If you were paying attention before the game, there was a stir over a contrived controversy featuring Yoenis Cespedes. No, it was not the typical contrived Cespedes controversies with his golf, cars, or his hat being backwards. No, this one was the utterly false claim that somehow Mets fans are irritated with or hate Cespedes. Today, Cespedes set out and showed why such claims are utterly preposterous:
I think he played golf yesterday pic.twitter.com/Evp7wNzN7G
— Good Fundies is short for Good Fundamentals (@goodfundies) April 25, 2018
If you think he took out a month’s worth of frustrations and completely demolished that ball, you would be right:
How hard and how far?
115.1 mph, 463 feet. pic.twitter.com/KhniTFcOXL
— David Adler (@_dadler) April 25, 2018
The Mets really needed that homer too because the Mets have not been playing their best baseball of late, and they were not really getting anything going against Cardinals starter Luke Weaver to that point, and Zack Wheeler was struggling.
Wheeler’s day started with his allowing a Tommy Pham two run homer in the first. He would never quite settle in with his not registering one 1-2-3 inning in the game. While he dodged troubled in the second and third, the Cardinals got to him again in the fourth with Kolten Wong‘s second double the day scoring a run, and Weaver delivering an RBI single of his own to give the Cardinals a 4-1 lead.
The Mets lone run had come off a complete Marcell Ozuna misplay in left on what was scored a Jay Bruce RBI triple. The Mets continued rallying from there, but they were not able to score another run in that second inning. The seminal play was an Adrian Gonzalez hot shot Wong made a great play on which kept the slow and injured Bruce at third.
Really, the Mets looked dead in the water until there were two outs in the top of the fifth, and Weaver lost the strike zone. He walked Wilmer Flores and Michael Conforto on eight straight balls until the aforementioned Cespedes homer.
With Wheeler lifted after four uninspiring innings, this put the game in new reliever Matt Harvey‘s hands.
In the fifth, he was victimized a bit by Bruce’s complete and utterly lack of speed. Dexter Fowler hit what should have been a single, but with Bruce’s speed, he made it an easy double. That allowed Fowler to score easily on the subsequent Paul DeJong double. Likely, Fowler doesn’t score from first on the De Jong double. Still, Harvey did allow back-to-back well struck balls which broke the 4-4 tie.
Overall, Harvey pitched fairly well out of the bullpen. In his two innings, he allowed one earned on two hits with one walk while striking out two. Tomas Nido was helping him get those extra calls, and Harvey had better velocity than we have seen of late:
Matt Harvey's first relief outing is in the books:
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) April 25, 2018
All in all, it was a positive outing for Harvey was in line for the loss partially because Mickey Callaway has been making some odd decisions of late and because of Bruce’s speed. Really, Bruce’s speed cost the Mets at least two runs tonight – when he couldn’t even score on the Wong play and his allowing Fowler to get into scoring position.
As for Callaway, in the top of the 7th, Callaway used Juan Lagares instead of Brandon Nimmo as a pinch hitter. Considering Nimmo’s OBP and Jordan Hicks‘ 6.2 BB/9 this year, you might as well of put Nimmo on first to start the inning. Instead Callaway went with his best defensive outfielder who struggles historically against right-handed pitching.
Still, even with the Bruce speed issues and Callaway’s curious decision making, this is a resilient Mets team.
Paul Sewald kept the Mets in the game with a scoreless seventh, and the Mets offense went to work against Hicks in the eighth.
Todd Frazier started the inning with a four pitch walk, and he went first to third on a Bruce single which snuck just past Jose Martinez. A Gonzalez sacrifice fly would tie the game up at 5-5. Unfortunately, that was where the rally would end. Luke Gregerson came on and struck out Amed Rosario and got Nido to fly out to get out of the jam.
This would be the second time the weak bottom of the lineup prevented the Mets from cashing in on an opportunity, and it was another instance where you were left wondering why Callaway didn’t bring Nimmo into the game to take full advantage of a key opportunity.
