In what seems to be a right of passage for any Mets player, Jed Lowrie is dealing with a knee issue. While the team is giving their usual spiel about how this is not a big concern, they are also sending Lowrie for an MRI. Time will tell if this is just a Spring Training ache and pain or if this is something more serious.
On the one hand, you could well argue this is what a team should expect when they sign a soon-t0-be 35 year old middle infielder. Older players are less durable, and as a result, tend to suffer more injuries. With that being the case, you could use this as a basis to criticize the Mets, but you shouldn’t.
Once the team made the trade for Robinson Cano, they were left with having to decide how to handle the construction of their team. On the one hand, they could have looked at Cano and saw a player who absent suspension hasn’t played fewer games than 2006. They could have looked at Jeff McNeil as a capable back-up for the 36 year old in the event Cano does break down, or possibly, faces another suspension.
Still, the team would have been faced with dealing with a 33 year old Todd Frazier. For his part, Frazier has typically been a healthy player. However, with the Mets, he would have the first two DL stints in his career. If this were a sign of things to come, it would be difficult to have McNeil backing up both Cano and Frazier simultaneously.
Looking at it, this left the Mets with a question how to properly build depth. Astutely, Brodie Van Wagenen signed [his former client] Lowrie to serve as that depth. In Lowrie, the Mets were getting an All-Star who hit .267/.353/.448 with 37 doubles, a triple, 23 homers, and 99 RBI (120 OPS+) while playing for the A’s last year. In Lowrie, the Mets obtained a player who could probably be an everyday player for any of the 30 Major League teams.
With Lowrie, the Mets have a play who can play second or third base. It gave the team options at those positions as well as first base with Frazier’s and Cano’s ability to play there. Without him, the Mets are back at square one with Cano and Frazier, two All-Stars who are good defenders at their positions. Without him, they still have plenty of options at first with Peter Alonso, J.D. Davis, and the overlooked Dominic Smith.
The team still has the option to move McNeil back to the infield to buttress the infield depth.
Overall, even if Lowrie goes down, the team has the ability to sustain that injury. If it was Cano or Frazier who went down with injury instead, the team would have had Lowrie. That is exactly why you sign Lowrie, and that is why even if this injury is more severe than expected (as is the Mets way), the team has already been proven right in signing him.
Assuming the Mets carry five bench spots, which is the norm for a National League team, the race for the last spot on the bench became much more crowded and complicated with the team’s signing of Adeiny Hechavarria. That question becomes further complicated when you question just what exactly the Mets real intentions are with Peter Alonso.
Assuming Alonso begins the season in Triple-A, the Mets already have bench spots allocated to Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton. One of Juan Lagares or Jeff McNeil is going to play everyday meaning the other is going to be on the bench. That is three bench spots spoken for with two remaining. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.
Considering the Mets parted with a package headlined by Luis Santana in what has been an oft criticized trade, you could see the pressure to carry J.D. Davis. Aside from the pressure, whether it be real or imagined, Davis does have the ability to play both corner infield spots adequately, and despite his deficiencies out there, the does have outfield experience.
The real positive for Davis is the power he could provide off the bench, but in order for that to be realized, he is going to have to increase the launch angle in his swing and his corresponding high ground ball rates. There is also a real question whether Chili Davis is the hitting coach to get him to realize his full power potential.
If the Mets are looking for a versatile infielder who can play the outfield, there is forgotten man T.J. Rivera. Rivera missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, but reports this Spring have been overly positive. While we know Rivera is not a particularly good defender, the Mets also know Rivera can be trusted to start at any position over a long stretch. Between the 2017 season and the World Baseball Classic, we have also seen him able to raise his game in big games.
The issue both players have is neither plays shortstop. For that matter, neither does Jed Lowrie, which arguably led to the Mets signing Hechavarria to a minor league deal. The one thing we do know with Hechavarria is he can play shortstop and play it well. Over the last four seasons combined, he has amassed a 26 DRS. The problem with him is he can’t hit as evidenced by his career 72 wRC+.
