With Jeff McNeil hitting .300/.417/.500 in his first 14 games in the Major Leagues, Mickey Callaway said of evaluating the second baseman, “Is this guy going to be a kid we might not have to go find a second baseman over the winter? That’s where we’re at right now.” Seeing how McNeil was coming off three straight injury riddled seasons and how the team made every excuse to keep him in the minors this season, McNeil’s even being considered for the 2019 second base job is quite startling.
It’s all the more startling when you consider if things had been different, McNeil may never have received this opportunity.
Coming off a terrible 2017 season, former first round draft pick Gavin Cecchini set out to rededicate himself and to improve himself in each and every aspect of his game. Overall, the goal was for the Mets to give him more than just a cup of coffee in the majors. The next time, he wanted to stick.
As Cecchini noted in an interview with Abbey Mastracco of nj.com, he sought out to improve every aspect of his game. This meant doing work with Mets hitting coach Pat Roessler to not only change his stance and bat angle, but he would begin studying video. Cecchini also spent time improving his physique, and he began talking about trying to steal more bases. Really, he was turning over every stone to become a better baseball player. Cecchini would describe the result of those efforts:
It feels so strong, like the ball is just exploding off my bat. I never felt the type of pop and power that I have no before. Yeah, I’ve gotten stronger, I gained 15 pounds, but still, the ball is just, I can really tell that my body is always in a good position to hit and the ball is just exploding off my bat.
His efforts paid immediate dividends with him getting noticed during Spring Training, but given the Mets infield depth already set, he would begin the season in Triple-A. With his Spring, and the health issues on the Mets roster, Cecchini looked to be on the verge of getting a shot at a call-up in the event his new and improved approach translated to regular season success.
Through 30 games, Cecchini was hitting .294/.342/.468 with 11 doubles, a triple, two homers, and nine RBI. His .174 ISO was the best of his minor league career. While stats can admittedly be inflated in the Pacific Coast League, his 110 wRC+ indicates he was an above average hitter for the league.
All told, Cecchini was doing everything he needed to do to earn another call-up. All he needed was a chance.
Ironically, while he was waiting for a member of the Major League roster to get injured for him to get a chance, it would be Cecchini who would be the one to get injured.
On May 9, Cecchini would foul a ball off his foot, fall to the ground, and he would need assistance to get off of the field. Initially, he sat out some games while he did some work on the side. The hope he would have a quick return quickly faded as Cecchini was sent to New York to have his foot evaluated by a specialist, who fitted him with the dreaded walking boot.
While the walking boot has been removed, Cecchini remains unable to resume baseball activities. Last month, Las Vegas manager Tony DeFrancesco indicated Cecchini is feeling a tear in his foot.
Ultimately, this likely means Cecchini is done for the year. After that is anyone’s guess.
While Cecchini has been unable to play, the Mets have seen Todd Frazier make multiple trips to the disabled list. Asdrubal Cabrera was traded to the Phillies. Amed Rosario has struggled leading the team to sit him multiple days a week. Long story short, the opportunities for Cecchini to prove himself would have been present.
Instead, those chances went to Luis Guillorme and McNeil. As noted by Callaway, McNeil has at least played well enough to merit consideration for being the Mets 2019 second baseman. Where Cecchini will be at that point is anyone’s guess.
In a scathing article from David Lennon of Newsday set to take Mickey Callaway to task for the Mets recent poor play ultimately concluding that under Callaway’s 57 game tenure as a manager, the Mets are, “A lot of talk, accomplishing nothing.”
Really, it was full of quick barbs and cheap shots like this gem:
So after two more losses, one lousy run scored in the last 24 innings and a pair of Little League-quality blunders in Sunday’s sweep-completing 2-0 loss to the Cubs, we’re wondering what Mickey Callaway has planned next for the Mets.
A how-to seminar on the basics of baseball? A weeklong retreat to restore all of this depleted self-esteem? Maybe a clubhouse visit by Tony Robbins?
