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:
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: 2018 – if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
In case you missed it over the weekend, Marc Carig of Newsday wrote a column wherein many Mets fans have applauded because someone not only asked the question about payroll, but also for rightfully taking the team to task for how it’s been operated.
That’s great and all, but that’s not really what this article was about. The article was really about the lack of accountability from this franchise. Here are some key excerpts:
But rather than reach for transparency, the Wilpons seem content to hide. They never talk about money. Whether it’s arrogance or simply negligence, they have no problem asking fans to pony up the cash and never show the willingness to reciprocate.
To the Wilpons, it’s as if nobody is worthy of a straight answer. That’s the biggest failure of all.
But it costs zero dollars to be transparent, to be willing to explain the payroll, to be proactive about presenting a plan to succeed.
The Wilpons can start by publicly owning up to how this franchise is run. They can begin speaking for themselves rather than leaving the dirty work to middle men. But until they show the courage to take that first step, the Mets and their fans are doomed to repeat the cycle, pulling for a franchise that will never actually do enough to win.
Having read and re-read this article, time and again, I really begin to wonder if the term fan is being substituted for reporter.
This is not a slight on Carig or any beat reporter. There job is much more difficult than fans could possibly imagine. There are things we demand they discover, but at the end of the day, there may be no answer to those questions because, well, the team won’t answer them.
Whatever your line of work, it must be nauseatingly frustrating when someone just stonewalls you time and time again, and that prevents you from doing an aspect of your job. In the case of a beat reporter, that would include covering issues that are seemingly simple like the budget and a framework for the offseason.
As an aside, that must be even worse for Sandy Alderson.
Meanwhile, one of the most important currencies for a reporter is access. Write a scathing comment like Carig did, and you may very well find that access limited. That would make an already difficult job all the more difficult.
Still, there is a major question that needs to be asked – why is the payroll question being asked now?
Why wasn’t this asked heading into the 2015 season? The team certainly pushed forth the belief they were going to contend with the rise of Jacob deGrom and the return of Matt Harvey from Tommy John surgery.
After the 2015 season, if not for Yoenis Cespedes lingering longer than anyone believed he would, the Mets were going to enter the 2016 season with lower payroll and a center field platoon of Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares to replace Cespedes. On top of that, Eric Campbell made the Opening Day roster because the Mets didn’t want to pay Ruben Tejada $3 million.
With an injured Mets team making an incredible push to claim the top Wild Card, the Mets did not sign one free agent from outside the organization. They re-signed Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins because both surprisingly lingered on the free agent market, and the team gave Cespedes a big contract.
However, it should be noted the Mets did nothing to improve the roster from a team that was simply not good enough in 2016. Instead, of stories about the payroll being below market and window of competition, it was mostly lauding the Cespedes re-signing as the team going for it coupled with the intrigue about how the Mets were returning the same roster.
And look, we all know the Mets are likely cutting payroll because that’s what the Mets do. Still, the team did add a good late inning reliever in Anthony Swarzak, and they were rebuffed by Ian Kinsler. Other than Carlos Santana, the big name free agents are still on the board.
While we don’t expect them to come to the Mets, in prior offseasons, we have seen the market correct with Sandy sitting there ready to swoop in and get them for less money than anticipated. That’s why Cespedes and Blevins will be Mets next season. Such behavior (luck?) has been routinely lauded.
Now? Well, now, it is being criticized because the Mets lack of accountability and refusal to answer the simplest questions has become too much to bear. Except this time, it’s not the fans, it’s for reporters. They’re now writing articles about it – articles we all wish were written in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 (apologies to a few like Megdal who has done excellent reporting on the topic and Vacarro who kept the heat on the team throughout 2015 and beyond).
So yes, I appreciate the article, but really, none of this is news to Mets fans. It’s just confirmation of the status quo. And sadly, in the end, we have learned nothing new from the team. Really, this all just leaves me further frustrated with the franchise, and it leaves me further frustrated that this is really the first we have seen of these articles after all of these years. Hopefully, there will be more. More than that, I just hope something will finally come of this.
But we all know it won’t.
In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history. While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”
If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.
During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).