Again, even with that, Sewald was great out of the Mets bullpen again. He had two scoreless innings keeping the Mets in the game.
Robert Gsellman would make things really interesting in the ninth by first walking Matt Carpenter, and then allowing a bloop single to Pham. However, he would send the game into extras by first striking out Martinez and then inducing Ozuna to hit into the inning ending 5-4-3 double play.
That play loomed large as Bruce would hit a go-ahead homer in the top of the 10th off Matthew Bowman. Inexplicably, Mike Matheny challenged whether Bruce touched first base, which only served to give Jeurys Familia more time to warm up in the bullpen. The well warmed up Familia came on to blow through the Cardinals for his ninth save of the year.
With some questionable decisions and calls, the Mets are back to their winning ways. They won mostly because this is a resilient club with every member of this team summoning something each night to help deliver a win.
GAME NOTES: This was the first time all season the Mets wore a blue alternate jersey. Mets are now 3-0 in extra inning games.
While being a Mets fan may come with some trials and tribulations, the one day Mets fans are typically happy is Opening Day. Heading into today’s game, the Mets were 36-20 all time on Opening Day, which is the best Opening Day winning percentage in Major League history. As a result, the Mets are usually 1-0, and their manager looks like a genius.
Today, new Mets Manager Mickey Callaway looked like a genius.
When you looked at the Opening Day lineup, you knew immediately this was no longer Terry Collins‘ Mets. The lineup not only had the Mets best hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, batting second, it also had Noah Syndergaard batting eighth and Amed Rosario batting ninth. If you were skeptical of the decision, the Mets quickly put you at ease.
Kevin Plawecki reached on a one out walk, and he remained there after Syndergaard struck out. With two outs and the lead-off hitter behind him, Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez challenged Rosario with fastballs. Rosario shot a single up the middle putting runners one first and second with two outs.
Brandon Nimmo did what Brandon Nimmo does, and he drew a walk. Cespedes came up with the bases loaded, and he delivered with a two out RBI single, which at the time gave the Mets a 3-2 lead. And with that, Callaway looked like a genius.
Frankly, it’s easy to look like a genius when everyone plays as well as the Mets did today.
Nimmo set the tone getting hit by the first pitch of the game and eventually scoring on a Jose Martinez throwing error on what could have been an Asdrubal Cabrera double play grounder. Instead of an inning ending double play, the Mets scored a first inning run without getting a base hit. That’s what happens when you draw nine walks in the game.
Speaking of Nimmo, he was brilliant today. He went 2-3 with two runs, a walk, and the aforementioned hit by pitch. With Michael Conforto reportedly being much closer to being ready to start his season, Nimmo is going to need more games like this to stay in the starting lineup.
So will Adrian Gonzalez. The veteran was coming off a horrific injury plagued 2017 season where the Dodgers not only didn’t miss him as they won the pennant, it seemed they didn’t even want him around. Nor did the Braves for that matter, as after a trade, they are paying him almost $22 million to play for an NL East rival.
Between that, his terrible Spring Training, and his soft line out to short in his first at-bat, helooked done. He wouldn’t make another out on the game going 2-3 with a run, double, two walks, and an RBI.
In situations like this, you want your players to make the decision about who should sit and who should play to be extraordinarily difficult. Based on Nimmo’s and Gonzalez’s play, Callaway’s decision will just be that.
Overall, the Mets offense and unconventional lineup was humming. The team scored nine runs on 12 hits highlighted by a five run fifth where they not only chased Martinez, but also former Mets prospect Matthew Bowman.
Every Mets starter, save Syndergaard, reached base at least once safely. Cespedes and Rosario were the only ones who did not draw a walk. However, when Rosario is attacking first pitch fastballs to the tune of a 2-4 day with two runs and two RBI, you don’t mind his over-aggressiveness at the plate.
