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.
Of course, the Mets could use Bryce Harper. Any team could as Harper is one of the best players in the game. With that said, the Mets could use Harper because he is a player willing to do this:
— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) January 18, 2017
Naturally, if you are a Nationals player or fan, you are left a little frustrated by this offseason. It seems like every player went to another team.
This offseason alone free agents like Yoenis Cespedes, Kenley Jansen, . On top of that, they were unable to secured trades for Chris Sale, Andrew McCutchen, and Charlie Blackmon leading to them sending a big haul of prospects to the White Sox for Adam Eaton. By the way, in that deal, the Nationals were not able to get the White Sox to include David Robertson.
What makes this all the more frustrating is this comes of a similar experience for the Nationals last season, which was capped off with Brandon Phillips refusing to waive his no trade clause.
Even with the Eaton acquisition, the Nationals still have two holes due to both Mark Melancon and Wilson Ramos departing in free agency. This has led to the Nationals pursuit of both Matt Wieters, even with the Derek Norris trade, and Greg Holland. Arguably, both players could fill the voids in the Nationals roster.
However, the team is stuck in a standstill for budgetary reasons, and they are armed with excuses. This has led to their best player calling them out publicly.
The Nationals situation is not too different from the Mets situation. This Mets team has failed to completely address the holes on their roster. Even more aggravating is the Mets once again citing budgetary reasons as their excuse for not going out and signing even a mid-tier relief pitcher like Brad Ziegler. Instead, the Mets were content to let him go to a a team in their division.
This pattern of (spending) behavior by the Mets has been maddening since Sandy Alderson took over as General Manager after the conclusion of the 2010 season. Now, this isn’t Alderson’s fault per se. It is more on the Wilpons and how they have chosen to spend their money, and their lies about restrictions on payroll. Sometimes, you want a player to speak out and scream they don’t want another season with an Eric Campbell on the bench or the team having to trade for bad relievers like Alex Torres on the eve of Opening Day because you didn’t have the money to spend on quality arms.
With the Mets not adding arms this offseason, you want someone to scream.
Now, admittedly, Harper can be a bit much. We saw that with his asking where his ring was when the Nationals signed Max Scherzer. Even with that said, wouldn’t it be better for the Mets to have a player that would keep them accountable? Wouldn’t it be better if the Mets felt like they needed to aggressively attack the window in the offseason rather than trading away minor league arms with upside for Kelly Johnson when the Mets easily could have signed him in the offseason?
When the Mets and Rene Rivera avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $1.75 million salary, it was an indication Rivera was going to return to the Mets as the backup catcher. This also means the former supplemental round draft pick Kevin Plawecki is likely going to start the 2017 season as the starting catcher for the Las Vegas 51s.
Based upon the 2015 and 2016 seasons this is where Plawecki belongs as he has proven he is not yet ready to be a major league catcher. In 121 major league games, he has hit .211/.287/.285 with four homers and 32 RBI. Last year in AAA, he hit .300/.348/.484 with eight homers and 40 RBI in 55 games. These were not outstanding numbers, especially for the Pacific Coast Leauge, but they represented a marked improvement over what Plawecki has shown in the majors.
At this point, the question is Plawecki destined to be a major league player, or is he a AAAA player like Eric Campbell, who just signed a deal to play third and hit cleanup for the Hashin Tigers. The fact is with Plawecki turning 26 this February, it is still too early to determine. However, we have seen some good things from him to believe that he still can be a major league catcher.
While it was once believed Plawecki’s true value was as an offensive catcher, he has established himself as a good major league receiver. In his two years with the Mets, Plawecki has rated as a good pitch framer. Additionally, while the advanced stats for catchers are flawed, Plawecki has posted an 8 DRS in his brief major league career showing he is above average defensively behind the plate. This is impressive when you consider he has only thrown out 25% of base stealers as a major leaguer.
For the sake of comparison, Rivera has a reputation as a very good defensive catcher, and he has a career DRS of 12. On a per inning basis, Plawecki has established himself to be the better defender. However, it should be noted that Rivera has had more success throwing out base runners with his career mark of 36%. What has held Rivera back in his career has been his bat. In parts of eight major league seasons, Rivera is a .213/.264/.332 hitter who averages three homers and 15 RBI a season.
