It is a slow going offseason, but it seems even slower for the Mets. With so many teams with more money than the Mets still interested in many of the same free agents, it is hard to believe the Mets will make significant additions before the end of the offseason. If they don’t, here is what the 2018 Mets Opening Day roster will look like:
C – Travis d’Arnaud
1B – Dominic Smith
2B – Wilmer Flores
3B – Asdrubal Cabrera
SS – Amed Rosario
LF – Yoenis Cespedes
CF – Juan Lagares
RF – Michael Conforto
Bench – Kevin Plawecki, Brandon Nimmo, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Phillip Evans
This should only highlight about how much work the Mets actually have to do this offseason.
Sure, we can buy the pitching staff as a whole as is because they have viable depth. In the rotation, Lugo could get transition back much like how he did in 2016. After that, they have Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, Corey Oswalt, and Mickey Jannis. And that is before the Mets go deeper with pitchers like P.J. Conlon. Suffice it to say, the Mets do have sufficient rotation depth.
However, that offense. You can’t sell anyone that is going to be alright. Mostly, that is because the Mets don’t believe themselves that it will be. And that is before you take into account the injury issues Conforto and Rivera are currently rehabbing from this offseason.
For example, the team has all but given up on Gavin Cecchini, who should be in a position to at least compete for a spot on the 25 man roster. He won’t. What’s scary is there is no real Major League ready talent behind him . . . at least no immediately as players like Luis Guillorme and David Thompson need at least some time in Triple-A. By the way, there’s no real outfield depth in this system.
Looking over this roster, you’d be hard pressed to believe the Mets will be better than the 70-92 team they were last season no matter how much they sell us Mickey Callaway as the solution to all that ails the Mets.
So, it really should not come as a surprise to no one the Mets have a lot of work to do, and it goes well beyond just adding one or two players. That applies just to the starting lineup. After that, they really need to build a Major League caliber bench.
Again, the good news is there are still many free agents available. However, it’s still hard to believe the Mets will be able to add the players they need to become a postseason contender.
Traditionally, the Arizona Fall League is reserved for the top Double-A and Triple-A prospects in each organization. We’ve previously seen with players like David Wright and Mike Piazza having played in the Arizona Fall League. We see it again this season with top prospects like Kyle Tucker (Astros), Ronald Acuna (Braves), and Francisco Mejia (Indians).
The list of players in the Arizona Fall League this year also includes 29 year old Mickey Jannis.
Typically speaking, when a prospect passes a certain age, they are no longer considered a prospect. Depending on which standard you apply, that age is a moving date, but everyone will agree that 29 years old is too old to be considered a prospect.
Jannis is different than your typical prospect because he is a knuckleball pitcher, and for a number of reasons knuckleball pitchers have a tendency to develop later in their careers than most prospects.
There are few pitching coaches out there who are actually adept at teaching the pitch, and it is a difficult pitch to throw. However, the main reason is probably due to it being seen as gimmick which pitchers do not seek to learn until their careers are almost at a premature end. Jim Bouton described this process best in Ball Four:
After a couple of year in the minors, however, I started to get bigger and stronger and started to overpower people with my fastball. So I phased the knuckleball out.
I never really used it again until 1967. My arm was very sore and I was getting my head beat in. [Ralph Houk] put me into a game against Baltimore and I didn’t have a thing except pain. I got two out and then with my arm still hurting like hell, I threw four knuckeballs to Frank Robinson and struck him out. The next day I get sent to Syracuse. Even so, it wasn’t until the last part of the next season that I began throwing it again. The idea that you’ve lost your regular stuff is very slow in coming.
That experience is typical to most knuckleballers. In R.A. Dickey‘s own book, Wherever I Wind Up, he stated his process of learning the knuckleball began when the Rangers front office suggested it was his best chance of being able to have a Major League career. That is an experience shared by Jannis:
It’s just a decision I made after I got released by the Rays after my second year in pro ball. I went into independent baseball and just made the transition. It’s been a long process. I’m still learning to throw it, learning to throw it for strikes. It’s just every day learning something new with the pitch.
(William Boor, MLB.com)
In many ways, Jannis is still learning how to control the pitch, and as a result, he has had middling results. He would go from a 3.55 ERA and 1.354 WHIP in 2015 to a 5.69 ERA and 1.564 WHIP in 2016. This made his age 29 season an important one to improve his status as a prospect. Based upon recent knuckleball pitchers age 29 season, there wasn’t much reason for hope:
- Tim Wakefield (1996) 14-13, 5.14 ERA, 1.550 WHIP
- Dickey (2004) 6-7, 5.61 ERA, 1.620 WHIP
Albeit in Double-A, Jannis had a much better age 29 season going 8-7 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.251 WHIP. During the season, he’s come closer to taming the knuckleball leading to better success, a rejuvenation of his status as a prospect, and his assignment to the Arizona Fall League.
Jannis has taken full advantage of the opportunity by pitching great. In his six starts, he was 1-3 with a 2.33 ERA and a 1.037 WHIP. Overall, he’s showing he control his knuckeball, and he can get baseball’s top prospects out. If he continues learning how to harness his knuckleball, he may very well get the chance to prove he can use it to get Major League batters out.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first published on MMO