This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players. This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).
As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse. Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers. Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson. The list goes on and on..
That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built. Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months. Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.
The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.
Evaluating Own Talent
Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players. Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.
The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner. However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.
The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere. Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox. They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick. Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.
The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go. It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright. None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended. There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.
The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors. Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams. The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.
At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered. This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.
Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.
The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.
The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer. Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes. We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.
Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.
This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.
Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful. Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR. In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.
For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals. Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract. Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.
It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.
Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues. This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons. It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.
Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front. They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals. Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell.
Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey. Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps. It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.
Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.
Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent. If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.
During Spring Training, we saw that David Wright is still able to go out there and hit. Ultimately, it wasn’t his ability at the plate that caused the Mets to shut him down. It was his inability to throw a baseball.
There was a dark period where we thought it would never happen for him again. Recently, there was a glimmer of hope with him playing consecutive games at third base for St. Lucie. That hope faded away with Wright shutting down his rehab stint due to shoulder pain. Once again, there is doubt Wright can ever play in the field again.
What is difficult here is there still may be baseball left in Wright. If nothing else, Wright has two years and $27 million to motivate him to return. But it’s more than money. Seeing Wright over the past 12 years, we see a determined player with a lot of pride. We also see a player who just loves playing baseball.
Now, there is a reasonable belief Wright can still hit. Since 2015, Wright played in 75 games, he hit .260/.365/.436 with 15 doubles, 12 homers, and 31 RBI. During that stretch, he had a 119 OPS+ and a 125 wRC+. If the Mets were an American League team, Wright could be a viable option at DH. Looking at the current league leaders, if Wright could still replicate his 125 wRC+, he would rank third in that category among DHs. Whether or not his shoulder will permit him to do even that remains to be seen. What we do know is that he can’t do that with the Mets unless the team wants to give him the 1985 Rusty Staub treatment, which is something no team will do in the modern game.
Realistically speaking, if there is going to be more baseball in Wright’s career, it’s not going to be with the Mets. If Wright is going to have a second act in his career, it is going to happen as a DH.
We’ve seen with the Red Sox, they were more than happy to go with a hobbled David Ortiz as their DH. The Angels have done the same with Albert Pujols. While Wright doesn’t have their power, he still has the ability to hit. Unlike them, he still has the ability to run. Long story short, he still has ability.
Now, there aren’t going to be teams lining up to take Wright. No one wants an injured 34 year old owed $27 million. However, teams may be willing to take a flyer if the Mets eat some or all of his contract. As we know the issue here is that is something the Mets are loathe to do.
But they need to do it. Wright’s mere presence puts the team in a holding pattern. It’s led them to go with Eric Campbell as a backup in 2016, and it led to Jose Reyes being the Opening Day third baseman in 2017. The Mets simply cannot repeat this mistake. They need to fully address the position this offseason if they want any hopes of returning to the postseason. The team can’t do that as long as Wright is on the roster. As long as he is here, he is going to play in some capacity.
That is a hindrance to both him at the Mets. The team needs a real answer at third, and he needs a real opportunity to play.
For Wright, that is in the American League. There, anything is possible for him. He could play a full season. It’s possible he make the All Star team. There may be another postseason in his future. Maybe, he wins a World Series. If nothing else, Wright has his best chance to extend his career.
Overall, there is no doubt the Mets and Mets fans love Wright. In the 55 year history of the Mets, there is perhaps no player that loved being a Mets player more than Wright. If they truly loved each other, they need to do what is best for one another. They need to move on. Once that happens, they will both be better off for it.
Back in 2015, the New York Mets season was falling apart at the seams. The Mets needed offense, and the fans wanted Michael Conforto. Scouts and talent evaluators said the Mets 2014 first round draft pick was ready, but the Mets consistently insisted Conforto wasn’t ready.
Instead of Conforto, the Mets trotted out people who weren’t good and weren’t ready. The Mets were happy trotting out John Mayberry, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Darrell Ceciliani in the outfield. Briefly, the Mets would even try Eric Campbell in left field. For the most part, the Mets mostly stuck with a clearly injured and hobbled Michael Cuddyer in left field. He fell apart in June hitting just .211/.237/.311 in 25 games.