About the only negative on the day was seeing Yadier Molina homer. That just brought back too many raw emotions from 2006. Some of that sting was taken away with Molina suffering the indignity of Jay Bruce stealing a base off of him.
With Syndergaard, you had some real reason for excitement. He became just the second Mets pitcher to strike out 10 on Opening Day. He needed just 85 pitches to get through six innings. Yes, he would give up the two homers, but overall, he seemed poised and ready to have a dominating 2018 season.
Speaking of dominating, the Mets bullpen came out and completely shut the door on the Cardinals. Robert Gsellman, Anthony Swarzak, and Jeurys Familia combined to pitch three scoreless and hitless innings. Gsellman was the most impressive striking out the side in the seventh. This bullpen performance will make you forget about the Cardinals getting Greg Holland over the Mets for one day.
And for this one day, Gonzalez is rejuvenated, the bullpen is lights out, Callaway is a genuis, and the Mets are the best team in baseball. Sure, it seems that way almost every Opening Day as a Mets fan, but at least for tonight, let’s just believe this will carry on well into October.
Game Notes: A number 10 was placed on the back of the mound to honor the recently deceased Rusty Staub. Syndergaard joined Pedro Martinez as the only Mets starter to have a double digit strikeout game on Opening Day. This was the first time a Mets starter made back-to-back Opening Day starts since Johan Santana did it from 2008 – 2010.
Perhaps no one in the history of the New York Mets has gotten more chances to prove themselves than Rafael Montero. The fact that is true has continued to baffle and irritate Mets fans who have watched him pitch to a 5.38 ERA and 1.705 WHIP in his Major League career.
But it’s more than that. The Mets have questioned his competitiveness and his toughness. They have even had him suffer the indignity to being demoted to Double-A. Nothing seems to work, and yet he remains on the Mets roster. Worse yet, he remains while talented pitchers who have produced are sent packing.
If we are being fair, we should pinpoint the 2016 season as the breaking point. In 2014, Montero acquitted himself well in his limited time, and in 2015, Montero suffered an injury, albeit one the Mets doubted truly existed. Montero would get a chance again in 2016. There’s no sugar coating just how poorly he pitched. About the only place he pitched well was Binghamton, and he wasn’t exactly stellar there going 4-3 with a 3.12 ERA.
And yet, Montero remained a Met.
After the 2016 season, the Mets traded both Gabriel Ynoa and Logan Verrett to the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations to help clear up space on the 40 man roster. The team would lose Matthew Bowman in the Rule 5 Draft. An injured Sean Gilmartinwas designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Because of these moves and because of all the injuries, Montero got another chance in 2017. He would reward the Mets faith and patience by going 5-11 with a 5.52 ERA, 1.748 WHIP, 5.1 BB/9, and an 8.6 K/9.
In an effort to be as fair as possible to Montero, he did get his first real extended chance to prove he belongs in the majors. From June 15th until the end of the season, he was on the Major League roster, and he would make 21 appearances and 16 starts. In that stretch, he was 5-7 with a 4.98 ERA, 1.591 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, and an 8.5 K/9.
Certainly, that was better, but it was not significantly different than his career numbers, which just have not been the caliber of a Major League starting pitcher. While you may not feel as if the Mets lost much of value in the aforementioned pitchers lost, the healthy pitchers in the group undoubtedly pitched better than Montero last year.
Now, the Mets are repeating their same mistakes. After the conclusion of the 2017 season, the team drafted Burch Smithin the Rule 5 Draft and sold him to the Kansas City Royals. To make room for Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez on the 40 man roster, Kevin McGowan and Chasen Bradford were designated for assignment.
While McGowan struggled in his time in the majors last year, Bradford certainly did not. In fact, Bradford was one of the few pleasant surprises last season. In 28 major league appearances, he was 2-0 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.277 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and a 7.2 K/9. Montero would have to significantly improve to match those numbers, and yet, he is the one that remains on the 40 man roster.
