Dominic Smith

Mets Bullpen Can’t Pull Inside Straight on Another Brutal Mother’s Day Loss

When the 2019 schedule is released, and the Mets are going to have to make sure Jacob deGrom doesn’t start the game because it will inevitably lead in heartbreak.  Last year, it was the inexplicable loss to the Brewers.  This year, it was one of those everything goes wrong type of games.

For his one inning of work, deGrom turned into Houdini.  After walking the bases loaded to start the game, deGrom had to recalibrate and try to get through the inning by limiting the damage.  Well, he would do much more than that.

First, he struck out Rhys Hoskins.  Then on a dribbler in front of the plate, deGrom got to the ball, and he nailed Cesar Hernandez at home.  Finally, he got Maikel Franco to strike out on a 3-2 pitch.  It was downright miraculous.

It also required 45 pitches.  With that heavy first inning workload, and with his just coming off the disabled list prior to the game after his hyper-extended elbow issue, Mickey Callaway did the prudent thing and put the game in his bullpen’s hands.

While the bullpen was going to the whip, the Mets offense was getting whipped by Aaron Nola who would allow just one run over six to lower his season ERA to 1.99.

It wasn’t that this Mets offense was dominated.  Far from it.  It’s that the offense didn’t do anything when they had the opportunities.

After Brandon Nimmo got things started with a bunt against the shift, the Mets loaded the bases with one out.  Wilmer Flores then struck out on four pitches, and Michael Conforto hit the second pitch he saw for an inning ending ground out.

In each of the subsequent innings, the Mets would get at least one base runner on against Nola, and they would do nothing.  That was until the sixth when Nola didn’t get one in enough to Yoenis Cespedes, who would hit it out to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.

The rally would continue with Adrian Gonzalez and Flores hitting back-to-back singles, and Conforto getting ahead in the count at 2-0.  That 2-0 count would turn into an awful at-bat with Conforto striking out, and Devin Mesoraco following with an inning ending double play.  Essentially, they did the polar opposite of what they did on Friday night.

Really, this one run gave the Mets bullpen little margin of error.  Until the sixth, they were pitching quite well.  Robert Gsellman threw three scoreless before the Mets turned to Paul Sewald, who pitched a scoreless fifth.  Sewald, who has mostly struggled in May, wouldn’t have it in the sixth.

Santana began the inning with a double, and Scott Kingery walked.  Between the rally and this being a bullpen game, Callaway had AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins warming in the bullpen.  They were there when Sewald struck out Jorge Alfaro, and they were there when the left-handed pinch hitter Nick Williams hit a go-ahead three run homer off of Sewald.

Now, there are many ways you could choose to defend the decision.  Sewald has been better than Blevins all season long against left-handed pitching.  Callaway wanted to get length from as many people as he could muster.  However, he had double barrel action going on so he would have Blevins ready for the big at-bat against a left-handed batter, and he didn’t use him.

While you can agree with the decision to go with Sewald, you cannot agree with the thought process of getting your LOOGY warmed up for a big spot and then refusing to use him in that big spot.  If you are not using Blevins there, you’re not going to use him in the game.

From there, the Mets had another rally they didn’t fully cash in on.  Nimmo drew his first or two walks for the game, and he scored on the ensuing Asdrubal Cabrera double.  It was a one run game, and Cespedes strode up to the plate.  There was no guessing right this time as Luis Garcia got him to pop out to end the inning.

From there, Jeurys Familia allowed a homer to Santana, and the Phillies didn’t use Hector Neris, so there would be no recreation of Friday’s magic.

Instead of building on the momentum from Friday’s Conforto homer, the Mets once again failed to muster enough offense, and maybe even energy to pull this one out.  We were also left wondering about Callaway’s thought process with his failing to use Blevins.  All-in-all, a disheartening loss.

Game Notes: Luis Guillorme collected his first MLB hit with a bloop pinch-hit single to center in the second inning.  Dominic Smith struck out in his only plate appearance, and he will be sent down to Triple-A with Jay Bruce‘s paternity leave ending.  Buddy Baumann was sent down to the minors to make room for deGrom.  His Mets experience amounted to little more than his getting a pending one game suspension out of the way.