Hitting was also an issue for Luis Guillorme. In his brief time with the Mets, he was only able to muster a 53 wRC+ in 35 games. That is partially because Guillorme received uneven playing time. It is also because he has never been considered to be a great hitter. Still, there are two factors in Guillorme’s favor. First, like Hechavarria, he is a good defender. Second, Guillorme did show himself to be an adept pinch hitter last year hitting .273/.467/.364 in 15 pinch hitting appearances.
Now, if the Mets are looking for a more offensive oriented middle infielder who could play shortstop, the team does have Gavin Cecchini. Heading into last season, Cecchini had worked on his swing, and it had paid dividends with him hitting .294/.342/.468 in 30 games for Las Vegas before fouling a ball off his leg effectively ending his season. If Cecchini shows he is able to hit the same way, he could make a case for a bench spot for himself.
Standing in Cecchini’s way is his not being on the 40 man roster and his shortstop defense having pushed him to second base. The same could also be true for Dilson Herrera. For his part, Herrera was never truly considered anything more than a second baseman and that was before his shoulder injury. That shoulder injury cost him some of his offensive output until he rediscovered his stroke last year hitting .297/.367/.465 for the Reds Triple-A affiliate.
One other overlooked name for the Opening Day bench is Dominic Smith. If Alonso were to start the year in Triple-A, the Mets would have to find playing time for Alonso, Gregor Blanco, Rajai Davis, Rymer Liriano, and Tim Tebow between first base, three infield spots, and DH. Even with how down the team may be on Smith, it is difficult to believe they would leave him in Syracuse to fight for playing time between those three spots.
Instead, the team could carry him on the Major League roster. Certainly, Smith reporting to camp with not just his keeping the weight off but also adding muscle, helps improve his chances. His being a good defensive first baseman capable of playing left field in a pinch should also help him.
Of course, Smith would have to compete with all of the aforementioned players as well as Danny Espinosa just to claim a bench spot. He would also have to count on the team not putting Alonso on the Opening Day roster, which judging from the improvements Alonso has made, is not a safe assumption.
Really, when breaking it down, the Mets have plenty of options to fill out their bench, and ultimately for this team to reach its full potential, they are going to have to find the right mix of players to complement their everyday players. Hopefully, everyone comes to play making this as difficult a decision as the Mets will have all year.
With the Mets hiring an agent as opposed to a front office baseball executive, you knew Brodie Van Wagenen was going to have a learning curve. As such, he was going to make some bad moves, and certainly, you knew he was going to make some curious decisions. Some may inure to the Mets benefit while others may not. If these questionable decisions do work out for the Mets, then a World Series may very well be in the team’s future.
Why Isn’t Cano Playing First Base?
Robinson Cano was the big bat the Mets acquired this offseason, and the plan is for him to be a fixture in the Mets lineup. However, that is for as many games as he is able to play. To his credit, Brodie Van Wagenen has been quite vocal about the need to give Cano more days off than he is accustomed due to Cano being 36 years old.
If we harken back to 1999, Bobby Valentine did this with a 40 year old Rickey Henderson to get the last good season out of Henderson. That also led to the Mets claiming the Wild Card and going to the NLCS.
For Cano, it is not just his age, but it is also his position. Players who play up the middle play the more taxing defensive positions in baseball. That takes more of a toll on a 36 year old player. Given Jed Lowrie‘s presence on the team, you have to wonder why the team doesn’t make Lowrie the second baseman with Cano playing first.
Putting Cano at first would be putting him in a position where he would not be as subject to fatigue over the course of the season. It should also be noted with Cano already 36 years old and his signed for five more seasons, it is a position switch he will eventually have to make. If he is going to have to make the switch, why not do it now so the Mets could coax more at-bats and games from him over the course of the season?
Where Is Davis Getting His Opportunity?
With J.D. Davis‘ minor league stats, you could make the argument all he needs to succeed at the Major League level is an opportunity to play at the Major League level. Certainly, it’s a fair point to raise when someone hits .342/.406/.583 in 85 Triple-A games and .175/.248/.223 in 42 MLB games.
The problem is you’d be hard-pressed to where exactly he would get that opportunity.
He’s behind Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie at the third base depth chart. He’s behind Peter Alonso and Frazier on the first base depth chart. He’s a right-handed compliment to right-handed hitters. He’s not suited to play outfield in the majors, and even if he was, he’s buried on the outfield depth chart as well. Combine that with Lowrie and Jeff McNeil being the versatile players on the roster, and you have to wonder where he gets hit at-bats.