Finally, both Cuddyer and the Mets both had enough, Cuddyer would go the Disabled List, and Conforto would finally get called-up to the majors. At that time, the Mets had lost two in a row and five of their last seven. For a team that once had a 4.5 game lead in the division, they would fall to three games back.
It turns out Conforto was indeed ready. He would play 56 games hitting .270/.335/.506 with 14 doubles nine homers, and 26 RBI. He was a big part of the Mets turn-arond with the team having been 10 games over .500 in the games he played. He was also a big part of the Mets postseason run. He hit three homers in the postseason including two in Game Four of the World Series.
It’s possible Conforto needed every bit the time he had in Double-A. Maybe the extra time he spent in Doube-A put him in position to succeed when he came to the majors. It’s also likely Conforto was ready well before the Mets did what they didn’t want to do when they called him up. Fact is, we’ll never know. The only thing we do know is Conforto was very good when he was called up to the majors, and he has an important part of the Mets success in 2015.
The Mets are in the same exact situation in 2017.
The team has seen Asdrubal Cabrera struggled offensively and defensively, and he has landed on the Disabled List twice. His primary back-up, Jose Reyes, has statistically been the worst infielder in the major leagues this year, and he appears to be getting worse. Now, Neil Walker has suffered an injury that will keep him on the Disabled List for an extended time frame.
Unlike 2015, the real issue for this Mets team is defense. As a team, the Mets rank last in the majors with a -13 DRS, and it is not likely to improve. Reyes is not only struggling offensively, but he is struggling defensively as well. The other players on the roster aren’t much better.
The Mets took the starting shortstop position away from Wilmer Flores for a reason. The Mets also transitioned T.J. Rivera from shortstop to other positions because he couldn’t handle the position defensively. Same goes for Gavin Cecchini who is now a second baseman. Matt Reynolds is actually a good defensive shortstop, but he can’t hit enough to play everyday.
Like in 2015, the fans are clamoring for the Mets top prospect, and like in 2015, everyone but Sandy Alderson seems to believe he’s ready. In 65 games for Las Vegas, he’s hitting .336/.378/.500 with 15 doubles, four triples, seven homers, 47 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. Based on the offensive statistics, he seems ready, but that’s not an in depth analysis. Truth is considering the hitting environment that is the Pacific Coast League, we probably don’t know how much improvement a player is making until they get to the majors.
However, the Mets don’t need Rosario for his offense even if anything else is likely better than what Reyes is providing. No, the Mets need him for his defense, and the Mets need him sooner rather than later.
After losing last night’s game, the Mets are five games under .500, and they are 10.5 games back in the division. Like in 2015, the Mets promising season is falling apart. Instead of the team calling up the player who could help address the team’s needs, they are being stubborn in insisting the top prospect isn’t ready. They are once again letting the season slip away. Unlike 2015, things are much more dire.
Sure, the Mets could be right in saying Rosario isn’t ready. After all, it is very well likely they know more than anyone about where Rosario stands in his development. Maybe, just maybe, the Mets know what they’re doing, and when they finally bring Rosario up to the majors, he will have the success and impact Conforto did in 2015.
Hopefully, there is still a season to salvage whenever the Mets get around to calling up Rosario.
Through his first 14 games of the season, Jose Reyes is hitting an insanely putrid .100/.182/.140 with no stolen bases. Even if you track the three year plus decline Reyes is currently on in his career, this streak is completely and utterly unexpected. Over an offseason, Reyes has gone from being a decent stop gap for David Wright to a player hoping he could put up Eric Campbell type numbers.
Given his .267/.326/.443 batting line last year, you could reasonably expect for Reyes to eventually snap out of it and become at least a league average hitter. There are stats you could point to to provide hope for that conclusion. For example Reyes BABIP is only .139 which is well off of his career mark of .310. It’s also off the .306 mark he posted from 2014 – 2016. Couple that with Reyes’ speed, you would expect him to at least leg out a few hits.
However, there is an underlying reason why Reyes’ numbers and his BABIP are so low this season. Reyes has become a different hitter at the plate. Now, 14 games is a small sample size, but let’s compare some of Reyes’ numbers this year to previous seasons.