Looking at the data, it could be argued that right now Plawecki is actually a superior player to Rivera right now. However, it should be pointed out Rivera is a 33 year old journeyman catcher. When the Mets drafted Plawecki in the 2012 supplemental round, they were certainly hoping for more than just a journeyman catcher.
Ultimately, it will be Plawecki’s bat that decides whether he will be a journeyman, a career backup, or a bona fide major league starting catcher. Before he was called-up to the majors, many believed Plawecki would hit. For example, before his first call-up in 2015, The Sporting News stated:
Plawecki is a solid, reasonably polished hitter who should be an adequate contributor on offense. Overall, Plawecki has solid plate recognition, a consistent swing path and good raw power. He opts for contact over power in game settings, which will help his average but can result in weak contact on pitches he should be trying to drive.
Others felt that Plawecki had the potential to be an offensive force in the majors with, “One talent evaluator who has seen Plawecki likes as a solid everyday catcher in the majors, with enough power to hit 15-20 home runs a year.” (Mike Vorkunov, nj.com).
However, that is not the Plawecki we have seen in the major leagues. As a major leaguer, Plawecki has shown a tenency not just to pull the ball, but also to hit an exceedingly high rate of ground balls. Moreover, he infrequently makes hard contact. In today’s day and age of shifting, this has led to a number of easy ground outs to the left hand side of the infield. As a result, we see Plawecki with a low batting average and a minuscule slugging percentage.
However, the talent is still there. It is also important to remember really has not gotten sufficient time in AAA to develop. In fact, he only played in 57 games at the level before he was rushed to the majors due to a Travis d’Arnaud injury in 2015. As we saw in 2016, when he got an extended stretch of 55 games in AAA, while working with hitting coach Jack Voigt, he began getting on base more consistently and driving the ball more often just as he had done earlier in his minor league career. At a minimum, this extended stay in AAA showed Plawecki still has promise.
Only time will tell whether Plawecki will be able to hit at the major league level. However, in his career, we have seen he has the ability to hit. More importantly, we have seen he has the ability to be a good catcher behind the plate. Ultimately, Plawecki has a future in the major leagues due to his strong work behind the plate. Accordingly, despite his early career struggles, Plawecki still has value. Therefore, it is way too soon to give up on Plawecki.
With that said, he is going to have to show the Mets something sooner rather than later before the team justifiably moves on from him. The Mets have d’Arnaud at the major league level, and Tomas Nido is not too far behind him. This means that sooner or later Plawecki is going to have to do something in AAA or the majors to show the Mets he deserves one more chance to show he can be more than a journeyman.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.
We are headed for another season of Mets baseball where we hope that once again these Mets can make it all the way back to the World Series. Since 2015, we have seen a definite pattern emerge with the Mets, and I think as Mets fans, we should all try better this year to not react, some would say overreact, when one of the following things we know will happen, happens:
- The Mets are not going to sign another big name free agent this offseason. It’s not going to happen, and it just may happen that Jose Bautista winds up in the division and on a fairly discounted deal;
- Jerry Blevins will sign an extremely reasonable two year deal . . . with another team;
- Instead of fortifying the bench, the Mets are going to go with this year’s version of Eric Campbell -> Ty Kelly;
- Terry Collins is going to use and abuse Addison Reed to the point where his arm may actually fall off. This will go double if Jeurys Familia gets suspended;
- Hansel Robles is going to go through a stretch in one week where he pitches five innings, 1/3 of an inning, two innings, and three innings, and everyone is going to wonder why his production has fallen off;
- The infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera will be ridden hard despite their injury histories and capable backups like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes on the bench;
- Just pick a random player on the roster – he’s going to be on the DL for over two months with a back injury;
- There will be a game with Reyes in center and Juan Lagares in right;
- Travis d’Arnaud is going to get injured, and Kevin Plawecki is not going to be able to replace his bat in the lineup;
- Matt Harvey will complain about the six man rotation that will be implemented at some point during the season;
- Robert Gsellman will make an appearance throwing well over 100 pitches in five innings or less;
- Rene Rivera will hit under the Mendoza Line;
- T.J. Rivera will be raking in AAA and not get called up despite the Mets needing some offense;
- Michael Conforto will not face one left-handed pitcher all season;
- Yoenis Cespedes will not dive for a ball, run out a pop up, or run hard to first on a dropped strike three;