After you are done contemplating that, you are left to wonder why the team would trade three good prospects in Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, and Scott Manea for him when they could’ve just as easily signed Mark Reynolds or Matt Davidson.
Was McNeil Playing LF the Original Plan?
One of the benefits of having McNeil on the roster is having a versatile player on the roster. Despite the team’s initial reluctance last year, he is someone who has received playing time at all four infield positions, and he has always trained in the outfield. To that extent, penciling him as the team’s starting left fielder, even against just right-handed pitching made a ton of sense.
That plan made even more sense when you consider Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are both capable center fielders with Juan Lagares being the best defensive center fielder in the game. Really, breaking it down, moving McNeil to left field was probably the best way to handle the Mets resources.
However, the plan to move McNeil to left field does raise some interesting questions. For example, why didn’t the team send him to winter ball to play outfield. Also, why would the team expend resources to obtain Keon Broxton only to make him a fifth outfielder? Moreover, if McNeil is your outfielder, shouldn’t the team have a better insurance option against his inability to play left field than Broxton?
What’s the Plan for Backup Catcher?
When the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Indians, they were effectively announcing Travis d’Arnaud was healthy enough to be the backup. That was called into question when Mickey Callaway said Devin Mesoraco signed with the Mets because of his relationship with Jacob deGrom.
It would seem if the Mets signed Mesoraco to catch deGrom the team now has one catcher too many. Does this mean the team is planning on moving him on the eve of Opening Day, or is Mesoraco willing to catch in the minors until the inevitable injury to d’Arnaud or Wilson Ramos. If that is the case, what impact does this have on Tomas Nido, and his future?
On the bright side, the Mets have good depth at the catcher position, but that only remains true to the extent they are keeping everyone. If they are the challenge is then to keep everyone happy and sharp, which is much easier said than done.
Where’s the Starting Pitching Depth?
With Jason Vargas struggling since the 2017 All-Star Break, you would have thought the Mets would have done more to address their pitching depth. That goes double when you consider the team traded Justin Dunn, their best starting pitching prospect, and with David Peterson and Anthony Kay being at least a couple of years away.
With the health issues facing Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, you would’ve thought the Mets would have been pressed more to add starting pitching depth. When you couple that with Van Wagenen knowing Jeff Barry councils his pitching clients to limit their innings, you would believe the Mets would have pressed to go more than four deep in the pitching rotation.
But the Mets haven’t. Not really. Their depth is essentially the same group who posted an ERA over 5.00 as MLB staters along with Hector Santiago, a pitcher now better suited to the bullpen.
When you look at this rotation the best health they had was in 2015, and that was a year the team needed 10 starting pitchers to get through the season. This team has nowhere near that type of depth.
As it turns out, more than anything, it may turn out to be the pitching depth which is the biggest key to the 2019 season. If the team is healthy, and deGrom and Syndergaard go against their agent’s advice, it is possible the team has enough pitching to get through the season. If the pitchers do impose pitching limits and there is more than one pitching injury, the team’s hopes of winning anything may be done, and that is even if the other questions are answered in the affirmative.
During his interview with Mike Franceca on WFAN, he would speak about the team, and he would be challenged by Mike on a number of issues. As the General Manager, you can understand Van Wagenen trying to sell the fan base about the team. It is part and parcel of his job.
In some ways, he did effectively did that. He touted the combination of Peter Alonso and J.D. Davis as capably hitting 30 home runs combined from the first base position. He also reminded fans of this being a versatile team with Todd Frazier and Robinson Cano being able to play first base if necessary. This would also allow the team to play Jed Lowrie and have him bat second in the lineup every day.
Behind some of the bravado, some of Van Wagenen’s early bravado began to erode away, and you saw someone who is trying to sell an incomplete roster. We saw this through two telling exchanges. The first notable one regards Bryce Harper and Manny Machado:
BVW: "It's not so easy to find spots for all of our good players already."
MF: "You're telling me you don't have room for them?
BVW: "Probably not the best fit for us."
MF: "Are you telling me you don't have room for them in the lineup?"
