Last year, we saw Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and T.J. Rivera become significant contributors to a Mets team who claimed one of the two National League Wild Cards. Their contribution was as pleasant as it was surprising. In fact, no one truly could have predicated the slate of injuries that befell the Mets last year. This year? Well, that’s a different story all together.
With David Wright already questionable for Opening Day, and the Mets prospects performing better in Spring Training than many originally anticipated, many fans question not if, but when will we see these prospects contributing for the Mets. With that in mind, here are five prospects, who have yet to appear in a major league game, we may very well see at Citi Field in 2017.
Once Akeel Morris was traded to the Braves for Kelly Johnson, Roseboom became the closer for the Binghamton Mets last season. Roseboom blossomed in the role and made it an eight inning game for the B-Mets. He saved 14 out of 15 games while posting a 1.87 ERA in 52 games on the year. From July 2 to the last regular season game on September 5, Roseboom held opponents to a .130/.193/.383 slash line, and a 0.92 ERA. This work has caught the Mets attention, and he was a non-roster invitee giving the Mets coaching staff an opportunity to get an up close look at him.
At a minimum, he could very well be the second left-handed reliever the Mets covet in the bullpen. With the struggles we have seen from Josh Edgin this Spring, that could be sooner rather than later.
#2 Paul Sewald
What is interesting about Sewald is his terrific results have not gotten him the attention he deserves. Seemingly every pitcher struggles in Las Vegas, and yet in the second half, Sewald converted 10 save opportunities while posting a 1.85 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. While naysayers will point to his high 80s to low 90s fastball, Sewald has clearly shown the ability to get batters out even in the most difficult of pitching environments. As teams go through multiple relievers year-t0-year, it may only be a matter of time before Sewald finally gets his well earned chance to pitch in the majors.
This Spring, we have already seen Wright become questionable for Opening Day, and Lucas Duda need shots in his hip and have back spasms. For a Mets infield that already had injury questions to start the season, things are already progressing quite poorly. The Mets have talked about experimenting with Jay Bruce at first. Wilmer Flores has already shown he can be part of an effective platoon there as well. Neither player is the long term answer. That’s Smith.
Smith is a terrific fielding first baseman who reported to his first major league camp in the best shape of his professional career. So far, the only concern about him is if he will hit for power. He quieted some of those concerns in the final 58 games of the season. During that 58 game stretch, Smith hit .355/.426/.537 with 16 doubles, one triple, seven homers and 42 RBI. Extrapolating that over the course of a 162 game season, that would translate to 45 doubles and 20 home runs. That type of production can definitely play at first base especially when Smith has the promise to do even more.
#4 Amed Rosario
Across baseball and the Mets organization, Rosario has been dubbed a superstar in the making. The only question is when his star will begin shining at Citi Field. Arguably, he is further away from Citi Field than Smith as Smith played a full season in Binghamton last year. Moreover, you probably want to give both players until the All Star Break before you even begin to consider calling them up to the majors. And yet, as Michael Conforto proved in 2015, if you are a truly special talent, you can come to the majors and contribute for a World Series caliber team in the thick of a pennant race.
In Rosario, the Mets have a game changer in the field and at the plate. Should any infielder go down, room can be made for Rosario. Certainly, Asdrubal Cabrera has shown in his career he can play second and third. Also, do not discount the Mets trying to play Rosario at third this season so he can become more versatile, and quite possibly open a spot for him on the major league roster this year.
#5 Chris Flexen
Arguably, this spot could go to P.J. Conlon, but Flexen is on the 40 man roster. Also, Flexen pitched a full season for St. Lucie last year, whereas Conlon only pitched half a season there. Another issue is Flexen’s stuff plays better in the bullpen as Flexen has a mid-90s fastball and a plus curve ball. If the Mets were to be willing to move Flexen to the bullpen, he can rocket through the Mets system.
