Jeurys Familia

Bullpen Needed This Rest

One of the ongoing jokes during yesterday’s rain out was that despite the rain out, Terry Collins had Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas warming up in the bullpen in case the game started on time.  As with most jokes, this one did have a twinge of truth to it.

So far this season, the Mets bullpen has been going on an unsustainable rate.  Mike Marshall holds the single season record for appearances by a reliever with his making 106 appearances for the 1974 Dodgers.  The Mets record for appearances is Pedro Feliciano with 92 appearances in 2010.  This was the reason why Gary Cohen dubbed him Perpetual Pedro.  Interesting enough, Felicano’s record is tied for fourth all-time with Marshall, who had 92 appearances for the 1973 Expos.  Right now, the Mets bullpen is set to challenge these records at an alarming rate.

Blevins is on a pace to make 102 appearances this season.  Hansel Robles is on pace to make 94 appearances this season.  Addison Reed and Salas are on pace to make 85 appearances this season.  Josh Smoker is on pace to make 77 appearances this season. Obviously, this would be career highs for each of these pitchers.

If they are to keep up this pace, Blevins would be second all-time for single season appearances by a reliever, and Robles’ 94 appearances would tie the now standing second place position.  Looking over the record list, no one has made more than 74 appearances in a season over the last five years.  The bullpen’s usage is unprecedented in terms of how many appearances these relievers are making.  It is utterly amazing that the current pace of these relievers would put them at the top five appearances made by a reliever in single season over the past five seasons.

When you combine the appearances with the amount of times these pitchers warm up, they are going to be on fumes.  Certainly, we have seen some diminishing returns already from Salas.  The rest of the bullpen may not be too far behind him.  This bullpen needs a rest and the subsequent rain out helped.  However, they need more help.

They may receive some help now that Jeurys Familia has returned from his suspension.  Certainly, he is the reliever Collins’ trusts most, and he will likely be the one Collins over uses next.  More than Familia, the bullpen can use some length from their starting pitching.

Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom are the only relievers averaging at least six innings per start.  Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman are averaging just over five innings per start.  This means every night the bullpen needs to pick up at least 3-4 innings.  With the Mets having already played four extra inning games to start the season, it has been much more than that.

The relative lack of length from the bullpen is understood.  Harvey and deGrom are coming back from season ending surgeries last season.  Wheeler has not pitched since 2014.  Gsellman has not thrown more than 159.2 innings in a season.  Really, you’re only workhorse right now is Syndergaard.

However, sooner or later something is going to have to give.  The starters are going to have to give more length, or Collins is going to have to trust some of the other guys in the bullpen more.  It’s understandable he hasn’t when Josh Edgin is a LOOGY with a 3.68 ERA, and his former long man, Rafael Montero, managed to get worse.  The long story short here is someone has to step up.  Otherwise, the bullpen may not last very long.

 

No Defending This Loss

There was every chance that the Mets defense was going to suffer tonight.  Jose Reyes isn’t a third baseman.  Michael Conforto is miscast as a CF. With Lucas Duda (elbow) and Wilmer Flores (infection) out, Jay Bruce was really miscast as a first baseman. 

But no, the defense was a disaster. Somehow, it was the sure-handed middle infield of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera that was the problem. 

After the Phillies had already plated a run off a Tommy Joseph RBI double, he would move to second on a Noah Syndergaard wild pitch. It was in the dirt, but Rene Rivera did a terrible job on the ball. He tried to backhand a ball between his legs and didn’t get down. Terrible. 

Freddy Galvis “singled” to Bruce and advanced to second on a “Bruce throwing error.”  Look at what really happened:

Walker ran to the bag and stopped despite the ball apparently being theory to him. 

The throw not only allowed a run to score (it was anyway), but it put Galvis in scoring position. He’d then score on an Andrew Knapp ground rule double. 

Just like that, it was 3-0 Phillies after two. 

The Mets would get one of those runs back led by a Reyes single and stolen base. He’d score on a two out Rivera RBI single. 

Syndergaard plunked Daniel Nava to lead off the inning, but he did get the double play ball he needed. However, Cabrera booted the Odubel Herrera grounder. Nava scored on a Maikel Franco RBI double to left. 

On the double, Cespedes made a great throw to Walker, who literally fell over himself trying to make the tag. Right there, the Mets had already given away three outs in the inning. 

Fortunately, Syndergaard limited the damage allowing just one more run on an Aaron Altherr RBI groundout. 

Syndergaard was not at his best, but he deserved a much better fate. Technically, only three of the runs allowed were earned. However, watching the game and the shoddy defense, only the first run was really on him. Syndergaard’s final line was seven innings, seven hits, five runs, three earned, no walks, and 10 strikeouts. 

While his team wouldn’t help him, Syndergaard helped his team by pitching that extra inning going to 114 pitches. 

Still, the team couldn’t rally to get him off the hook or get a win. It appeared there was a chance after the Walker three run homer to center in the third inning. It was his first extra base hit off a right-handed pitcher all year. 

However, at 5-4 that’s as close as the Mets would get. To add insult to injury, Cespedes left the game after the fifth. In that inning, he pulled up lame on what was a Bruce 3-6-1 double play. 