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) February 11, 2019
Essentially, Brodie is going to have us believe the team has no room for Machado on the infield. Now, you could argue even with Amed Rosario being disappointing thus far, he is primed to break out next season. He can also point to there already being solid to very good veteran infielders. That’s fair. However, he loses us completely at Harper.
This is a team with just two starting outfielders in Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. For all of their defensive prowess, neither Keon Broxton or Juan Lagares can’t hit. As for Jeff McNeil, the Mets apparently believed in him so much they aggressively pursued two other All-Star second baseman to play over him.
The Mets will tell you he’s now going to be an outfielder. That’s all well and good, and we all hope he can make the transition. However, no matter how good he is, he is no Bryce Harper.
That’s important due to the second pertinent exchange. When Mike asked if the Mets were better than the Vegas line of 84 wins, Van Wagenen was sure of himself saying, “I think 84 wins is light.” When pressed on whether this was a 90 win team, Van Wagenen was less assured, and he would not commit to the 90 win figure.
That’s very problematic.
Looking at the history of the Wild Card, the lowest win total for a National League Wild Card was 87 wins. That honor belongs to the 2016 Mets and Giants and the 2017 Rockies. No Mets fan wants to see a repeat of Madison Bumgarner and Conor Gillaspie in a winner-take-all game.
Really, if you are in the 84-89 wins range, you are in the postseason race, but you are towards the bottom of that race. That’s not where you want to be with the Nationals, Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Rockies boasting good rosters of their own. And don’t forget the Phillies who are still in a position to pounce on a player or two in what is still a bizarrely loaded free agent class.
When you boil it down, Van Wagenen can be boastful all he wants, but he’s essentially admitted this is an incomplete team. Worse yet, he’s admitting after trading away Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, Gerson Bautista, Bobby Wahl, Felix Valerio, Adam Hill, and Scott Manea, his work is not nearly done.
Instead of saying, “Come get us!” to the National League, he should be telling ownership to “Please help us!” because this team is far from complete.
Today, across Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers will officially have to report to Spring Training. Truth be told, many players have already reported with the hopes of helping their teams win a World Series. Of course, there are any number of players who have not reported partially because they do not have a team to report. In shocking fashion, the still pending free agents could comprise a postseason team:
Say what you want about teams thinking they’re smarter than years past. Say what you want about players being unrealistic as to what their real value is. Everyone has their own perceptions, right or wrong. Ultimately, no matter what your perception, having a collection of players like this still being free agents is embarrassing for baseball.
It’s long past the time for teams to step up and do what it takes to bring key free agents onto their rosters to get them closer to a World Series.
As for the Mets, even if you do not support them pursuing a player like Harper or Machado (which is a bizarre stance), it’s hard to believe this is a complete team. A pitcher like Gonzalez or Jackson should be brought in to push Jason Vargas. With two defensive specialists like Juan Lagares and Keon Broxton who can’t hit, they could certainly use a Jones.
For that matter, to make this team even deeper, they could use a Dietrich, Gonzalez, or Harrison to combine with Jeff McNeil and Jed Lowrie. It also couldn’t hurt to have a Romo or Madson to bolster an already good bullpen.
When you boil it down, there are still difference makers in this free agent market. At this point, if you are not signing some of the pending free agents, you are not even trying to take advantage of unique opportunity before you. If that is the case, you are not doing all you can do to win in 2019.
During his time in the minors, Jeff McNeil wore a couple of different numbers. Last year, he wore 12 with Las Vegas, and he wore 1 with Binghamton. Overall, he’d wear a variety of numbers including 3, 5, and 10. Naturally, when the Mets called him up to the majors, McNeil was assigned the number 68.
The significance of 68? Well, it was just next in line.
It was something the Mets seemed to start in 2016. That year, the Mets gave T.J. Rivera the number 54, and Ty Kelly was given 55. When Kelly Johnson returned, Kelly was given 56. Over the ensuing years, we’d see the number gradually climb up and up to the point Kelly would wear 66 last year, and eventually McNeil wearing 68.
Now, this is not a practice reserved for all prospects, and it has not been a practice always in place. For example, when Jose Reyes and David Wright were called up, they were given their now iconic 7 and 5 numbers. For that matter, when Eric Campbell was called up to the majors in 2014, he went from 24, a number somewhat unofficially retired by the Mets, to 29.
