Yet again, the Mets have had to turn to Rafael Montero to make a start because there weren’t better options for the Mets. There weren’t better options because Sandy Alderson believed the Mets had enough starting pitching to never need to sign a veteran signing pitcher. As we have seen, this was a miscalculation.
Lost in the excitement of the Mets having seven starting pitchers was the fact that pitchers break down. This pitching staff exemplifies this axiom. Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz were coming off season ending surgeries. For his part, Matz is seemingly never healthy. Zack Wheeler hadn’t pitched in over two years due to his having Tommy John surgery and the ensuing complications therefrom. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo were terrific in September of last year, but it was against some fairly weak competition. Also, it is likely both were going to be on some form of an innings limit. Finally, there was Noah Syndergaard, who seemed indestructible.
Now, we could have anticipated Matz doing down, but the other manner in which the Mets have turned to Montero and Adam Wilk has been a surprise. No one expected Lugo to suffer a torn UCL. Syndergaard tearing his lat never could have been reasonably anticipated, nor was the Mets needing to suspend Harvey. Still, given the relative injury histories, it was certainly plausible the Mets would be down three plus pitchers at any point of the season. It was also plausible because pitchers break.
Despite this, Alderson moved both Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa to the Orioles in separate deals. Both moves were defensible because the Mets needed space on the 40 man roster to accommodate free agent signings. Still, those arms needed to be replaced by cheap veterans who could be stashed in Triple-A, or the Mets could have signed a swingman who could have served in long relief and be available to make a spot start.
Now, we know players like Doug Fister and Colby Lewis likely weren’t signing unless they got minor league deals. Still, there were pitchers like Jon Niese and Dillon Gee available. Mets fans may not love them, but they are certainly better than Montero. There was also Scott Feldman who has served in both relief and long man roles, and he signed with the Reds for just $2.3 million. There are several other names like Jake Peavy who at least has the veteran guile to gut through five innings. Instead, the Mets stuck with Sean Gilmartin, who they won’t even trust to make a start, and they signed Wilk who is not a viable major league pitcher.
And now, the once vaunted Mets starting pitching is a mess, and it is up to Alderson to fix it. This is the same Alderson who has been very cavalier in moving pitching the past few seasons to help fix the weaknesses in teams he has built. So far, his answer has been Milone who has a 6.43 ERA in six starts this season. That’s hardly an answer.
Likely, Alderson’s real answer is to hope for some health with presumably both Matz and Lugo will be ready by the end of the month. Maybe this time the health plan with work.
If the Mets were smart, they would use the window they have right now and call tonight’s game. They certainly have their excuse to do so. No, I’m not referring to the fact that it is supposed to rain all day into tomorrow. No, I’m referring to the fact that somehow we are back at the point where the Mets are once again in a position where they must give Rafael Montero a start.
This is the same Montero who made six appearances this year going 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA, 3.600 WHIP, and a 10.8 BB/9. This follows the pattern of Montero’s career where his ERA, WHIP, and BB/9 have continuously gone up in each of the last three seasons. While the narrative has been that Montero just needs to trust his stuff and pound the strike zone, the simple fact is he doesn’t. Furthermore, no one should trust that he can anymore.
Sure, he has gone down to Vegas, and he is pitching well again. In his two starts, he has a 1.74 ERA, 0.677 WHIP, and he has only walked three batters in 10.1 innings. That’s what he does. Montero pitches well against inferior competition. Last year, he was 4-3 with a 2.20 ERA, 1.102 WHIP, and a 3.5 BB/9 in nine starts. Due to his having a good stretch in Double-A and a rash of injuries, the Mets turned to Montero. The result was him making three starts pitching just 11 innings. Over those 11 innings, he walked 14 batters. This led to his 7.36 ERA and a 2.182 WHIP. From there, he was demoted to the bullpen.
The Mets were tricked again by him coming out of Spring Training when he pounded the strike zone. The Mets relied upon those outings and the Jeurys Familia suspension to give Montero another chance. As discussed above, he squandered that chance as well. In reality, there is no indication whatsoever that Montero will justify the chance he was once again given.
In fact, with every outing of his all you can think about is the other players the Mets passed on to let Montero keep getting chances. Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa were traded for cash to the Orioles. Matthew Bowman was lost in the Rule 5 Draft, and he has since carved out a role in their bullpen. There are pitchers still in the Mets farm system like Ricky Knapp and P.J. Conlon, who despite their struggles to start the year, are certainly more deserving of a chance.
Instead, the Mets will once again give Montero yet another chance. That is unless it rains tonight, and they can skip his spot in the rotation. Hopefully, the rain beats Montero tonight. It wouldn’t be a surprise since everyone else beats him. Yet somehow, even if it does rain, we know this won’t be the last we see of Montero.
With Noah Syndergaard‘s torn lat, it is once again time to revisit the Mets decision to allow Bartolo Colon to depart in free agency. It is a moment that has been revisited on multiple occasions. It was first addressed when the Mets allowed him to go to the Braves without so much as an offer. It was addressed when Steven Matz and Seth Lugo suffered injuries. Its been addressed with every struggle Robert Gsellman has had on this young season. So why not just get it out of the way for good and for all.