For his career, Reyes has generally been a player with low strikeout totals. In his career, Reyes has never struck out more than 82 times in a season, and he has only struck out in just 10.8% of his career plate appearances. This year, Reyes is striking out in 25.5% of his plate appearances. For those looking for some glimmer of hope, Reyes struck out in 17.6% of his plate appearances last year, which is a similarly unacceptable rate.
Unfortunately for Reyes, it is more than just his inability to make contact. According to Fangraphs, in his career, Reyes’ contact is as follows 21.6% soft, 54.0% medium, and 24.4% hard. This year Reyes is making weaker contact hitting 19.4% soft, 63.9% medium, and 16.7% hard. Ultimately, when you make softer contact, you give fielders the ability to make more plays on the ball, which they have this year.
Even more troubling than the severity of the contact is the direction. One of Reyes’ strengths was he was a hitter who used the whole field. According to Fangraphs, his career spray chart is 39.3% pull, 35.1% up the middle, and 25.7% opposite field. This year Reyes has been much more of a pull hitter with him pulling the ball 44.4% of the time, and him hitting it up the middle just 25% of the time. Essentially, Reyes has gone from a player who it was difficulty to shift against to a player susceptible to the shift.
That’s lethal to a player that has typically been a ground ball hitter. For his career, Reyes hits the ball on the ground 43.8% of the time. It’s more exacerbated now with Reyes hitting the ball on the ground 48.6% of the time.
Long story short is Reyes is making it easy on the defense. He’s making weaker contact on the ground, and he’s become more susceptible to the shift.
Yes, it is still early, and this is a small sample size. Certainly, you could argue Reyes hasn’t had much luck this season. However, until Reyes makes some type of adjustment, it’s hard to believe he’s going to become a much better hitter than he is now. It’s harder to imagine he’s capable of staying in the lineup much longer even with Terry Collins bending over backwards to keep him in the lineup.
It would take a minor miracle if the Mets Opening Day lineup lasts the full season. It is very likely that one of Lucas Duda (back), Neil Walker (back), David Wright (body), or Asdrubal Cabrera (knee) doesn’t have a stint on the disabled list. With that in mind, the Mets infield depth is going to be more important than ever. Fortunately, they seem to have more choices than they have ever had in the past:
2016 Stats: 60 G, 279 PA, 255 AB, 45 R, 68 H, 13 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 24 RBI, 9 SB, 2 CS, .267/.326/.443
In many ways, it was the Reyes of old last year with the electricity on the basepaths which created a buzz in both the dugout and the stands. There are two areas of caution with Reyes. He had a poor .326 OBP which is not an outlier as Reyes’ OBP over the past three seasons is .321. The other issue is he struggled against right-handed pitchers hitting .239/.293/.371 off of them last year. With that said, Reyes does seem rejuvenated being in a Mets uniform, and he can now completely focus on baseball giving hope for much better results.
2016 Stats: 103 G, 335 PA, 307 AB, 38 R, 82 H, 14 2B, 16 HR, 49 RBI, SB, CS, .267/.319/.469
Simply put, Flores mashes left-handed pitching having hit .340/.383/.710 with 11 of his 16 home runs off of them. While fans have soured on him as a shortstop, he still can capably handle all four infield positions. Based on the numbers, when there is a left-handed pitcher on the mound, the Mets needs to find a way to get him in the lineup. When there’s a right-handed pitcher, the Mets would be better off looking in another direction.
2016 Stats: 33 G, 113 PA, 105 AB, 10 R, 35 H, 4 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 16 RBI, .333/.345/.476
In September, we saw that Rivera can not only hold down a position due to injuries. More importantly, we know he can rise to the occasion. While he may not walk enough to justify putting him in the everyday lineup, his ability to hit can justify his presence on a major league roster. Those justifications are only enhanced when you consider he is also capable of playing all four infield positions.
2016 Stats: 47 G, 96 PA, 89 AB, 11 R, 20 H, 8 2B, 3 HR, CS, .225/.266/.416
Whereas the aforementioned players primarily rely on their bats, Reynolds is a terrific defensive player. In one game last year, he surprised us all not by playing a representative left field, despite never playing there previously, but also by hitting a monster home run to give the Mets a lead.