Now, McNeil is going to wear the number 6, a number which was available all of last season. For that matter, Rivera is going to wear 19, which was a number that Jay Bruce had before he was called up to the majors. It should also be noted the 3 he wore with Las Vegas was worn by Curtis Granderson.
Now, there are some restrictions with uniform numbers. For example, recent uniform history suggests Gary Carter‘s 8 and Keith Hernandez‘s 17 are unofficially retired. They may also want to try to preserve numbers for their top prospects like how Peter Alonso was assigned 20 this Spring Training.
Still, there is a wide chasm between not allowing a player to have a certain number and giving them a number in the 50s or 60s. These players have achieved something by making it all the way to the majors. They should be treated as such by giving them a real uniform number, especially as we saw in the case with Dilson Herrera and Juan Uribe, you are going to make the young player switch when a more established player wants the number.
As a side note, it’s more fan friendly as well because if you are someone immediately attached to a player like McNeil, when you go out and get the jersey, or even shirsey, you have the right number and aren’t out money when the player is finally deemed good enough to pick their own real baseball number.
With the signing on Jed Lowrie, the Mets have been talking about just how deep this roster is. To a certain extent, they are right. Having infield options which include Peter Alonso, Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario in conjunction with Lowrie is incredible depth. However, that does not mean the Mets are a deep team.
First and foremost is the outfield. Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are the only two healthy everyday outfielders on the roster. Juan Lagares has the glove to justify playing everyday, but he has hasn’t played more than 94 games since 2015, and in that season the Mets were desperate for an upgrade as they were making a postseason push.
Keon Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419 with an 85 OPS+ over the past two seasons indicating he has no business playing everyday. As bad as that is, Broxton is the last MLB outfielder on the 40 man roster.
After Broxton, the Mets are gambling on McNeil successfully transitioning to the outfield. It’s not an unreasonable gamble, and it is one we can expect to pay off. However, McNeil being an outfielder means the infield depth has taken a hit, which is a real issue should Alonso not be able to play first at the MLB level, or there are multiple injuries.
After McNeil is Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco, both of them are over 35 years old, and neither of them have had a good season since 2015. Having just two starting outfielders with a couple of has beens and never will bes is not outfield depth.
And no, Yoenis Cespedes cannot be relied upon. He underwent double heel surgery, and no one can reasonably pinpoint when he is returning to the lineup, nor can anyone have any indication of what he will be when he is able to return.
With respect to the catching situation, the Mets are undoubtedly better with the signing of Wilson Ramos. However, that does not mean there is sufficient depth. Both Ramos and Travis d’Arnaud are injury prone putting more emphasis on Tomas Nido, who has hit .181/.210/.255 in limited Major League duty on top of hitting .272/.300/.431 between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
There is a real chance at least two of those catchers are injured as the same time leaving the Mets to depend on Patrick Mazeika and/or Ali Sanchez. Basiscally, this isn’t much different than during the 2015 season where the team grasped at straws cycling through Kevin Plawecki, Anthony Recker, and Johnny Monell while they pieced together the catching situation in d’Arnaud’s absence.
Then there is the rotation. All five of the Mets starters have significant injury histories. Jacob deGrom is the only starter to have consecutive seasons with at least 30 starts. Jason Vargas is the only other starter with 20 plus starts in each of the last two seasons. Behind this thin rotation, with Vargas having a 64 ERA+ and a 5.02 FIP last year, is very questionable starting pitching depth.
Looking at the roster, Walker Lockett, Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, Drew Gagnon, and P.J. Conlon. all posted an ERA over 5.00 in the majors last year. Hector Santiago was moved to the bullpen partially because he has had a 4.06 ERA since 2016. Kyle Dowdy, the Mets Rule 5 pick, had a 5.15 ERA between Double and Triple-A last year, and with the team being forced to keep him on the roster or return him to the Rays, he is going to be a bullpen option.
Now, to be fair, the Mets do have bullpen depth. The back-end with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia is as good as it gets. You can also say the Mets swing men, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, are the best combination in the Majors. From a left-handed relief option, Daniel Zamora has exception spin rates, and former White Sox Luis Avilan and Santiago have pitched well out of the bullpen.