The Mets were correct in their decision not to re-sign Bartolo Colon.
For those clamoring for the popular player, do you know what his stats are this season? They’re not good. Through five starts, Colon is 1-2 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.310 WHIP. He’s averaging 5.2 innings per start. The only intradivision team he has handled well was the Mets. Against the Marlins, he pitched four innings allowing six runs on seven hits. Against the Phillies, he allowed four runs on 11 hits. For a Mets team that needs a stabilizing force in the rotation the can eat up innings and get some quality starts, Colon has shown that so far he is not really the answer.
If you want to argue, he certainly is a better pitcher than that, you may have an argument. However, his 77 ERA+ and his 4.40 FIP suggest you don’t have much of an argument. You could say that it’s early, but is it ever early for a 44 year old pitcher?
But this overlooks what was the real issue at the time Colon hit free agency. The Mets could not guarantee him a rotation spot. Last year, Gsellman was 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA, 1.276 WHIP, 169 ERA+, and a 2.63 FIP. Lugo was 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.094 WHIP, 152 ERA+, and a 4.33 FIP. On top of that, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Matz had successful surgeries and looked to be ready on Opening Day. Furthermore, Zack Wheeler was on track to be ready to be on the Opening Day roster. If everyone is healthy and in peak form, Colon was realistically the seventh or eighth best pitcher on the staff. Simply put, there was no spot for him.
Colon knew that too. That’s why he took the Braves one year $12.5 million deal. He took the deal because the Braves were guaranteeing him a rotation spot that would permit him to chase down Juan Marichal and Dennis Martinez to become the winningest Latin born pitcher in major league history. Colon chose the path with the best contract and the clearest path to the record over returning to the Mets or going to another contender.
This is no shot at him. Last year, Colon took less money and risked getting demoted to the bullpen in order to chase that elusive World Series. He just wasn’t as eager to do that this time. The Mets also weren’t eager to bring him back with their pitching depth.
Instead, the Mets used that $12.5 million this offseason. That money helped the Mets to build a bullpen. Jerry Blevins was signed for $5.5 million. Fernando Salas was signed for $3 million. Addison Reed received a $2.55 million raise, and Jeurys Familia received a $3.325 million raise. As much as the bullpen has struggled to start the season, imagine it right now without Blevins. So overall, it is not as if that $12.5 million wasn’t spent on pitching this offseason. It was. It was just spent on a bullpen that Colon was not willing to pitch in to start the season.
So no, the Mets shouldn’t be second guessed for letting Colon go to the Braves. Rather, the Mets should be questioned as to why the choice for fifth starter is between Rafael Montero or Sean Gilmartin. Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa were traded to the Orioles for cash considerations in separate deals this offseason. Scott Feldman signed with the Reds for $2.3 million. There are a number of pitchers available who could have provided a little extra depth including the player everyone loves to hate, Jon Niese. Say what you want about him, but he’s much better than Montero.
There’s also the matter that the Mets knew this could happen. Once the Mets opened the season with Lugo and Matz hurt, the team’s depth was gone. As reported by Kristie Ackert in the New York Daily News, Sandy Alderson backed off signing a pitcher like Doug Fister because he was willing to wait until late May or June for them to be healthy. Alderson willing took a gamble with the pitching depth, and he lost.
Overall, the Mets aren’t in trouble because they didn’t re-sign Colon. They are in trouble because the team purged the non-Montero options they had in the organization, and they were willing to wait almost two months to have quality major league pitching depth.
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.
Well somehow, someway, Rafael Montero has survived three years of uninspired pitching and two rounds of cuts from the 40 man roster to remain a New York Met. He survived the second time because the Mets traded Gabriel Ynoa yesterday to the Orioles for cash considerations. In Baltimore, Ynoa could conceivably join Logan Verrett in the Orioles starting rotation. That’s right, Verrett, make that three rounds of cuts from the 40 man roster.
Ultimately, Verrett and Ynoa were traded because the Mets had a team, namely the Orioles, who was interested in their services. When it comes to Ynoa, it is easy to ascertain why.
Ynoa has a mid to high 90s fastball, a good change-up, and an emerging slider. For most of his minor league career, he showed good control and an ability to locate his pitches. You could argue what he was as a pitcher. To some, he was a back-end of the rotation guy. To many, he had a promising career in the bullpen. For those that truly believed in his talent, they could make a justifiable case he could emerge as a front of the rotation starter. No matter what the opinion, the consensus was this guy was a major league talent.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see that in his limited time in a Mets uniform. Having never been in a major league bullpen before, Ynoa struggled when thrust into the role. After having been effectively shut down for the season, at least from the perspective of being a starting pitcher, Ynoa struggled in his few starts with the Mets. Call it making excuses for the player, but he was a rookie put in an unenviable task. Who knows? Maybe if he was put in a real position to succeed, his stats would have been much better, and maybe the Mets move someone other than him.
And that is the real shame. We never did get to see what Ynoa could truly be in a major league uniform. Maybe he would have been a solid bullpen arm. Maybe he was that guy who surprised you in the rotation. Now, he can still be those things, but he will be those things in a Baltimore Orioles uniform.
