Last night, Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario collided in the outfield leading to a ball dropping and the go-ahead run scoring. When a gaffe like this happens, many are sent looking to pin blame. As has often happens since he was first called up to the majors, Smith was an easy target.
Before looking to levy the blame on him, it is important to review just how Smith became a left fielder.
Back in 2011, the now defunct Sandy Alderson regime made Brandon Nimmo their first ever draft pick. Since that time, the Mets have drafted and signed just 27 outfield prospects.
The breakdown goes: 2011 (six), 2012 (none), 2013 (three), 2014 (five), 2015 (three), 2016 (three), 2017 (four), 2018 (three).
Putting aside Nimmo and Michael Conforto, the outfielders the Mets have drafted since 2011 have played a combined 35 games at the Major League level.
Currently, the Las Vegas roster only has one outfielder drafted from the aforementioned draft classes on their roster – Kaczmarski. Kaczmarski is currently battling for playing time with players like Zach Borenstein, Bryce Brentz, Matt den Dekker, and Patrick Kivlehan.
Binghamton had Tim Tebow playing everyday because there really wasn’t a Mets draftee pushing him out of the lineup.
Champ Stuart, the Mets 2013 sixth round pick, is repeating the level, and he is hitting .136/.280/.264. Patrick Biondi, the Mets 2013 ninth round pick, is also repeating the level, and he is hitting .222/.333/.247.
Overall, that’s just three part time outfield draft picks playing in the upper levels of their minor league system. Combine them with Nimmo and Conforto, and that makes just five outfield draft picks playing in Double-A or high from the past eight drafts.
Given how much the Mets drafts have not provided much in terms of outfield depth, the Mets were faced with calling up a Major League has been or never was or to give the shot to Smith. Given how Peter Alonso was nipping at Smith’s heels from Double-A, learning another position did make some sense.
Believe it or not, Smith in the outfield was not as absurd a proposition as it may sound. He entered the year leaner and faster. As noted by Baseball Savant, his sprint speed is better Jose Bautista and Jay Bruce, two players the Mets have felt eminently comfortable in the outfield. When he was drafted, Baseball America noted Smith had a strong arm and was a “fringy defender with below-average speed” in the outfield.
Still, the Mets were forced into that position because of how they handled Smith.
After he struggled last year, they were wise to bring in competition for him in Spring Training in the form of Adrian Gonzalez. Partially due to Smith’s injury in Spring Training, Gonzalez did win the job. However, he played poorly.
In 21 April games, Gonzalez hit .227/.312/.394. After going 3-for-4 with two solo homers in a game at Cincinnati, Gonzalez returned to form hitting just .267/.323/.350 over his next 20 games leading to his eventual release.
With the way Gonzalez was playing, there was a real chance to call-up Smith and give him a shot. The Mets passed, and they instead decided to stick with a guy who was not producing.
When the Mets finally released Gonzalez, they gave Smith three games to prove he could produce at the Major League level. In those three games, he went 4-for-12 with a double, homer, and an RBI. After that three game stretch, Wilmer Flores came off the disabled list, and he was given the first base job.
With Flores being bestowed the first base job, Smith’s great experiment in the outfield truly began. With Smith not playing well in the outfield, he found himself on the bench, and eventually, he would head back to Triple-A. When he was sent back to Triple-A, he was entrenched as the left fielder because Alonso had been called up and given the first base job.
In the end, you have a former first round draft pick and former Top 100 prospect playing out of position because the Mets have failed to give Smith a chance, the team has failed to develop outfield prospects at the upper levels of their minor league system, and the team is more willing to give failing veterans a chance over a younger player who could improve with Major League coaching and playing time.
Overall, that is how you get a promising prospect in the outfield, and that is how you have two young players colliding in the outfield and costing the Mets a game.
When Tim Tebow took the batter’s box against reigning American League Cy Young Award Winner Rick Porcello, we could all guess what was going to happen. Tebow struck out, and he didn’t look particularly good doing it. In fact, Tebow didn’t look particularly good in any aspect of the game on Wednesday. Overall, Tebow was 0-3 with a hit by pitch, two strikeouts, and a GIDP. The only time he got on base via the hit by pitch, he was doubled off of first.
Simply put, Tebow did not look like he belonged out there.
