Matt Reynolds

Reynolds Is Here To Replace One Of The Many Injured Or Under-Performing Players

Betsy Helfand of the Review Journal reports utility player Matt Reynolds has flown to New York presumably to join the Mets. As of this moment, the Mets have not announced a corresponding move. Normally, in these situations, you can surmise what the corresponding move will be. However, given the current state of the Mets, we really have no idea what that move will be.

First and foremost. Yoenis Cespedes has been injured, and he has insisted that he could play today. Before letting him do that, the Mets were supposedly going to really make Cespedes test out that hamstring to make sure he is healthy enough to play. It is possible Cespedes is not healthy enough to play, and as a result, the Mets are going to move him to the disabled list.

If not Cespedes, it’s possible the Mets could move Asdrubal Cabrera to the disabled list. The shortstop has been clearly hobbled and limited. After each play on the field, he noticeably winces, and he takes time to get back to his position. Over the last two games, there have been multiple instances where you question if he could continue playing in the game. Given how he’s played, it’s possible he could be headed to the disabled list.

Then again, this is the time of year Travis d’Arnaud usually heads to the disabled list. On Wednesday, he hit his arm on a bat trying to throw out a base stealer. In every game since, Terry Collins has penciled his name in the lineup only to remove him afterwards when d’Arnaud said he couldn’t throw (insert your own joke here). With him not being able to do more than pinch hit for a solid week, it’s possible the Mets move him to the disabled list.

Then again with the way things are going, it’s possible someone got hurt on an off day. It wouldn’t be the first time in franchise history. You never know with this team.

Maybe the aforementioned players are healthy and ready to go, and the Mets are just moving the deck chairs due to some under-performing players. Although he has received limited opportunities, T.J. Rivera is just 1-10 on the season with no extra base hits or RBI. Maybe the move will be for Kevin Plawecki, who once again looked over powered by major league pitching in the one game he played. Save for Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce, you can really make a case for any one of the Mets players to be sent down or designated for assignment. With that said, no one really believes at this juncture that either Jose Reyes or Curtis Granderson will suffer that indignity yet.

It’s also possible Reynolds is here as a precaution. There is so much wrong with the Mets in terms of injury and under-performance. The Mets may look to see how Cespedes, Cabrera, and d’Arnaud respond to the off-day, and if any one of them can’t go, Reynolds will. At this juncture, we just don’t know.

Ulimately, Reynolds getting called-up to the majors is a microcosm of the 2017 season.  He’s here because we don’t know who can play.  We don’t know who’s too hurt to play, and we don’t know who’s capable of playing at this level.  Sooner or later, this is nonsense is going to have to end.

Get Rid Of Rafael Montero Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mets Emulating The Cubs With Cecchini and Rosario

Last season, the Chicago Cubs became one of the most versatile teams we have ever seen, and it played a large part in that team winning their first World Series in over 108 years.

National League MVP Kris Bryant is a natural third baseman also played first, short, and all three outfield positions last year. Javier Baez, a well thought of young defensive shortstop, showed off his talents at second base much of the season showing the world he is the best at getting the tag down. Russell would also play first, third, and left field. Of course, the Cubs also had Ben Zobrist who was playing multiple positions with the Tampa Bay Rays before it became a thing.

With all baseball being a copycat league, teams and organizations have been looking for ways to make their rosters more versatile. The New York Mets will look to do that with their top prospects in Triple A this season.

According to Betsy Helfand of the Las Vegas Review Journal, the Mets plan on giving both Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario time away from their middle infield positions during the course of the 2017 season. Specifically, Rosario will play third base every 10-12 games, and Cecchini will play shortstop every 10-12 games. Presumably, Cecchini will play shortstop in those games Rosario plays third.

In addition to learning second base and seeing time at his natural shortstop position, there are now unspecified plans in place for Cecchini to see some time at third. This exposure is important for Cecchini because in all likelihood, he may be the best major league ready player in Las Vegas. In his brief cup of coffee last September, Cecchini was 2-6 with two doubles and two RBI. In that small sample size, he didn’t look overwhelmed, and he looked like he belonged.