And hopefully he will achieve all he is capable of with the Orioles. It would be good for the Mets to show the prospects they are willing to move are capable of succeeding when it comes to future trade talks. It is better for Ynoa who left his home at the age of 17 with the dreams of becoming a major leaguer.
Heading into the 2015 season, the Mets were finally putting a team on the field they believed could compete for the World Series. However, by exposing and losing him in the Rule 5 Draft, the Mets made it clear Logan Verrett was not going to be a part of those plans. Boy were they wrong.
By sheer luck, Verrett would find his way back to the Mets. First, he would be used as a bullpen arm for a team that needed depth in its bullpen. However, it would not be until August that Verrett would really help the Mets out.
Back in August, the Mets needed a pitcher to make a couple of spot starts in place of Matt Harvey. Harvey was a year removed from Tommy John surgery, and he was hitting his innings limits. Verrett would step into the rotation, and he would pitch better than anyone could have imagined. He allowed only four hits and one earned in Colorado of all places. He would make three more starts before the season ended allowing Harvey and Jacob deGrom to get some well earned and well needed rest before the Mets headed to the postseaon.
That well rested rotation, especially deGrom and Harvey, pitched great in the postseason. If not for a couple of blown saves, the Mets may very well have been World Series Champions. The Mets may not have even been in that position had Verrett not proven himself to be so effective as a spot starter. It allowed the rotation to be as fresh and as dominant as possible. With that Verrett played an enormous role for the Mets first pennant winning team in 15 years.
Unfortunately, Verrett wasn’t as effective as a spot starter in 2016. That made his spot on the 40 man roster tenuous. His spot became even more tenuous with the emergence of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. That doesn’t mean Verrett no longer knows how to pitch, nor does it mean he cannot be a valuable contributor for a playoff team. We know much different.
No, it was just Verrett’s time to move onto another team. Fortunately for him, he is finding himself on a team in Baltimore where he can pitch for a postseason contender. He is also on a team that has room in both the rotation and the bullpen. He is also playing for a Baltimore team that had initially taken him in the Rule 5 Draft. Ultimately, Baltimore is where he belongs at the moment. He belongs on a team that wants him, has room for him, and has a real chance at the postseason.
Verrett should be an important part of an Orioles team with postseason aspirations just like he was with the 2015 Mets. Remember that 2015 run would not have been possible without Verrett, and for that, Mets fans should be grateful. Moreover, Mets fans should root for him wherever he goes. I know I will.
Good luck in Baltimore Logan Verrett.
After protecting Amed Rosario, Tomas Nido, Chris Flexen, Marcos Molina, and Wuilmer Becerra from the Rule 5 Draft, the Mets 40 man roster now stands at precisely 40 players. This means that now when the Mets look to add a player in free agency, they will have to cut one of the players off of their 40 man roster. And yes, the Mets will have to remove some players off of the 40 man roster.
From all indications, even if the Mets do no re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, they are pursuing other outfielders to replace him. With the possible suspension of Jeurys Familia looming, it is likely, the Mets will have to add one, if not two, late inning relievers. The team may be interested in bringing back Jerry Blevins or finding another LOOGY. In addition to those moves, there are some other moves or upgrades the Mets may make this offseason. With that in mind, here are some players whose spot on the 40 man roster is tenuous:
Heading into the 2015 season, Edgin was supposed to be the Mets LOOGY for years to come. Those plans changed when he needed Tommy John surgery causing him to miss the entire 2015 season.
He returned in 2016, and he was not the same pitcher having lost velocity off of all of his pitches. He went from having a mid-90s fastball to having a low 90s fastball. As a result, Edgin got hit around. In AAA, he had a 3.51 ERA and a 1.650 WHIP. In his limited stints in the majors, he had a 5.23 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP. Another complication for Edgin is he is arbitration eligible meaning the Mets are presumably going to have to pay him a lot more to keep him on the roster.
On a positive note, Edgin still did get left-handed batters out at the major league level. In a very small sample size (20 plate appearances), lefties only hit .235 off of him with no extra base hits. It is a big reason why he was on the Wild Card Game roster when the Mets faced a San Francisco Giants team stacked with lefties. Between his ability to get lefties out, the hope his arm could improve a second year removed from surgery, and his still having options available, there is still some hope for Edgin.
Gilmartin has gone from an important bullpen arm the Mets acquired in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft to a player who is seemingly lost his ability to get batters out.
Despite Gilmartin being a valuable long man in the pen, the Mets had him start the year in AAA to become starting pitching depth. In 18 starts and one relief appearance, he was 9-7 with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.425 WHIP. On a couple of occasions, he was recalled, and he pitched exclusively in relief for the Mets. Things did not go well for him in those 14 relief appearances as Gilmartin had a 7.13 ERA and a 1.585 WHIP. Between his performance and his having to go on the minor league disabled list with shoulder soreness, it was a lost year for Gilmartin.
