While being a Mets fan may come with some trials and tribulations, the one day Mets fans are typically happy is Opening Day. Heading into today’s game, the Mets were 36-20 all time on Opening Day, which is the best Opening Day winning percentage in Major League history. As a result, the Mets are usually 1-0, and their manager looks like a genius.
Today, new Mets Manager Mickey Callaway looked like a genius.
When you looked at the Opening Day lineup, you knew immediately this was no longer Terry Collins‘ Mets. The lineup not only had the Mets best hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, batting second, it also had Noah Syndergaard batting eighth and Amed Rosario batting ninth. If you were skeptical of the decision, the Mets quickly put you at ease.
Kevin Plawecki reached on a one out walk, and he remained there after Syndergaard struck out. With two outs and the lead-off hitter behind him, Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez challenged Rosario with fastballs. Rosario shot a single up the middle putting runners one first and second with two outs.
Brandon Nimmo did what Brandon Nimmo does, and he drew a walk. Cespedes came up with the bases loaded, and he delivered with a two out RBI single, which at the time gave the Mets a 3-2 lead. And with that, Callaway looked like a genius.
Frankly, it’s easy to look like a genius when everyone plays as well as the Mets did today.
Nimmo set the tone getting hit by the first pitch of the game and eventually scoring on a Jose Martinez throwing error on what could have been an Asdrubal Cabrera double play grounder. Instead of an inning ending double play, the Mets scored a first inning run without getting a base hit. That’s what happens when you draw nine walks in the game.
Speaking of Nimmo, he was brilliant today. He went 2-3 with two runs, a walk, and the aforementioned hit by pitch. With Michael Conforto reportedly being much closer to being ready to start his season, Nimmo is going to need more games like this to stay in the starting lineup.
So will Adrian Gonzalez. The veteran was coming off a horrific injury plagued 2017 season where the Dodgers not only didn’t miss him as they won the pennant, it seemed they didn’t even want him around. Nor did the Braves for that matter, as after a trade, they are paying him almost $22 million to play for an NL East rival.
Between that, his terrible Spring Training, and his soft line out to short in his first at-bat, helooked done. He wouldn’t make another out on the game going 2-3 with a run, double, two walks, and an RBI.
In situations like this, you want your players to make the decision about who should sit and who should play to be extraordinarily difficult. Based on Nimmo’s and Gonzalez’s play, Callaway’s decision will just be that.
Overall, the Mets offense and unconventional lineup was humming. The team scored nine runs on 12 hits highlighted by a five run fifth where they not only chased Martinez, but also former Mets prospect Matthew Bowman.
Every Mets starter, save Syndergaard, reached base at least once safely. Cespedes and Rosario were the only ones who did not draw a walk. However, when Rosario is attacking first pitch fastballs to the tune of a 2-4 day with two runs and two RBI, you don’t mind his over-aggressiveness at the plate.
About the only negative on the day was seeing Yadier Molina homer. That just brought back too many raw emotions from 2006. Some of that sting was taken away with Molina suffering the indignity of Jay Bruce stealing a base off of him.
With Syndergaard, you had some real reason for excitement. He became just the second Mets pitcher to strike out 10 on Opening Day. He needed just 85 pitches to get through six innings. Yes, he would give up the two homers, but overall, he seemed poised and ready to have a dominating 2018 season.
Speaking of dominating, the Mets bullpen came out and completely shut the door on the Cardinals. Robert Gsellman, Anthony Swarzak, and Jeurys Familia combined to pitch three scoreless and hitless innings. Gsellman was the most impressive striking out the side in the seventh. This bullpen performance will make you forget about the Cardinals getting Greg Holland over the Mets for one day.
And for this one day, Gonzalez is rejuvenated, the bullpen is lights out, Callaway is a genuis, and the Mets are the best team in baseball. Sure, it seems that way almost every Opening Day as a Mets fan, but at least for tonight, let’s just believe this will carry on well into October.