In addition to Conlon, another name to consider is Corey Taylor. He’s got terrific stuff, and the minor league closer is already drawing Jeurys Familia comparisons. Overall, the Mets farm system has plenty of players who should be able to contribute at the major league level at some point next year. It should give you some hope the Mets should be good in 2017 even if there is a rash of injuries. It should give you more hope that the Mets should be good in years to come.
Editor’s Note: I consulted Michael Mayer while making my list, and he pointed out to me he wrote a similar column for Mets Merized Online. His list is slightly different as he includes Champ Stuart. As Michael is one of the most knowledgeable people on the Mets farm system, please give his article a read as well.
* adapted from “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss
When I leave home to go to Citi Field,
Dad always says to me,
“John, keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see.”
But when I tell him where I’ve sat
And what happened each at-bat,
He looks at me and sternly says,
“You did not see all of that.
Stop telling such an outlandish story.
Juan Lagares cannot cover that much territory.”
Now, what can I say
About what I saw today?
All the long way to the game
And all the way back,
I’ve looked and I’ve looked
From the outfield to the bat rack,
But all that I’ve noticed,
Except the green infield,
Was d’arnaud and Matz
At Citi Field
Yes, the Gazelle is fine,
He gives batters a migraine,
There’s another marvelous pitcher
Who’s stuff is much more insane.
The story could be so much more
If the pitcher I saw were Thor.
An orange and blue capped pitcher’s fastballs are profound,
Rumbling like thunder from the mound!
No, it won’t do at all . . .
There’s another with the ball.
Zack Wheeler is better;
He’s come back round,
And he’s ready to for a start
On the Citi Field mound
Hold on a minute!
There’s something wrong!
The bullpen is the place for this dealer
It’s off to the bullpen for Zack Wheeler,
It’d be much better, it might,
If the start went to the Dark Knight.
But it isn’t too late to make one little change.
This story is about Yoenis Cespedes! No longer on the driving range!
He’s got plenty of power and size,
You can see the opposing pitcher with fear in his eyes.
A then, the sound system emits a loud tone,
Cespedes the Lion King! Perched high on a throne!
Say! That makes a batter that no one can heel,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.
But now I don’t know . . .
It still doesn’t seem right.
A Cespedes swinging a bat that’s so light
Would hit balls around in the air like a kite.
But he’d look simply extreme
With a great New York Mets team!
A team that’s that good should have someone to see it,
Wins coming so fast, the Nationals finding it hard to keep near it.
Nationals always the trailer! They’ll be out of their mind
Not even Daniel Murphy can get them out from behind.
But now is if fair? Is it fair what I’ve done?
Before they take the field, they’ve already won.
That’s really too heavy a load for one beast;
I’ll give him some helpers. He needs two, at least.
Michael Conforto to do the trick,
To guide them after the intentional walk schtick –
It takes a lineup to do the trick.
They’ll never lose now. They’ll race at top speed
With Curtis Granderson, himself, in the lead.
The Manager is there
And he thinks it is grand,
And he raises his hat
As they rise from their seats in the stands.
The Manager is there
Sandy Alderson too,
All waving big banners
The stands are becoming a zoo.
And that is a team whose championship is sealed
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field!
With a roar of its motor an airplane appears
The pitcher steps off the mound and everyone jeers.
And that makes a story that’s really not bad!
But it still could be better. Suppose that I add . . . . . . . . .
. . . A David Wright
Who can stay upright . . .
A big Duda
Swinging sticks . . .
A Jacob deGrom
And his garden gnome . . .
No time for more,
Cespedes’ coming home.
He swung ’round third base
And dashed towards the plate,
The Mets ran up the steps
And I felt simply GREAT!
FOR I HAD A STORY THAT NO ONE COULD YIELD!
AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT AT CITI FIELD!
But Dad said quite calmly,
“Take the parking pass off the windshield
And tell me the sights
That you saw at Citi Field”
There was so much to tell, I JUST COULDN’T BEGIN!
Dad looked at me sharply stroking the beard at his chin.
He frowned at me sternly from there from the front seat,
“Was there nothing to look at . . . no great feat?