Some of the struggles of Gilmartin were the result of his uneven usage between AAA and the majors. The other issue was his shoulder soreness, which for now, appears to no longer be an issue. Another strong factor in his favor is the fact that he is not yet arbitration eligible meaning the Mets do not have to pay him much to see if he returns to form. His having options available is also a positive. The Mets could still keep him on the roster with the idea of returning him to the role he was most successful.
There is perhaps no Mets pitcher that evokes such split opinions than Goeddel. For years, there were people who saw a pitcher that was able to go out there and get outs. There were others who saw a guy who had fringy stuff that was more the beneficiary of good luck than good pitching. After the 2016 season, most people agree that Goeddel was a liability for the Mets.
In 36 appearances for the Mets, Goeddel had a 4.54 ERA and a 1.318 WHIP. It should be noted this was a big departure from how he had previously pitched with the Mets. In 2014 and 2015, Goeddel had a combined 2.48 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP. His prior success, his pre-arbitration status, and his having options remaining, gives him a chance to remain on the 40 man roster.
How he is still on the 40 man roster is anyone’s guess. Entering the 2016 season, the Mets had it with him, and they sent him a message by making him one of the first people sent down to minor league Spring Training. Montero responded by pitching so poorly in Las Vegas that he was demoted to Binghamton. It was only due a rash of pitching injuries that he got a shot at pitching in the majors again, and like his other opportunities, he squandered that. Still, despite all that, the Mets cut Eric Campbell and Jim Henderson, AND exposed Paul Sewald to the Rule 5 Draft all for the sake of holding onto Montero that much longer. Eventually, you have to assume Montero is going to get cut from the roster. It is only a matter of when.
Strangely enough, the Mets had to make a decision on whether to expose Verrett to the Rule 5 Draft or to remove a player from the 40 man roster to protect him. The Mets chose the former, and lost him for a period of time. After Verrett struggled with the Rangers, the Mets took him back where Verrett pitched well out of the bullpen and the rotation for the Mets.
The Mets envisioned Verrett succeeding in that role in 2016, but it wasn’t to be. He wasn’t as effective replacing Matt Harvey in the rotation as he was in 2015. He went from a 3.63 ERA as a starter to a 6.45 ERA. He performed so poorly out of the rotation that the Mets gave Montero a chance to start over him down the stretch of the season.
Still, there was a silver lining to Verrett’s 2016 season. In his 23 relief appearances, he had a 2.84 ERA. When you consider his reliever ERA, how well he performed in 2015, his pre-arbitration status, and his having options remaining, there is still a chance for Verrett to remain on the 40 man roster.
Thinking of Plawecki being on the bubble is a bit odd especially when he is only 25 years old, has shown himself to be a terrific pitch framer, and he has only had 409 plate appearances at the major league level.
The problem there is Plawecki hasn’t hit at all in those 409 plate appearances. In his brief major league career, Plawecki is a .211/.287/.285 hitter. That’s worse than what Rene Rivera could give you, and Rivera has firmly established himself as Noah Syndergaard‘s personal catcher. Worse yet, Plawecki is not the defensive catcher Rivera is.
When you also consider Tomas Nido‘s breakout season in St. Lucie possibly forcing the Mets to protect him a year earlier than anticipated, the Mets are going to be faced with the dilemma of carrying four catchers on their 40 man roster. With Nido perhaps passing him as the catcher of the future, and Travis d’Arnaud having shown he has more offensive ability than Plawecki, it is quite possible, Plawecki could find himself having run out of chances with the Mets organization.
With all that said, it is hard to believe the Mets moving on from Plawecki this soon is his career.
This is an interesting situation for Kelly to be in considering he was signed to be minor league depth last season. With a rash of injuries and some hot hitting in AAA, Kelly finally reached the majors after his long seven year odyssey in the minor leagues.
After some time, the Mets actually discovered who Kelly was. Despite his switch hitting skills, he really could only hit from the right-hand side against major league pitching. He was versatile, but his best position was left field. Overall, his main asset down the stretch in September was as a pinch runner. He was mostly used as a pinch runner because of the dearth of team speed on the Mets roster. With all the said, he did make the Wild Card Game roster, and he got a pinch hit single off Madison Bumgarner.
Basically, all the reasons you can make for him being kept on the roster or being cut from the roster are the same exact things you could have said about Campbell, and he just signed a deal to play in Japan.
Overall, it is hard to guesstimate how many of these players are going to remain on the roster because we are not sure how many moves the Mets are going to make this offseason. Normally, you would say Montero was sure to be cut, but he is more and more looking like the pitching version of Campbell . . . there is just no getting rid of the guy. Still, as we learned from Campbell, there is going to become a breaking point, and that point may well be when the Mets sign enough players this offseason to take them from the Wild Card back to being World Series contenders.
Editor’s Note: a version of this story was originally run on Mets Merized Online
Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive. For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month. Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment. There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection. It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets. Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad). For the tenth and final set of grades, here is Terry Collins grade:
Sometimes grading a manager can be difficult. For starters, we cannot truly know how much of an impact the manager has in the clubhouse. For example, one person’s “player’s manager” is another person’s “letting the inmates run the asylum.” Essentially, that narrative is written based upon the type of year the team had.