Most Single A players don’t look like they belong out there either. That is traditionally why most players in the lower levels of the minor leagues do not play until towards the end of the Spring Training games. If you put a lower level minors player out there against the Porcellos of the world, they are most likely going to look bad up there. Heck, major leaguers look bad at the plate against Porcello. That’s partially why Porcello won the Cy Young Award.
However, with Tebow it’s different. It’s different because of the attention. Seriously, who gets a round of applause after they hit into a double play? It’s different because Tebow has always been a lightning rod. It’s different because Tebow decided to play baseball after not having played the sport in over a decade and after it was made clear his football career was over. As Terry Collins said, “What he’s attempting to do, not a lot of guys would even try.” (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com).
It’s different because some people believe Tebow is taking someone else’s spot.
That last one simply isn’t true. Minor league systems are full of “organizational guys” who are signed so each team can have enough guys to fill out a roster. In terms of this Spring, Tebow wasn’t even the first prospect to get into a game. David Thompson, Blake Tiberi, Luis Carpio, Kevin Kaczmarski, Luis Guillorme, Patrick Biondi, Wuilmer Becerra, Peter Alonso, Arnaldo Berrios, Gene Cone, John Mora, Colby Woodmansee, and Ricardo Cespedes are all Single A players who got into Spring Training games this year before Tebow. Overall, Tebow’s presence has not prevented anyone from getting into a game that the Mets deem worthy of getting into a game. Guess what? There is no way the Mets are going to let Tebow get in the way of another more deserving prospect. The Mets aren’t dumb.
For one day, Tebow went out there, and he didn’t look good. He looked all the bit of the 29 year old player who hasn’t played a full season of baseball in over 10 years. He looked outmatched, and he looked like he lacked the requisite instincts to play the game. That’s a good thing. Baseball is hard. As the late great Jimmy Dugan once said, “The hard… is what makes it great.”
In reality, the only way Tebow could have made a mockery of baseball was if he went out there and went 3-3 with a couple of extra base hits. Instead, the man struggled like he was supposed to struggle. Now, like many who have struggled, it is incumbent upon him to dust him off and get better. Tebow knows this better than anyone saying, “”There are a lot of things I have to play catch-up on. It’s just, how fast can I catch up?”
If Tebow is willing to put in the work, he just might be able to catch up. If he does catch up, he moves away from being a sideshow the Mets are profiting from to being a minor leaguer who is looking for his next call-up.
With the Mets adding Gavin Cecchini to the 40 man roster to sit on the bench as the Mets are chasing down a Wild Card spot, the team had one less decision to make on who should be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason. Even if the Mets didn’t add Cecchini now, he was going to be added in the offseason. Cecchini is too valuable a prospect, and he would be snatched up immediately in the Rule 5 Draft.
Cecchini was not the only player the Mets were going to have to make a decision on this offseason. In fact, the Mets have to make a decision on 66 different prospects about whether or not they should be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Here is a review of some of the more notable Mets prospects that need to be added to the 40 man roster in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft:
SS Amed Rosario (Advanced A & AA) .324/.374/.459, 24 2B, 13 3B, 5 HR, 71 RBI, 19 SB
Yes, if it hasn’t been apparent this entire year, Rosario is in a class all by himself. If he’s not added to the 40 man roster someone is getting fired.
ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
1B/3B Matt Oberste (AA) .283/340/.409, 21 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 54 RBI, 1 SB
One issue that has plagued Oberste his entire minor league career is he has to fight for at bats as he is usually behind a bigger Mets prospect. That has been literally and figuratively Dominic Smith (who is not yet Rule 5 eligible). Oberste was an Eastern League All Star; however, the issue that is always going to hold him back is the fact that he is a corner infielder that does not hit for much power. Most likely, Oberste will not be added to the 40 man roster.
CF Champ Stuart (Advanced A & AA) .240/.314/.349, 12 2B, 7 3B, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 40 SB
Stuart is an elite defensive outfielder that has speed on the bases as evidenced by him stealing 40 bases this season. The issue with Stuart is he is a maddening offensive player. He went from hitting .265/.347/.407 in 71 games for Advanced A St. Lucie to hitting .201/.264/.261 in 43 games for AA Binghamton. While he certainly has the tools to possibly be a big leauger one day, he’s too far away at this point. Also, with teams putting more of a premium on offense than defense, it’s likely he will not be protected, and he will go undrafted.