Fernando Salas couldn’t keep the Phillies at bay in the eighth. He first allowed a lead off homer to Franco. He then allowed back-to-back singles to Altherr and Joseph leading Terry Collins to pull him for Josh Edgin
Edgin would be the lone bright spot on the day getting three straight outs punctuated by striking out Andres Blanco

Even with that, there was no momentum in what was a disappointing 6-4 loss. The Mets are banged up and .500 with the Nationals coming into town. This is exactly where you don’t want to be. 

Game Recap: Juan Lagares was the back-up infielder on the night due to all the injuries. It didn’t happen, but he got into the game with the Cespedes injury. Jeurys Familia made his first appearance since coming back from suspension. His rust showed with him needing 30 pitches to get out of the ninth. 

Bruce Twice Found A Home in RF 

For a multitude of reasons, the Mets needed this one. They needed to snap the four game losing streak. They need to capitalize on all game against the Phillies if they have any designs on winning the NL East. Overall, they needed to get back on track. 

That starts with Robert Gsellman who was very good tonight. He looked more like the pitcher he was at the end of last year. Coincidentally, that pitcher had a 2.37 ERA against the Phillies last year. 

For a moment, it appeared the Mets would give Gsellman a first inning lead. Jay Bruce hit a two out double off Vince Velasquez. Despite Glenn Sherlock giving him the stop sign, Yoenis Cespedes tried to score and was nailed at the plate. 

With Cespedes not scoring there, the game remained scoreless through the first three until the Phillies would finally get to Gsellman. It started with Gsellman hitting Aaron Altherr, who went from first to third on an Odubel Herrera single. Altherr then scored on a Maikel Franco groundout. Gsellman bore down and got out of the inning without any further damage. 

The Phillies touched up Gsellman again in the fifth with Velasquez hitting an RBI single scoring Cameron Rupp who hit a leadoff single. 

The run scored that inning wasn’t the biggest damage to the Mets. Both Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud would suffer injuries that inning and would eventually have to come out of the game. 

Duda was hurt when Gsellman threw a ball into the runner. The ball and Cesar Hernandez arrived at the same time. Gsellman was charged with the error, and Duda suffered a hyperextended elbow. 

Later that inning, d’Arnaud was injured while trying to throw out Hernandez. On the pitch, Altherr struck out and moved towards home plate. Altherr’s bat hovered over home and d’Arnaud’s hand collided with the bat. d’Arnaud tried to argue with Home Plate Umpire Chad Whitson it was interference, but d’Arnaud’s pleas fell on deaf ears. d’Arnaud would stay on through the sixth, but he would have to leave the game as well. 

Just like that the Mets were down both two runs and two players.

In the sixth, the Mets would stage a two out rally after Curtis Granderson‘s GIDP seemingly killed a potential rally. 

Asdrubal Cabrera would get the two out rally started with a two out single. Cespedes followed with a walk. Bruce then: 

It was a huge home run, and it put Gsellman on the long side. Unfortunately, Gsellman would not get that win. 

Gsellman started the eighth inning due to game conditions. With Rene Rivera leading off the inning with a single, the Mets having a short bench, and with the right-handed Altherr due to lead-off in the top of the eighth, Terry Collins stuck with Gsellman. Considering how well Gsellman was pitching and how tired the Mets bullpen has been, it was probably the right move. 

Despite it being the right move, Altherr hit a bloop double to lead-off the inning. Collins wasted no time, and he went to Jerry Blevins who couldn’t quite get out of the jam. 

Herrera grounded out pushing Altherr to third. Then Blevins got a huge strikeout of Franco. Michael Saunders then lined a single that dropped right in front of a sliding Cespedes tying the score at three. 

It was a shame Gsellman wouldn’t get the win. He was the first Mets starter to pitch into the eighth.  He only allowed six hits, three runs, three earned, and one walk with seven strikeouts. 

Gsellman wouldn’t get the win, but Hansel Robles, who came on for Blevins, would. 

Cespedes would lead-off the bottom of the ninth with a single off Luis Garcia. Bruce then followed with his second home run of the game:

In what may be his last save attempt as the Mets designated closer with Jeurys Familia eligible to return from suspension tomorrow, Addison Reed recorded his fourth save. He allowed a run due in part to Franco’s one out triple, but Reed would shut the door on the 4-3 win. 

Game Notes: Jose Reyes was 0-2 and is now hitting .096. Granderson is 0-11 in his last 11 ABs. Neil Walker still doesn’t have an extra base hit from the left-hand side. Six of Bruce’s 14 homers with the Mets have come against the Phillies. 

Get Rid Of Rafael Montero Now

Last night, the score was tied 2-2 entering the 10th inning. With the heavy bullpen use of his key relievers, Terry Collins was certainly justified in pulling Addison Reed after one inning. However, for some reason, Collins decided the move that best helped the Mets win that game last night was to bring in Rafael Montero. It was the latest incident in what has been a bizarre fascination with him.

There was a time back in 2014 where Montero was regarded as the Mets best pitching prospect. In fact, he was better regarded than Jacob deGrom. Believe it or not, the belief was justifiable. Back then, Montero was a three pitch pitcher that had a fastball he could get into the mid 90s. With that, he had a pretty good change-up and slider. In fact, he still does. However, what set Montero apart back then was he had exceptional control. That control has escaped him, and as a result, he’s not even a shadow of the highly touted prospect.