Furthermore, in the modern game, we are unsure how much of an impact the front office has on daily decision making. It used to be that the General Manager would hire a manager, and then he would step aside and let the manager run the team as he saw fit. Now, there is a some level of interference in each organization. Some provide data and other tools to the manager while others are at least rumored to try to fill out line-up cards for teams.
If we are being honest, there really are times we do not know what is and what is not a manager’s fault. However, we do know that everything lies at the manager’s feet, and it is ultimately the manager that will have to be responsible for the choices made. Looking at Terry Collins’ choices is complicated. Lets review:
If you are being fair, Collins did what he was paid to do by bringing the Mets to the postseason in consecutive seasons. That is no small feat, especially for a franchise that has only done it once before in their entire history. There was also a large degree in difficulty in doing so, especially when you lose Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz to season-ending surgeries at different points in the season.
He also had to deal with a number of other injuries. There was the fairly expected ones like David Wright, the reasonably foreseen like Lucas Duda, and the out of nowhere like Wilmer Flores. Yoenis Cespedes dealt with a quad issue most of the summer too. Once again, it was not a ringing endorsement of the medical and training staff this season. Still, Collins dealt with it, and took a team that was two games under .500 in August, and the Mets claimed a Wild Card spot. Again, teams normally collapse in these circumstances. Collins’ team showed resolve, and for that, he deserves a lot of credit.
A major reason why was the emergence of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. These two young players contributed much earlier than expected and were better than anyone ever expected. One reason why is Collins matched them up with Rene Rivera who has excelled mentoring young pitching. Collins deserves credit for that as he does matching up Rivera with Noah Syndergaard to help alleviate the issues associated with Syndergaard holding on base runners. Collins use of Rivera might’ve been the best decision he made all season, and it could very well have been the reason why the Mets returned to the postseason.
The one issue I cannot get over all season was how reckless Collins was with his bullpen arms. It wasn’t aggressive. It wasn’t demanding. The only real term to use was reckless.
In April, he put Jim Henderson into a day game after a night game despite Henderson coming off shoulder surgeries and Henderson having thrown a career high in pitches the previous night. The reason? Collins determined an April game was a must-win game. In a sport that plays 162 games, no April game can be considered a must-win. During that inning, Henderson had no velocity, couldn’t get a guy out, and he would have to be lifted from the game. After that outing, Henderson wasn’t the same guy that made the team out of Spring Training, and he would have to be put on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. He went from lock down seventh inning guy to removed from the 40 man roster as soon as the season ended.
Then there was Hansel Robles. Collins treated him like every arm he ruined in his past. Despite having a number of guys who could go more than one inning, including long man Logan Verrett, it was Robles who was called to the whip time and time again. During a one week stretch in June, Robles threw 127 pitches over three mutiple inning appearances. Then when he finally got some rest, Robles came right back out and threw 33 pitches over two innings. Robles sustained the abuse well for most of the season, but then he tailed off at the end of the year.
Somehow, someway Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia never got injured. It really is a miracle because they were used more than any other combination of relievers in baseball in 2016. The wear and tear finally showed in the Wild Card Game when neither pitcher had much of anything left. Both struggled in their respective innings of work. Reed was able to get out of it, but Familia wasn’t.
While the bullpen usage was an issue, there were other problems with Collins. He completely mishandled Michael Conforto this season. Conforto had gone from one of the best hitters in baseball in April, to a guy Collins outright refused to play down the stretch of the season despite Conforto hitting nearly .500 in AAA during his demotion.
Keep in mind, Conforto was not the only player who regressed this season. Travis d’Arnaud had looked prime to break out in 2016. Unfortunately, his season was marked by injuries and regression. With Conforto and d’Arnaud, there are two important young players who regressed under Collins.
Finally, there was the matter of how injuries were handled. Harvey’s injury issues were blamed on mechanics. Collins kept putting Cespedes out there everyday to play despite his clearly being hobbled. Same goes for Asdrubal Cabrera. The worst might have been talking Matz out of getting season ending surgery in order to pitch through what was described as a massive bone spur. Eventually, Matz would have to scrap his slider, would experience some shoulder discomfort, and he would finally get shut down for the season.
In a sport where you are judged by wins and losses, Collins was successful despite the issues he faced. However, many of those issues were self-inflicted. Given the fact that he brought the team to the postseason for a consecutive year, he should have received a high grade. However, Collins consistently risked the health of his players, and some were worse off as a result. You need to look no further than Henderson who is right now looking to catch onto a team yet again. Even worse yet, the young players the Mets need to take them to the next level next year are question marks due largely to Collins’ mishandling of them. Altogether, Collins season earned him a C-.
With the Mets adding Gavin Cecchini to the 40 man roster to sit on the bench as the Mets are chasing down a Wild Card spot, the team had one less decision to make on who should be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason. Even if the Mets didn’t add Cecchini now, he was going to be added in the offseason. Cecchini is too valuable a prospect, and he would be snatched up immediately in the Rule 5 Draft.