Game Notes: A number 10 was placed on the back of the mound to honor the recently deceased Rusty Staub. Syndergaard joined Pedro Martinez as the only Mets starter to have a double digit strikeout game on Opening Day. This was the first time a Mets starter made back-to-back Opening Day starts since Johan Santana did it from 2008 – 2010.
As I do from time to time, we need a “completely serious” analysis and projection of each and every Mets player who is expected to contribute during the 2018 season. While there are many prjoection systems which claim to be fool-proof, there are none that will be this accurate about the Mets:
Sandy Alderson – The other 29 GMs in baseball will be left in complete hysterics when Alderson is calling around for a right-handed reliever to help boost the team’s chances to making the postseason.
Mickey Callaway – The writers will overwhelmingly vote him as the National League Manager of the Year. The most cited reason for giving him the award will be the fact he didn’t insist on playing his worst players or forcing his players to play through crippling injuries.
Dave Eiland– Multiple Mets pitchers will hug him for actually fixing their mechanics and for listening to them when they say they’re hurting.
Tyler Bashlor – When someone notices how similar his name is to the ABC reality show hit The Bachelor, they’ll say how “The Bashlor” is handing out strikeouts like they’re roses. We should all hate that person.
Jerry Blevins– Until he eats a sandwich, the socks given away in his honor will hang around his ankles
Bryce Brentz– He’s going to be the guy who has one or two at-bats this season, and someone is going to invoke his name as a former Met to try to sound like he knows more about the Mets than you know anything.
Jay Bruce– After a four home run game, all Mets fans will want to talk about is when he is going to move to first base.
Asdrubal Cabrera – After a slump, Callaway will move Cabrera down in the lineup causing Cabrera to bring his kids to the clubhouse and have them ask why Callaway doesn’t want them to eat.
Jamie Callahan– His wearing #43 will serve as a constant reminder that not only was he part of the return for Addison Reed, but also how the Mets turned quality MLB players into six right-handed relief prospects. That will be the worst possible sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Yoenis Cespedes – After an MVP caliber first half, he will feel like he has earned just one game of golf as a reward during the All Star Break. He will immediately be vilified.
Michael Conforto – After a huge cut and a swing and miss, Conforto will wince for a moment thereby causing a passionate Mets fans behind home plate to have a heart attack. This will led to a call for the netting to be filled in and for fans to have to watch the game on a tape delay.
Travis d’Arnaud– During a remarkably healthy season, he will finally be forced to catch Syndergaard, who had spent most of the seaosn with Plawecki as his personal catcher. On the first pitch of the game, Syndergaard throws a 101 MPH fastball which immediately shatters d’Arnaud’s hand.
Jacob deGrom– After a slump, he’s going to look to grow his hair out. Once he realizes his hair cannot possibly reach it’s old length during the 2018, he’s going to grow a really long beard and change his entrance music to “Legs” by ZZ Top.
Phillip Evans– When he cashes in his check for his postseason share, Evans will fondly remember that April pinch hitting appearance.
Wilmer Flores – He will be in such hysterics during his struggles in his first game in the outfield his crying on the field in 2015 will look like a case of the sniffles.
Todd Frazier– It will take many Mets fans a long time to come to grips that Jersey Boy Todd Frazier does not use a Bruce Springsteen song as his walk-up music. That point will finally come when they realize Frank Sinatra is from Hoboken and not NYC.
Robert Gsellman – As he continues to wait in Las Vegas for his opportunity to get back to the Majors, he will eventually care what Sandy Alderson thinks of him.
Matt Harvey – He’s going to pull a reverse Ben Affleck by going from The Dark Knight moniker to Daredevil. He will earn that name by following Eiland’s instructions to throw inside with such reckless abandon to the point where people start to question if he’s gone blind.
Juan Lagares – After once again injuring his thumb on a diving attempt, the Mets will finally realize Lagares’ injures were the result of him literally using a gold glove to try to play center. While they found the answer and solution for the thumb injuries, they will still be perplexed on how to fix his hitting.
Seth Lugo– We won’t know if people keep referring to the hook with him because of his incredible curveball or because of how Callaway won’t let him face a lineup for a third time.