At some point, push is finally going to come to shove, and Montero will no longer be a part of the Mets organization. With Montero being out of options, maybe this year is the year. Maybe not. After all, the Mets do have spots open for competition in the Opening Day bullpen, and by now I’m sure the Mets have talked themselves into believing Mickey Callawayand Dave Eiland will turn Montero into the next Dennis Eckersley.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMO
Tonight at 8:00 P.M. is the deadline for the Mets to add players to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. At the moment, the Mets 40 man roster stands at 35, which means the team could add as many as five eligible players to the roster.
Typically speaking, the Mets won’t go that far for a few reasons. First, the team will need to add players this offseason to help bolster a team desperately in need at some key positions. Second, the team may want to keep some spots open so they could add a player or two during this year’s Rule 5 draft. Considering there are some teams facing a roster crunch, there may very well be some intriguing names that become available.
For the moment, let’s assume the Mets will add five players with the team likely considering DFAing a couple of names already on the 40 man roster. If the Mets have that ability, here are the players I believe the Mets should add to the roster.
RHP Tyler Bashlor
Level: St. Lucie & Binghamton
Stats: 3-2, 3.44 ERA, 46 G, 13 SV, 49.2 IP, 84 K, 1.309 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 15.2 K/9
Bashlor is a power arm who can routinely get it into the high 90s. This along with his curveball is a reason why he gets huge strikeout numbers. The problem with him is he walks too many batters. It’s been a problem his entire minor league career. To that point, there is one caveat. In the small sample size he worked with Glenn Abbott in Binghamton, he only walked 2.5 batters per nine, which is a much more manageable number. If he can keep that up, he’s a shut down reliever who could very well be a future closer for the Mets.
RHP Gerson Bautista
Level: Carolina League & St. Lucie
Stats: 3-3, 4.22 ERA, 37 G, 9 SV, 59.2 IP, 73 K, 1.592 WHIP, 4.7 BB/9, 11.0 K/9
Bautista was the crown jewel of the Addison Reed trade. The reliever has immense talent with the ability to get up to triple digits on the radar gun. What is really interesting with him is that once he became a Met, he was finally able to harness his abilities. In 10 appearances with St. Lucie, he had a 1.88 ERA, 0.907 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, and a 12.6 K/9. If he is truly that pitcher, he has an outside chance to pitch in Queens in 2018.
MI Luis Guillorme
Stats: .283/.376/.331, 20 2B, HR, 43 RBI, 4 SB, 3 CS
Guillorme is a throwback player who is a highlight reel at second or short. At the moment, he’s more than ready to contribute defensively at the Major League level. Offensively, Guillorme finds his way on base, and he’s a smart baserunner. He’s also aware that he needs to begin hitting for more power, and he has set out to do that. Given his work ethic, it shouldn’t be ruled out he will hit for enough power where he may one day be a top of the lineup hitter.
RHP Corey Oswalt
Stats: 12-5, 2.28 ERA, 24 G, 24 GS, 2 CG, SHO, 134.1 IP, 119 K, 1.176 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 8.0 K/9
Oswalt was not only the best pitcher in the Mets organization this past season winning a Sterling Award, he was also the best pitcher in the Eastern League as evidenced by his being named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. He’s a four pitch starter who may not dominate opposing batters, but he knows how to get people out. Given the rash of injuries the Mets have faced in their starting rotation in successive seasons, this is something that should not be overlooked, and the Mets certainly should not risk a chance of losing him.
RHP Adonis Uceta
Level: Columbia, St. Lucie, Binghamton
Stats: 6-0, 1.51 ERA, 41 G, 14 SV, 59.2 IP, 67 K, 0.905 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 10.1 K/9
The Mets converted this former starter to a reliever, and he took off this season. With him mainly focusing on his two best pitches, a mid to high 90s fastball and an outstanding changeup, Uceta dominated opposing batters. For a three month stretch, he did not allow one earned run while oppositing batters hit .133/.198/.158 off of him. It’s a big reason why he quickly rose through the farm system last year, and it’s a big reason why he could contribute in the Mets bullpen next season.