Cecchini was not the only player the Mets were going to have to make a decision on this offseason. In fact, the Mets have to make a decision on 66 different prospects about whether or not they should be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Here is a review of some of the more notable Mets prospects that need to be added to the 40 man roster in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft:
SS Amed Rosario (Advanced A & AA) .324/.374/.459, 24 2B, 13 3B, 5 HR, 71 RBI, 19 SB
Yes, if it hasn’t been apparent this entire year, Rosario is in a class all by himself. If he’s not added to the 40 man roster someone is getting fired.
ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
1B/3B Matt Oberste (AA) .283/340/.409, 21 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 54 RBI, 1 SB
One issue that has plagued Oberste his entire minor league career is he has to fight for at bats as he is usually behind a bigger Mets prospect. That has been literally and figuratively Dominic Smith (who is not yet Rule 5 eligible). Oberste was an Eastern League All Star; however, the issue that is always going to hold him back is the fact that he is a corner infielder that does not hit for much power. Most likely, Oberste will not be added to the 40 man roster.
CF Champ Stuart (Advanced A & AA) .240/.314/.349, 12 2B, 7 3B, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 40 SB
Stuart is an elite defensive outfielder that has speed on the bases as evidenced by him stealing 40 bases this season. The issue with Stuart is he is a maddening offensive player. He went from hitting .265/.347/.407 in 71 games for Advanced A St. Lucie to hitting .201/.264/.261 in 43 games for AA Binghamton. While he certainly has the tools to possibly be a big leauger one day, he’s too far away at this point. Also, with teams putting more of a premium on offense than defense, it’s likely he will not be protected, and he will go undrafted.
C Tomas Nido ( Advanced A) .320/.357/.459, 23 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 0 SB
This year was a breakout season defensively and offensively for the Florida State League batting champion. Normally, with Nido never having played a game in AA, the Mets would be able to leave him unprotected and be assured he wouldn’t be drafted. However, with catcher being such a difficult position to fill, it’s possible a bad team like the Braves takes a flyer on him and keeps him as the second or third stringer catcher all year. It’s exactly how the Mets lost Jesus Flores to the Nationals many years ago.
SP Marcos Molina 2015 Stats (Rookie & Advanced A) 9 G, 8 GS, 1-5, 4.26 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.9 K/9
Molina did not pitch for the Mets organization for the entire 2016 season as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Arizona Fall League will be his first time facing batters in a game since his eight starts for St. Lucie in 2015. It’s likely he will go unprotected and undrafted.
ARMS THAT COULD HELP IN 2017
RHP Paul Sewald (AAA) 56 G, 5-3, 19 saves, 3.29 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 11.0 K/o
In many ways, it is surprising that a Mets bullpen that was looking for an extra arm never turned to Sewald. While he struggled to start the season like most pitchers transitioning to the Pacific Coast League do, Sewald figured it out and had a terrific second half with 10 saves, a 1.85 ERA, and a 0.95 WHIP. Sewald should be protected. In the event he isn’t, he should be as good as gone.
RHP Beck Wheeler (AA & AAA) 47 G, 0-3, 6 saves, 5.98 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 12.1 K/9
Wheeler went unprotected and undrafted last year, and based upon the numbers he put up in his time split between Binghamton and Las Vegas, it appears the same thing will happen this year. The one reservation is like with the Braves interest in Akeel Morris, teams will always take fliers on guys with mid 90s fastballs who can generate a lot of strikeouts. It just takes one team to think they can help him reduce his walk rate for him to go in the Rule 5 draft.
RHP Chasen Bradford (5 saves, 4.80 ERA, 1.48 WHIP) – Bradford regressed statistically from last year in large part because he is a sinker/slider pitcher that pitches to contact. On the bright side, he walks very few batters meaning if you have good infield defense, he will be a successful pitcher for your team. His numbers should scare off a number of teams in the Rule 5 draft just like it did last year.
RHP Ricky Knapp (Advanced A & AA) 25 G, 24 GS, 13-6, 2.69 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 6.3 K/9
Knapp started the year in St. Lucie, and he finished it with a spot start in Las Vegas. Knapp doesn’t have any plus pitches, but he gets the most out of all of his pitches because he is excellent at hitting his spots. He is a very polished product that is best suited to being a starting pitcher. Since he doesn’t strike out many batters, teams will most likely pass on him in the Rule 5 draft.
RHP Luis Mateo (AA & AAA) 51 G, 4-4, 1 save, 2.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.0 K/9
He’s a fastball/slider pitcher with a low 90s fastball that generates a fair share of groundball outs while keeping the ball in the ballpark. While his ERA should entice teams, his WHIP and strikeout rate may keep them away just like it did last year when the Mets left him exposed to the Rule 5 draft. He will most likely begin next year in AAA.
2B/3B/SS Phillip Evans (Advanced A & AA) .321/.366/.460, 30 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 1 SB
The Eastern League Batting Champion certainly raised his profile with a much improved offensive season. He’s starting to become more selective at the plate and learn how to be less of a pull hitter. The main issue for Evans is he may not have a position. While he can make all the plays at the infield positions, he lacks range to be a solid middle infielder. He also lacks the arm strength and power numbers you would want at third base.