That is important because the Mets may need him sooner rather than later. No one knows when David Wright is going to return. Both Lucas Duda and Neil Walker are returning from serious back injuries. Asdrubal Cabrera dealt with a knee injury all last season. No one realistically knows if Jose Reyes can handle third base everyday, and his start to this season hasn’t exactly inspired confidence either. Wilmer Flores is a platoon bat. This creates an opportunity for Cecchini. Cecchini can best take advantage of that opportunity if he is able to play more than just shortstop.

For that matter, it also opens up an opportunity for Rosario. If the Mets feel confident with him at third base, it gives them ability to call him up even if there is no significant injury to Cabrera.

In addition to Cecchini and Rosario, the 51s also have Matt Reynolds and Phillip Evans. Reynolds, a good fielding shortstop, has also received playing time at second and third base last season. This year, Reynolds is slated to be the Opening Day left fielder. For his part, Evans, the 2016 Eastern League Batting Champ, has split time between second, third, and short in his minor league career.

With Cecchini, Rosario, Reynolds, and Evans, the Mets are developing a group of young and versatile players. This should make these players more opportunities to get called up to the majors. It should also allow the Mets to put the best players on the field should there be any injuries at the major league level. These players and the Mets organization as a whole will be better off for making these prospects more versatile players.

2017 Mets Minor League Rosters Best of the Best

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

Best Starting Pitching – St. Lucie Mets

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

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

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

Best Bullpen – Las Vegas 51s

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

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

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

Best Catching Tandem – Las Vegas 51s

Catchers: Kevin Plawecki, Xorge Carrillo, Jeff Glenn

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

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

Best Infield – Las Vegas 51s

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

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

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

Best Outfield – Columbia Fireflies

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

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

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

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

 

Matt Reynolds Skill-Set Compliments This Team Perfectly

Looking over the Mets infield, there are two things that squarely stand-out.  The first is that this is an aging group of players coming off significant injuries.  The second is this infield is not a particularly good defensive infield.

John Dewan of Acta Sports, and Fielding Bible fame, projected the Mets to have the worst defense up the middle in 2017.  The projection calls for Neil Walker to be a -1 DRS next season, which is what he has averaged over the past three seasons.  Asdrubal Cabrera is projected to post a -9 DRS, which is worse than the -7 DRS he has averaged over the past two seasons.  While you would certainly want both Walker’s and Cabrera’s bats in the game, certainly, the Mets would benefit by having a better glove in the game when there is a lead late in the game.

That is exactly what the Mets have done with Juan Lagares.  After the team acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the 2015 trade deadline, Lagares has served as a defensive replacement late in games.  The Mets doing this has served two important purposes.  First, it has helped the Mets preserve leads by putting their best defense on the field.  Second, it helps save some innings, and by extent wear and tear, on players like Cespedes and Curtis Granderson.  It is a large reason why the Mets will be returning Lagares to the same role in 2017.

It is something the Mets should consider for their infield.  The issue is the Mets do not have the bench to do it.

Jose Reyes has averaged a -9 DRS at shortstop over the past three years, which would indicate he’s a downgrade from Cabrera.  Wilmer Flores had a -10 DRS as the starting shortstop in 2015, and he has a -6 DRS as a second baseman in 576.0 major league innings.  The other options being considered for the bench, T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly, are hardly terrific defenders in their own right.  Certainly, you are not taking the steady handed Walker and Cabrera off the field for them.

No, the only good defensive player who is a realistic option to make the Opening Day roster is Matt Reynolds.

Reynolds is not a gold glover in the middle infield.  However, he does have the same steady hands Walker and Cabrera have while having better range at the position.  He certainly has the arm to play second, short, and third.  That also makes him an option to take some innings away from David Wright at third.  Overall, Reynolds is most likely the best defensive infielder the Mets not named Amed Rosario.  The fact that he is also capable of serving as the team’s fifth outfielder makes him an all the more enticing roster option.

What is going to hurt his chances of making the team is his bat.  He hit .225/.266/.416 in 47 games with the Mets last year.  He has played 254 games in the hitter’s haven that is the Pacific Coast League, Reynolds has only hit .284/.342/.411.  Overall, he’s not a great hitter.  It’s quite possible that even with him putting in extra time with Kevin Long he will never develop into a good hitter.