Did nothing excite you or make you jump out of your seat?”
“Nothing,” I said, now becoming more even-keeled,
“But a Matz pitching to d’Aranud at Citi Field.”
Last year’s story “One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out!” can be found here
Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!
All offseason long, in trade discussions, the first player other teams inquire about is Amed Rosario. Based upon reports, those requests are met with swift refusals as the Mets see Rosario as untouchable. While we don’t know where the conversations go from there, assuming a conversation does in fact continue, it could be assumed teams eventually inquire about Dominic Smith.
For what it is worth, the Mets have shown no willingness to include Smith in a deal. However, the team has not given him the label of untouchable. They should.
Smith was the Mets 2013 first round draft pick, 11th overall, out of Junipero High School in Gardena, California. While the Mets under the Sandy Alderson regime have been cautious in their handling of prospects, Smith’s play has pushed the team to have him progress rather quickly through the Mets minor league system. Last year, Smith was the youngest player who played the entire season in the Eastern League. If not for Rosario’s late call-up, Smith would have been the youngest player in the Eastern League for the entire 2016 season.
During Smith’s rise through the minor leagues, there are been things that stick out with him. First, Smith is a slick fielding first baseman. Second, he gets on base at a very high clip. Third, he is durable. Fourth, he has always been on the heavy side. And fifth, he has the potential, but he has not quite developed power like a traditional first baseman.
That was at least until the second half of the 2016 season. Despite the Eastern League being a pitcher’s league, Smith was able to show off some power in the second half of the season. From July 1st until the end of the season, he hit .348/.429/.525 with 13 doubles, one triple, seven homers, and 40 RBI. If you extrapolate the numbers from that 56 game stretch, Smith would hit 38 doubles, three triples, 22 homers, and 116 RBI. That’s a bat that can definitely play at first base.
Numbers like that should get you excited, and it should make you wonder where Smith’s ceiling actually is. With him posting numbers like that as a 21 year old in the Eastern League, anything could be possible for him next season in Las Vegas.
And anything is possible especially with Smith having a more rigorous workout routine leading to Smith losing more than 20 pounds this offseason. The hard work should come as no surprise with Smith. As reported by the New York Times, Smith was one of many players to work out with Barwis in the offseason. Smith did this because ” they said it was good for my career.” And the workouts have been good for his career. Smith has been durable, and now he is moving away from a player with body issues to a player with a much better physique.
Ultimately, when you have a player like Smith, who is willing to do the hard work to help improve the areas of his game that needs improvement, while still maintaining those areas of his game that make him a good player, you have someone who is special.
When you add up Smith’s ability and makeup with Lucas Duda being a free agent this offseason, Smith should absolutely be labeled as untouchable by the Mets in trade discussions. In fact, with Duda’s back, Smith could be the Mets first baseman as early as this year.
It would take a minor miracle if the Mets Opening Day lineup lasts the full season. It is very likely that one of Lucas Duda (back), Neil Walker (back), David Wright (body), or Asdrubal Cabrera (knee) doesn’t have a stint on the disabled list. With that in mind, the Mets infield depth is going to be more important than ever. Fortunately, they seem to have more choices than they have ever had in the past:
2016 Stats: 60 G, 279 PA, 255 AB, 45 R, 68 H, 13 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 24 RBI, 9 SB, 2 CS, .267/.326/.443
In many ways, it was the Reyes of old last year with the electricity on the basepaths which created a buzz in both the dugout and the stands. There are two areas of caution with Reyes. He had a poor .326 OBP which is not an outlier as Reyes’ OBP over the past three seasons is .321. The other issue is he struggled against right-handed pitchers hitting .239/.293/.371 off of them last year. With that said, Reyes does seem rejuvenated being in a Mets uniform, and he can now completely focus on baseball giving hope for much better results.