During his time with the Mets, we have seen Montero get chance after chance after chance. It’s a mixture of his talent, injuries, and just pure stubbornness to move on from him. Last season, Montero was the first player cut from Major League camp in Spring Training. He struggled so much in Triple-A, he was actually demoted to Double-A. However, due to the Mets pitching staff becoming a M*A*S*H* unit, he was called up to the majors. He rewarded their faith by pitching to an 8.05 ERA and a 2.053 WHIP in nine appearances, and somehow, he probably wasn’t even that good.

After that season, he is still somehow with the organization. In the offseason, the Mets had to make multiple 40 man moves to accommodate free agent signings. The Mets would DFA Ty Kelly. In separate deals, they traded both Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa for cash. Each one of these players has either had some measure of major league success, had some value to the team, or had some level of promise.

It’s just not the Mets front office. It’s also Collins. Last night, he had a well rested Sean Gilmartin, and instead he went with Montero. Keep in mind, Gilmartin has had success with the Mets as a long reliever. In 2015, Gilmartin made 50 appearances going 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.186 WHIP. That season is better than anything Montero has ever done in the majors.

Arguably, Gilmartin on his worst day is better than what you can expect from Montero. Montero entered the game and did what you expected him to do . . . he lost it. In 0.1 innings, he allowed three hits and four runs. The only out he recorded was on a sacrifice fly hit to the right field wall.

Including last night’s game, Montero has made 30 appearances and 12 starts going 1-7 with a 5.51 ERA and a 1.800 WHIP. On the season, Montero is 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA and a 3.600 WHIP. His BB/9 is an almost impossibly high 10 .8. It is all part of Montero not being the same pitcher the MEts thought he was. It continues the trens of Montero getting worse each and every season.

The Mets shouldn’t even wait for Jeurys Familia to be available on Thursday to send Montero to Triple-A. Send him on the first plane back. Bring up Paul Sewald for a day if you want an extra bullpen arm. If you want to lengthen what is a short bench, call up Matt Reynolds, which as an aside, may not be a bad move considering the poor defensive options the Mets have at third base. Seriously, the Mets should do anything . . . literally anything because anything is better than having to see Montero pitch in another game.

Terry Doesn’t Know Who To Abuse

After what was a shaky second inning where he allowed back-to-back homers to Justin Bour and Marcell OzunaJacob deGrom settled in and found his dominant form yet again.

The Marlins had no chance against deGrom who had all his pitches working. His velocity was back as well with him even hitting 99 on the gun. Through seven innings deGrom had only allowed four hits, which includes the two solo home runs, and one walk while striking out 13 batters.

After seven innings, deGrom had thrown 97 pitches, and with a 4-2 lead, he seemed poised to win the game.

deGrom was on the long side as the Mets bats finally hit Adam Conley whose start was pushed back a day with Don Mattingly using him in the 16 inning game.

You knew Conley wasn’t going to have it when he walked Jose Reyes to lead-off the game. By the way it’s interesting that it only took Reyes to be good in one hand for him to reclaim the lead-off spot on the team. It should be noted after the leadoff walk, he went 0-3. Still, Reyes would score on a Neil Walker double giving the Mets a 1-0 lead.

The Mets tied the game in the seventh on a Curtis Granderson RBI triple. The ball tipped off Christian Yelich‘s glove with Yelich trying to emulate a catch Juan Lagares made earlier in the game. Granderson scored on Michael Conforto‘s sacrifice fly giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.

When Asdrubal Cabrera hit a solo home run in the eighth, it seemed as if the Mets’ 4-2 lead would be enough to win the game. It wasn’t.

To much consternation, deGrom didn’t start the eighth. However, it was a very defensible position considering deGrom was already at 97 pitches and his having season ending elbow surgery last season.  It was also a very defensible position to use Fernando Salas in the eighth inning.  That’s the reason the Mets signed him in the offseason.  He was to be the eighth inning guy until Jeurys Familia returned from his suspension.  At that point, Salas would become the seventh inning guy.

As happens in baseball, Salas didn’t have it.  It’s part of being a reliever.  Sometimes you just don’t have it.  It also happens when you lead the majors in appearances this season.  In fact, dating back to September 1, 2016, his first game with the Mets, Salas is the most heavily used reliever in all of baseball.  He was bound to struggle sooner rather than later.

What was strange with Salas was how quickly it just happened.  He made quick work of Ichiro Suzuki and Dee Gordon to begin the inning.  Then he issued a four pitch walk to Miguel Rojas.  Believe it or not, this was Salas’ first non-intentional walk as a member of the New York Mets.  This set the stage for a matchup against Yelich.  Now, it should be noted Jerry Blevins was warming up just for this situation.  If you are going to have Blevins warming up, this is the exact situation you bring him into the game.  Plain and simple.

Instead, Collins elected to go with Salas.  Note, Salas pitching to Yelich wasn’t a bad move per se.  Salas is your guy for this spot, and he did make quick work of the first two batters.  However, Blevins was already warming in the pen.  If he’s up, bring him in, get out of the jam, and give Addison Reed a two run lead.  Instead, Collins left in Salas, who gave up the game tying home run to Yelich.  He then gave up a go-ahead home run to Giancarlo Stanton.  To add insult to injury, Collins brought in Blevins to get out Bour to get out of the inning.

