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
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 Reynolds. Ty 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.
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.
In an interview with Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, Jose Reyes said all of the right things. He spoke about how his actions were inexcusable and how he wants to be a better man. After what must have been trying year for both him and his family, Reyes ultimately stated, “You can go through the process and realize what you need to do. I think it helped me to be become a better husband, father and man.”
There is no reason to question the veracity of Reyes’ statements or question his improvement as a husband, father, or man. Reyes and his family are the best arbiters of that. From a fan standpoint, all we can hope is that those statements prove to be true.
While we know many acts of domestic violence remain unreported, there is some comfort there were not repeat incidents . . . at least known incidents. The comfort may be naive, but it could also be the truth of the matter. We simply don’t know at this point.
What we do know is that he has served his time, and he has gone through the requisite treatment prescribed by Major League Baseball. On the surface, it at least appears he came out better for it, which is all you want both as a fan and a human being.
On the field, he is going to be an important part of the Mets. With David Wright still not having thrown the ball, and no one knowing how many games he can play, it appears Reyes will be the Mets third baseman for much of the year. He’s also going to be the primary backup option for Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Furthermore, with him learning center field during Spring Training, he could help spell Curtis Granderson in center. Overall, while Reyes is projected to be a utility player, he really could wind up playing everyday. He could be the most important player on the roster.
To that end, as Mets fans we all hope he has a successful season. More importantly, we hope he continues what appears to be significant progress with his family.
In 2017, more than anything, I am rooting for Reyes both on and off the field.
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
At some point today, Jon Niese is going to hold a workout for teams interested in signing him. Niese needs to do this workout because: (1) he’s coming off knee surgery; and (2) he was terrible last year. Absolutely terrible. And yet, despite that, the Mets should be interested in re-signing him.
Let’s get the obvious reasons why the Mets shouldn’t be interested out of the way first. He’s a malcontent that would likely complain about the weather in San Diego. He always has an excuse for when he fails. He’d blame the pitch the catcher for the pitch he called. He’d blame the designer of the ballpark for the configuration of the outfield walls. He’d blame God for the wind patterns. He’d do all of that before admitting he hung a pitch that was hit into the second deck. More than any of this, Niese was just horrible last year. Typically, you don’t want players like this.
That is unless they are really cheap, and they have something to prove.
Niese should be both. Working in reverse, Niese, perhaps for the first time in his major league career, has something to prove. He’s coming off a year with a 5.50 ERA and a 1.587 WHIP. Quite possibly, he was the worst pitcher in all of baseball, certainly the worst starting pitcher. Because Niese is who he is, he’ll probably give you a million reasons why this happened. I’m sure he’ll say PNC Park was not suited for him, or Ray Searage was not as good a pitching coach as Dan Warthen. The Pirates probably didn’t shift as well as the Mets did. He’ll certainly blame his knee injury. At least with the knee injury, there may be an actual valid excuse, and it could be reason to buy low on Niese.
Before being traded to the Pirates, Niese was 61-61 with a 3.91 ERA, a 1.361 WHIP, and a 95 ERA+. Basically, he was a fifth starter who constantly tricked the Mets into thinking he could be more than that. It’s partially why Sandy Alderson gave him a contract extension. It’s why the Pirates traded Neil Walker to get him. Maybe he fulfills that promise one day. Likely, he doesn’t. Still, Niese has already shown he’s a quality major league pitcher.
He’s a major league pitcher that is going to come cheap. With teams seemingly being devoid of interest in him during the offseason, Niese is likely going to garner little more than a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Essentially, Niese is going to go to a team where he has an opportunity to either make the team out of Spring Training or be one of the first call-ups should a pitcher get injured or be ineffective. That being said, signing Niese is theoretically no different than the Mets recent signing of Tom Gorzelanny, or back in 2006, when they signed Darren Oliver.
For the Mets, Niese could be an intriguing bullpen arm who surprisingly showed during the 2015 postseason, he can get the big out. He may have a second act to his career as a reliever much in the same way Oliver Perez has. By focusing on one or two pitches, he could be a reliable bullpen arm like Oliver. Or maybe, he could just be more starting pitching depth for a Mets team relying on three pitchers coming off season ending surgery and two unproven starters behind them.
Maybe just maybe, the Mets should offer Niese a minor league deal to come back to the team. It isn’t the worst idea in the world.
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
In the three seasons before Yoenis Cespedes became a New York Met, he was a .263/.316/.464 hitter who averaged 24 homers and 87 RBI. Since becoming a New York Met, Cespedes has been a .282/.348/.554 hitter with 162 game averages of 41 homers and 111 RBI.
In Curtis Granderson‘s first year with the Mets, he was a .227/.326/.388 hitter with 20 homers and 66 RBI. Over the past two seasons, Granderson has been a .248/.350/.460 hitter who has averaged 28 homers and 64 RBI.
In the three years before the Mets acquired Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Walker was a .264/.336/.438 hitter who averaged 18 homers and 67 RBI. In his Pirates career as a right-handed batter, Walker was a career .260 hitter with just six home runs over the course of seven seasons. Last year, Walker was a .282/.347/.476 hitter with 23 homers and 55 RBI in just 113 games. From the right side of the plate, he was a .330/.391/.610 hitter with eight homers.
In the three years before Asdrubal Cabrera signed a free agent deal with the Mets, he was a .249/.307/.405 hitter who averaged 14 homers and 61 RBI. Last year, Cabrera was a .280/.336/.474 hitter with 23 homers and 62 RBI. It should also be noted he was one of if not the best hitter over the last two months of the season.
With this quartet of players, we see a definite trend of what happens when the Mets hitters being working with hitting coach Kevin Long. Whatever it is he specifically does, he has the ability to help batters not only hit for more power, but also improve their OBP. While Long’s detractors will point out there are players that haven’t performed well under his tutelage like Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto last year, there are players like the aforementioned players and Daniel Murphy who have improved. The point is overall hitters tend to improve in terms of OBP and slugging under Long.
With Long’s seeming ability to help players in these two key areas, Jay Bruce would be wise to work closely with his new hitting coach this season.
Over the course of his career, Bruce has been a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged a 27 homers and 82 RBI a season with most of his damage being done at The Great American Ballpark where he is a .254/.328/.500 hitter. Basically, Bruce has basically been a slugger that not only does not know how to draw a walk, but he is also a product of his former home ballpark. At least that was the perception. That perception was not helped when Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 in 50 games with the Mets last season.
This is a large reason why he did not garner much interest on the trade market. It may very well be a reason why he will have difficulty getting a large free agent deal next offseason.
It’s odd when you think about it because Bruce has the potential to be a 30 HR/100 RBI hitter. He is your prototypical slugger who has been a three time All Star, two time Silver Slugger, and has a top 10 MVP finish in his career. There is real talent there. He just needs help to become a more well-rounded hitter. As we have seen with most of the Mets roster, Long has helped the Mets hitters on that front.
If Bruce does improve his OBP and he hits for more power, the Mets are going to have the left-handed power threat they thought they were getting when they acquired him in exchange for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. He is also going to help garner the interest for his services that we just not present this offseason. Overall, the working relationship between Bruce and Long can be a mutually beneficial relationship.
It’s a relationship both Bruce’s and the 2017 Mets’ future hinges upon.