- Curtis Granderson will have a better OBP than Reyes, but Collins will continue to lead off Reyes and his sub .330 OBP;
- Collins will not know if Brandon Nimmo is faster than Flores and it will cost them a game;
- No matter where he winds up this offseason, and no matter how poor his year is going, Chase Utley will hit two home runs in a game he faces the Mets;
- Sandy Alderson will mortgage a part of the Mets future because he didn’t make a move in the offseason that he should have made;
- Paul Sewald will pitch well in AAA, but the Mets won’t call him up because they would rather rip Sean Gilmartin or Gabriel Ynoa from the Vegas rotation to make a relief appearance on 2-3 days of rest;
- Both Josh Smoker and Robles will be fully warmed up, and Collins will go to Smoker to pitch to the lefty;
- For reasons the Mets themselves can’t quite explain, Rafael Montero will spend the full season on the 40 man roster;
- d’Arnaud will come off the disabled list, play well for a stretch, and the Mets will lose him and Steven Matz in the same game;
- Matz will have appendicitis, but the Mets will talk him out of the surgery because they need him to start against the Reds;
- Dilson Herrera will tear it up every time he plays the Mets;
- Wherever he lands, Jay Bruce is going to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI;
- Collins will show up in the dugout without wearing pants, and the Mets still won’t fire him;
- Noah Syndergaard will get ejected from a game for throwing inside. A player who takes a bat to one of the Mets infielders in retaliation won’t;
- Fans will clamor for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to get called up all season long;
- Seth Lugo will bounce between the bullpen and rotation so much, MLB is actually going to test him to see if his arm is actually made out of rubber;
- Bartolo Colon will pitch so poorly against the Mets, fans will wonder why they wanted a bum like him back;
- R.A. Dickey will not only beat the Mets, but he will throw the team into a week long offensive funk causing some fans to decry the trade;
- One or more pitchers will get hurt, and fans that even question if the Warthen Slider could be an issue will be mocked mercilessly;
- Some way some how Jon Niese will pitch for this team;
- Rather than build Tom Seaver a statue, the Mets will issue #41 to Niese upon his return to the team;
- Daniel Murphy will have another terrific year for the Nationals, and some Mets fans will still defend the decision to let him go;
- Ricky Knapp will make a solid spot start for the Mets causing fans to think he is the second coming;
- Mets will trade a good prospect for Kelly Johnson; and
- Despite all of this the Mets will make it to the postseason
Honestly, I give it until April 9th when Collins declares the last game in a three game set against the Marlins is a must-win game.
You may find this very hard to believe, but there was a time when Eric Campbell was actually a fan favorite. It happened. Back in 2014, Campbell was called up to a Mets team that was going nowhere, and he hit. At one point in June, he was actually hitting .302/.360/.442. Fans loved the story of a local kid who was drafted in the eighth round who was making the most of an improbable call-up to the major leagues at the age of 27.
Campbell would have hot stretches here and there in the 2014 season, and he would finish the year with a respectable .263/.322/.358 batting line. That batting line coupled with the fact that Campbell was able to play every position in the infield and both corner outfield spots showed he had the chance to be a bench player in the major leagues.
Unfortunately for Campbell, it was all downhill from there. While very advanced stats would say his exit velocity suggested he should be a better hitter, Campbell’s numbers continuously dropped. He would go from being a fan favorite to being a player who Mets fans took as a symbol of everything that was wrong with the team. That reached its apex when Campbell was batting in the middle of the lineup with John Mayberry, Jr. on a 2015 Mets team that was letting the season slip away due to injuries, a putrid offense, and a front office not willing to pull the trigger on a deal to rescue the season. Somehow, someway, Campbell would be the player that fans would direct their ire.
Frankly, it wasn’t always fair. Campbell was a guy who did whatever was asked of him and more. He would actually try to make himself a capable catcher to make himself as viable an option as he possibly could to the Mets. You can say whatever you want about Campbell, but the fact is, he did everything he could possibly do to take advantage of every ounce of his ability to become the best baseball player he could possibly be.
And there would be some highlights. He would have his first hit, RBI, and home run. He would actually steal home in a game. He made some nice plays in the field, especially this season when David Wright went down. He also showed the ability to come through in the clutch as a pinch hitter:
Despite these highlights, Cambpell struggled in the majors hitting just .221/.312/.311 over the course of three abbreviated seasons. What was frustrating about that is he would go down to AAA, and he would rake. In AAA, Campbell was actually a .322/.429/.488 hitter. There is a term for a player like this. Eric Campbell is a AAAA player – dominates AAA but just can’t do it at the major league level.