Conforto Finally Homers Giving Mets A Win

This was panning out to be another one of those horrible Mets losses we have seen recently.  The Mets were not scoring runs at all even though they were in a hitter’s park.  And yes, there was even the really embarrassing and inexcusable moment.

After a Devin Mesoraco double play grounder erased a Michael Conforto seventh inning leadoff single, Jose Reyes got his first pinch of the season in 11 attempts. Understandably, with Reyes’ speed, the Mets reeling, and the team down 1-0, Mickey Callaway went for it.

Instead of going with Amed Rosario, Callaway went with Dominic Smith, who was up due to Jay Bruce going on paternity leave, to get that big hit.  Smith wouldn’t get that hit because Jake Arrieta picked Reyes off first base.  And with that, all hope seemed lost yet again.

Hector Neris came on to get what should have been an easy save, and it certainly seemed as if that was going to be the case when Adrian Gonzalez popped out to start the inning.

Then Wilmer Flores battled back not just from 0-2, but looking over-matched on the first two pitched of the at-bat to rip a single into left.  The Mets at least had life, and for a split second, it looked like Conforto was going to give the Mets the lead, but he pulled it foul.  Two pitches later, and Conforto wouldn’t pull it foul.

Mesoraco followed with a homer on the very next pitch.  Suddenly, the Mets 1-0 lead, and the team falling to .500 turned into a 3-1 lead.  That became a 3-1 victory after a Jeurys Familia 1-2-3 ninth.

Suddenly, the stories weren’t how Steven Matz walked four while somehow managing to allow just one run over five.  It wasn’t about how a combination of Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald, and AJ Ramos had to pick up the slack to keep it close for an offense, which did nothing.

No, the story is now how the Mets had perhaps their best victory of the year, and how they may have turned things around with Noah Syndergaard taking the mound tomorrow.

Game Notes: Mesoraco’s teams are now 1-20 in games he has played this season.  In Los Angeles, Matt Harvey made his Reds debut pitching four scoreless while allowing just one hit while striking out two.

Who’s Better: 2015 or 2018 Mets?

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

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

CATCHER

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

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

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

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

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

FIRST BASE

2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez

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

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

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

SECOND BASE

2015: Daniel Murphy
2018: Asdrubal Cabrera

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

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

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

THIRD BASE

2015: David Wright
2018: Todd Frazier

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

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

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

SHORTSTOP

2015: Ruben Tejada
2018: Amed Rosario

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

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

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

OUTFIELD

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

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

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

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

BENCH

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

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

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

VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important

ROTATION

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

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

VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then

BULLPEN

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

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

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

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

MANAGER

2015: Terry Collins
2018: Mickey Callaway

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

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

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

VERDICT

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

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

2018 Mets Player by Player Projections

As I do from time to time, we need a “completely serious” analysis and projection of each and every Mets player who is expected to contribute during the 2018 season.  While there are many prjoection systems which claim to be fool-proof, there are none that will be this accurate about the Mets:

Sandy Alderson – The other 29 GMs in baseball will be left in complete hysterics when Alderson is calling around for a right-handed reliever to help boost the team’s chances to making the postseason.

Mickey Callaway – The writers will overwhelmingly vote him as the National League Manager of the Year.  The most cited reason for giving him the award will be the fact he didn’t insist on playing his worst players or forcing his players to play through crippling injuries.

Dave Eiland– Multiple Mets pitchers will hug him for actually fixing their mechanics and for listening to them when they say they’re hurting.

Tyler Bashlor – When someone notices how similar his name is to the ABC reality show hit The Bachelor, they’ll say how “The Bashlor” is handing out strikeouts like they’re roses. We should all hate that person.

Jerry Blevins– Until he eats a sandwich, the socks given away in his honor will hang around his ankles

Bryce Brentz– He’s going to be the guy who has one or two at-bats this season, and someone is going to invoke his name as a former Met to try to sound like he knows more about the Mets than you know anything.