This is just emblematic of how Callaway, who is in a no-win situation is now fair game for mocking, ridicule, and blame. What is interesting is these downright insults really overlook what Callaway has accomplished in his brief tenure.
Jacob deGrom has gone to a level we had never seen him pitch. For a Mets organization who looked at Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as enigmas, Callaway has helped turn them into terrific relievers. Speaking of enigmas, the Mets have recently seen Zach Wheeler and Steven Matz turn a corner. It that holds true this rotation will be every bit as formidable as we all hoped it would be.
Offensively, Brandon Nimmo has gone from fourth outfielder to a terrific lead0ff hitter who leads all National League outfielders in OBP and OPS. Amed Rosario has been making continued strides. After beginning his career hitting .245/.275/.371 with a 27.6% strikeout rate, since May 1st, Rosario is an improved .274/.291/.415 with a 16.4% strikeout rate. It may not seem like much, but it’s a stark improvement.
We have also seen the Mets go dumpster diving for players like Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, and Devin Mesoraco. Somehow, these players have been much improved with the Mets than their prior stops, and they have salvaged their MLB careers.
The obvious question from here is if all this is true than why are the Mets 27-30 and in fourth place after such a terrific start?
Much of that answer, i.e. the blame, is attributable to the Mets front office.
Despite time and again facing the same injury issues over and over again, the team AGAIN mishandled a Yoenis Cespedes leg injury, and they are having Jay Bruce and Asdrubal Cabrera play poorly through their own injuries. What’s hysterical about this is Sandy Alderson actually utter the words, “Honestly, sometimes I think we’re a little too cautious with how we approach injuries.”
He’s also made a number of blunders with the in-season managing of this roster.
Consider this. After short start, the Mets designated P.J. Conlon in a series of roster moves to help bring up three fresh arms including Scott Copeland. After Copeland pitched 1.1 scoreless in his only appearance, the Mets called up Jose Lobaton and his -0.6 WAR for the intended purpose of allowing Kevin Plawecki and his .198/.282/.288 split against left-handed pitchers at first base to face Mike Montgomery.
Meanwhile, a Mets organization loses Conlon as the Dodgers claimed him, and a Mets organization who has been wringing their hands to find a second left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, looked on as Buddy Baumann get lit up for four runs on three hits and two walks in the 14th inning of a game the Cubs had not scored a run in over three hours.
The front office’s decision making gets worse and worse the more you look at it.
For some reason, they insist on keeping Jose Reyes on the roster. This, coupled with the aforementioned Gonzalez and Bautista signings, is emblematic of an organization more willing to trust in done veterans reclaiming their past glory than giving a young player like Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Peter Alonso, or even Gavin Cecchini (before his injury) a chance.
This was one of the reasons why the Mets signed Bruce to a three year deal this offseason. No, this was not insurance against Michael Conforto‘s shoulder. Three year $39 million deals are not that. Rather, this signing showed: (1) the Mets wanted a Cespedes-Conforto-Bruce outfield for the next three years; and (2) the team did not have any faith Nimmo could handle playing everyday at the MLB level on even a limited basis.
Now, the Mets what looks to be an injured $39 million albatross in right, who doesn’t even know to call off a back peddling second baseman with a runner on third.
That’s bad defense, which is something the Mets actively welcome with all of their personnel decisions. Really, the team has spent the past few seasons looking to plug non-center fielders in center while playing players out of position all across the infield.
Despite what the Lennon’s of the world will tell us, the poor defense and lack of basic fundamentals isn’t Callaway’s doing. No, it is the result of an organizational philosophy.
The Bruce signing has such short and long term implications. With his salary, will the Mets bench him instead of Nimmo or Gonzalez when Cespedes comes back healthy. Will the organization let his salaries in future years block Alonso or Dominic Smith at first base? Mostly, will his escalating salaries be another excuse why the team rolls the dice and gives a player like Jason Vargas $8 million instead of just going out and signing the player who really fills a need?