And with that, the Mets 4-2 lead became a 5-4 loss.  Sure, you can’t completely pin the loss on Collins as he made some defensible moves.  That was at least until he left a warm Blevins in the pen.  You could argue that doesn’t mean Salas should give up a home run.  You’d be right, but you’d also ignore the simple fact that Collins didn’t put his team in the best position to win.  Because of that, this loss is on him.

Perhaps knowing that, he was angry and downright rude to the beat reporters after the game.  In the video, Collins explained every reason for his decisions, omitting some key facts:

Look, we all agree the starters should be protected, but that doesn’t mean you ruin the arms and the careers of the relievers.  There’s a balance, and the fact that Collins doesn’t see that is downright frightening.  It’s probably the reason why we saw him run through damaged relievers like Tim Byrdak and Jim Henderson in his career.  Apparently, Collins only protects the arms of those pitchers he deems more valuable.

That’s not right, and it needs to stop.  Another thing that needs to stop is the faulty logic.  If Collins was that concerned over Blevins, under no means do you have him warming up.  You either want him rested, or you want him pitching.  If you want him pitching, get him in the game against the big left-handed threat in the lineup.  Afraid of Stanton, get Reed up.  He’s the most rested reliever in that bullpen.  Considering how the long games has wrecked havoc on the bullpen, it actually made sense to go with Reed for a four out save.

Right now, Collins is picking and choosing who to abuse and who not to abuse.  It is having a tangible effect on the effectiveness of the relievers.  It may soon have an effect on their health.  We have seen this before with Collins.  Hopefully, we won’t see it again.  On that front, no one should be hopeful.

Game Notes: With the left-handed Conley on the mound, Collins went with a Yoenis Cespedes-Lagares-Granderson outfield to start the game.  Rene Rivera got the start over Travis d’Arnaud giving d’Arnaud two days off after he caught 16 innings.  Mets have now lost four of seven to the Marlins.  Last year, the Mets were 12-7 against the Marlins.

Enough Excuses, Lock Up These Starters

Looking at this Mets team since 2015, one thing has been perfectly clear: this team is built on pitching, and it will only go as far as the pitching carries them. In 2015, when their starters were healthy and able to last the season, the Mets were able to win the National League Pennant. In 2016, with three of the arms going down, the Mets were still good enough to enter the postseason as the top Wild Card.

The Mets have been fortunate because the pitching has been cheap. It was not until recently that Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom entered their arbitration years. Noah Syndergaard won’t be arbitration eligible until after this season. It is interesting because it is after this season that things begin to become murky. Harvey and Wheeler are scheduled to become free agents after the 2018 season with deGrom becoming a free agent the season after that.

With the Mets success rising and falling on their pitching, it begs the question why haven’t the Mets selected at least one or two pitchers and come to terms on a contract extension. The common refrain among Mets fans is the team should keep Syndergaard and deGrom and join them in a rotation that one day may also feature Robert Gsellman, Justin Dunn, and Thomas Szapucki. For now, even with the clock ticking, the Mets aren’t making a move.

While it may not make sense to most Mets fans, in a report by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the New York Mets have advised why they have not entered into contract extension discussions with any of their young pitching:

1. Injuries

As GM John Ricco explained, “[GM] Sandy [Alderson] has not said let’s be aggressive in that area, and that [injuries] is the biggest reason.”

Fact of the matter is each one of these pitchers have an issue. Harvey, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler have all had Tommy John surgery. Harvey, deGrom, and Matz all had season ending surgery last year. Even someone healthy like Syndergaard dealt with bone spurs last year. Point is, the Mets pitchers have not been exactly healthy, nor do they inspire confidence they will be healthy going forward. To that end, the Mets relative inactivity has been understandable.

2. Lack of Urgency

As noted in Sherman’s piece, the Mets do not have a pending free agent until the after the 2018 season, and Syndergaard isn’t a free agent until after the 2021 season. Honestly, this reason is a bit disingenuous. With Harvey’s pending free agency many expect this is Harvey’s last season in a Mets uniform as the team does not want to risk him walking in free agency and the team getting nothing in return for him.

3. Pitchers Aren’t Interested In Extensions

According to Ricco, who would know this better than fans, extension discussions are typically begun by the player and his agent. Again, with fans not being in the business, it is hard to challenge him on this. With that said, it is hard to believe the Mets would be willing to let all their pitchers go to free agency without so much as initiating contract disucssions with them. Frankly, it is harder to believe when you consider back in 2012, the Mets pounced on an opportunity to give Jon Niese a five year contract extension.

4. Personalities

As noted in Sherman’s piece, when you give a contract extension to one player, it is going to have ripple effects. As Ricco said, “You would have to manage personalities because if you do [an extension] with one, how does it impact the others?”

Now, this is a bit of an overstatement on Ricco’s part. Entering into contract extensions with the pitchers should be part of an overall plan. For example, when Omar Minaya was the General Manager, he was faced with Jose Reyes pending arbitration in 2006, he agreed with a four year pact with his shortstop. Minaya then quickly moved and locked up David Wright to a six year deal. While Alderson is dealing with more than just two players, Minaya’s actions certainly show if the team has a plan an executes it, there should be no issues.