Brandon Nimmo– Despite putting up great numbers, the Mets will inform Nimmo they unfortunately have to send him down to Triple-A due to a temporary roster squeeze. When he’s still smiling through the ordeal, they will force him to seek psychological counseling.
Kevin Plawecki– On a day when the Mets are getting blown out, the frustrated Plawecki will use the last of his six mound visits to derisively tell his pitcher he can pitch better than this. The pitcher will remind him he has a better batting average than Plawecki.
Jose Reyes– One day, he will hit a triple and score on a mad dash to home plate. He will have that old Reyes smile, and it will electrify the crowd. It will also cause everyone to forget that he is one of the worst position players in all of baseball.
T.J. Rivera – After he comes off the disabled list, he’ll deliver in the clutch for the Mets and his teammates will honor him as the player of the game. The Mets will make sure he’s not standing in front of Plawecki’s locker when they take a photo to tweet out.
Hansel Robles– Many will credit him with the discovery of extra terrestrials by his discovery of a UFO in the Vegas night. Years later, Robles will sheepishly admit all he was doing was pointing up at another homer he allowed.
Amed Rosario– To the surprise of us all, Rosario will strike out looking when the pitcher throws him a pitch which he was surprised at and was not ready to swing at. Entire belief systems will be shattered.
Paul Sewald– After having spent a year with Terry Collins, he’s going to be the player most comfortable with having no defined role in the bullpen. However, it will be an adjustment for him not having to warm up multiple times per game.
Anthony Swarzak – The jokes about not knowing how to spell his name will get old by mid-April. The jokes will be rediscovered in August when more fans tune it to a Mets team that is a surprising contender. The jokes will continue to not be funny.
Noah Syndergaard– He will continue his “Twitter Feud” with Mr. Met. It will be discussed ad nausesum during nationally televised games. America will think it’s amusing only fueling the spat even further and giving no hope to Mets fans who have long since found this to be unfunny.
Jason Vargas – When Reyes introduces himself, Vargas will remind him they were teammates in 2007. Both recall that season and will agree it never happened.
Zack Wheeler– He will be converted to a reliever, and in a surprise to us all, he will lead the league in saves. In a surprise to him that league will be the Pacific Coast League.
David Wright– He will apologize and sheepishly admit the Mets crown was an embarrassingly bad idea. He will try to come up with a way to rectify it, but no one will listen to his ideas on the topic anymore.
In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, this Mets story has been adapted from “Ten Apples Up On Top!”
One apple pops on up!
Two apples pop on up!
I can do it, also.
Plawecki can hit three!
Three . . .
Three . . .
He can do three
but d’Arnaud can do more.
Kevin has three
but TdA has four.
Look! Watch! Now!
Amed can bop
watch four homers
put the Mets on top.
Amed can bop
he’s swinging free
with four long
homers you can’t see.
Look here, you four.
Watch here, you four.
Wilmer can get five
Who hits more?
Bruce is so good
He will not stop
Now seven apples pop on up!
pop on up!
No pitcher can stop.
Five, six, seven!
Home Run, Home Run, Home Run!
Seven, six, five
four, three, two, one!
Frazier is as good as Bruuuce.
Wow! He has also let seven loose.
And Yo!, Cespedes!.
Eight! Eight pop up!
Eight apples up!
No ball will drop.
Trotting to home plate.
A bat flip and slow trot
to home plate.
But Wright can do nine.
in a blink!
No other team can do this,
Yo hits! Bruce hits!
Wright hits one too.
It’s outta here!
For the orange and blue!
The Mets are so good,
Pitcher’s on the brink.
With nine, he’s gone
and he needs a drink.
Nine is very good.
But then . . .
Conforto will make it ten!
The Mets Home Run Apple
will not drop!
It’s not going to drop.
The Mets hit another
Get out. Get out. You!
It’s a curtain call!
Home Run! Home Run!
Another long ball
The Mets will not let
that apple fall!
Another on the way!
The Mets will not stop.