Sure, there are plenty of reasons to attack Callaway. His bullpen management has been suspect at times. Lately, he’s been managing more out of fear than attacking the game to try to get the win. Really, this is part of a learning curve for a first time manager in a new league.
It’s a learning curve that could have been helped by a long time veteran National League manager. Instead, Sandy Alderson thought it best to hire a Gary Disarcina to be the bench coach because who better to help a young first time manager in a new league than a player who has spent his entire playing, front office, and minor league managerial career in the American League?
Really, that’s just one of several examples of how Alderson has set up both Callaway and this entire Mets team to fail in 2018.
Admittedly, this is beating a dead horse, a horse deader than Jose Reyes‘ ability to contribute to a Major League team, but if you are going to complain about something, you need to present solutions. After all, what is the good in saying Reyes should be released if you are not prepared to suggest improvements?
As much as I like to joke about it, no, David Wright would not be an improvement over Reyes right now, even if the argument could sadly be made. Jokes aside, there are plenty of better options available to the Mets over what Reyes is giving the team right now and in the future:
MLB Stats: .400/.400/.500, 2B, RBI
MiLB Stats: .300/.394/.433, 7 2B, 3B, HR, 15 RBI, 2 SB, CS
The main thing Guillorme brings to the table is great middle infield defense. Even if his ability to drive the ball will remind you of Luis Castillo, he does have the ability to give you a good at-bat and get on base. At a minimum, since getting called-up, he has show he is not over-matched, and he is ready right now to contribute as a utility player for the Mets right now.
MiLB Stats: .274/.350/.500, 7 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 24 RBI, SB
The immediate reaction whenever Kelly is mentioned is he is a Four-A player because he has a MLB career stat line of .211/.297/.340. Even if you’re right, it bears mentioning this would be a huge upgrade over Reyes’ current stats. More than that, Kelly is a versatile player and switch hitter who can play all four infield positions and can handle both corner outfield spots. And for the knocks against him, he is .255/.351/.340 against left-handed pitching.
MLB Stats: .154/.214/.179, 2B, RBI
MiLB Stats: .257/.333/371, 4 2B, 6 RBI
Nido would mean carrying three catchers and pressing Wilmer Flores to become a backup at short as well. Given Reyes’ -15 DRS at short last year, Flores is not a dropoff defensively. Nido’s presence on the roster would accomplish a few things. First, you can give Noah Syndergaard his own personal catcher, which may not be a bad thing given the challenges catching Syndergaard possesses. Second, having Nido would free up both Devin Mesoraco and Kevin Plawecki for more pinch hitting attempts. Third, Nido would allow the Mets to take it easier on Mesoraco, who has an extensive injury history, and it permits the team to not over rely on Plawecki, who is still not quite established as a major leaguer. However, you would ideally keep Nido in the minors once Plawecki returns to give him the regular at-bats he needs to improve offensively.
MiLB Stats: .294/.342/.468, 11 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, SB, CS
After a lost season last year, Cecchini worked on a number of things in the offseason, and he is back to being the player he was just two years ago. However, this is more on the long-term view as Cecchini has not played since May 9th when he fouled a ball off his foot.
MiLB Stats: .328/.403/.715, 11 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 31 RBI, SB
For all the clamoring over Peter Alonso, many are overlooking his teammate McNeil, who has recently surpassed Alonso in doubles, homers, SLG, and OPS. The 26 year old is healthy after a few injury riddled seasons, and he’s flat out raking. With him mashing right-handed pitching, he would be a good platoon partner for Wilmer Flores in Todd Frazier‘s absence. However, ideally, you’d like to keep him in Double-A longer, and you would want to see him in Triple-A before rushing him to the majors, especially when there are more than sufficient options ahead of him.