5. Budget

It is something Mets fans don’t want to hear, but it is a reality. After this season, the Mets will have Reyes, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and Fernando Salas as free agents. The team will have to decide on options for Jerry Blevins and Asdrubal Cabrera. In addition, all of the Mets marquee starting pitchers will be in arbitration thereby escalating their salaries. Furthermore, Jeurys Familia will also be owed a lot of money in arbitration if he has another stellar year. Long story short, the Mets will have to spend some money this offseason.

In order to do that, the Mets need to have the money. As Ricco explains, “Once you’ve locked in [on an extension], you do limit flexibility in some ways.”

Now, it is easy to say the Mets can plug in Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith next year, but at this point, it is not known if they will be ready to be 2018 Opening Day starters. Putting forth such a plan would be folly, especially for a team that can still compete for a World Series.

Overall, the Mets concerns over not extending their pitchers have some merit, especially when you consider the injury issues. Still, the longer the Mets wait, the more expensive each of these starting pitchers will become. As they become more expensive, the chances of locking up more than one of them significantly decreases. Sooner or later, the Mets are going to have to take a chance on a couple of these pitchers if they have designs of competing for World Series over the next decade. With Harvey being a free agent after next season, the sooner the Mets begin executing a plan, the better.

Bruce AND Conforto Power The Mets

One good thing about baseball is momentum is your next day’s starting pitcher. Therefore, even with the Marins having dominated the Mets two days in a row, the Mets had all the momentum with Noah Syndergaard taking the mound. 

Syndergaard delivered. His final line was seven innings, five hits, two runs, two earned, no walks, and nine strikeouts. The outing actually raised his ERA to 0.69. 

The Marlins only threatened twice, and they both surrounded the 7-8 hitters Derek Dietrich and Miguel Rojas who had the best at-bats against Syndergaard. In the third, they scored off a Dee Gordon one out double. In the fifth, they were stranded when Gordon struck out to end the inning. 

There could have been more damage in the third, but Rene Rivera nailed him trying to steal third. The inning ended with J.T. Realmuto getting caught trying to steal second. 

The Marlins did not have a successful stolen base attempt against Syndergaard. This is the same pitcher that let the Giants run wild on him last year. He has made a conserted effort to better hold on runners, and we saw tangible effects tonight. A large part of that has been him working with Rivera. As long as nights like this continue, there is no reason to break up this tandem. 

Now with the two runs scored, you would be lead to believe the Mets lost with the way the Mets have been struggling on offense. Not tonight with both Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto (playing center in place of Curtis Granderson) it was a different story. 

The Mets jumped all over Edison Volquez in the first. After what is now becoming the obligatory Jose Reyes out, Asdrubal Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes hit back-to-back singles. Cabrera’s was satisfying because he laid down a bunt to beat the shift. 

Cabrera then beat a poor throw home when he went home on a Jay Bruce grounder. Neil Walker singled home Cespedes, and Lucas Duda singled to load the bases. Bruce then scored on a Conforto bases loaded walk. Just like that it was 3-0. 

It was 3-2 when Bruce stepped up to bat in the fifth. It was then 4-0 on a home run to deep center:

In the sixth, Conforto made it 5-2 with a home run of his own:

With the 5-2 lead, it set the first stage for Fernando Salas and Addison Reed to close out their first game since Jeurys Familia‘s suspension.  

The two combined to pitch two scoreless hitless innings. Reed struck out two converting his first save of the year. With that, the Mets are back to .500, and fans can now take a collective sigh, especially with the Mets having momentum. 

Jacob deGrom starts tomorrow. 
Game Notes: Reyes went 0-4 putting him at 1-24 on the season. That’s a .045 batting average. 

2017 Mets Minor League Rosters Best of the Best

With the full season minor leagues having their Opening Day on Thursday, the Mets have announced the rosters for each of their minor league affiliates. Each team includes an interesting group of prospects. Each team also features a particular strength of each aspect of the Mets farm system. Keeping in mind each particular group is viewed not just in terms of how good the players are now, but also how they project going forward, here are the best of the best:

Best Starting Pitching – St. Lucie Mets

Starting Rotation: Andrew Church, Justin Dunn, Marcos Molina, Nabil Crismatt, Kevin Canelon, Chase Ingram, Thomas McIlrath, Joe Shaw

The St. Lucie rotation features a number of pitchers who may very well make their way to a major league mound. The former second round draft pick Church fixed both his hip and his mechanics, and he had a breakout season last year. Dunn is already a top 10 Mets prospect a year after he was drafted. Molina is back from Tommy John surgery, and he has looked good in both the Arizona Fall Leauge and Spring Training. Crismatt more than held his own against the vaunted Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic. This is as exciting a rotation as there is in the minor leauges, and possibly, you will see some version of this rotation with the Mets one day.

Honorable Mention: Columbia Fireflies. A rotation with Jordan Humphreys, Merandy Gonzalez, and Harol Gonzalez is a very interesting minor league rotation. It would have been more interesting with Thomas Szapucki, but he is slated to miss time due to a shoulder impingement.