Jay Bruce– After a four home run game, all Mets fans will want to talk about is when he is going to move to first base.

Asdrubal Cabrera – After a slump, Callaway will move Cabrera down in the lineup causing Cabrera to bring his kids to the clubhouse and have them ask why Callaway doesn’t want them to eat.

Jamie Callahan– His wearing #43 will serve as a constant reminder that not only was he part of the return for Addison Reed, but also how the Mets turned quality MLB players into six right-handed relief prospects. That will be the worst possible sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Yoenis Cespedes – After an MVP caliber first half, he will feel like he has earned just one game of golf as a reward during the All Star Break.  He will immediately be vilified.

Michael Conforto – After a huge cut and a swing and miss, Conforto will wince for a moment thereby causing a passionate Mets fans behind home plate to have a heart attack.  This will led to a call for the netting to be filled in and for fans to have to watch the game on a tape delay.

Travis d’Arnaud– During a remarkably healthy season, he will finally be forced to catch Syndergaard, who had spent most of the seaosn with Plawecki as his personal catcher.  On the first pitch of the game, Syndergaard throws a 101 MPH fastball which immediately shatters d’Arnaud’s hand.

Jacob deGrom– After a slump, he’s going to look to grow his hair out.  Once he realizes his hair cannot possibly reach it’s old length during the 2018, he’s going to grow a really long beard and change his entrance music to “Legs” by ZZ Top.

Phillip Evans– When he cashes in his check for his postseason share, Evans will fondly remember that April pinch hitting appearance.

Jeurys Familia – After he gives up a seventh inning homer to Conor Gillaspie costing the Mets a game, fans will scream for him to pitch in the ninth inning again.

Wilmer Flores – He will be in such hysterics during his struggles in his first game in the outfield his crying on the field in 2015 will look like a case of the sniffles.

Todd Frazier– It will take many Mets fans a long time to come to grips that Jersey Boy Todd Frazier does not use a Bruce Springsteen song as his walk-up music.  That point will finally come when they realize Frank Sinatra is from Hoboken and not NYC.

Adrian Gonzalez – He will become James Loney2.0.  He will hit well enough for the Mets to stick with him, and the front office will continue to stick with him long after he has since been useful.

Robert Gsellman – As he continues to wait in Las Vegas for his opportunity to get back to the Majors, he will eventually care what Sandy Alderson thinks of him.

Matt HarveyHe’s going to pull a reverse Ben Affleck by going from The Dark Knight moniker to Daredevil.  He will earn that name by following Eiland’s instructions to throw inside with such reckless abandon to the point where people start to question if he’s gone blind.

Juan Lagares – After once again injuring his thumb on a diving attempt, the Mets will finally realize Lagares’ injures were the result of him literally using a gold glove to try to play center.  While they found the answer and solution for the thumb injuries, they will still be perplexed on how to fix his hitting.

Seth Lugo– We won’t know if people keep referring to the hook with him because of his incredible curveball or because of how Callaway won’t let him face a lineup for a third time.

Steven Matz– In addition to the sandwich he has named after him at the Se-port Deli, he will have one named after him at the cafeteria at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Brandon Nimmo– Despite putting up great numbers, the Mets will inform Nimmo they unfortunately have to send him down to Triple-A due to a temporary roster squeeze.  When he’s still smiling through the ordeal, they will force him to seek psychological counseling.

Kevin Plawecki– On a day when the Mets are getting blown out, the frustrated Plawecki will use the last of his six mound visits to derisively tell his pitcher he can pitch better than this. The pitcher will remind him he has a better batting average than Plawecki.

AJ Ramos – After striking out Giancarlo Stanton in a Subway Series game, he’s going to go home and find his friend has moved out of their shared apartment.  Odd Couple style hilarity ensues.

Jose Reyes– One day, he will hit a triple and score on a mad dash to home plate.  He will have that old Reyes smile, and it will electrify the crowd.  It will also cause everyone to forget that he is one of the worst position players in all of baseball.