C Tomas Nido ( Advanced A) .320/.357/.459, 23 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 0 SB
This year was a breakout season defensively and offensively for the Florida State League batting champion. Normally, with Nido never having played a game in AA, the Mets would be able to leave him unprotected and be assured he wouldn’t be drafted. However, with catcher being such a difficult position to fill, it’s possible a bad team like the Braves takes a flyer on him and keeps him as the second or third stringer catcher all year. It’s exactly how the Mets lost Jesus Flores to the Nationals many years ago.
SP Marcos Molina 2015 Stats (Rookie & Advanced A) 9 G, 8 GS, 1-5, 4.26 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.9 K/9
Molina did not pitch for the Mets organization for the entire 2016 season as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Arizona Fall League will be his first time facing batters in a game since his eight starts for St. Lucie in 2015. It’s likely he will go unprotected and undrafted.
ARMS THAT COULD HELP IN 2017
RHP Paul Sewald (AAA) 56 G, 5-3, 19 saves, 3.29 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 11.0 K/o
In many ways, it is surprising that a Mets bullpen that was looking for an extra arm never turned to Sewald. While he struggled to start the season like most pitchers transitioning to the Pacific Coast League do, Sewald figured it out and had a terrific second half with 10 saves, a 1.85 ERA, and a 0.95 WHIP. Sewald should be protected. In the event he isn’t, he should be as good as gone.
RHP Beck Wheeler (AA & AAA) 47 G, 0-3, 6 saves, 5.98 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 12.1 K/9
Wheeler went unprotected and undrafted last year, and based upon the numbers he put up in his time split between Binghamton and Las Vegas, it appears the same thing will happen this year. The one reservation is like with the Braves interest in Akeel Morris, teams will always take fliers on guys with mid 90s fastballs who can generate a lot of strikeouts. It just takes one team to think they can help him reduce his walk rate for him to go in the Rule 5 draft.
RHP Chasen Bradford (5 saves, 4.80 ERA, 1.48 WHIP) – Bradford regressed statistically from last year in large part because he is a sinker/slider pitcher that pitches to contact. On the bright side, he walks very few batters meaning if you have good infield defense, he will be a successful pitcher for your team. His numbers should scare off a number of teams in the Rule 5 draft just like it did last year.
RHP Ricky Knapp (Advanced A & AA) 25 G, 24 GS, 13-6, 2.69 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 6.3 K/9
Knapp started the year in St. Lucie, and he finished it with a spot start in Las Vegas. Knapp doesn’t have any plus pitches, but he gets the most out of all of his pitches because he is excellent at hitting his spots. He is a very polished product that is best suited to being a starting pitcher. Since he doesn’t strike out many batters, teams will most likely pass on him in the Rule 5 draft.
RHP Luis Mateo (AA & AAA) 51 G, 4-4, 1 save, 2.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.0 K/9
He’s a fastball/slider pitcher with a low 90s fastball that generates a fair share of groundball outs while keeping the ball in the ballpark. While his ERA should entice teams, his WHIP and strikeout rate may keep them away just like it did last year when the Mets left him exposed to the Rule 5 draft. He will most likely begin next year in AAA.
2B/3B/SS Phillip Evans (Advanced A & AA) .321/.366/.460, 30 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 1 SB
The Eastern League Batting Champion certainly raised his profile with a much improved offensive season. He’s starting to become more selective at the plate and learn how to be less of a pull hitter. The main issue for Evans is he may not have a position. While he can make all the plays at the infield positions, he lacks range to be a solid middle infielder. He also lacks the arm strength and power numbers you would want at third base.
RHP Chris Flexen (Advanced A, AA, AAA) 25 GS, 10-9, 3.56 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.4 K/9
Flexen appears to be in the mold of a typical Mets pitching prospect in that he has a high 90’s fastball and a good slider. Despite the repertoire, he is not generating a lot of strikeouts right now. On the bright side, he does generate a number of ground balls while limiting home runs. He was rumored to be part of the initial Jay Bruce trade that fell apart due to an unnamed prospect’s physical (does not appear to be him). A second division club like the Reds could take a flyer on him and put him in the bullpen for a year to gain control over him despite him never having pitched at a level higher than Advanced A St. Lucie.
RHP Tyler Bashlor (Full Season & Advanced A) 54 G, 4-3, 2.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11.8 K/9
While the 5’11” Bashlor is short on stature, he has a big arm throwing a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider which he used to dominate in the Sally League. Bashlor used these pitches to strike out 11.8 batters per nine innings. Like Flexen, there is danger exposing a big arm like this even if the highest level of experience he has is four games for Advanced A St. Lucie.