Best Bullpen – Las Vegas 51s

Bullpen: Paul Sewald, David Roseboom, Ben Rowen, Beck Wheeler, Erik Goeddel, Chase Bradford)

The 51s bullpen features Sewald and Roseboom who were both extremely effective closers last season. Certainly, both impressed the Mets enough to get long looks during Spring Training. Prior to having bone spurs removed, Goeddle was an effective major league reliever. Rowen gives you a different look with his sidewinding action on the mound. Arguably, this could be a major league bullpen that could hold its own.

Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The Rumble Ponies bullpen has Corey Taylor, who has been favorable compared to Jeurys Familia, as its closer. There are some other interesting names like Ben Griset, who is a very promising LOOGY, and Luis Mateo, who was once a very well thought out prospect before he faced some injury issues.

Best Catching Tandem – Las Vegas 51s

Catchers: Kevin Plawecki, Xorge Carrillo, Jeff Glenn

If nothing else, Plawecki has established he can handle a major league starting staff. More to the point, Plawecki has shown himself to be a very good pitch framer. While his bat has lagged in the majors, at 26, he still has time to improve. Behind him is Carrillo, who is a good defensive catcher that won the Gold Glove in the Mexican Winter Leagues this past offseason.

Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Tomas Nido seemingly put it all together in St. Lucie last year, and he appears poised to take the mantle as the Mets catcher of the future. Binghamton very easily could have been named the top catching tandem off that, but some deference was paid to Plawecki showing he can handle the position defensively at the major league level.

Best Infield – Las Vegas 51s

Infield – 1B Dominic Smith, 2B Gavin Cecchini, 3B Phillip Evans, SS Amed Rosario

When the weak point of your infield is a player who is coming off a season where he won the Eastern League batting title, you know you have something special. Rosario and Smith are considered two of the best prospects not only at their positions, but in the entire game. Cecchini played well enough last year to be put on the 40 man roster a year ahead of schedule and earn a September call-up where he hit two doubles in six major league at-bats.

Honorable Mention: St. Lucie Mets. The team features a pair of 2016 draft picks in 1B Peter Alonso and SS Colby Woodmansee who showed real ability during their time in Brooklyn. Due to that success, they both skipped Columbia and joined an interesting second base prospect in Vinny Siena and a promising hitter at third base in Jhoan Urena.

Best Outfield – Columbia Fireflies

Outfield – Desmond Lindsay, Gene Cone, Jacob Zanon, Tim Tebow

No, this isn’t because of Tebow. This is mostly about Lindsay, who has been labeled as an “offensive machine” by the Mets organization. He is a five tool prospect that with a little health will arrive at Citi Field sooner rather than later. Another interesting five tool prospect is former Division II player Zanon. He certainly has all the tools to succeed. It is a question whether those tools can translate against better competition. Cone is a player who has a good baseball IQ, but he still needs to translate that and his talent to on the field success

Honorable Mention: Las Vegas 51s. The outfield got demonstratively better with the recent signing of Desmond Jennings. It will get better with either Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto playing for them again. That depends on Nimmo’s health as well as the health of the major league outfield. It will also be interesting to see how Matt Reynolds handles taking on what was Ty Kelly‘s role last year in being a utility player that mostly plays left field.

Overall, the Mets have a number of good to very good prospects who are either close or project to be major leaguers. Some of those players like Rosario will be stars. Others should have long major league careers. While we are getting excited for another year of Mets baseball, we also have a lot to be excited about for years to come with these prospects.

 

Upon Review 2017 Will Be Different Than 2016

For a Mets team that brought in no new players this offseason, it is quite fitting this team picked right up where they left off last season.  For those that forgot, and how could you, Noah Syndergaard was dominant, and the Mets couldn’t get that big hit off the other team’s ace.

Today, Syndergaard was dominant.  His final line was six innings, five hits, no runs, none earned, no walks, and seven strikeouts.  Basically, he was just as dominant as he was in his last game only he pitched one less inning.  He pitched one less inning as he had to depart with a blister on his pitching thumb.  Again, the Mets are picking up where they left off last year.

Overall, Syndergaard was up to his old tricks.  Fastballs at 99 MPH.  Change-ups and sliders between 90 – 94 MPH.  Hitters frustrated and overmatched.  The real surprise is that he had to get out of two separate jams.  In the fourth, he worked around a one out triple off the bat of Freddie Freeman (ball was played terribly by Jay Bruce in right) by striking out Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis.

In the sixth, Syndergaard had runners at the corners with one out.  Again, he struck out Kemp by keeping the ball low in the zone.  He then induced a harmless fly ball off the bat of Markakis to end the inning.

Offensively, the Mets struggled against Julio Teheran.   While Teheran was 7-10 last year, he is a terrific pitcher whose record really was hindered by a lack of run support.  In addition to the 7-10 record, Teheran had a 3.21 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, 129 ERA+, and an 8.0 K/9.  Against the Mets last year, he was 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA, 0.600 WHIP, and a 5.4 K/9 in four starts.  Struggling against him is certainly no red flag.