They will not let
the Home Run Apple drop.
The pitcher doesn’t feel good.
What can he do?
When apples start popping
for the orange and blue.
The Mets will hit them
once they see them.
Home run! We can not
stop watching them.
It has a chance!
No pitcher can stop
Mets apple fun.
That apple will not drop.
Here’s another one!
Another one! Another one!
Another one! Home runs all!
That Home Run apple will not fall.
They cannot get
that apple down.
Home runs! Home runs!
Flying out of town!
Apples pop on up!
What an incredible
No pitcher can
make Mets fun stop!
Our Home Run Apple
is never going to drop.
Another curtain call!
When Mets fans watch
those homers go over the wall.
Since cracking the Opening Day roster in 2014, Travis d’Arnaud has averaged 90 games per season behind the plate with last year being his high at 112 games. This is because d’Arnaud has not withstood to the day-to-day rigors of catching. Each and every year, he deals with a different injury to another part of his body, and as a result, the Mets have been left scrambling to figure out their Major League catching depth.
With the re-emergence of Kevin Plawecki as the Mets catcher of the future and the minor league signing of Jose Lobaton, the Mets are in a much better position from a catching standpoint than they have been in years past. While the Mets have better depth, the end game should be to keep d’Arnaud healthy for a full season.
And for that matter, with Plawecki finally showing the type of bat the Mets believed he had, the team needs to find a spot for him in the lineup.
To that end, a platoon between the catchers makes sense. Fortunately, both catchers seem inclined to go forward with the plan, and they both thrived under the situation last September with d’Arnaud hitting .297/.343/.656 in 20 games and Plawecki hitting .278/.400/.426 in 19 games.
So based upon their production in an admittedly small sample size, we know it could potentially work. What we don’t know is how it should work next season, especially when you consider both are right-handed hitters.
Perhaps, the Mets should approach this from a different perspective. Instead of focusing on what pitcher is on the mound for the opposing team, the Mets should focus on what pitcher is on the mound for their own team. That is, much like what we saw in 2016 with Noah Syndergaard and Rene Rivera, assign a catcher to a Mets starter based upon whom the pitcher works best.
When you look at the numbers, what is quite startling is just how much better the Mets starters numbers are with Plawecki behind the plate. There is a very important caveat to that. Plawecki did the bulk of the catching of these pitchers back in 2015 when they were all healthy and dealing. It was d’Arnaud who had to deal with each one of them having real injury issues which corresponded with diminished stuff and stats.
Basically, this will come down to comfort, and for starters, we know that likely means Plawecki will be catching Syndergaard because as we saw in 2016, he and d’Arnaud have had difficulty getting on the same page. As an aside, it was somewhat telling Syndergaard was caught by Plawecki and Tomas Nido in his two “starts” at the end of the season.
Coincidence or not, there may be something to Plawecki not catching Jacob deGrom at all last season. Given their track record together, which includes deGrom winning the 2014 Rookie of the Year Award and his amazing 2015 postseason, or their both having lower case ds in their last name, there is a rapport between deGrom and d’Arnaud which should continue.
Likely, you want to get each of the catchers 2-3 days in a row when they do play in order to afford them to maximizing rest and getting in rhythm. To that end, d’Arnaud should catch deGrom with the fourth and fifth starter, whoever they may be. This would set up this type of rotation:
- Jacob deGrom (d’Arnaud)
- Noah Syndergaard (Plawecki)
- Jason Vargas (Plawecki)
- Matt Harvey (d’Arnaud)
- Steven Matz (d’Arnaud)
Really, after deGrom and Syndergaard, you can order the pitchers anyway you want, and you can certainly resort them depending on which catcher and pitcher feel most comfortable as a tandem. In the end, what really matters is Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Glenn Sherlock communicate with the starters and catching tandem to find the best fit for each pitcher. If done properly, we may see the catchers last a full season, and more importantly, we could see the pitching staff as a whole revert to their 2015 level.