And with that, Campbell is where he belongs. Campbell just signed a deal to join the Hashin Tigers of the Japanese Leagues. It is where he belongs as a players, and he should help his new team in their attempt to win their first Japanese Series Championship since 1985. No matter what happens this season, hopefully Campbell can carve out a nice career for himself in Japan like Tuffy Rhodes did. Judging from his time with the Mets, you know Campbell is going to do all he can to make that happen.
And I wish him well. He may not have been one of the greatest Mets, but he is a player that has always stuck out for doing all he could do to make it as a major leaguer. If you took a step back from his struggles, it was easy to admire the work ethic and his willingness to do whatever the team needed him to do. He deserved more love from fans. Hopefully, he finds that love and that success he was looking for in the Japanese Leagues.
Good Luck Eric Campbell.
Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive. For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month. Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment. There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection. It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets. Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad). For the ninth set of grades, here are the other Mets relievers:
This was the second year of his career, and to date, he has yet to carve out a role for himself. The main reason for that is Terry Collins has used him in every sort of role imaginable. He has been used to bail the Mets out of a bases loaded no out jam. He has been used as a set-up man in the seventh and eighth innings. He has closed out a game. He has also been called on to pitch over three innings in a game. Without looking it up, it is safe to say Robles was the only pure reliever this year to throw a pitch in every inning this season. Essentially, Robles has become the Mets version of Ramiro Mendoza.
Robles was having a great year for himself too before Collins over-worked him. In a one week span, Robles threw 127 pitches while making three appearances of over two innings. Robles next appearance after that? Well, it was four days later, and it was a two inning effort that needed Robles to throw 33 pitches. By late August, he was spent having made many more appearances and having thrown many more pitches than he had his entire career. Overall, Robles was 6-4 with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.352 WHIP.
Who knows what’s in store for Robles in 2017? Whatever it is, we can reasonably assume he will perform well in that role.
With Blevins injured in 2015, the Mets had a long search for a LOOGY that never materialized. In 2016, we all got to see what the Mets were missing as Blevins had a good year. Overall, Blevins made 73 appearances going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA and a 1.214 WHIP. As luck would have it, Blevins would actually have reverse splits for the first time in his career.
Right-handed batters were only able to hit .182/.266/.345 off of Blevins while left-handed batters hit .255/.313/.324 off of him. Those numbers are usually reversed, and in reality, right-handed batters typically hit him much harder than that. This speaks to the strides Blevins made in becoming more than just a LOOGY. He became a pitcher that can be relied upon to pitch a full inning. It increased not just his value to the Mets, but also his free agent value.
Gilmartin went from an important piece of the Mets bullpen in 2015 to having a lost year. He began the year in AAA as a starter, but by the end of the year, it would be unclear what his role with the Mets would be in the future.
Initially, Gilmartin succeeded as a starter, but he would be called up to the Mets to pitch out of the pen. He would be used on three days or less of rest. Initially, he pitched well out of the pen for the Mets encouraging the team to do it more. As a result, his numbers suffered, and he missed part of the year with a shoulder injury. When it became time for the Mets to go to the minor leagues for starting pitching depth, Gilmartin was no longer an option on that front. When the Mets were desperate enough in September to give him a start, he wouldn’t make it out of the first inning.
Overall, Gilmartin made 14 appearances going 0-1 with a 713 ERA and a 1.585 WHIP. After a year like this, it will be interesting to see what role, if any, Gilmartin has on the Mets in 2017.
It appears that Goeddel may be the Eric Campbell of relief pitchers. There are many people who point to a number of statistics to say he should be a capable major league player. However, as the sample size grows and grows, his performance suffers as do his numbers. In 36 appearances this season, Goeddel was 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA and a 1.138 WHIP. This was a result of him becoming more hittable and his issuing more walks. With all that said, there is still hope for him as he did post a 9.1 K/9. Despite that, he looks like he will be best suited to starting the year in the minors.
Josh Edgin C-
In Edgin’s first year back from Tommy John surgery, he did not regain his velocity, and he had some trouble with his control. Those two issues combined led to him issuing more walks and to batters getting more hits off of him. In his 16 appearances for the Mets, he would to 1-0 with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP.