T.J. Rivera – After he comes off the disabled list, he’ll deliver in the clutch for the Mets and his teammates will honor him as the player of the game.  The Mets will make sure he’s not standing in front of Plawecki’s locker when they take a photo to tweet out.

Hansel Robles– Many will credit him with the discovery of extra terrestrials by his discovery of a UFO in the Vegas night.  Years later, Robles will sheepishly admit all he was doing was pointing up at another homer he allowed.

Amed Rosario– To the surprise of us all, Rosario will strike out looking when the pitcher throws him a pitch which he was surprised at and was not ready to swing at. Entire belief systems will be shattered.

Jacob Rhame– Like Jason Phillips, he will soon realize fans may first like you for the googles and smile in your photo, but really, they’re only going to love you if you produce.

Paul Sewald– After having spent a year with Terry Collins, he’s going to be the player most comfortable with having no defined role in the bullpen.  However, it will be an adjustment for him not having to warm up multiple times per game.

Dominic Smith – When he gets called up to the Majors as part of September call-ups, he will be late on a pitch causing his manager to believe he learned nothing from Spring Training.

Anthony Swarzak – The jokes about not knowing how to spell his name will get old by mid-April.  The jokes will be rediscovered in August when more fans tune it to a Mets team that is a surprising contender.  The jokes will continue to not be funny.

Noah Syndergaard– He will continue his “Twitter Feud” with Mr. Met.  It will be discussed ad nausesum during nationally televised games.  America will think it’s amusing only fueling the spat even further and giving no hope to Mets fans who have long since found this to be unfunny.

Jason Vargas – When Reyes introduces himself, Vargas will remind him they were teammates in 2007.  Both recall that season and will agree it never happened.

Zack Wheeler– He will be converted to a reliever, and in a surprise to us all, he will lead the league in saves. In a surprise to him that league will be the Pacific Coast League.

David Wright– He will apologize and sheepishly admit the Mets crown was an embarrassingly bad idea.  He will try to come up with a way to rectify it, but no one will listen to his ideas on the topic anymore.

Mets Should Sign Neil Walker

Certainly, when you look at any free agent, there are a number of things you can look to pick apart.  When looking at former Mets second baseman Neil Walker, you need not look at his recent health history.  He needed back surgery in 2016, and last year, he missed a large chunk of time due to a partially torn hamstring.

Even with the injury issues, Walker has been a productive player when on the field.  In 111 games last year, Walker hit .265/.362/.439 with 14 homers and 49 RBI.  The one caution you would have with him is that he showed 2016 was a blip as he returned to struggling against left-handed pitching.

To that end, Walker would be the perfect fit for the current Mets roster.

Based upon their production there last year, the Mets have three players ill-suited to playing second base everyday with Asdrubal Cabrera (-6 DRS), Wilmer Flores (-1 DRS), and Jose Reyes (-5 DRS).  What is interesting about this group is all three of them struggle against right-handed pitching.  Heading into Opening Day, Cabrera is the starter, but based upon recent history, we can count for the Mets playing dozens of players at the position.

Given the defensive issues and platoon splits, it would behoove the Mets to add Walker to the mix.  He’d be another body who can give them games, and he’s a well suited platoon candidate with any of the aforementioned incumbent second baseman.

Realistically speaking, that will never happen.  The Mets are paying Cabrera $8.5 million, and based upon how the Mets operate, they are not likely going to put that on the bench.  The organization also has a soft spot for both Flores and Reyes.  So no, the Mets are not going to bring a player to play second base over them; not even Walker, who was productive as a Met when he was on the field.

However, the team does not owe the same loyalties to Adrian Gonzalez.

The soon to be 36 year old first baseman is coming off an injury riddled year himself where he hit just .242/.287/.355 with three homers and 30 RBI in 71 games.  With him starting off the Spring going 2-15, he’s not exactly inspiring confidence he will bounce back.

With the Mets being a month away from Spring Training, you have to really question if he’s ever going to rediscover who he was three years ago.  With him looking more and more like a player who is closer to retirement and Dominic Smith having a Spring which has combined being late and injured, the Mets should at least investigate the free agent market.