Overall, it’s unlikely the Mets protect as many as five players, and it’s equally unlikely the team protects three relief pitchers. To that end, it’s really a debate over who to protect. Do you protect Bashlor and Uceta, who could reasonably contribute in the bullpen next year? Or maybe, you protect just one of them to make sure you keep Bautista who is likely the best arm of the three. It’s not the easiest decision in the world, but it is one that Alderson now faces.
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.
Right now, the Mets are four games out of a Wild Card spot, and they are desperately hoping with Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera coming off the disabled list this week that the team goes on a run that will bring them back into the postseason. Whether or not that works, it is fair to ask if this is the Mets last chance to win the World Series.
The foundation of this team is its starting pitching. Matt Harvey has gone from Opening Day starter to question mark with his season ending surgery to address his thoracic outlet syndrome. There is no telling how effective he will be if he is able to come back.
Zack Wheeler was supposed to be back by the All Star Break. Now, it appears that he will miss his second consecutive season. While rehabbing from the surgery, Wheeler has had to have a second surgery to deal with forearm irritation caused by stitches, sensory nerve irritation, and now a flexor strain. He had been treated by Dr. Dave Altchek, and he sought a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews. We are continuously assured there are no structural issues, and yet, time and again there is a new excuse why he can’t pitch. At the end of the day, it does not matter if he is unable to pitch due to his elbow or for other reasons. Who knows when he can return or how effective he will be when returning.
There are more question marks in the rotation. Steven Matz has yet to have a healthy season in the majors. Bartolo Colon will be 44 years old next year meaning there is no guarantee that he pitches beyond this year. Even if he does, there is no guarantee he will be this effective. Logan Verrett has shown he is not capable of being a member of the starting rotation. Sean Gilmartin‘s season ended early with shoulder problems. The Mets aren’t going to pick up Jon Niese‘s option, and even if they did bring him back, you should probably expect more of the same from him.
The Mets other options are Gabriel Ynoa and Robert Gsellman, both of whom are probably not ready to start in the majors. Even if they are, both realistically project to be middle to back of the rotation starters. That certainly helps, but that also a huge drop off from someone like Harvey.
As if the starting pitching wasn’t a big enough issue, there is the issue of the Mets offense.
As we saw this year, you cannot rely upon David Wright at all. The Mets have no internal options to replace his bat in the lineup. Worse yet, there is a lack of very good options on the free agent market choices available even if the Mets were so inclined to add a bat. Keep in mind, they may also have to replace Lucas Duda at first base. In 2015, Duda had a disc issue. This year, Duda will miss almost the entire season with a stress fracture in his back. There is a very real chance that he is a non-tender candidate. The Mets do not have a first base option in the minors who is on track to play in the majors next year, and again, the free agent market is less than promising. That means James Loney can once again be the Mets best option, and as we have seen, he is not a terribly good everyday option.
This isn’t even the Mets biggest problem, not by a long shot.
Cespedes can opt out of his contract at the end of the season, and he will easily become the best free agent available. The narrative coming out of last offseason was how much Cespedes wanted to be a Met, and that is why he returned. That’s the hope why he will stay. However, it’s more narrative than fact.
The fact is Cespedes didn’t get a fair market value offer on the free agent market. Judging from the free agent contracts handed out, teams placed a higher value on Jason Heyward and Justin Upton. The teams you would think would be interested in Cespedes gave the money to somebody else. The Nationals were interested, but due to budgetary constraints, they only offered Cespedes a largely backloaded deal. It is possible that after another postseason berth, and Jonathan Papelbon‘s salary off the books, the Nationals could make another run at Cespedes in the offseason. It is also possible that the Giants, Dodgers, Rangers and/or the Angels could emerge as suitors for Cespedes. There’s always the phantom mystery team that could join the bidding.