2016 Stats: 103 G, 335 PA, 307 AB, 38 R, 82 H, 14 2B, 16 HR, 49 RBI, SB, CS, .267/.319/.469
Simply put, Flores mashes left-handed pitching having hit .340/.383/.710 with 11 of his 16 home runs off of them. While fans have soured on him as a shortstop, he still can capably handle all four infield positions. Based on the numbers, when there is a left-handed pitcher on the mound, the Mets needs to find a way to get him in the lineup. When there’s a right-handed pitcher, the Mets would be better off looking in another direction.
2016 Stats: 33 G, 113 PA, 105 AB, 10 R, 35 H, 4 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 16 RBI, .333/.345/.476
In September, we saw that Rivera can not only hold down a position due to injuries. More importantly, we know he can rise to the occasion. While he may not walk enough to justify putting him in the everyday lineup, his ability to hit can justify his presence on a major league roster. Those justifications are only enhanced when you consider he is also capable of playing all four infield positions.
2016 Stats: 47 G, 96 PA, 89 AB, 11 R, 20 H, 8 2B, 3 HR, CS, .225/.266/.416
Whereas the aforementioned players primarily rely on their bats, Reynolds is a terrific defensive player. In one game last year, he surprised us all not by playing a representative left field, despite never playing there previously, but also by hitting a monster home run to give the Mets a lead.
2016 Stats: 4 G, 7 PA, 6 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 2 2B, 2 RBI, .333/.429/.667
Cecchini is a promising hitter who should be able to hit for more power as he ages. Despite having all the tools, he has struggled as a shortstop. Those struggles along with the rise of Rosario, Cecchini should find himself playing second base next year. With the increased versatility, he should be able to help the Mets at either second or short if the need arises.
2016 MiLB Stats: 120 G, 527 PA, 479 AB, 65 R, 155 H, 24 2B, 13 3B, 5 HR, 71 RBI, 19 SB, 8 CS, .324/.374/.459
With Rosario it is just a matter of time before the shortstop of the future becomes the Mets everyday shortstop. With a little more seasoning, he may become a superstar. There’s no limit to his talent. He just needs a little more seasoning in Las Vegas. Depending on when or if someone goes down, the Mets may want to call up their best prospect to the majors. Once he gets called up, the Mets are going to have a hard time justifying sending him back down.
As seen above, the Mets are much deeper in the infield than they have been in year’s past when players like Eric Campbell were making the Opening Day roster. In the case of Cecchini and Rosario, one injury may just open the door for them to claim the position not just for 2017 but for years to come.
While the Mets have a terrific Opening Day infield on paper, the infield that may materialize later on into the season may be even better.
Recent reports state the Mets and Neil Walker are in the midst of extending Walker’s current one year $17.2 million deal into a three year deal that may be worth north of $40 million. Now, if Walker is truly healthy and capable of repeating the numbers he put up in 2016, this deal could very well be a massive discount for the Mets. But, we don’t know if he can. It’s one of a few reasons why this may not be the time to extend Walker.
Declining Production Against RHP
Much has been made about the turn-around Walker had as a right-handed hitter. Overall, he was a completely different hitter from that side of the plate. The improvement from the right-hand side of the plate masked Walker’s three-year decline as a left-handed hitter:
- 2014: .269/.339/.491
- 2015: .276/.337/.456
- 2016: .266/.333/.433
Now, it is possible this was the result of the back issues. It also could be the result of what could be the natural continual decline of a now 31 year old player. Fact is, it is too soon to know, and if that is the case, how can you re-invest in that player?
If Walker was not extended, he is going to be a free agent along with the teams first baseman Lucas Duda. The Mets also have an $8.5 team option on Asdrubal Cabrera. Potentially, the only infielder that could be back next season is David Wright, who no one can count on to play a full season. On the surface, this is very problematic.
Any concerns that are raised by the pending free agents should be alleviated by the depth of the Mets farm system. For example, the Las Vegas 51s infield will be loaded:
Rivera is the least regarded prospect of the group, and we just saw him hit .358/.378/.552 with two doubles a triple, three homers, and 13 RBI when he took over second base in September. Coincidentally, Rivera was put in that spot due to the injuries to both Walker and Wilmer Flores.