But the Mets don’t need hitters.  They have plenty of them on this team.  What they need are good defenders.  With Lagares, they have that in the outfield.  With Reynolds, they would have that in the infield as well.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

Go ALL-IN And Re-Sign Kelly Johnson

Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise David Wright is not going to be ready for Opening Day.  No one realistically knows when Wright is going to be ready to play this year.  With that in mind, the Mets now have an open roster spot on the Opening Day roster.  On the 40 man roster, the Mets have T.J. Rivera and Matt ReynoldsTy Kelly would also be an option should the Mets be willing to make a 40 man roster move, which could include putting Wright on the 60 day disabled list.

The argument for Kelly would be the fact that his switch hitting ability would present the Mets with a left-handed hitting option for a team that promises to have a completely right-handed bench.  His versatility in the field may also prove to be important.  With that said, if you are willing to make an important roster move for Kelly, why not go ALL-IN and bring back Kelly Johnson.

Over the past two seasons, Johnson has hit .260/.319/.441 with 14 homers and 37 RBI in 131 games.  Over those 131 games, Johnson has played every position for the Mets except pitcher, catcher, and center field.  He could prove to be a very important player for the Mets.

Fact is, Johnson has been vitally important to the Mets over the past two seasons.  In 2015, he was able to serve as an everyday player until the team got healthy.  In 2016, he worked diligently to become a better hitter with him hitting .268/.328/.459.  When Neil Walker went down, he and Wilmer Flores joined to make an extremely effective platoon at second base.  As we’ve seen, he’s also capable of playing third, which just became an important issue again with Wright being unable to play on Opening Day.

Frankly, it is surprising that it would come to this for the Mets to make a move to add Johnson.  This is the same player the Mets have traded prospect after prospect for in successive years.  The ultimate reason these trades were necessary was because the Mets had built flawed, if not weak, benches heading into the 2015 and 2016 seasons.  While the Mets bench in 2017 promises to be deeper than year’s past, it is still flawed for the aforementioned reasons.  The addition of Kelly Johnson would go a long way in resolving the issues the bench currently has.

Right now, the Mets have a need for another bench player.  There is a veteran who has not only played well coming off the bench, but he has also played well in New York.  Both are more difficult than many believe, and that is why a player like Johnson is important.  Realistically speaking, with Sandy Alderson already telling the media, the Mets are “all-in” this year, he should put his money where he mouth is and re-sign Johnson.

That’s what teams who are all-in do when a need arises.

Mets Infield Depth

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:

Jose Reyes

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.

Wilmer Flores

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.

T.J. Rivera

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.

Matt Reynolds

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.

Gavin Cecchini

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.

Amed Rosario

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.

Mets Attempting More Versatility

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.

Last Roster Spot Candidates

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

Mets Final Season Grades – Utility Players

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 fourth set of grades, here are the Mets utility players:

Wilmer Flores B

Early on in the season, Flores mostly struggled with getting limited playing time.  It was difficult cracking into the starting lineup when Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera playing well in April.  As the season progressed, and the Mets became more and more injured, notably Wright and Lucas Duda, Flores was needed, and he really stepped up.

Where Flores really thrived was being used as a platoon option against left-handed pitching.  Against lefties, Flores would hit an astounding .340/.383/.710 with four doubles, 11 homers, and 28 RBI.  If you extrapolated those numbers of the course of a full 162 game season, Flores would’ve hit 36 homers and 93 RBI.  That would have made him the best hitter in the Mets lineup this season.  However, Flores’ numbers were nowhere near that as he struggled against right-handed pitching hitting .232/.289/.353 with 10 doubles, five homers, and 21 RBI.  It should be noted Flores had 107 plate appearances against lefties and 228 plate appearances against righties.

For the season, Flores hit .267/.319/.469 with 14 doubles, 16 homers, and 49 RBI.  Flores’ numbers were an upgrade over his 2015 numbers.  Given how he has progressed each year over his career, and the fact that he is only 25 years old, we should see an improved Flores at the plate in 2017.

Even with some optimism, there is some doubt.  Despite his improvement at the plate, he still didn’t walk enough, and he doesn’t hit right-handed pitching enough to play everyday.  While he made marked improvements at shortstop as the 2015 season progressed, Flores regressed there defensively in 2016.  In fact, Flores did not play all that well defensively at any position; although, he did show some promise at first base.