It is certainly plausible the Mets get outbid from Cespedes, or they simply move on from him. Keep in mind, there were rumblings all over that the Jay Bruce trade was made, in part, as insurance for Cespedes leaving in the offseason. If that is the case, the Mets outfield will yet again be left without a true center fielder.
The main task may first fall to Curtis Granderson, who has struggled mightily this year and should not be counted on to rebound in 2017. The Mets could go with a Juan Lagares/Brandon Nimmo platoon in center, but that would leave no room for Michael Conforto to play everyday.
Speaking of Conforto, there is another major issue with this Mets team. Both Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud have regressed this year. Certainly, Conforto’s wrist and d’Arnaud’s shoulder are factors, but the fact remains, they have regressed. Couple that with Kevin Plawecki not progressing at all, there is a major issue. Either the Mets young talent is not as good as anticipated, or there are impediments at the major league level that is preventing them from reaching their full potential. In order for the Mets to remain contenders, they will need their young players to step up.
Between the aforementioned free agent market and lack of major league ready prospects, the Mets only real hopes of improving the roster is on the trade front. The problem there is the cupboard is getting bare. The Mets have already moved big pieces in Michael Fulmer and Dilson Herrera. They’re not willing to move Amed Rosario, and they are really unlikely to move Dominic Smith. The Mets could move Nimmo, but that depletes from their depth for next season, and as we have seen, the Mets need all the depth they can get.
Keep in mind that over the past two seasons, the Mets have also moved Robert Whalen, Luis Cessa, John Gant, Akeel Morris, and Casey Meisner. They lost Matthew Bowman and Dario Alvarez without getting anything in return. Their departures leaves a gap of mid-tier prospects the Mets could move for upgrades.
Yes, the Mets can field a very competitive baseball team next year. As long as you have pitchers like Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, you are going to have a chance to compete. With another year of Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia, it is a seven inning game for the Mets. It’ll become a six inning game if Hansel Robles takes the next step. But after that?
You’re counting on Neil Walker returning, which is not a guarantee. You’re counting on Asdrubal Cabrera developing more range at shortstop while hitting better than .255/.308/.410. He was a .249/.307/.405 hitter from 2013 – 2015. You’re counting on Jose Reyes to hit better than his .250/.302/.466 and be healthy all of next year. Reyes hit .274/.310/.378 while hitting in two of the best hitter’s parks last year. You’re counting on Wilmer Flores being able to learn to hit righties. You’re counting on the Mets not having to rely on the Eric Campbells and Ty Kellys on the world for prolonged stretches of time over the next season. It’s all possible, but it’s not likely.
As things look right now, the Mets better start winning some ballgames and make a run because there is no guarantee that the Mets window to contend will remain open past this season.
To their credit, the Mets have built an organization deep with pitching talent. When you do that, you are eventually going to be faced with a difficult decision over who to keep and who to trade, who to promote and who to keep down, and who to protect and who to expose in the Rule 5 Draft. These are difficult and challenging decisions. With that said, this is why the front office is paid the money that they are paid. This past year the Mets had a choice between protecting Matthew Bowman or Jeff Walters in the Rule 5 Draft.
Bowman was a 2012 13th round selection out of Princeton University. He is a four pitch pitcher with no real outstanding out pitch. He was projected as a back of the rotation starter for a Mets organization that is deep in pitching talent. Therefore, if Bowman was ever going to make it to the majors, he was going to have to make it in the bullpen as a swing guy like a Logan Verrett or a Sean Gilmartin. With that in mind, the Mets decided to protect the player who had already had success in the bullpen.
That was their 2010 seventh round selection out off the University of Georgia, Jeff Walters. Walters possessed a 95+ MPH fastball with a hard slider he had difficulty controlling. In 2013, he had a breakout season in AA going 4-3 with a 2.01 ERA and a 1.017 WHIP. In 2014, he was promoted to AAA, and he struggled mightily. As it turned out, Walters needed Tommy John surgery costing him the end of the 2014 season and the beginning of the 2015 season. When he returned, he started working his way back up the Mets minor league system starting with Savannah. He ended the year in AA where he went 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP in 18 innings.