Rivera could be competing for a spot at second base with Cecchini, Flores, or possibly Cabrera. If the Mets pick up Cabrera’s option, he could slide to second while Rosario takes over at shortstop. Overall, even without Walker, the Mets have plenty of middle infield options remaining, and that is before you take into account the possibility Jose Reyes re-signs with the team.
Regardless of the infield permutations in 2018, it seems reasonable to assume the infield will incorporate both Smith and Rosario. With those two being major league ready next year, the Mets re-signing Walker becomes much less of a priority.
Signing The Starting Pitchers
The young players being able to step in and contribute is important because these players will be extremely cheap. Whereas Walker would probably demand an average annual value of approximately $13+ million per season, Cecchini, Rivera, and Rosario would cost around $500,000. That’s a significant difference. And the Mets can use that money.
Matt Harvey is due to be a free agent after the 2018 season. Zack Wheeler will be a free agent the following year. Jacob deGrom will be in his final arbitration year the year Wheeler hits free agency. Noah Syndergaard will be arbitration eligible next year, and Steven Matz will be arbitration eligible the following year.
These pitchers are about to become extremely expensive. Considering they are the foundation of the Mets success, the Mets need the payroll room to re-sign them and pay them what they will earn in arbitration. Giving $13 million or more to Walker potentially impedes with the Mets ability to pay their pitching. This isn’t a matter of the Mets still being considered to be on austerity; it is a matter of the Mets only being able to spend so much money.
Walker being paid $13 million certainly stands in the way of that happening. If Walker is not capable of playing everyday, or has diminishing skills like most players in their mid 30s, that will create an even bigger issue.
Walker Is An Unknown
If Walker is healthy, he is an All Star caliber player at second base. Regardless of the prospects in place, Walker certainly gives the Mets a safer choice. In fact, Walker could provide the Mets with a better bat than the aforementioned prospects. For a team that is considered a World Series contender, Walker could be an important piece of the puzzle.
However, no one knows what he will be after his discectomy. He could remain healthy, but he could show some effects of the surgery leading to decreased mobility and power at the plate. He could suffer another herniation leading to him needing more surgery. Presumably, he could show no ill effects, and he could return to form. At this point, no one knows, nor can anyone be confident in what Walker will be when he steps foot in the field.
This may be a case where it is better to see Walker play now and have to pay more later. It would be better to pay a production player closer to market value than to try to get a discount and be stuck with an albatross of a contract the next few seasons. Given the depth of the Mets farm system, you really have to question whether this is a worthwhile or necessary gamble.
Last season, other than Wilmer Flores, Terry Collins showed an unwillingness to move players out of their natural position. With the Mets returning four infielders who each had significant injuries last year requiring stints on the disabled list, Collins may not have the same luxury. To that end, the Mets appear prepared to better handle to withstand injuries next season.
As the Mets report to camp, it appears that each player has come ready to either learn how to play another position or become more proficient at a position they have played in the past.
For starters, Jose Reyes comes into the season having already played shortstop and third base. In addition to those responsibilities, Reyes is going to spend time in Spring Training learning how to play the outfield. As Mets fans remember, Reyes once played second base. Certainly, he can play there in a pinch if needed.
Last year, the Mets were unwilling to move Neil Walker off of second base. This year might be a different story. As Walker reported to Spring Training, he brought a third base and a first baseman’s glove with him. Depending on not only the health of his teammates, but his own health, it is very possible Walker finds himself playing some games away from second.
His double play partner Asdrubal Cabrera has been working away from shortstop this offseason. During Winter Ball, Cabrera played both shortstop and third base. Before Carlos Guillen surprisingly left him off the roster, Cabrera was set to play short and third for Venezuela. Previously when he was a member of the Washington Nationals, Cabrera had played second in addition to short.