In complete fairness, Phillip Evans, who has not gotten a hit in seven at-bats and was not great in Las Vegas was not mentioned. Also not mentioned is T.J. Rivera because no one can be quite sure when he will be ready to return to playing after his Tommy John surgery. Really, the Mets need Rivera to return as soon as he can because he would be the best possible internal addition to the Mets bench.
In 29 games this season, Jose Reyes is hitting .143/.176/.204 with a 6 OPS+ and 6 wRC+. To put it in perspective, a league average OPS+ or wRC+ is 100. That’s a major reason why Reyes has a -0.4 WAR so far this season.
When he is getting into games, he’s making mistakes like how he was picked off of first base by Jake Arrieta. We’ve also seen more than a few occasions where he has failed to make the proper read off the bat, or he is just not hustling around the bases.
His struggles are apparent to all including his manager Mickey Callaway. Even with Todd Frazier on the disabled list, Wilmer Flores is getting the starts at third base against right-handed pitching. When the Blue Jays pitched J.A. Happ in the series finale, Callaway opted to have Flores play first, Luis Guillorme get his first professional start at third, and have Phillip Evans play left.
Based on the past few seasons, hitting left-handed pitching was one of the things Reyes had continued to do quite well. Also judging from the past few seasons, Flores and his career -19 DRS at third base should never be called upon to play the position on an extended period of time.
And yet, here we are. Flores is the top third base option, and Reyes is not getting any real playing time. When he finally does get to play, he is unable to get any hits.
Put your personal feelings aside. This applies to all Mets fans. The group who still adores the homegrown player and sparkplug of the early 2000s. The fans who can never forgive him for the domestic violence. The younger crowd who may have seen him as an energetic player who helped the Mets capture one of the two Wild Card spots in 2016. Everyone.
Ask yourself one simple question: Is Jose Reyes done?
When looking at Reyes’ career, you always thought the last thing which would go was the spark. That smile. The energy. An excitement unlike almost any other player who has ever played the game.
Seeing his lackadaisical effort in his increasingly limited playing time, you don’t notice that same spark anymore. It’s not that he’s going through the motions. That’s an unfair statement. It’s just that he’s not the same guy on the field. It seems the boundless joy he had is slowing dissipating.
Seeing Guillorme start his MLB career the way he has, and seeing Gavin Cecchini bounceback after a down 2017, Reyes is getting pushed, and based upon this play on the field, he may not be able to push back, at least not hard enough to stem the tide.
Considering how well respected he is by ownership (despite his domestic violence past), it is incumbent upon them to work with Reyes to find him a respectable way to end his Major League career. Something akin to what the Mariners did with Ichiro Suzuki.
Schedule a day. Let him leadoff and start at short. Let him get a bunt hit in his first at-bat, and let him depart the field to the chants of “Jose-Jose-Jose-Jose . . . Jose-Jose!” Whatever you need to do to make it feel to Reyes like a respectful and fitting end before taking a front office or coaching job within the organization.
Really, whatever the Mets can do to get Reyes to agree to retirement will do because the one thing this Mets team cannot afford is to let him continue to play and drag a team desperate for each every win down.
Given everything that has happened since Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, you can hardly blame Matt Harvey for refusing a minor league assignment and for the Mets designating him for assignment. Ultimately, this is something which may prove beneficial to all parties involved.
For Harvey, he has a lot of work ahead of him. Unfortunately, the same goes for the Mets, who for reasons unbeknownst to anyone, stopped their roster alterations at Harvey.
There is no doubt Harvey was under-performing, but at the time of the Mets decision he was the last guy in the bullpen mopping up games like the 6-0 mess left for him by Jason Vargas. Rarely is the last guy in your bullpen the real issue with your team, and the Mets are not one of those exceptions.
One of the main issues with this time right now is the lineup. With injuries, slumps, and flat out benching more talented players, the team needs to make changes there desperately.