Now, it was likely that either Bowman or Walters were going to be picked in the Rule 5 draft given their repertoire and success in the minor leagues. You could’ve easily made a case for either player. The Mets chose Bowman. Unfortunately, the Mets chose wrong.
With the Cardinals this year, Bowman has been pitching well out of the bullpen. In his 19 appearances, he is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.080WHIP. Batters are only hitting .232/.286/.347. To put it in perspective, current Mets reliever Jim Henderson is a 1-2 with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.348 WHIP. Batters are hitting .221/.313/.384 against him. So overall, Bowman has not only pitched well this year, but he has also pitched well enough to be considered for the current Mets bullpen, which has been good all year.
Walters, on the other hand, has not been very good. Walters reported to AAA where he has pitched in 26 games going 0-2 with a 9.22 ERA and a 2.268 WHIP. Due to the Mets current roster crunch with the various injuries at the major league level, Walters was the natural choice to remove from the 40 man roster. Unfortunately, Walters hasn’t rewarded the Mets faith in him when they selected him over Bowman.
This predicament only serves to highlight the fact that the Mets have a strong minor league system. Hopefully, Walters will rebound and return to the form the Mets had seen from him in AA. In the meantime, Bowman continues to have success for the Cardinals. Fortunately, the Mets decision to keep Walters over Bowman hasn’t served to come back and bite them. Hopefully, it never will.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on metsminors.net
After last season, you would want to believe that the Mets wouldn’t want to underestimate their own pitching prospects and expose them to the Rule 5 draft.
The Mets got very, very lucky with Logan Verrett. Everyone underestimated him. Perhaps it was a result of a low 90’s fastball. Perhaps it was because he relies on control, changing your eye level, and working both sides of the plate rather than blowing a 100 MPH fastball by you like Noah Syndergaard.
In any event, the Orioles decided he was worthy of a Rule 5 pick but not worthy of making their Opening Day roster. The Rangers scooped him up and decided after six games he couldn’t help them. He was returned to the Mets. He pitched well out of the bullpen and in spot starts. This year he’s made two spot starts and hasn’t allowed a run in 12 innings. The Mets needed him more than they ever knew. Fortunately for the Mets, the Orioles and Rangers never realized what they had in Verrett. The Mets got very lucky.
This year the Mets may not be so lucky with Matt Bowman.
Bowman was taken by the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft. Partially due to Jordan Walden opening the year on the DL, Bowman made the Opening Day roster. So far this year, Bowman has appeared on five games pitching 6.2 innings. He has a 1.35 ERA and a 0.900 WHIP. He’s predominantly throwing a 93 MPH sinker. He mixes in the occasional slider (88 MPH) and splitter (82 MPH). It’s a short sample size, but Bowman looks good out of the bullpen. There’s no reason to believe the Cardinals will let him go.
The head scratching part was there was no excuse for why the Mets let Bowman become a Cardinal. The Mets had roster space. They could’ve protected Bowman. To make matters worse, they lost what appears to be a good bullpen piece. How did this happen?
In answering, this question it is important to note teams typically keep a roster spot open so they can make a pick in the Rule 5 draft in the event there’s a player out there who can help them. It’s how the Mets acquired Sean Gilmartin last year, and he became a valuable part of the bullpen. So in reality, the question was who should the Mets have left off the roster in place of Bowman.
The Mets did subsequently lose Kirk Nieuwenhuis on waivers. The Mets traded Darrell Ceciliani for cash. Carlos Torres and Ruben Tejada were initially offered contracts only to subsequently be released. The Mets also could’ve realized what they had and did the unconventional and just put Bowman on the roster barring them from making a Rule 5 draft pick. The Mets didn’t. Instead, they exposed Bowman in the draft in the oft chance they could’ve found someone of his caliber in the Rule 5 draft. How did this happen?