While each of these players have infield experience, the Mets are looking to gain some versatility with their outfielders as well. While Collins has largely shot down rumors of Michael Conforto trying first base, it appears Jay Bruce will get some exposure there during Spring Training. This move makes sense for both the team and the player. The added versatility should help the Mets replace Lucas Duda‘s power at first should he suffer another back injury, and the added versatility should help Bruce as he plays his last season before becoming a free agent.
In addition to the aforementioned players, we know that Ty Kelly, T.J. Rivera, and Matt Reynolds can play a multitude of positions as well as left field. Top to bottom, the Mets promise to have a versatile roster.
The versatility helps because it will allow the Mets to keep the best remaining bats in the lineup in case of injury, but it also can clear room for Gavin Cecchini, Amed Rosario, or possibly Dominic Smith to play everyday when/if they are ready. Overall, the Mets are in the best possible situation to withstand injuries now. All that is left is Collins’ willingness to play people outside of their main positions.
That remains to be seen.
With today being Valentine’s Day, it is only right we get into the spirit of things by being as clever as Bobby Valentine was the time he used eye black to make a fake mustache. Without further ado, here are some “clever” Mets themed Valentine’s Day lines you may see on one of those cards you used to pass out to your classmates in grammar school:
Jerry Blevins – Jerry? Hello! Be my Valentine
Josh Edgin – I’m Edgin my way closer to you.
Jeurys Familia – I want to become Familia with your sexy self.
Matt Harvey – If you thought 50 Shades of Grey was seductive, wait until you see the Dark Knight I have in store for you.
Seth Lugo – Lugo you want to get with this.
Rafael Montero – You might as well be my Valentine because we both know there’s not getting rid of me not matter how awful I am.
Addison Reed – You and Me Addison up to a great Valentine’s Day
Hansel Robles – You’re so hot right now
Fernando Salas – If I had to the same again, I would, my Valentine, Fernando
Josh Smoker – You’re so hot, I can see the Smoker from miles away
Noah Syndergaard – Can you handle this god’s thunder?
Yoenis Cespedes – There’s a lot of Potencia between you and I Valentine
Travis d’Arnaud – d’Arnaud it pains me to be apart from you
Lucas Duda – Duda right thing and be my Valentine
Wilmer Flores – I’ll cry if you put me in the Friends zone
Amed Rosario – Don’t Be Surprised Be Ready
Neil Walker – I would Walker 5,000 miles to be your Valentine
David Wright – It’s only Wright we would be Valentines
Jay Bruce – Let me be the Valentine you regret for years to come.
Michael Conforto – It’s a Conforto to know whether in NY or Vegas we’re Valentines
Curtis Granderson – It’s Grandy being your Valentine
Juan Lagares – You’re the only Juan for me
Brandon Nimmo – Nimmo I’m smiling because of you.
Ron Darling – Be my Darling this Valentine’s Day
Keith Hernandez – I mustache you to be my Valentine’s Day OR How about a Valentine’s Day mustache ride?
Happy Valentine’s Day
Last year, the New York Mets began the season with Eric Campbell on the Opening Day roster as the final bench piece. As the season progressed, and players like David Wright and Lucas Duda went down with injury, the Mets had to go deeper and deeper into their farm system and bring players in to play. There were similar issues with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz needing season ending surgeries.
In total, the Mets needed 21 additional players that did not start the season on Opening Day roster. Can you name them? Good luck!
James Loney Jose Reyes Rene Rivera Kelly Johnson Jay Bruce T.J. Rivera Matt Reynolds Brandon Nimmo Ty Kelly Justin Ruggiano Gavin Cecchini Seth Lugo Robert Gsellman Rafael Montero Gabriel Ynoa Josh Smoker Jon Niese Josh Edgin Sean Gilmartin Fernando Salas Erik Goeddel
While most are focused on the bullpen, this Mets team has some other areas it needs to address prior to the start of the 2017 season. One of the main issues facing this team is which player is going to get the last spot on the bench?