If you go to the Mets website, you will see their Promotion Schedule for the 2018 season. If you look, there are some popular promotions like the Noah SyndergaardThor Bobblehead, the Yoenis Cespedes Garden Gnomes, and the Free T-Shirt Fridays. Those are fun and all, but I think we can do better, especially when we see promotions like a Fanny Pack.
No, I’m not kidding, the Mets are giving away Fanny Packs this year.
When you are giving away Fanny Packs and you are recycling old giveaways, it is time for some fresh ideas. Here is a look at a promotional idea for each player on the Mets expected Opening Day Roster:
Jerry Blevins 7 Line Subway Set – a man this thin deserves to have a rail in his honor.
Jay Bruce Ruby Cleats – click them together, and poof! You’re right back at Citi Field
Asdrubal Cabrera Flip Flops– I want to be a Met; I don’t want to be a Met. I’ll only play shortstop; I’ll play second. I’ll play third, but I want to be at second. Definitely, second base, but . . . .
Yoenis Cespedes Yo-ga Mats – he has undertaken yoga to make this finally be his healthy season
Michael Conforto Muppet – The man is Scooter.
Travis d’Arnaud Potato Head – you get the chance to put him together after he falls apart again
Jacob deGrom Hat Hair – in some ways this seems like a recycled idea, but with his hair cut, it’s now just a hat that will get many more people than ever expected to the ballpark.
Wilmer Flores Hanky Night – at some point or another, we have all cried watching this team play
Todd FrazierJersey Night – no, not jersey as uniform, just a celebration of New Jersey with Taylor Ham concession stands and Springsteen playing in the park all night long because in case you didn’t know Frazier grew up in Toms River, New Jersey.
Robert Gsellman Lollipop – if you’re always sticking your tongue out, might as well use it
Matt Harvey Hockey Jersey – Between the Winter Classic being played at Citi Field, Harvey’s notoriety as a Rangers fan, and his pitching arm looking like he was slammed with a Tie Domi cross-check, this seems like a natural fit.
Juan Lagares Foam Thumbs-Up – after all of his thumb injuries, his thumb must have the structural integrity of a piece of foam at this point.
Seth Lugo Wiffleball – With the wiffleball, you too can throw a curveball as a crazy as Lugo’s.
Steven Matz Take Your Grandfather to the Park Day – the only time you’ll see a grandfather spending time with their grandson at a game happier is when he’s there watching his grandson play.
Rafael Montero Sneakers – something comfortable for everyone’s feet as we all walk the park
Brandon Nimmo Mets Toothbrush – if you are always smiling, your teeth better be clean and your breath be minty fresh
Kevin Plawecki Dil – Actually no, let’s not do any promotions featuring the contents of player’s lockers
AJ Ramos Odd Couple Bobblehead – As a Subway Series special, the Mets and Yankees will each have a Bobblehead Day featuring roommates Ramos and Giancarlo Stanton with Ramos obviously playing the part of Oscar Madison.
Jose Reyes Bunting – Fans can get their bunting and leave the park as soon as the Mets are assured of the lead.
Hansel Robles Rocket – You too can point in the sky after watching your Robles Rocket go soaring into the sky
Amed Rosario Daily Planner – No longer will you be surprised about what is coming down the pike, you will now be ready.
Anthony Swarzak Scrabble Tile – No other Mets player has as many high point Scrabble tiles in his name.
Noah Syndergaard Marvel Baby Met – if he’s going to keep up the gimmick of hitting on Mrs. Met, he should get to see what a Thor-Mrs. Met child would look like.
Jason Vargas Left Handed Kitchen Tools – For that left-handed innings eater in you.
David Wright Night – No gimmick or anything. There just needs to be a night to honor David Wright this season. He deserves that much from the team and from the fans.
The one thing that is interesting about Spring Training is you never know which prospect is going to make a name for themselves. Personally, the one that always comes to mind is Dillon Gee having good Spring Training causing then Mets manager Jerry Manuel to take notice. With that, Gee had an important champion in the Mets organization, and when the opportunity finally presented itself, Gee would get a call-up to the majors despite struggling in Triple-A with an injured shoulder. From there, Gee has put together a nice MLB career.