One of the changes that needs to be made is to get Brandon Nimmo into the lineup everyday. At the moment, Nimmo is hitting .256/.448/.442 with a 17.2% walk rate. By OPS+ and wRC+, he is the second best hitter in the Mets lineup. There is no justifiable reason to keep him as the fourth outfielder.
However, he is because the Mets are trying to make Adrian Gonzalez happen. Well, if you go by his hitting .231/.311/.372 with a -0.4 WAR, it’s not happening, and it’s not going to happen. Game-in and game-out, he’s showing why the Dodgers took on Matt Kemp to get rid of him and why the Braves were happy to pay him $21.8 million to go away.
Really, there is no reason why the Mets continue to trot him out there when they can put the hobbled Jay Bruce at first base.
Whether it is the plantar fascitiis or something else, Bruce has struggled this year and playing the outfield is doing him no favors. Really, he and the team is best served by moving Bruce to first and allowing more athletic players like Nimmo and Juan Lagares play out there.
Again, the only thing standing in the way of the Mets optimizing both their defensive alignment and their lineup is a 35 year old with a bad back who already has a -0.4 WAR.
Speaking of players in their mid 30s, well past their prime, and standing in the way of more talented players, the Mets need to do something about Jose Reyes.
So far this season, Reyes is hitting .139/.184/.222. To put that in perspective, the recently designated for assignment Matt Harvey was batting .286/.286/.286. Put another way, Reyes is hitting like a pitcher . . . or worse.
That’s except when he’s coming off the bench. When he’s pinch hitting, he’s not hitting at all going 0-9 with three strike outs. When he substitutes into games, he’s 0-4.
Really, what’s the point of having a bench player who can’t hit when he comes off the bench?
Remember this was the same Reyes who posted a -0.6 WAR last year and his -26 DRS was the worst among Major League infielders. There is really not hope there’s any upside.
Looking at Las Vegas, Gavin Cecchini is hitting .313/.359/.500 while mostly playing the middle infield with a game at short.
After a slow start, Luis Guillorme is in the midst of an eight game hitting streak that has seen him go 13-28 with three doubles and seven RBI. After starting the year hitting .211/.338/.281, he’s not hitting .294/.394/.376.
In addition to Cecchini or Guillorme, the Mets could opt to go with Phillip Evans, who won a bench job out of Spring Training or Ty Kelly, who is once again dominating in Las Vegas hitting .300/.364/.600 with four doubles, four triples, six homers, and 21 RBI.
Even if you didn’t like the group as a collective, you’d be hard pressed to present an argument where they would not be able to get at least one hit while coming off of the bench.
Now, are Gonzalez and Reyes the only two problems? Far from it. The catching situation is still a mess, the bullpen is regressing, and every starter not named Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard has been completely unreliable.
That said, Gonzalez and Reyes are blocking more talented players who promise to be more productive than what we have seen from both players not just this year, but stretching back to last year. If the Mets are truly interested in becoming a better team, these two need to join Harvey in looking for another team.
The Mets started 12-2, and it seemed like they could do no wrong. That was until a complete bullpen eighth inning meltdown against the Nationals. Since that point, the Mets have gone 5-9, and they have fallen to second place in the division. With that as the backdrop, we turned to the Mets Blogger Roundtable to ask if Mickey Callaway‘s Mets team is for real:
We’re already seeing the Mets falling back to earth, and there was never any question that they would lose more than 15 games this year. The positive is that they have a core that’s skilled, and a new manager who will hopefully find ways to adapt and keep the room positive throughout the highs and lows of a season.