At first blush, this may not seem like it is a major issue. If any of the infielders with an injury history go down, it is expected that Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes can more than capably handle any one of the four infield spots. If two were to go down, we have seen enough from both Flores and Reyes to know that they can at least be a good stop gap option at a position. However, lost in the confidence you would have in Flores or Reyes is the fact that once they are moved to a starting position, the player who is the last man on the roster will begin to take on a larger role on the team.
Last year, that player was Eric Campbell. While Campbell may have had his positive attributes, he was certainly not capable of playing everyday. And yet, when Lucas Duda and David Wright went down that was the position Campbell found himself. In 2017, there is no reason to believe that Duda or Wright could last a full season. Same goes for Neil Walker, who just had season ending back surgery, and Asdrubal Cabrera, who played with a knee injury for the entirety of the 2016 season. The long story short here is the Mets need a deep bench for the 2017 season to prevent a player of Campbell’s caliber being a starter for two or more weeks.
For the past two seasons, the Mets have made trades to obtain Kelly Johnson to serve as a bench player. He has proven himself to be a useful player who has hit .260/.319/.441 over two brief stints with the Mets. Last year, he was clutch as a pinch hitter hitting four pinch hit home runs. He is versatile in his ability to play second, third, and both corner outfield positions. In 2015, we saw him play shortstop in a game. If given Spring Training to work on it, he could add first base to his repertoire. The main issue facing Johnson is he remains unsigned, and at this point, it is questionable whether the Mets have interest in him with the team already espousing that they need to cut payroll entering the 2017 season.
The next in line would likely be Terry Collins‘ favorite Ty Kelly. Like Johnson, Kelly is versatile in his ability to play across the infield and his ability to play the corner outfield positions. While he is a switch hitter, Kelly showed he was a better hitter against left-handed pitching in what was a very small sample size. Late in the season, Collins used Kelly as a pinch runner late in games. Overall, while Kelly does nothing outstanding, and is clearly best suited to being a bench player at the major league level, Collins has shown that he appreciates what Kelly can bring to the table.
In addition to Kelly, T.J. Rivera was the other standout 27 year old Mets rookie during the 2016 season. Late in the season with the injuries to Walker and Flores, Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job and hit .333/.346/.476 in 33 games. Unlike Johnson and Kelly, Rivera has played a fair amount of games at shortstop. With that said, there is a reason why the Mets began transitioning him away from short beginning in AA. With that said, RIvera can legitimately play all four infield positions. When he was passed over for promotion to the majors, he began working in LF in AAA meaning it is possible he can play the outfield if necessary. The main sticking point with Rivera is the fact that he is an aggressive hitter that rarely draws a walk.
Last, but certainly not least, is Matt Reynolds. Unlike the aforementioned players, Reynolds is a legitimate shortstop who quite possibly has the best range out of all the major league options the Mets have at the position. For one glorious day game, Reynolds showed he can play left field, and he can get that clutch hit to help the Mets win the game. On the downside, Reynolds is the worst hitter of the bunch. In his 47 games with the Mets last year, he only hit .255/.266/.416. In the hitter’s haven that in the Pacific Coast League, he was only a .264/.336/.357 hitter last year. Ultimately, Reynolds is the guy you want out there defensively, but he is not the guy you want at the plate.
Unless the Mets sign Johnson, it looks like the fight will be between Kelly, Rivera, and Reynolds for the last spot on the bench. IN those three players, the Mets have three intriguing if not flawed players. Ultimately, that is your best bet when looking to round out your major league bench. The good news for the Mets is if one should falter, there are two more behind them that can pick up the slack. If the Mets face a number of injuries like they did in 2015 and 2016, the Mets have a couple of options that have proven they can be useful major league players. With that, it seems the Mets bench should not be a problem for the first time in a good number of years . . . at least that’s the hope.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
With the news that Jay Bruce is likely going to be the Mets Opening Day right fielder, many are pushing the idea that Michael Conforto should start to learn first base in order to make room for himself on the major league roster. Sorry, but that is a poor decision.
