has handled his own injury problems, and he has been bounced around the outfield to suit the Mets needs.

He’s been a future superstar, a platoon player, a bust, an All Star, a what could’ve been, and finally, a good baseball player again who is a part of a team who could win the World Series.

More than anyone, Conforto knows what it is like being a Met when times are a good and when times are bad. In some ways, he had a career arc not too different than what we saw with David Wright, albeit on a truncated and less dramatic scale. On that note, Conforto was there when Wright battled back from spinal stenosis, and he was there to learn from him.

Conforto was also there learning from other leaders like Jay Bruce, Michael Cuddyer, and Curtis Granderson. In fact, when Bruce and Granderson were traded away in 2017, it was Conforto who initially had to step up and fill the leadership void, something which became difficult as he dealt with a potentially career ending surgery.

It has become quite clear Conforto learned from people like Bruce, Cuddyer, Granderson, and Wright.

Right now, the biggest issue in baseball has been the sign stealing. That scandal has impacted the Mets as they have already lost a manager in Carlos Beltran before he even managed a game. One of their best pitchers, Marcus Stroman, has been quite vocal in his issues with the Astros sign stealing. While we haven’t seen public statements, there are reports Jacob deGrom and Edwin Diaz are similarly angry.

With J.D. Davis and Jake Marisnick having been part of that 2017 Astros team, that could be very problematic for this Mets clubhouse. That is an even bigger issue with Marisnick doubling off Stroman in a specific game Stroman commented saying the Astros were “Ruining the integrity of the game.”

This is the type of situation which begs for someone to step up and tackle this issue before it is a problem either in the clubhouse or publicly. Right away, Conforto has stepped up and tried to take control of the message:

This is exactly what you need from a captain of your team. You need someone to have the savvy to disspell any notion of internal strife and have the status in the clubhouse to make sure that this will in fact be the case. In that statement, we see while he may not be the captain, Conforto remains a leader in that Mets clubhouse.

Conforto has indicated he loves being a Met, and he would be open to a contract extension. If the Mets step up and make him a Met for life, it would be fitting to also named him the next captain in team history as he is showing he is a leader, knows how to handle everything which has come the Mets way, and ultimately, he is the type of player and person who would make a good captain.

Mets Entering Spring Training Incomplete

Finally, after an eventful winter, even by Mets standards, pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. While the Mets may have an idea as to what their 26 man roster will be, that doesn’t mean this organization is truly ready for the 2020 season.

First and foremost, they need a third everyday outfielder. Perhaps, that could be Yoenis Cespedes, but no one really knows what, if anything, he can contribute.

The Mets may plan to play J.D. Davis out there, and he could possibly platoon with Dominic Smith. Neither situation is ideal with both ideally being first baseman.

Even with Dellin Betances and presumably Michael Wacha, you’d ideally want one more big arm in the bullpen, especially when you can’t be sure what you’re getting with Jeurys Familia or Edwin Diaz. That leaves the Mets hoping either they or likely Robert Gsellman can be that guy.

This speaks to overall depth issues. While there enough bodies, we don’t know if they’re the right or good enough ones. We see that with Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera battling for the backup catcher spot.

Part of that money, which, of course, goes back to the ownership issue. We’ve known for over a decade now the Mets needed new owners, but only now do they realize that themselves.

Of course, they won’t go quietly into the night trying to get to run the Mets for five years with someone else’s money. Maybe their best argument to any new owner is they did that effectively in 2006.

Overall, this is a Mets team which could win the World Series. However, it’s going to need some help to get there and a lot to break right. If they get there, no one should bet against Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the postseason.

That’s an odd thing to say considering this time last year we were promised no more ifs.