And yet, if you are a pessimistic Mets fan, you saw some troubling signs.  The team did rack up six strikeouts in six innings.  There were seven left on base, and the team was 0-3 with RISP.  The main culprit there was Lucas Duda who twice came up with a chance to knock in a run and both times he came up short.

With Syndergaard leaving with a blister and Teheran leaving due to his pitch count, the game became a battle of the bullpens.  Fortunately, the Mets, even without the suspended Jeurys Familia have a terrific bullpen.  Hansel Robles added a slight hesitation in his delivery to go with the quick pitch, and he mowed down the Braves in the seventh.

The deja vu would end in the seventh.  With Ian Krol allowing a lead-off hit to Rene Rivera, Wilmer Flores hit into a fielder’s choice, and he stole second off Tyler Flowers.  After Jose Reyes walked, Asdrubal Cabrera lined a single up the middle, and Flores was sent home.  Center fielder Ender Inciarte nailed Flores at the plate.

Or did he?

Upon replay, it shows Flores just got his foot in front of the tag from the way too far behind home plate Flowers.  With that, the Mets got the lead and momentum.  After Yoenis Cespedes walked to load the bases, Curtis Granderson hit a sacrifice fly off former Met Eric O’Flaherty to make it a 2-0 lead.  He then walked Neil Walker and Jay Bruce back-to-back to force in a run to make it 3-0.

While Bruce had a misplay in right field, it was a very encouraging day for him.  On the day, he had four good at-bats going 0-1 with three walks and an RBI.  He looked more patient at the plate and more willing to take a walk.  If he continues this for the full season, its going to be a huge year for him.

After the Bruce walk, Duda finally got a hit with runners in scoring position with a bases clearing double off of O’Flaherty.

O’Flaherty’s work in the seventh inning was the most he has done to help the Mets than all he had done for them in 2015.  His final line was 0.1 innings, one hit, two runs, two earned, three walks, and no strikeouts.  For Mets fans, it was nice being on the other side of an O’Flaherty outing.

In the fateful seventh, the Mets sent 11 batters to the plate, and the team scored six runs on three hits, five walks, and a sacrifice fly.  Basically, this Mets team featuring a number of smart veteran hitters feasted on a poor bullpen.  With the six run seventh, Robles would be the winning pitcher.

Cabrera was easily the best Mets player on the day . . . well, Mets player not named Noah Syndergaard.  He went 3-4 with an RBI and a stolen base.  It was a refreshing change of pace from the Cabrera who seemingly went the first half of the 2016 season without a hit with RISP.

Cabreras wasn’t the only one in midseason form.  Gary, Keith, and Ron were great today including them honoring the late Bill Webb. Keith Hernandez told a terrific story about how Webb used to get Keith fined $100 by filming him smoking in the first base tunnel.  Keith deadpanned about how all Mets fans knew he used to smoke.

Overall, this was about as good a start to the 2017 season as you reasonably could have asked for.  While you were obviously concerned about Syndergaard leaving the game with a blister, you had to be encouraged by Robert Gsellman entering the game in the ninth because Gsellman would be the guy to start in Syndergaard’s place should there be an issue serious enough to cause him to need to miss a start.

After Gsellman’s scoreless ninth, the Mets are 1-0 and in first place where we expect them to be after Game 162.  The win also improves the team’s MLB best Opening Day record, which is now 35-21.

Game Notes: Mets fans complain about d’Arnaud, but Flowers is much worse.  Both Cabrera and Flores were able to steal bases off of him.  In his first Opening Day with the Mets since 2011, Jose Reyes was 0-3 with a run, walk, and two strikeouts.  Reyes also became the first Met since Ty Wigginton to be the Mets Opening Day third baseman other than David WrightTravis d’Arnaud entered the game in the sixth inning as a pinch runner for Rivera.  This marks the first season without Bill Webb as director of the Mets games.

Mets Individual Performances In The WBC

With the USA beating a Puerto Rico team with deep Mets ties, a thrilling World Baseball Classic has come to an end. Now, we look forward to Opening Day with the hope that the Mets could make a great run just like the USA and win the World Series this year. IF that were to happen, the Mets will need contributions from the Mets players who played in the World Baseball Classic.

Looking over the players, it is clear some of these players are ready for Opening Day while others may need some more time to get ready for the season.

COLOMBIA

RHP Nabil Crismatt G, 3.0 IP,

Despite never having pitched above A ball, or having one full season as a starter, Colombia turned to Crismatt to beat a Dominican Republic team with a lineup featuring Manny Machado, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, Carlos Santana, Nelson Cruz, and Gregory Polanco. The 22 year old hurler more than held his own relying on locating his fastball and using his terrific change to keep Colombia in the game. He kept the Colombian hopes alive while giving the Mets real hope he could be a major leaguer one day.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

RHP Jeurys Familia 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 4 G, 2 SV, 3.1 IP, 5 K, 0.60 WHIP

Familia was primed and ready for the WBC throwing fastballs up to 100 MPH. After the Wild Card Game, he reminded everyone why he is a dominant MLB closer. The only issue for him in the WBC was the Mets complaining about how he was used, which was a surprise to everyone including Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena.