Part of the reason for Flores foibles could be he’s prone to the occasional gaffe (similar to Daniel Murphy).  It could be him trying to do too much, it could be him having more faith in his abilities than he probably should, it could be his high effort level, or it could be something different altogether.  Whatever it is, it was front and center when Tim Teufel made the baffling decision to send Flores home during that September 10th game against the Braves.  It was absolutely a bad send, but it quite have possibly been a worse slide.  Flores going in head first against a catcher like A.J. Pierzynski lead to his season-ending injury which required surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in the offseason.

The best thing you can say about Flores in the 2016 season was he was missed.  During the Wild Card Game, the Mets were one bat short against Madison Bumgarner.  With Flores’ stats against left-handed pitching, he could have gotten that one key hit the Mets needed to win that game.  Except, he was injured and unable to play.  The hope is he learns from this experience and comes back a better player in 2017.

Eric Campbell F

After Ruben Tejada was released on the eve of the season, Campbell was a surprise member of the 25 man roster.  Unfortunately, Campbell was not up to the task as he regressed yet another season.  In 40 games, Campbell hit .173/.284/.227 with one double, one homer, and nine RBI.  While the Mets organization was high on him to start the year (at least higher on him than most people), he didn’t do enough to justify their faith in him.  It was his play that forced the Mets to go out and get James Loney to play first base after Duda’s injury.

Despite the fans apparent hatred of him, he still has use as minor league depth, and if used in small doses, he could have some benefit to a major league team as a pinch hitter and very part time player.  Simply put, he was asked to do too much in 2016.  That was one of the reasons he was removed from the 40 man roster, and it is why he is a minor league free agent at the moment.

Matt Reynolds C

Reynolds numbers during the 2016 season were lackluster.  In 47 games, he only hit .255/.266/.416 with eight doubles, three homers, and 13 RBI.  Still, it is hard to call Reynolds first 47 games in the major leagues disappointing because he did show some promise.

In his limited duty, Reynolds did show himself to be the Mets best major league ready defensive shortstop in the entire Mets organization.  He also played well at second, third, and left field despite his playing a vast majority of his professional career at shortstop.  In fact, the first ever game Reynolds played in left field was at the major league level.  All Reynolds did in that game was play a representative left field and hit the game winning home run.

In 2016, Reynolds showed he could potentially be a major league bench player.  As a former second round pick, many might have wanted more from Reynolds than what he has shown.  That is not entirely fair at this point because he’s only played 47 games as a major leaguer, and in those 47 games, he showed he deserves another shot to be a major leaguer.  With that in mind, despite his numbers being disappointing, Reynolds did have a succesful 2016 season, and we should look forward to what he can contribute in 2017 and beyond.

Ty Kelly C+

Just making it to the major leagues after his long odyssey in the minor leagues was a major accomplishment.  And even though he made it to the majors as a result of a rash of injuries, he did earn his way to the majors with his hot hitting in Las Vegas.  While he initially struggled, Terry Collins finally figured out what he was, and Kelly began to thrive.

Despite his being a switch hitter, Kelly was really best suited to facing left-handed pitching.  While the sample size is really too small to derive a definitive conclusion, it should be noted Kelly put together much better at-bats from the right-hand side of the plate than he did from the left.  As he faced more left-handed pitching, Kelly’s numbers improved, and he finished the season hitting .241/.352/.345 with a double, a triple, a homer, and seven RBI in 39 games.

In the field, while Kelly was used all over the place, and he performed better than anticipated.  His best positions were probably third and left field.  Unfortunately, Kelly did not demonstrate sufficient power to play at either of those positions.  It should be noted that Kelly isn’t going to be a regular at the major league level.  Rather, he is a bench player, so it is quite possible, his relative lack of power may not be as big an issue for him.

Ultimately, Kelly was rewarded for his hard work and resilence.  He was rewarded not just with getting called-up to the majors, but also by being put on the Wild Card Game roster.  In a season with a number of highlights for him, his seventh inning pinch hit single certainly has to rank well up there.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links. If you want to see the prior entries, here is the link for catchers, and here is the link for middle infielders.