What *is* reality anyway? We are all one big consciousness agreeing upon a never ending list of rules and quibbling over interpretations of shared perceptions, right? That’s what I learned in third grade from the bus driver who smelled weird. If the reality of the situation is I am being asked if the Mets are as good as they were when they started 11-1, then no, they are not “for real.” They have been the fourth-luckiest team in all of baseball while the Nationals have been the most unlucky. We aren’t going to cry over Bryce Harper‘s misfortune (the Vegas native should be aware of streaks of bad luck at the very least anecdotally). We will cry over the Mets though. Yet we shouldn’t; they just have to play .500 ball from their 13th to 162nd game to hit lucky number 86 wins. They uh, haven’t played over .500 ball since that time but I guessed they would make the wild card game five weeks ago, so I might as well keep my chips on 86.
Right now I want to jump off of my seat in section 509.
Editor’s Note: this response was sent during the game after we learned about deGrom’s elbow.
Yes, but they have holes to fix and this passive approach to every situation is part of the problem.
Are the Mets for real in the sense that they have a genuine chance to end the season where they ended April, in first place? Based on what we’ve seen…sure, why not? I’d hate to think they’re pulling the cap down over our eyes.
Are the Mets for real in the sense that I’m supremely confident they won’t fall out of the race altogether after a while? That’s what the rest of the schedule is for: to find out.
But overall I feel pretty good about this team. The next 130+ games are always the hardest.
Caveat: All of the above is up for grabs in light of the uncertainty surrounding Jacob deGrom.
I think the Mets’ start is most-definitely indicative of the potential of this team moving forward through the season.
The inevitably-oncoming adage of “Jake and Thor, then pray for it to pour” that was true for most of the first month of the season seems to be slowly fading away.
After the inconsistencies of Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler over their first few starts, as well as the banishing of Matt Harvey to the bullpen and the alarming start to Jason Vargas’ second stint with the Mets, things have started to look up lately.
If Wheeler can be effective (read: keep his pitches low), his stuff alone places him among the upper-crust of middle-of-the-rotation starting pitchers in the NL, and the same goes for Matz.
If Vargas has shown anything over his career, he’s proven to be the model of mediocre-but-efficient consistency, and that’s all the team really needs out of him.
I think this offense is truly one of the more-dangerous groups we’ve seen here since the days of Carlos Beltran/David Wright/Carlos Delgado, and I mean that. The recent upticks in production for Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez are promising.
The Mets’ bullpen has, for the most part, been the strength of this team and will continue to be, in my opinion. AJ Ramos looks to have found his groove and Robert Gsellman is absolutely thriving in his new role. Even Seth Lugo, who may not be adapting as easily as Gsellman has, has had some success and only figures to get more comfortable as time goes on. And, to be honest, Harvey could come to be a key cog in the relief corps once he gets a feel for things.
Are the Mets for real? It’s hard to say, but what’s becoming clear is that this season certainly won’t be easy. We got off to a hot start with Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Bruce all slumping, and you have to think we’ll get more from all of them going forward — but we’ll also presumably see regression from Todd Frazier and Asdrubal Cabrera, and the pitching has gone downhill fast since the first few turns through the rotation. Now deGrom is hurt too…if our starters besides Thor are a failed Harvey, a failed Matz, an inconsistent Wheeler, and an unimpressive Jason Vargas, there’s only so much room to get wins with that kind of rotation. Sure, things could turn out well — anything can happen. But as I said, the only thing that’s clear is that it certainly won’t be easy.
Initially, I had a long piece detailing how much the lineup and the pitching staff could benefit from Kevin Plawecki‘s return. How even with the inability to hit for power right now, Conforto is playing a good outfield and getting on base. How when you look deeper into the farm, you see Gavin Cecchini and Peter Alonso getting off to terrific starts making you wonder “What if . . . .”
None of that matters if deGrom is injured like he was in 2016 or Syndergaard was in 2017.
This is not to say his having a serious injury ends the Mets season. Rather, it means the season needs a miracle. In 2016, the Mets got that out of Lugo and Gsellman. Maybe the Mets get that this year out of some group that includes Harvey, Matz, Corey Oswalt, or Chris Flexen.
Maybe . . . .