Beyond that group, the Mets have promising young right-handed power arms in Tyler Bashlor, Eric Hanhold, Ryder Ryan, and Drew Smith. Combine that with Paul Sewald and Jacob Rhame, the Mets have sufficient numbers and depth in the bullpen, albeit not the big seventh inning reliever you would want.
In the end, yes, the Mets have admirable infield depth, and there are enough arms here to at least figure out a good bullpen. However, past that, this is a paper thin roster at outfield, catcher, and starting pitcher. If the Mets face a number of injuries, and based on their history, they will, the 2019 Mets are going to be in real trouble.
Things had gotten so bad for Yoenis Cespedes he asked the Mets to consider moving him to first base. During his rehab assignment before he could only withstand one game as a DH, Cespedes would actually play first base. Whatever Cespedes hoped to accomplish went by the wayside as he pushed for and then had double heel surgery.
Whenever a player undergoes major surgery, the obvious question is when is that player able to play again?
In October, Steven Marcus of Newsday reported, the Mets really have no idea when Cespedes will be able to play again. The important part of the article was, “When asked if he will have to plan the offseason as if Cespedes will not be available, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon responded, ‘I think you probably do have to plan that way, given the fact that it’s uncertain.'”
In December, that was amended to some point in the second half of the 2019 season. Brodie Van Wagenen would up the ante by saying the team views Cespedes as a trade deadline bonus. Not too long thereafter, Omar Minaya would throw cold water on all of this telling MLB Network Radio the team believes there is no specific timetable, and overall the Mets “just want to get him back, and if he comes back, anything — if he gives us anything this year, that is gravy. We’re happy for that.”
Overall, let’s say Cespedes can return in the second half. His being able to return does not mean he will be able to produce.
Last year, Troy Tulowitzki had similar surgery to remove bone spurs from both of his heels in April. After having the surgery, he would not play during the totality of the 2018 season. He would be released by the Blue Jays after the season despite his being owed $20 million in 2019.
Clearly, the Blue Jays didn’t think he had anything to offer the team. Instead of seeing if he could provide something to flip him to another team, they decided it was just better to release him. They did not even think that if they paid his full salary they could get anything in return.
Yet, somehow, the Mets are going to led us to believe somehow Cespedes is going to contribute in the second half of next year. This is the reason why the Mets are not prioritizing a deficient outfield which includes two very good regulars in Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo and a bunch of bench players.
Juan Lagares is injury prone and has been unable to play a full or even three-quarters of a season. Keon Broxton has not hit. Jeff McNeil is re-learning outfield. J.D. Davis is as slow footed as Dominic Smith is, and there isn’t any Mets fan who is going to believe Smith should be an outfielder next year. After that is a group of has beens and never will bes in Triple-A.
Point is, the Mets cannot sit around and wait for Cespedes. It is the same mistake they made for years with David Wright. The Mets should know better, and as fans, we should know better as well. Overall, it is time Brodie Van Wagenen re-prioritized the outfield because they do not have sufficient depth there, and there is no way of knowing what, if anything, Cespedes can produce next year.
Right now, the Mets starting outfield is likely Michael Conforto–Juan Lagares–Brandon Nimmo. Now, there is every reason to believe that could be a good outfield. Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League last year, and Conforto returned to his All-Star form at the close of the season. There are reasons to question Lagares’ bat, but when he plays, he is a Gold Glove outfielder.
The Mets have every reason to believe that when they play this trio they are putting a winning team on the field. Their problem is what happens when they don’t play.
Right now, the first man up is Keon Broxton. Over the last two years, Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419 with an 85 OPS+ over the past two years. While he did post excellent 11 DRS in just 134.1 innings last year, he was a -7 DRS in his only full season in center. He does have elite speed, which suggests he can be a plus defender next year, but there is nothing to suggest he can hit at all.
The Mets are also betting on Jeff McNeil in the outfield. Considering his sprint speed and his baseball IQ, there is every reason to believe he can play out there. However, there is a question about whether he can hit like he did last year. Lost in his excellent numbers was the fact McNeil had a 5.6 percent walk rate and a .359 BABIP. Those types of numbers are only sustainable if your name is Ichiro Suzuki.