If he wants to pull a Todd Zeile, Walker could sign on with the Mets to play first base.  If not, Todd Frazier has experience there, which would allow the Mets to put Walker at third base.  When Dom is ready, or when injuries inevitably befall the Mets, the team would have some versatility with Walker.  He likely could slot in at any infield position but short.

With Walker still on the market and likely available for a discount, this is something the Mets should definitely be considering.  Ultimately, it may prove to be a better option that rolling the dice on Gonzalez and the three internal second basemen.

Editor’s Note: Hat tip to Rob Piersall whose tweet inspired this post

2018 Mets Promotion Ideas

If you go to the Mets website, you will see their Promotion Schedule for the 2018 season.  If you look, there are some popular promotions like the Noah SyndergaardThor Bobblehead, the Yoenis Cespedes Garden Gnomes, and the Free T-Shirt Fridays.  Those are fun and all, but I think we can do better, especially when we see promotions like a Fanny Pack.

No, I’m not kidding, the Mets are giving away Fanny Packs this year.

When you are giving away Fanny Packs and you are recycling old giveaways, it is time for some fresh ideas.  Here is a look at a promotional idea for each player on the Mets expected Opening Day Roster:

Jerry Blevins 7 Line Subway Set – a man this thin deserves to have a rail in his honor.

Jay Bruce Ruby Cleats – click them together, and poof!  You’re right back at Citi Field

Asdrubal Cabrera Flip Flops– I want to be a Met; I don’t want to be a Met.  I’ll only play shortstop; I’ll play second.  I’ll play third, but I want to be at second.  Definitely, second base, but . . . .

Yoenis Cespedes Yo-ga Mats – he has undertaken yoga to make this finally be his healthy season

Michael Conforto Muppet – The man is Scooter.

Travis d’Arnaud Potato Head – you get the chance to put him together after he falls apart again

Jacob deGrom Hat Hair – in some ways this seems like a recycled idea, but with his hair cut, it’s now just a hat that will get many more people than ever expected to the ballpark.

Jeurys Familia iTunes Gift Card – Look, Danza Kuduro is a catchy song, but sometimes we all wish we listened to it at home rather than right before a Conor Gillaspie at-bat.

Wilmer Flores Hanky Night – at some point or another, we have all cried watching this team play

Todd FrazierJersey Night – no, not jersey as uniform, just a celebration of New Jersey with Taylor Ham concession stands and Springsteen playing in the park all night long because in case you didn’t know Frazier grew up in Toms River, New Jersey.

Robert Gsellman Lollipop – if you’re always sticking your tongue out, might as well use it

Adrian Gonzalez Alarm Clock – Apparently, his works better than Dominic Smith‘s

Matt Harvey Hockey Jersey – Between the Winter Classic being played at Citi Field, Harvey’s notoriety as a Rangers fan, and his pitching arm looking like he was slammed with a Tie Domi cross-check, this seems like a natural fit.

Juan Lagares Foam Thumbs-Up – after all of his thumb injuries, his thumb must have the structural integrity of a piece of foam at this point.

Seth Lugo Wiffleball – With the wiffleball, you too can throw a curveball as a crazy as Lugo’s.

Steven Matz Take Your Grandfather to the Park Day – the only time you’ll see a grandfather spending time with their grandson at a game happier is when he’s there watching his grandson play.

Rafael Montero Sneakers – something comfortable for everyone’s feet as we all walk the park

Brandon Nimmo Mets Toothbrush – if you are always smiling, your teeth better be clean and your breath be minty fresh

Kevin Plawecki Dil – Actually no, let’s not do any promotions featuring the contents of player’s lockers

AJ Ramos Odd Couple Bobblehead – As a Subway Series special, the Mets and Yankees will each have a Bobblehead Day featuring roommates Ramos and Giancarlo Stanton with Ramos obviously playing the part of Oscar Madison.   

Jose Reyes Bunting – Fans can get their bunting and leave the park as soon as the Mets are assured of the lead.