Simply put, like Verrett, Bowman didn’t have lights-out stuff. He is a four pitch pitcher that was projected to be, at best, a back of the rotation starter or bullpen arm. He really regressed his first full year in AAA. In 2014, he was 3-2 with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.294 WHIP in six starts and one relief appearance. In 2015, he made 26 starts and two relief appearances. Bowman would finish the year 7-16 with a 5.53 ERA and a 1.679 WHIP. Entering the 2015 season, he was seen as a back of the rotation starter or a bullpen arm. His 2015 season reasonably cast doubt on those projections. At age 25, it appeared like the former 13th round draft pick’s development had stalled.
It didn’t, and it shouldn’t be surprising as Bowman has looked for ways to improve. He has tried to emulate Tim Lincecum‘s delivery. While in college, he studied Sabermetrics, and he has sought to use it to find ways to improve. Basically, there’s no rock this former 13th round pick will leave unturned to he better. He’s built himself into a major league pitcher.
However, Bowman is pitching for the Cardinals, and the Mets have nothing to show for it. Worse yet, the Mets could’ve used him. With Jacob deGrom‘s lat injury (and problems with his son), Verrett was thrust into the starting rotation. Rafael Montero was recalled to help in the bullpen, but Collins has been loathe to use him.
Perhaps Collins would’ve trusted Bowman and allowed him to pitch. Unfortunately, we will never know. The Mets will not get lucky with a Rule 5 pick returning to the organization. Bowman is a Cardinal likely never to return.
Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsminors.net
Going into last year, the Mets were well noted for their organizational pitching depth. It wasn’t just the pitchers that were in the majors, but it was also the pitchers on the way. The thought process was the Mets could select the pitchers to keep to help the rotation and trade the others for a bat.
Well, the Mets are going into the 2016 season, and their depth isn’t the same as this regime seems comfortable jettisoning this team’s pitching depth. A large part of the reason was the unwillingness and/or inability to spend in the offseason last year. Here is the list of pitchers gone from the Mets organization:
- Greg Peavey
- Randy Fontanez
- Cory Mazzoni
- Brad Wieck
- Casey Meisner
- John Gant
- Robert Whalen
- Michael Fulmer
- Luis Cessa
- Matt Koch
- Miller Diaz
- Dawrin Frias
- Jack Leathersich
- Jon Niese
- Matthew Bowman
This list doesn’t include Logan Verrett, who was selected in last year Rule 5 draft and returned. It also doesn’t include Tyler Clippard, Bartolo Colon, Eric O’Flaherty, Bobby Parnell, and Alex Torres because, at least in theory, they all could return to the Mets next year. In any event, that’s a lot of pitchers gone and/or potentially gone from the 2014 Winter Meetings and the 2015 Winter Meetings.
After losing all these pitchers, the Mets only have two . . . TWO . . . players on their 2016 major league roster resulting from these moves: Addison Reed and Neil Walker. Also, the Mets still need a fifth starter and possibly bullpen help. You would think after losing 15 pitchers in a year, you’d be in a better position.
Now, the important caveat here is not all of these pitchers are of the same caliber. For example, Peavey and Fontanez were selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Also, I did defend the trade that brought in Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. On the flip side, I did not like the trades which brought in Clippard and Yoenis Cespedes.
I’m not in the crowd that justifies these deals due to the Mets winning the pennant. You win the World Series, you’re untouchable because you did what was necessary. However, the Mets lost all that pitching and still fell short. Think of it another way. Do you think the Tigers would’ve traded winning the AL East for John Smoltz‘ career?
With all that said, the Mets still deserve some credit here. Even though they lost all that pitching, they still have good pitching prospects like Robert Gsellman. I just wish they spent more money last offseason and kept some of those pitchers to give them more options to make deals this winter or this upcoming summer.
Keep in mind that sooner or later losing all this pitching will eventually catch up with them. I’m not looking forward to the day that happens.