Now, it should be noted it is perfectly reasonable to expect McNeil to be a quality Major League bench player, and he has shown you can trust him to play long stretches of time. If he is pressed into duty, the Mets and Mets fans should feel comfortable. However, what should bother everyone is the complete lack of depth behind him.
With respect to him, the reason why you play him in the outfield is because he has a strong arm, and there really isn’t room for him in the infield. However, it is not a long term or even a short term solution as he is slow footed making his play out there a bad idea. For Mets fans, you may assume this refers to Smith because of what you saw with him last year. It is, but the same statements also apply to Davis.
As for Davis, it should also be noted he has hit .190/.260/.321 in 444 Major League plate appearances. It should be noted that is worse than the .210/.259/.406 in 332 Major League plate appearances which has caused Mets fans to become frustrated with and sour on Smith. Put another way, if you don’t believe in Smith, you should not be believing in Davis, at least not as an outfielder.
After this group, you have to actually consider Tim Tebow. Sadly, that’s not a joke. Well, it is a joke, but only to the extent where the Mets could actually be in a position to be forced to consider him.
When you are discussing players like Byrd and Blanco, and when Tebow even enters the discussion, it is clear the Mets outfield depth is completely lacking. Sure, we can believe in McNeil while liking Broxton’s defense, but in the end, the Mets don’t have enough depth across the outfield.
This all needs to be considered when Brodie Van Wagenen says the outfield isn’t a priority. When actually analyzing the options, you see just how wrong he is, and it’s another reason why the Mets need to puruse Bryce Harper or even A.J. Pollock. At this point, the Mets should also be looking at Adam Jones, Joc Pederson, or Ben Zobrist.
Really, just anything because what’s in place is not going to cut it.
One of the areas that has plagued the Mets in recent years has their being a top heavy team with very little depth. So far, Brodie Van Wagenen has addressed that issue as it pertains to the infield. With the addition of Jed Lowrie, the Mets have a “utility” infielder who is an All Star caliber player. With him and Jeff McNeil, the Mets have to bench players who could very well be starters for a very good Major League team.
The problem is both of them are the team’s backup shortstop options to Amed Rosario. If Rosario goes down to injury, or the Mets plan on giving him days off like they did in the second half last year, the Mets are ill equipped to handle it.
Now, there was a time Lowrie was not just a shortstop, but a good defensive one. In fact, he once posted a 6 DRS and 6.7 UZR. The problem is that was back in 2008 when he was a 24 year old rookie for the Boston Red Sox. Lowrie last played shortstop regularly back in 2014. That year, he had a -10 DRS and a -1.7 UZR. The bright side was that was a massive improvement over the -18 DRS and -6.8 UZR he posted the previous season. The downside is this is proof he should not longer be playing shortstop.
The Athletics realized that. It’s why Lowrie hasn’t played shortstop in two years.
As for McNeil, he only has played 37 games at shortstop as a professional. That includes 17.2 innings at the position last year. That was the first time he played shortstop since he played 55.0 innings at the position in the 2015 Arizona Fall League. Simply put, it is unrealistic to expect McNeil to be able to fill-in at shortstop for a short-term to long-term basis.
Even if you were inclined to bet on McNeil’s baseball IQ and athleticism, you still have to bet against him at shortstop. Getting up to speed at the position would require him working out at that position during the offseason and Spring Training. He is going to have to utilize that time instead getting back up to speed in the outfield as the Mets believe he is the team’s fourth or fifth outfielder.
For his part, Cecchini has struggled enough at shortstop, the Mets have moved him to second base. While you could see his ability to play short be a reason why he could compete for a utility spot, the Mets do not want him to play extended time at short at the Major League level.
With respect to Guillorme, the Mets apparently really soured on him last year. That could be due in part to his hitting .209/.284/.239 in 74 Major League plate appearances. While we know he is certainly capable of playing the position well, there is a real question if he can hit enough for the Mets to trust him enough to get extended playing time at the position.
Overall, the Mets are a deeper and stronger team than they were last year. However, they still do not have sufficient depth at the shortstop position. Fortunately for them, there are some interesting names like Freddy Galvis still available on the free agent market. At some point, the Mets are going to have to seriously pursue one of those options because the team needs more depth at an important defensive position.