RHP Hansel Robles 0-0, 2.45 ERA, 4 G, 3.2 IP, 4 K, 0.82 WHIP

Like Familia, Robles showed he’s ready to go for Opening Day with the lone run scored against him coming in the opener against Canada. Robles had all of his pitches working, and he showed better command of the strike zone than he has typically shown in his Mets career.

SS Jose Reyes 4 G, 18 AB, 2 R, 5 H, 2 2B, SB, .278/.316/.389

Reyes split time at shortstop with Machado and Jean Segura, but ultimately Reyes was the country’s top choice for both shortstop and a lead off hitter. Reyes was that spark plug at the time of the lineup that helped power the Dominican Republic team to an undefeated record in Pool C play and had the Dominicans ever so close to advancing to the semis. The only issues with Reyes were the same ones he has shown over the past few years. He is no longer suited to being an everyday shortstop, and he doesn’t get on base as much as he did in his prime. With that said, Reyes seems ready for Opening Day.

ISRAEL

UTIL Ty Kelly 6 G, 24 AB, 6 R, 5 H, 2B, .208/.321/.250

Kelly served as the number two hitter and third baseman for an Israeli team that was the biggest surprise of the WBC. Kelly said of the team’s upset of the Netherlands, “Definitely the most stressful game I’ve been a part of. But it was worth it.” That was surprising considering Kelly had a pinch hitting appearance in what was then a scoreless Wild Card Game against Madison Bumgarner. Kelly’s statements only go to show how important the WBC was to the players. As for Kelly, he did not have as strong as he would have liked, but he certainly did his heritage proud.

ITALY

SS Gavin Cecchini 4 G, 15 AB, 2 H, 2B, RBI, .133/.333/.200

The highlight for Cecchini in the World Baseball Classic was a game tying single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth sending the game against Venezuela into extra innings. Aside from that single, the WBC was a mixed bag for Cecchini. He showed discipline at the plate, and he showed his extra base power. He also struggled defensively at short, which will only further justify the Mets decision to transition him to second base.

CF Brandon Nimmo 3 G, 11 AB, 3 R, 2 H, HR, 2 RBI, .182/.308/.455

Nimmo had a good WBC as the leadoff hitter for Italy. He had an RBI single off left-handed reliever Oliver Perez to help Italy’s furious five run ninth inning to shock Mexico. In the surprising effort against Venezuela, Nimmo hit a home run off Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon. Unfortunately, Nimmo also injured his hamstring which could have effected Italy’s chances of advancing in the WBC, and it also might have impacted his chances of making the Opening Day roster.

MEXICO

C Xorge Carrillo 2 G, 8 AB, R, 2 H, .250/.333/.250

While he did not start the opener, which was a shocking loss to Italy, Carrillo got the start in Mexico’s final two games. The minor league defensive specialist was fine behind the plate. In an upset over Venezuela, he had a base hit and a run scored. Unfortunately for him and his countrymen, the win was for naught as they were eliminated from the WBC due to tiebreakers. He should be better from this experience as he looks to continue to improve in the minor league next year.

RHP Fernando Salas 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 2 G, 1.0 IP, K, 3.00 WHIP

Due to visa issues, Salas was not able to report to Mets camp prior to the WBC. In Salas’ two games in the WBC, he showed that rust. As Salas continued to have visa issues after the WBC, it was good he was even able to participate in the tournament because it provided him some opportunity to face living pitching.

PUERTO RICO

SP Seth Lugo 2-1, 4.20 ERA, 3 G, 3 GS, 15.0 IP, 12 K, 1.07 WHIP

Lugo was the ace of the Puerto Rican staff, and he pitched like it. His three games were against the vaunted Venezuelan and United States lineups. Lugo not only held his own, but in his first two starts he was dominant pitching to a 2.45 ERA and a 0.64 WHIP. In the championship game, he was getting his fastball up to 95 MPH, and he recorded five strikeouts. Unfortunately, the walks caught up to him, and he left the game down 3-0. Overall, Lugo made a good case for him making the Opening Day roster whether as the fifth starter or as a member of the bullpen.

IF T.J. Rivera, 7 G, 24 AB, 3 R, 4 H, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .167/.192/.458

In six of the seven games in the WBC, Rivera played first base, and he played a good defensive first base. For a player that is trying to market himself as a versatile infielder for the Mets, Rivera certainly proved he can handle a position he rarely played in the minor leauges. At the plate, he didn’t hit much, but when he did get a hit it counted. His home run in the semi-final gave Puerto Rico a brief 3-2 lead in a tightly fought game that went into extra innings.

C Rene Rivera 2 G, 8 AB, R, 3 H, 2 2B, RBI, .375/.375/.625

Surprisingly, Rivera got into two games in the WBC, and he did not catch in either of them. In Pool D, he entered the game as a DH against Italy. In a meaningless game against Venezuela, Rivera got the start at first base. At the plate, he was as good as can be expected. However, with respect to the 2017 season, it would have been better if he got in some play behind the plate to get ready for the season.

And because everyone is obviously interested, Yoenis Cespedes younger brother Yoelqui had a strong WBC. In five games, the 19 year old Cespedes hit .250/.250/.313 with two runs, a double, and an RBI. He also showed good range and a strong throwing arm in right field. Perhaps, there may come a time in the future when the younger Cespedes gets the opportunity to play in the major leagues like his older brother.