This Spring Training, there are a number of Mets pitchers who will now have the opportunity to impress new manager Mickey Callaway. Aside from the big names like Dominic Smith, here are five names to keep an eye on during this Spring Training:
RHP Tyler Bashlor
Bashlor was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft because he has great stuff highlighted by an upper 90’s fastball. He combines that pitch with a sharp curve which has led to the flamethrower putting up big strikeout numbers in the minors. His stuff was a big reason why he quickly went from closing in St. Lucie to closing for a Binghamton Rumble Ponies team who was fighting for a postseason berth.
If there’s any issue with Bashlor, it’s the walks. In his career, he’s walked 5.0 batters per nine, and he walked 5.4 batters per nine in 34 appearances for St. Lucie. Those are unsustainable numbers.
Still, he has immense talent which could one day lead to him closing for the Mets one day. Before we get to that point, he has an opportunity to work with Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Triple-A pitching coach Mickey Abbott to help him eliminate the walks. If he does, he’s going to contribute at the Major League level next year.
LHP P.J. Conlon
For the second straight Spring, Conlon finds himself as a non-roster invitee with a an outside chance to make the Opening Day bullpen as a left-handed reliever. Certainly, Conlon has earned the chance as he knows how to get batters out, especially left-handed batters.
Last year, he limited left-handed batters to a .252/.273/.358 batting line, and in 2016, he was even stingier limiting them to a .216/.267/.288 batting line. Conlon does this because he located well, and he has a great change-up.
However, with his topping out in the 80s, it appears the Mets have their doubts about Conlon’s viability as a Major League starter. In Spring, Conlon is both going to get the chance to prove his stuff will work in the Majors similar to what we have seen with Jamie Moyer and Bartolo Colon. More than that, he’s going to get a chance to show he belongs in the Majors right now to fill a now vacant second left-handed reliever spot in the bullpen.
RHP Corey Oswalt
Oswalt is coming off an outstanding year in Binghamton, and as a result, he was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. Oswalt did this because he was able to locate all four pitches, and he has shown the ability to throw his fastball in the mid 90s. While all of the Double-A took notice of Oswalt, the Mets did as well adding the starter to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
It is no secret the Mets have health issues with their starters. Over the past two seasons, almost every Mets starter currently on the 40 man roster has had injuries requiring DL stints lasting more than half a season, requiring surgery, or both. As of the moment, the Mets have not added another starter to the roster, which has created an opportunity to show he should be at the front of the line when the Mets inevitably need another starter.
Right now, the Mets have a trio of injury prone second baseman in Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Wilmer Flores. If one or any of the three go down with injury, there will be an opportunity for Guillorme, who is arguably the best defensive middle infielder in the Mets organization.
At the moment, we know he’s a great fielder. The question mark on him is whether he can hit enough to play in the Majors. To that end, early indications are Guillorme has increased his launch angle. If true, and the transformation is a successful one, Guillorme’s career will transform to not if he can be the Mets second baseman of the future, but when he will be the Mets second baseman. Given the aforementioned injury histories, he may get his chance next year.
With Tomas Nido‘s BABIP normalizing, he had a disappointing year at the plate for Binghamton last year. While the Mets are understandably high on him due to his defensive skills, Nido’s struggles do present an opportunity for another catcher to distinguish himself.
Essentially, Mazeika is everything Nido isn’t. In his career, Mazeika has shown himself to be a good hitter, who is quite adept at getting on base. What is interesting with him is he has shown glimpses of power; however, it should be noted those flashes have mostly come when he is filling in at first base for extended stretches.
What remains at issue is his defensive abilities. It is an area where the 6’3″ catcher continues to make strides, but ultimately, the question is whether he is progressing quickly enough. With him being a non-roster invite to Spring Training, he is going to get the benefit of getting in work with Major League coaches like Glenn Sherlock, which could help him make the adjustments necessary to take the next step in his career.