Hansel Robles Rocket – You too can point in the sky after watching your Robles Rocket go soaring into the sky

Amed Rosario Daily Planner –  No longer will you be surprised about what is coming down the pike, you will now be ready.

Anthony Swarzak Scrabble Tile No other Mets player has as many high point Scrabble tiles in his name.

Noah Syndergaard Marvel Baby Metif he’s going to keep up the gimmick of hitting on Mrs. Met, he should get to see what a Thor-Mrs. Met child would look like.

Jason Vargas Left Handed Kitchen Tools For that left-handed innings eater in you.

David Wright Night – No gimmick or anything.  There just needs to be a night to honor David Wright this season.  He deserves that much from the team and from the fans.

Late Dom Smith Should Now Lose First Base Competition

When Mickey Callawaybecame the new manager of the Mets, every player got a bit of a clean slate. Sure, the front office as well as holdovers like Ricky Bones and Glenn Sherlock could probably Callaway with pertinent information, but at the end of the day, Callaway was going to meet each player, see their work and preparation, and then he could make his own determination about a player.

This was really important for a young player like Dominic Smith.

There is no doubt Smith is talented, but he has shown some maturity issues. Despite the team stressing his physique to him, he put on 20 pounds or so during the season. That was after he had reported to Spring Training last year in terrific shape.

When he did get the call-up last year, as reported by Abbey Mastracco of nj.com, he had been late to the park on more than one occasion. This led to veteran players “reprimanding” him for his behavior.

This was all part of a difficult first experience in the Majors which saw Smith hit .198/.262/.395 in 49 games. In total, he had a -1.2 WAR.

If there was anyone who needed a fresh start, it was Smith. Initially, he made the most of it by losing more than 30 pounds before the start of Spring Training. He reported to Spring Training early. He was doing all the right things.

He was having the type of Spring where he earned a chance to show the Mets he deserved at least a long look this Spring. He was starting to give the Mets to at least consider having him be the Opening Day first basemen. Whether as a reward for his dedication or not, he was going to get a chance right away with his being named as the first baseman in the Mets first Spring Training game.

Smith would be late to the ballpark before the first game.

THE FIRST GAME!

Fair or not, this was a player who had to prove to the Mets he was dedicated and mature enough to be a Major Leaguer, and the first chance he gets, he fails to show up on time.

He left Callaway no choice but to bench him. That left Smith watching on as five time All Star and a former teammate of CallawayAdrian Gonzalezget a couple of at-bats as the DH. He also looked on as Peter Alonso take his place in the lineup.

Smith watched the player taking his spot on the Opening Day roster, and he watched the prospect who has begun breathing down his neck as the Mets first baseman of the future.

Smith knew he had an uphill climb to surpass Gonzalez. He had to know Alonso has been making a name for himself. It shouldn’t be lost on Smith that while the organization has concerns about his power, Alonso has it in spades.

Despite knowing all of this, Smith failed to show up on time to the first game of Spring Training. With that, he’s shown he’s not yet mature enough to be entrusted with the first base job. Not yet.

And that right there is why he’s already lost the first base competition.

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Who We Are Watching This Spring

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

Michael Baron (MLB.com)

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

Roger Cormier (Good Fundies & Fangraphs)

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

Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)

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

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mets Daddy

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

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

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

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

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

Mets Organization Failing Their Prospects

Looking at the different talent evaporators around the sport, many will peg the Mets farm system in the lower third of farm systems. There are a myriad of conflicting and reasonable opinions why this exists.

There is the fact that over the past few seasons, the Mets organization has seen top prospects like Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and Amed Rosario graduate from prospect status. Knocking names like these off your lists is going to take a toll on how your farm system is perceived.

There are those like Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, who surmises the Mets have made a series of mistakes in the draft that include drafting Gavin Cecchini over Corey Seager and drafting L.J. Mazzilli over Cody Bellinger.

While either or both of these may be true, there may be an alternate explanation. What if, the Mets are actually drafting the right players, but they are failing their prospects by failing to do what is needed to help cultivate each prospect’s talents to get them to reach their full potential?