Personally, I’d like to thank everyone for being able to respond to this roundtable. It was all the more impressive when you consider how panic striken we were collectively as a fanbase when deGrom left the game last night. We do know when that news finally breaks, there will be some terrific things written about deGrom and the Mets. Some of the best things will be written by the people in this roundtable, and I hope you will visit their sites.
That is except for Becky. She is currently a free agent and needs a home to write about the Mets. Hopefully, someone will soon jump in and find a home for her terrific work.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When Sandy Alderson took over as the Mets General Manager, one of the areas of emphasis was supposed to be building a sustainable farm system that would give the Mets continued success throughout the years. This, in turn, would prevent the Mets from having to give out those proverbial second generation contracts Alderson purportedly despises giving to players.
Now, in order for that to happen, the team was going to have to not only draft well, but they were going to have to identify international talent. If the Mets had indeed done well in those efforts, the Mets Opening Day roster would have looked something like this:
But as we know it doesn’t. One of the reasons why is the team has not developed position players as well as the organization, or really anyone would have liked. If you are not being so understanding, you would say the Mets whiffed on high draft picks by drafting players who are either backups or career minor leaguers.
Look, no one has a perfect draft record, and we should remember this regime did draft Conforto and Michael Fulmer. The problem there is they traded Fulmer away. That is something they are reportedly not willing to do with Nimmo despite the fact he is blocked by Cespedes, Conforto, and Jay Bruce for the next three years.
With respect to Cecchini and Smith, the Mets have decided at a minimum, neither are ready to start next season in the majors. This would be easier to swallow had either received a real shot of proving their abilities. Instead, the Mets will go with broken Adrian Gonzalez and who knows what at second.
Overall, the 2017 Mets are not what Sandy Alderson envisioned what they would be when these players were first drafted. That’s fair to a certain extent because no one imagined that the Mets would look this way when the team won the pennant in 2015.
It is a slow going offseason, but it seems even slower for the Mets. With so many teams with more money than the Mets still interested in many of the same free agents, it is hard to believe the Mets will make significant additions before the end of the offseason. If they don’t, here is what the 2018 Mets Opening Day roster will look like:
C – Travis d’Arnaud
1B – Dominic Smith
2B – Wilmer Flores
3B – Asdrubal Cabrera
SS – Amed Rosario
LF – Yoenis Cespedes
CF – Juan Lagares
RF – Michael Conforto
Bench – Kevin Plawecki, Brandon Nimmo, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Phillip Evans
This should only highlight about how much work the Mets actually have to do this offseason.
Sure, we can buy the pitching staff as a whole as is because they have viable depth. In the rotation, Lugo could get transition back much like how he did in 2016. After that, they have Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, Corey Oswalt, and Mickey Jannis. And that is before the Mets go deeper with pitchers like P.J. Conlon. Suffice it to say, the Mets do have sufficient rotation depth.
However, that offense. You can’t sell anyone that is going to be alright. Mostly, that is because the Mets don’t believe themselves that it will be. And that is before you take into account the injury issues Conforto and Rivera are currently rehabbing from this offseason.
For example, the team has all but given up on Gavin Cecchini, who should be in a position to at least compete for a spot on the 25 man roster. He won’t. What’s scary is there is no real Major League ready talent behind him . . . at least no immediately as players like Luis Guillorme and David Thompson need at least some time in Triple-A. By the way, there’s no real outfield depth in this system.
Looking over this roster, you’d be hard pressed to believe the Mets will be better than the 70-92 team they were last season no matter how much they sell us Mickey Callaway as the solution to all that ails the Mets.
So, it really should not come as a surprise to no one the Mets have a lot of work to do, and it goes well beyond just adding one or two players. That applies just to the starting lineup. After that, they really need to build a Major League caliber bench.
Again, the good news is there are still many free agents available. However, it’s still hard to believe the Mets will be able to add the players they need to become a postseason contender.