2016 Stats: 4 G, 7 PA, 6 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 2 2B, 2 RBI, .333/.429/.667
Cecchini is a promising hitter who should be able to hit for more power as he ages. Despite having all the tools, he has struggled as a shortstop. Those struggles along with the rise of Rosario, Cecchini should find himself playing second base next year. With the increased versatility, he should be able to help the Mets at either second or short if the need arises.
2016 MiLB Stats: 120 G, 527 PA, 479 AB, 65 R, 155 H, 24 2B, 13 3B, 5 HR, 71 RBI, 19 SB, 8 CS, .324/.374/.459
With Rosario it is just a matter of time before the shortstop of the future becomes the Mets everyday shortstop. With a little more seasoning, he may become a superstar. There’s no limit to his talent. He just needs a little more seasoning in Las Vegas. Depending on when or if someone goes down, the Mets may want to call up their best prospect to the majors. Once he gets called up, the Mets are going to have a hard time justifying sending him back down.
As seen above, the Mets are much deeper in the infield than they have been in year’s past when players like Eric Campbell were making the Opening Day roster. In the case of Cecchini and Rosario, one injury may just open the door for them to claim the position not just for 2017 but for years to come.
While the Mets have a terrific Opening Day infield on paper, the infield that may materialize later on into the season may be even better.
Last year, the New York Mets began the season with Eric Campbell on the Opening Day roster as the final bench piece. As the season progressed, and players like David Wright and Lucas Duda went down with injury, the Mets had to go deeper and deeper into their farm system and bring players in to play. There were similar issues with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz needing season ending surgeries.
In total, the Mets needed 21 additional players that did not start the season on Opening Day roster. Can you name them? Good luck!
James Loney Jose Reyes Rene Rivera Kelly Johnson Jay Bruce T.J. Rivera Matt Reynolds Brandon Nimmo Ty Kelly Justin Ruggiano Gavin Cecchini Seth Lugo Robert Gsellman Rafael Montero Gabriel Ynoa Josh Smoker Jon Niese Josh Edgin Sean Gilmartin Fernando Salas Erik Goeddel
While most are focused on the bullpen, this Mets team has some other areas it needs to address prior to the start of the 2017 season. One of the main issues facing this team is which player is going to get the last spot on the bench?
At first blush, this may not seem like it is a major issue. If any of the infielders with an injury history go down, it is expected that Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes can more than capably handle any one of the four infield spots. If two were to go down, we have seen enough from both Flores and Reyes to know that they can at least be a good stop gap option at a position. However, lost in the confidence you would have in Flores or Reyes is the fact that once they are moved to a starting position, the player who is the last man on the roster will begin to take on a larger role on the team.
Last year, that player was Eric Campbell. While Campbell may have had his positive attributes, he was certainly not capable of playing everyday. And yet, when Lucas Duda and David Wright went down that was the position Campbell found himself. In 2017, there is no reason to believe that Duda or Wright could last a full season. Same goes for Neil Walker, who just had season ending back surgery, and Asdrubal Cabrera, who played with a knee injury for the entirety of the 2016 season. The long story short here is the Mets need a deep bench for the 2017 season to prevent a player of Campbell’s caliber being a starter for two or more weeks.
For the past two seasons, the Mets have made trades to obtain Kelly Johnson to serve as a bench player. He has proven himself to be a useful player who has hit .260/.319/.441 over two brief stints with the Mets. Last year, he was clutch as a pinch hitter hitting four pinch hit home runs. He is versatile in his ability to play second, third, and both corner outfield positions. In 2015, we saw him play shortstop in a game. If given Spring Training to work on it, he could add first base to his repertoire. The main issue facing Johnson is he remains unsigned, and at this point, it is questionable whether the Mets have interest in him with the team already espousing that they need to cut payroll entering the 2017 season.