RHP Chris Flexen (Advanced A, AA, AAA) 25 GS, 10-9, 3.56 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.4 K/9
Flexen appears to be in the mold of a typical Mets pitching prospect in that he has a high 90’s fastball and a good slider. Despite the repertoire, he is not generating a lot of strikeouts right now. On the bright side, he does generate a number of ground balls while limiting home runs. He was rumored to be part of the initial Jay Bruce trade that fell apart due to an unnamed prospect’s physical (does not appear to be him). A second division club like the Reds could take a flyer on him and put him in the bullpen for a year to gain control over him despite him never having pitched at a level higher than Advanced A St. Lucie.
RHP Tyler Bashlor (Full Season & Advanced A) 54 G, 4-3, 2.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11.8 K/9
While the 5’11” Bashlor is short on stature, he has a big arm throwing a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider which he used to dominate in the Sally League. Bashlor used these pitches to strike out 11.8 batters per nine innings. Like Flexen, there is danger exposing a big arm like this even if the highest level of experience he has is four games for Advanced A St. Lucie.
RHP Kevin McGowan (Advanced A & AA) 42 G, 4 GS, 2 saves, 2.35 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.9 K/9
McGowan is a fastball/changeup pitcher that still needs to develop a breaking pitch. While that fastball/changeup combination has been good enough to get batters out at the lower levels of the minor leagues, he is going to need another pitch if he is going to progress as a pitcher.
RF Wuilmer Becerra (Advanced A) .312/.341/.393, 17 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 34 RBI, 7 SB
Around the time of the Rule 5 Draft last year, the debate was whether a bad team like the Braves would take a flyer on Becerra just to get the promising young outfielder into their organization. Unfortunately, Becerra would have a shoulder injury that would rob him of his budding power. More importantly, that shoulder injury would require surgery ending his season after just 65 games.
1B/3B Jhoan Urena (Advanced A) .225/.301/.350, 17 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 0 SB
With the emergence of David Thompson, Urena was pushed from third to first. However, that isn’t what was most troubling about his season. In fact, many questioned whether he could stay at third given his frame. The issue was the switch hitting Urena stopped hitting for power this season. With his not hitting for power, Rosario’s best friend in the minors should go undrafted in the Rule 5 Draft.
LHP Paul Paez (Advanced A & AA) 34 G, 4-1, 3.88 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 8.9 K/9
This year Paez failed to distinguish himself by not pitching particularly well for St. Lucie and then struggling in Binghamton. He only has a high 80’s fastball and lacks a true swing and miss breaking pitch. While lefties hitting .308 off of him this year, he may not even have a future as a LOOGY in a major league bullpen.
NEEDS TIME TO DEVELOP
OF Patrick Biondi (Advanced A) .271/.352/.332, 17 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 34 RBI, 26 SB
While Biondi’s stats look good on the surface, it should be noted at 25 years old, he is old for the level. On the bright side, Biondi has speed and is a good defender in CF. However, until he starts getting on base more frequently, he will not be considered for the 40 man roster.
RHP Nabil Crismatt (Short & Full Season A) 13 G, 7 GS, 1-4, 1 Save, 2.47 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 10.1 K/9
Crismatt is only 21, but he is mature in terms of his ability to control his changeup and curveball and throw them at any point in the count. Couple that with a low 90s fastball that could gain velocity as he ages, and you have someone who has the repertoire to be a major leaguer. However, considering he hasn’t faced stiff competition yet in his career, he is nowhere ready for the majors, at least not yet.
2B/3B/SS Jeff McNeil 2015 Season (Advanced A & AA) .308/.369/.377, 18 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 40 RBI, 16 SB
Coming into the season, McNeil appeared to be more mature physically and at the plate. He seemed ready to begin hitting for more power while still being able to handle 2B defensively. Unfortunately, he would only play in three games this season for Binghamton before going on the disabled list needing season ending sports hernia surgery.
RHP Tim Peterson (Advanced A & AA) 48 G, 4-1, 2 saves, 3.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 12.3 K/9
At each and every level Peterson has pitched, he has shown the ability to strike people out with a fastball that touches on the mid 90s and a plus curveball. The only issue for him in his career so far was his PED suspension in 2014.
OF Travis Taijeron (AAA) .275/.372/.512, 42 2B, 5 3B, 19 HR, 88 RBI, 1 SB
Taijeron continued to do what he does best, which is get on base and hit for power. Despite a strong Spring Training and another solid offensive season, the Mets really showed no interest in calling him up to the majors. He will most likely go unprotected, but maybe this year a team out there desperate for some power in the outfield or on the bench will give him a shot.
2B L.J. Mazzilli (AA & AAA) .239/.320/.348, 18 2B, 6 3B, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 8 SB
Lee Mazzilli‘s son is a grinder out there who plays a decent second base. Unfortunately, it appears his bat will prevent him from ever getting a real shot to ever play in the big league.
Likely: Flexen, Nido
Bubble: Bashlor, Knapp, McGowan, Sewald, Wheeler
As for the remaining players, the Mets may very well gamble exposing them to the Rule 5 Draft and potentially lose them to another team. It is also possible the Mets unexpectedly protect a player like Knapp. In any event, the Mets have a number of important decisions to make that can have far reaching implications.
Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive. For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month. Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment. There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection. It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets. Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad). For the seventh set of grades, here are the Mets spot starters:
In 2015 with the Mets rotation nearing innings limits on the eve of the postseason, notably Matt Harvey, Verrett rose to the challenge, and he showed himself to be not just a capable bullpen arm, but also someone who can be a reliable spot starter. Unfortunately, as good as Verrett was in 2015, he was that poor in 2016.
Initially, Verrett did well in the rotation after making two April spot starts for Jacob deGrom. In those starts, he pitched six innings and allowed no runs. However, it was when he was called upon to fill-in for an injured Harvey that Verrett really struggled, and he fell apart in August. Overall, Verrett made 12 starts going 1-6 with a 6.45 ERA and a 1.617 ERA. There’s no sugar coating how poor those numbers are. So why wasn’t his grade lower?
Well, Verrett was useful out of the bullpen. In his 23 relief appearances, he was 2-2 with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.453 WHIP. His WHIP was quite poor, but overall, he was effective out of the pen, and for the most part, he went multiple innings. There’s value in that, and it should be recognized.
Ultimately, what we learned with Verrett is he may not be as capable bouncing back and forth between the rotation and bullpen as we once thought. It might just be that his stuff will not permit him to go more than two times through a lineup. Ideally, Verrett is no more than a long man in the pen or a AAA starter called-up to make a start. He’s not both.
What was the most surprising part of Montero’s season? Was it his demotion to AA or was it his getting called-up to the majors two times last season? The answer actually is it was Montero getting important September starts for a team trying to claim one of the two Wild Card spots.
It was the same old Montero. In the minors, he pounded the strike zone, and he gave the Mets some hope they could salvage him. In the majors, he was flat out terrible. In his three starts and nine relief appearances, Montero was 0-1 with an 8.05 ERA and a 2.053 WHIP, and he may not have been that good. It is still incredible that he hasn’t been taken off the 40 man roster yet.
Speaking of terrible, the Mets admitted their mistake in signing Antonio Bastardo to a two year deal, and they traded him to the Pirates to bring back Niese. The Mets were desperate for pitching at the time, and there was some hope Niese would improve working with pitching coach Dan Warthen again. The Mets hopes were quickly dashed.
Niese made two starts and four relief appearances for the Mets. In those games, he was 0-1 with an 11.45 ERA and a 2.000 WHIP. He was even worse than he was with the Pirates, and remember, he was amidst the worst year of his career with the Pirates. In his last start, and most likely last appearance ever wearing a Mets uniform, Niese lasted a third of an inning before removing himself from the game with a knee injury. Not too long thereafter, Niese had season ending knee surgery. It will be interesting to see what the market will be for him this offseason.
Lugo went from a struggling pitcher in AAA who was removed from the rotation to being one of the Mets best starting pitchers down the stretch.
During the season, we saw Lugo had the single best pitch out of anyone in the minor leagues when he embarassed Anthony Rizzo with his curveball. As it turns out, if you measure curveballs by revolution, Lugo has one of the best curveballs in the sport. We also saw that when Lugo needed a little extra on his fastball to get out of a jam, he could ramp it up all the way to 96 MPH. In that way, Lugo was a bit of a throwback. Lugo relied mostly on his B fastball and secondary pitches, but when he was in trouble, or he needed to put a batter away, he took his stuff to the next gear. It could be one of the reasons he was so successful limiting the damage with runners in scoring position.
Overall, Lugo made eight starts and nine relief appearances for the Mets. As a starter, he was 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.149 WHIP. As a reliever, he was 0-1 with a 2.65 ERA and a 0.941 WHIP. For the season, Lugo was 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.094 WHIP. Not a bad season for a pitcher that got booted from the AAA rotation.
In the aforementioned game Niese left due to injury, it was Gsellman who relieved him. In that game, Gsellman began to make a name for himself. Gsellman would get better and better from start to start culminating in his seven inning, no run, eight strikeout game against the Phillies in the Mets last home regular season game.
During the season, Gsellman featured a power sinker and some still developing, but still effective secondary pitches. That power sinker helped Gsellman go 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP in what was effectively nine starts. Gsellman was better than even the Mets could have hoped he would be. With the departure of Bartolo Colon in free agency coupled with the questions surrounding the rotation, mainly Zack Wheeler, Gsellman may very well be competing with Lugo for a spot in the Opening Day rotation.
Gabriel Ynoa C-
The main thing we learned about Ynoa during the 2016 season was the 23 year old just wasn’t ready to pitch in the major leauges. However, due to a rash of injuries, the Mets brought him up sooner than he should have been, and they immediately put him in a relief role he was ill suited.
Ynoa would make 10 appearances for the Mets. That included three starts in games he frankly should not have been starting. Ynoa was called upon to start games despite not having made a start in nearly a month due to injuries and Montero being Montero. Overall, Ynoa was 1-0 with a 6.38 ERA and a 1.800 WHIP. It is too soon to judge what type of career he will have, and the hope is that Ynoa will be better for the experience.