These are ugly numbers indeed, but there was some good news behind those numbers. Edgin, who was supposed to be the Mets LOOGY entering 2015, did limit left-handed batters to a .235/.300/.235 batting line. In that essence, Edgin proved he could handle the role as a LOOGY, and it appears the Mets just might given him that chance in 2017.
Josh Smoker C+
Here is what Smoker is: he is a fastball throwing left-handed pitcher that racks up strikeouts. He is not a pitcher that can left-handed batters out, nor is he a pitcher that should ever pitch more than one inning. Collins inability to recognize that led to Smoker’s numbers being worse than they could have been. Keep in mind, Smoker was called upon to go more than one inning, three times, and on each occasion he allowed a home run.
Overall, Smoker was 3-0 with a 4.70 ERA and a 1.304 WHIP. Most impressively, Smoker struck out 14.7 batters per nine innings. With those strikeout numbers, Smoker belongs in a major league bullpen, and chances are, we may very well find himself in one next season.
All you need to know about his season is the Mets traded him away and gave the Pirates money to obtain Jon Niese, who was having the worst year of his career. When the Mets are giving other teams money to take players off their hands, you know a player was having a nightmare of a season.
In addition to the Mets having to make decisions on players like Jerry Blevins, Yoenis Cespedes, and Neil Walker in free agency, they are going to have to make a number of decisions on their own minor league free agents. As we saw with Ty Kelly last year, minor league free agents are important because they not only provide depth at the minor league level, but they also could be players that may need to be called-up to the majors during the season. With that in mind, here is a review on some of the more notable Mets minor league free agents
Roger Bernadina, CF
2016 AAA Stats: .292/.376/.465, 65 R, 29 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 20 SB
For the second straight season, Bernadina did not play a game in the majors. Instead, he put up what was solid offensive numbers for the Pacific Coast League. Bernadina appears to be the same player who was a decent fielder and sub-par hitter he has been throughout his career. He still has decent speed, and the Mets should consider bringing him back.
Eric Campbell, UTIL
2016 MLB Stats: .173/.284/.227, 9 R, 2B, HR, 9 RBI, SB
2016 AAA Stats: .301/.390/.447, 63 R, 15 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 47 RBI, 7 SB
With Campbell regressing at the plate for a third straight season, he has once again proved he is really a AAAA player. He has his positive attributes which include his defensive versatility, his ability to pinch hit, and his overall good attitude. However, with the numbers, the Mets couldn’t justify keeping him on the 40 man roster anymore.
Chase Huchingson, LHP
2016 AAA Stats: 1-1, 5.93 ERA, 22 G, 1.902 WHIP, 8.6 K/9
Before his second substance abuse suspension in 2013, Huchingson was a player to watch as he made his way through the Mets farm system. While his stuff hasn’t changed, the results have with him mostly struggling in the upper levels of the minor leagues. Part of the reason for his struggles this year was his dealing with some arm soreness. At 27 years old, he may never realize his full potential, but he remains AAA depth with some upside still remaining.
Andrew Barbosa, LHP
2016 MiLB Stats: 3-0, 1.51 ERA, 16 G, 15 GS, 0.907 WHIP, 8.9 K/9
After barely making it out of A ball, Barbosa found himself pitching for the Long Island Ducks. Barbosa was dominant for the Ducks, and like many who succeed with the Ducks, Barbosa found himself a part of the New York Mets organization. In one season, Barbosa rose from Rookie Ball all the way to AAA. Even though he is 28 years old, there is still a chance Barbosa can be a contributor at the big league level (most likely in the pen). The relationship between Barbosa and the Mets was beneficial in 2016, and it should continue into 2017.
Rainy Lara, RHP
2016 AA Stats: 7-11, 5.27 ERA, 23 G, 21 GS, 1.467 WHIP, 5.6 K/9
Lara has progressed somewhat slowly through the Mets organization since being signed as an 18 year old out of the Dominican Republic. His stuff hasn’t progressed much either with him still having a low 90s fastball with a slider and changeup he still has not quite mastered. If Lara is going to make the majors, it is going to be as a middle reliever maxing it out every inning. If the Mets are interested in seeing the 25 year old try to make the transition, he would be a worthwhile player to re-sign.
There are many other minor league free agents the Mets need to make decide whether to re-sign or lose them to another team. It will be interesting to see not only who the Mets eventually do sign, but also if any of those players get to the majors like Kelly did in 2016.