Now, there is nothing wrong with Conforto learning another position to increase his utility to the Mets. In fact, if Lucas Duda were to go down to injury, or if he is going to struggle due to any lingering effects from him having gone on the disabled list in consecutive seasons with back injuries, Conforto would be the first person you would want to replace him in the lineup.
With that said, the Mets need to figure out what they want Conforto to be. Do they want him to be the best outfielder this organization has developed since Darryl Strawberry? Or do they want him to become the next Eric Valent?
Simply put, at his age and with this talent, Conforto needs to be playing everyday somewhere. Ideally, that should be at the major league level as we have seen Conforto is ready to play in the majors. During his second stint in AAA, Conforto hit .493/.541/.821 with three homers and 11 RBI in 17 games. Those are video game numbers. A player that can dominate like that at the highest level of the minors does not belong there. He belongs in the majors.
He belongs in the major leagues where he has already shown glimpses of being a very good hitter. As a rookie who never played a game above AA, Conforto hit .270/.335/.506 with nine homers and 26 RBI in 56 games. In April last year, before he injured his wrist, Conforto hit an astounding .365/.442/.676 with four homers and 18 RBI in 21 games. Even with this subsequent struggles with the wrist injury and Terry Collins giving him irregular playing time, Conforto has shown he can hit at the major league level.
Again, the problem is he needs to play everyday. The problem is Bruce stands in his way.
This is the same Bruce who hit .219/.294/.391 in 50 games with the Mets last year. This is the same Bruce who is a career 109 OPS+ and 107 wRC+ career hitter. The same Bruce who has a career .318 OPB and .295 OBP over the past three seasons. This is the same Bruce who is just a few years removed from a season where he had a knee injury and hit .217/.281/.373 with 18 homers in 137 games. This is the same Bruce who is declining defensively posting a -8.9 UZR and -11 DRS last year and has averaged a -6.4 UZR and a -3 DRS over the past three seasons.
Ideally, Bruce is the guy who should be providing power off the bench. He should be learning first base to provide insurance for Duda. He should be the guy to step into the lineup should Conforto struggle or Curtis Granderson shows his age. However, we don’t live in an ideal world. A guy who has 30 homer 100 RBI potential is going to play everyday. A guy who is making $13 million is going to play everyday. A guy the Mets want to showcase so they can trade him is going to play everyday.
That leaves Conforto on the bench if he is in the majors. With Collins in charge, that leaves you to question when exactly Conforto will play. You know he’s not going to play him against left-handed batters, which is a problem because Bruce, Duda, and Granderson are all left-handed batters. Further complicating the matters is Juan Lagares is going to play against left-handed pitchers, and he is going to be a defensive replacement late in games. On top of that, the Mets are looking to see how Jose Reyes can handle the outfield. Long story short, Conforto’s not going to play, so why are you wasting time trying to get him reps at a position he’s never going to play?
Moreover, why are you wasting time getting him reps at a position he has no future? After the 2017 season Bruce, Duda, and Granderson are free agents. Assuming one or two leave in free agency, there is now a spot for Conforto to play everyday in the outfield whether that be in center or right. The first baseman in 2018 is either going to be Dominic Smith, if he makes strides in 2017 like he did in 2016, or a one year stop gap. Keep in mind that if Smith should falter, Peter Alonso, who has shown he has the potential to be a terrific major league hitter, may not be too far behind.
Overall, the Jay Bruce situtation has put Conforto in a terrible position. He’s either going to be a pinch hitter who gets very little playing time or a minor league player. This is the exact type of situation where you can mess up a prospect. The Mets should not compound this by trying to make him a first baseman when Conforto is likely not going to have a chance to play more than 20 games at first base in his entire career.
No, the Mets should instead use the time to focus on getting Conforto to work on the areas of his game that needs improvement. By doing that, you make him a much better player. By stashing him on the bench and trying to make him a 1B/OF, you are only going to accomplish making him the next Eric Valent.
At the end of the day, which is the better course of action?