Ultimately, if the Mets coaching staff sees what they like with him, he may soon find himself in the Major League mix at catcher. Having watched Travis d’Arnaud‘s injuries the past few years as well as Kevin Plawecki having mostly struggled in the Majors, his chance may come sooner than expected.
Overall, the Mets have a number of Minor Leaguers who are going to get a chance to go out there and show the Mets why they should be an important part of the future. In the end, it is up to them to emulate Dillon Gee and make the most of this opportunity. If they do, we may see them in Queens sooner than anticipated.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMN
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.
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.
If you’ve been paying attention, the Mets seem to be interested in everyone this offseason. If you take those players they’re interested in, you’d have an amazing roster:
1B Todd Frazier
2B Neil Walker
SS Amed Rosario
CF Lorenzo Cain
Wait, you don’t believe any of this is going to happen?
On August 16, 2017, we got to see Travis d’Arnaud bounce back-and-forth between second and third base. Twenty-three times in total.
The reason for the switching was because Terry Collins wanted to have Asdrubal Cabrera play on the pull side of the Yankee batters. d’Arnaud was in the field in the first place because (surprise, surprise), the Mets were playing short. With Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores unable to play the infield, d’Arnaud had to play there. On the evening, d’Arnaud would have just one ball hit in his direction. d’Arnaud would cleanly field that ninth inning pop up off the bat of Todd Frazier forever giving him the highest fielding percentage for a Mets second baseman.
Fast forward a few months, and the Mets are in the same exact situation they were just months ago. The team needs to fill in spots at second and third, and really, Cabrera is the only player they have capable on handling those positions everyday.
But it’s more than that. The Mets are currently not satisfied with Dominic Smith at first base, and they want competition for him. At a minimum, they’d like a platoon partner for him there as Smith has historically struggled with left-handed pitching.
Historically, this is where you would point to Flores being a solution for second, third, and/or first. However, Flores has also shown himself not in position to be that player. He cannot handle third base defensively. The Mets won’t let him handle second. And the overriding problem is he’s still a platoon bat even with him making strides against right-handed pitching.
Looking back at that August night, it may be worth toying with the idea of bringing d’Arnaud out from behind the plate to learn either second or third base – preferably third.
First and foremost, the roster composition would allow such a move. At the end of last season, Kevin Plawecki showed he may finally be ready to push for a starting catching job in the majors. Also, the Mets signed Jose Lobaton to a minor league deal. In his career, Lobaton has showed himself to be a more than capable backup catcher.
That tandem not only allows the Mets to handle the inevitable d’Arnaud injury, but it also allows the team to move d’Arnaud.
Presumably, third base would allow d’Arnaud to stay healthy. As we have long seen, d’Arnaud has been an injury prone player. By moving him to another position, you may be able to keep his bat in the lineup.
His bat is where things get a bit dicey. If d’Arnaud is the player he was in 2016 or 2017, you don’t want that bat in the lineup. It may be possible at catcher, but it’s not at third.
However, in 2015, he was a 126 OPS+ and 130 wRC+ hitter. That will play at any position. Keep in mind, when he was drafted, and when he was twice moved for Cy Young Award winners (Roy Halladay and R.A. Dickey) this is what he was expected to be as a hitter.
Getting d’Arnaud’s bat into the lineup everyday and giving Plawecki a shot to be the everyday catcher may go a long way towards helping the 2018 Mets get the most out of the talent on their roster.
Now, this understandably seems ridiculous, and you know what? It is. It is absolutely ridiculous we need to even contemplate d’Arnaud switching positions because of the failures of this team.
Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart both chose to become Angels. Rumors persist the Indians are not looking to move Jason Kipnis, at least not to the Mets. Josh Harrison was linked to the Yankees, not the Mets, in trade rumors. The team has a limited budget, so we can probably forget Frazier, Mike Moustakas, or even a Howie Kendrick.
The Mets don’t have the money, and they don’t have the prospects to get things done. With that in mind, you might as well contemplate moving d’Arnaud to the infield because . . . well . . . the Mets don’t really have any better options.