RHP Kevin McGowan (Advanced A & AA) 42 G, 4 GS, 2 saves, 2.35 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.9 K/9
McGowan is a fastball/changeup pitcher that still needs to develop a breaking pitch. While that fastball/changeup combination has been good enough to get batters out at the lower levels of the minor leagues, he is going to need another pitch if he is going to progress as a pitcher.
RF Wuilmer Becerra (Advanced A) .312/.341/.393, 17 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 34 RBI, 7 SB
Around the time of the Rule 5 Draft last year, the debate was whether a bad team like the Braves would take a flyer on Becerra just to get the promising young outfielder into their organization. Unfortunately, Becerra would have a shoulder injury that would rob him of his budding power. More importantly, that shoulder injury would require surgery ending his season after just 65 games.
1B/3B Jhoan Urena (Advanced A) .225/.301/.350, 17 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 0 SB
With the emergence of David Thompson, Urena was pushed from third to first. However, that isn’t what was most troubling about his season. In fact, many questioned whether he could stay at third given his frame. The issue was the switch hitting Urena stopped hitting for power this season. With his not hitting for power, Rosario’s best friend in the minors should go undrafted in the Rule 5 Draft.
LHP Paul Paez (Advanced A & AA) 34 G, 4-1, 3.88 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 8.9 K/9
This year Paez failed to distinguish himself by not pitching particularly well for St. Lucie and then struggling in Binghamton. He only has a high 80’s fastball and lacks a true swing and miss breaking pitch. While lefties hitting .308 off of him this year, he may not even have a future as a LOOGY in a major league bullpen.
NEEDS TIME TO DEVELOP
OF Patrick Biondi (Advanced A) .271/.352/.332, 17 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 34 RBI, 26 SB
While Biondi’s stats look good on the surface, it should be noted at 25 years old, he is old for the level. On the bright side, Biondi has speed and is a good defender in CF. However, until he starts getting on base more frequently, he will not be considered for the 40 man roster.
RHP Nabil Crismatt (Short & Full Season A) 13 G, 7 GS, 1-4, 1 Save, 2.47 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 10.1 K/9
Crismatt is only 21, but he is mature in terms of his ability to control his changeup and curveball and throw them at any point in the count. Couple that with a low 90s fastball that could gain velocity as he ages, and you have someone who has the repertoire to be a major leaguer. However, considering he hasn’t faced stiff competition yet in his career, he is nowhere ready for the majors, at least not yet.
2B/3B/SS Jeff McNeil 2015 Season (Advanced A & AA) .308/.369/.377, 18 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 40 RBI, 16 SB
Coming into the season, McNeil appeared to be more mature physically and at the plate. He seemed ready to begin hitting for more power while still being able to handle 2B defensively. Unfortunately, he would only play in three games this season for Binghamton before going on the disabled list needing season ending sports hernia surgery.
RHP Tim Peterson (Advanced A & AA) 48 G, 4-1, 2 saves, 3.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 12.3 K/9
At each and every level Peterson has pitched, he has shown the ability to strike people out with a fastball that touches on the mid 90s and a plus curveball. The only issue for him in his career so far was his PED suspension in 2014.
OF Travis Taijeron (AAA) .275/.372/.512, 42 2B, 5 3B, 19 HR, 88 RBI, 1 SB
Taijeron continued to do what he does best, which is get on base and hit for power. Despite a strong Spring Training and another solid offensive season, the Mets really showed no interest in calling him up to the majors. He will most likely go unprotected, but maybe this year a team out there desperate for some power in the outfield or on the bench will give him a shot.
2B L.J. Mazzilli (AA & AAA) .239/.320/.348, 18 2B, 6 3B, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 8 SB
Lee Mazzilli‘s son is a grinder out there who plays a decent second base. Unfortunately, it appears his bat will prevent him from ever getting a real shot to ever play in the big league.
Likely: Flexen, Nido
Bubble: Bashlor, Knapp, McGowan, Sewald, Wheeler
As for the remaining players, the Mets may very well gamble exposing them to the Rule 5 Draft and potentially lose them to another team. It is also possible the Mets unexpectedly protect a player like Knapp. In any event, the Mets have a number of important decisions to make that can have far reaching implications.