The next in line would likely be Terry Collins‘ favorite Ty Kelly. Like Johnson, Kelly is versatile in his ability to play across the infield and his ability to play the corner outfield positions. While he is a switch hitter, Kelly showed he was a better hitter against left-handed pitching in what was a very small sample size. Late in the season, Collins used Kelly as a pinch runner late in games. Overall, while Kelly does nothing outstanding, and is clearly best suited to being a bench player at the major league level, Collins has shown that he appreciates what Kelly can bring to the table.
In addition to Kelly, T.J. Rivera was the other standout 27 year old Mets rookie during the 2016 season. Late in the season with the injuries to Walker and Flores, Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job and hit .333/.346/.476 in 33 games. Unlike Johnson and Kelly, Rivera has played a fair amount of games at shortstop. With that said, there is a reason why the Mets began transitioning him away from short beginning in AA. With that said, RIvera can legitimately play all four infield positions. When he was passed over for promotion to the majors, he began working in LF in AAA meaning it is possible he can play the outfield if necessary. The main sticking point with Rivera is the fact that he is an aggressive hitter that rarely draws a walk.
Last, but certainly not least, is Matt Reynolds. Unlike the aforementioned players, Reynolds is a legitimate shortstop who quite possibly has the best range out of all the major league options the Mets have at the position. For one glorious day game, Reynolds showed he can play left field, and he can get that clutch hit to help the Mets win the game. On the downside, Reynolds is the worst hitter of the bunch. In his 47 games with the Mets last year, he only hit .255/.266/.416. In the hitter’s haven that in the Pacific Coast League, he was only a .264/.336/.357 hitter last year. Ultimately, Reynolds is the guy you want out there defensively, but he is not the guy you want at the plate.
Unless the Mets sign Johnson, it looks like the fight will be between Kelly, Rivera, and Reynolds for the last spot on the bench. IN those three players, the Mets have three intriguing if not flawed players. Ultimately, that is your best bet when looking to round out your major league bench. The good news for the Mets is if one should falter, there are two more behind them that can pick up the slack. If the Mets face a number of injuries like they did in 2015 and 2016, the Mets have a couple of options that have proven they can be useful major league players. With that, it seems the Mets bench should not be a problem for the first time in a good number of years . . . at least that’s the hope.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
Due to Lucas Duda‘s broken back and Sandy Alderson believing Eric Campbell was the best possible option for the 25th man on the Opening Day roster, the Mets were forced to go out and acquire James Loney for $1 from the San Diego Padres.
Look, there are plenty of jokes you can make about the Mets getting ripped off in the deal. You can also point out to how Loney was a terrible hitter who not only couldn’t hit for power, but he also couldn’t draw a walk. In the field, you could crack jokes about how dead people are able to stretch more than Loney was able to at first base.
Behind these jokes, the simple fact was Loney was better than what the Mets had at the time. Loney was the end result of poor planning by this Mets organization. Lost in all of that was Loney was actually good for a stretch of time. From June to July, Loney was a .288/.343/.451 hitter. While it wasn’t the production you may look for out of first base, he was still a solid major league hitter. And he was a solid major league hitter at a time when Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera were mired in deep slumps. Without Loney’s bat, it is quite possible the Mets would have been further under .500 than they would have been.
There were even some clutch hits along the way like his 100th career home run that helped the Mets beat the Miami Marlins:
The main issue with Loney was he was playing above his head, and he fooled everyone into thinking he was going to keep up this level of production. He certainly convinced a Mets front office who was once again either unwilling or ill-prepared to handle the first base situation at the trade deadline.
In the end, Loney showed the Mets his best ability was his availability. That speaks volume when you consider the entire Mets Opening Day infield spent at least one stint on the disabled list. Heck, even the primary backup, Wilmer Flores, had a season ending injury that required offseason surgery.
Overall, it was not his fault he was not the hitter the Mets needed him to be. Ultimately, Loney was just Loney. It was good enough to help the Mets capture the top Wild Card spot, but ultimately, it was not enough for the Mets to beat Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card game.
Loney has now signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers thereby putting an end to the possibility of his returning to the Mets. It’s likely he won’t have a Kelly Johnson type return either. The chapter in Mets history is closed, and generally speaking, the Mets were better off for him being a part of it. And no, it’s not a stretch to say that.