Consider for a moment, the difference between Keith Law’s 2017 and 2018 prospect lists. In Law’s 2017 rankings, he had listed Mets prospects Rosario (1), Dominic Smith (29), Thomas Szapucki (60), Robert Gsellman (76), and Justin Dunn(84) in his Top 100. (ESPN Insider). This year? Well, only 2017 first round pick David Peterson made the list. (ESPN Insider).

Now, it is true Rosario, Smith, and Gsellman are no longer considered prospects. It is also true Szapucki and Dunn have dropped off the list. Their dropping off the list does seem to answer the question why the Mets prospects are not developing with way many believed they would.

With respect to Dunn, Law comes close to, but does not quite say the Mets handling of him was a complete disaster. In a conference call discussing his Top 100 prospect list, Law had this to say about Dunn:

They probably pushed him too far to high A just speaking in hindsight, but also there were a lot of issues with his fields of pitch, with his fastball command, with lack of life on the fastball that you almost look — and again, this is all hindsight, but you look and say, nobody caught that? Nobody on the player development side looked and said, well, hey, wait a minute, here are two things we’re going to have to work on in instructional league last year in spring training this year, before sending you out to high A, which is normal for a typical college draftee, but maybe not for him.

Really, it is quite an indictment on the Mets organization to say they completely missed something on a top prospect during the Instructional Leagues, and the team also failed to address the issue during a season in which Dunn would go 5-6 with a 5.00 ERA.

As we saw with Law’s rankings, seasons like this tend to cause evaluators and organizations to begin re-assessing their opinions of certain players. This is not something unique to Dunn.

Certainly, we saw something similar happen with former first round draft pick Kevin Plawecki. Entering the 2015 season, the Mets were excited about him, and when Travis d’Arnaud got hurt in April, they rushed Plawecki to the majors. Over the next few seasons, he would bounce between Triple-A and the majors. In that time, he would never quite progress. That was until last year, when he finally had a prolonged stretch in Triple-A. Judging from his performance last year, that helped him figure things out and help him enter the Mets plans for the 2018 season.

Certainly, the mismanagement of the development of prospects goes further than Dunn and Plawecki. The same could be said for someone like Cecchini, who after two very good years in 2015 and 2016, completely regressed last season, and his status on the 40 man roster is now teetering.

While the Mets handling of prospects like Dunn and Plawecki are instructive. The situation with Szapucki is equally as enlightening.

After dominating opposing batters in his first two professional seasons, Szapucki first appeared to take small step back with Low-A Columbia. Eventually, it was discovered Szapucki had a torn UCL requiring season ending Tommy John surgery.

With that Szapucki joined other promising Mets prospects Jordan Humphreys, who was having a break-out season on the mound, and position player Blake Tiberi in needing the surgery. If only, those were the only season ending surgeries and injuries the Mets suffered in their minor league system last year. Frankly, it has become a pattern, and it’s hindering development, and it is one that has not escaped Law’s attention:

They have had a ton of injuries on the farm, too. I’ve written the Mets’ org report already. I think it goes up on Monday. And I’m struck by how many guys were hurt, are coming back from getting hurt, guys who haven’t come all the way back. Luis Carpiois a good example of a guy who I thought was going to be a pretty good prospect at least, threw out his shoulder, had surgery, and has just not been the same player since he returned. So some of this is health, and I don’t know if that’s player development, the training staff, or just rotten luck.

Really, it goes much further than Szapucki, Humphreys, Tiberi, and Carpio.

Catcher Ali Sanchez has had hand injuries in successive seasons. Desmond Lindsay has had issues staying on the field, and he needed major surgery last year. Jhoan Urena effectively lost two seasons of development time to injuries. Even rising star Peter Alonso has suffered broken bone injuries the last two seasons, which given the Mets current track record, should give everyone pause. It should surprise no one the list goes on and on from there.

Looking at everything, maybe you still conclude the main issue is the graduation of prospects. It’s still possible many believe the real issue is the inability to select the right player. Regardless of your point of view, the one thing that cannot be discounted is this Mets organization is having difficulty keeping players healthy, keeping them on the field, and surrounding them with the things they need to succeed.