With the Mets being unsure about Dominic Smith, and the team not expecting Peter Alonso to break out the way he has this past season, the team took a flyer on Adrian Gonzalez to at least compete for the Opening Day first base job.
Really, this was a flyer on a prideful player who has had a terrific Major League career. While Cooperstown may not being calling him, the former first round draft pick has had a fine career having done great things for the Padres and the Dodgers.
One of the reasons Gonzalez made the Mets Opening Day roster was his professionalism. He came to Spring Training, and he put in the work. Considering that work included his having to stretch and prepare two hours before the game just to get ready, it speaks to his desire to play well, and perhaps, to end his career on his own terms.
On Opening Day, he seemed to shut up many detractors hitting a go-ahead double to give the Mets the lead. From there, Gonzalez would have a number of good moments for the Mets, including his grand slam against the Nationals:
Another one of his biggest moments was his coming off the bench in a tight 1-1 game in Miami. Against the left-handed Chris O’Grady, Gonzalez hit a go-ahead RBI single that not only gave the Mets the lead, but hit also sparked a four run rally. At the time, it increased the Mets record to 10-1.
The one thing you could count on from Gonzalez was a professional at-bat. It may be why he was such an effective pinch hitter on the days he didn’t start. As a pinch hitter, he was 4-6 with two RBI and a walk.
His professional at-bats are probably why he was one of the Mets better hitters in the clutch. In what Baseball Reference characterizes as “High Leverage” situations, Gonzalez hit .368/.444/.553 with four doubles, a homer, and 16 RBI with five walks.
The problem for Gonzalez was not every at-bat was a pinch hitting appearance or in a high leverage situation. Overall, he hit .237/.299/.373 with five doubles, six homers, and 26 RBI. Like the rest of this Mets team, his numbers were dragged down by his recent slide with him hitting .179/.207/.268 over his past 17 games.
With the way the team has been playing of late, the Mets didn’t have the time to see if he could get back to being the .265/.341/.425 hitter he was towards the end of May.
During his tenure with the Mets, Gonzalez was able to get to 1,202 RBI. That made him just one of 22 first baseman in the history of the game to have 400 doubles, 300 homers, and 1,200 RBI.
It’s possible this is the end for him. If it is, it was a great career that saw him hit .287/.358/.485 with 317 homers and 1,202 RBI. He made five All Star teams while winning four Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers.
He had a very good career, and despite the recent struggles, he actually acquitted himself pretty well with the Mets. If nothing else, he did show there was something left in the tank.
Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, but wherever he lands, best of luck to him.
In a scathing article from David Lennon of Newsday set to take Mickey Callaway to task for the Mets recent poor play ultimately concluding that under Callaway’s 57 game tenure as a manager, the Mets are, “A lot of talk, accomplishing nothing.”
Really, it was full of quick barbs and cheap shots like this gem:
So after two more losses, one lousy run scored in the last 24 innings and a pair of Little League-quality blunders in Sunday’s sweep-completing 2-0 loss to the Cubs, we’re wondering what Mickey Callaway has planned next for the Mets.
A how-to seminar on the basics of baseball? A weeklong retreat to restore all of this depleted self-esteem? Maybe a clubhouse visit by Tony Robbins?
This is just emblematic of how Callaway, who is in a no-win situation is now fair game for mocking, ridicule, and blame. What is interesting is these downright insults really overlook what Callaway has accomplished in his brief tenure.
Jacob deGrom has gone to a level we had never seen him pitch. For a Mets organization who looked at Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as enigmas, Callaway has helped turn them into terrific relievers. Speaking of enigmas, the Mets have recently seen Zach Wheeler and Steven Matz turn a corner. It that holds true this rotation will be every bit as formidable as we all hoped it would be.
Offensively, Brandon Nimmo has gone from fourth outfielder to a terrific lead0ff hitter who leads all National League outfielders in OBP and OPS. Amed Rosario has been making continued strides. After beginning his career hitting .245/.275/.371 with a 27.6% strikeout rate, since May 1st, Rosario is an improved .274/.291/.415 with a 16.4% strikeout rate. It may not seem like much, but it’s a stark improvement.
We have also seen the Mets go dumpster diving for players like Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, and Devin Mesoraco. Somehow, these players have been much improved with the Mets than their prior stops, and they have salvaged their MLB careers.
The obvious question from here is if all this is true than why are the Mets 27-30 and in fourth place after such a terrific start?
Much of that answer, i.e. the blame, is attributable to the Mets front office.
Despite time and again facing the same injury issues over and over again, the team AGAIN mishandled a Yoenis Cespedes leg injury, and they are having Jay Bruce and Asdrubal Cabrera play poorly through their own injuries. What’s hysterical about this is Sandy Alderson actually utter the words, “Honestly, sometimes I think we’re a little too cautious with how we approach injuries.”
He’s also made a number of blunders with the in-season managing of this roster.
Consider this. After short start, the Mets designated P.J. Conlon in a series of roster moves to help bring up three fresh arms including Scott Copeland. After Copeland pitched 1.1 scoreless in his only appearance, the Mets called up Jose Lobaton and his -0.6 WAR for the intended purpose of allowing Kevin Plawecki and his .198/.282/.288 split against left-handed pitchers at first base to face Mike Montgomery.
Meanwhile, a Mets organization loses Conlon as the Dodgers claimed him, and a Mets organization who has been wringing their hands to find a second left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, looked on as Buddy Baumann get lit up for four runs on three hits and two walks in the 14th inning of a game the Cubs had not scored a run in over three hours.
The front office’s decision making gets worse and worse the more you look at it.
For some reason, they insist on keeping Jose Reyes on the roster. This, coupled with the aforementioned Gonzalez and Bautista signings, is emblematic of an organization more willing to trust in done veterans reclaiming their past glory than giving a young player like Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Peter Alonso, or even Gavin Cecchini (before his injury) a chance.
This was one of the reasons why the Mets signed Bruce to a three year deal this offseason. No, this was not insurance against Michael Conforto‘s shoulder. Three year $39 million deals are not that. Rather, this signing showed: (1) the Mets wanted a Cespedes-Conforto-Bruce outfield for the next three years; and (2) the team did not have any faith Nimmo could handle playing everyday at the MLB level on even a limited basis.
Now, the Mets what looks to be an injured $39 million albatross in right, who doesn’t even know to call off a back peddling second baseman with a runner on third.
That’s bad defense, which is something the Mets actively welcome with all of their personnel decisions. Really, the team has spent the past few seasons looking to plug non-center fielders in center while playing players out of position all across the infield.
Despite what the Lennon’s of the world will tell us, the poor defense and lack of basic fundamentals isn’t Callaway’s doing. No, it is the result of an organizational philosophy.
The Bruce signing has such short and long term implications. With his salary, will the Mets bench him instead of Nimmo or Gonzalez when Cespedes comes back healthy. Will the organization let his salaries in future years block Alonso or Dominic Smith at first base? Mostly, will his escalating salaries be another excuse why the team rolls the dice and gives a player like Jason Vargas $8 million instead of just going out and signing the player who really fills a need?
Sure, there are plenty of reasons to attack Callaway. His bullpen management has been suspect at times. Lately, he’s been managing more out of fear than attacking the game to try to get the win. Really, this is part of a learning curve for a first time manager in a new league.
It’s a learning curve that could have been helped by a long time veteran National League manager. Instead, Sandy Alderson thought it best to hire a Gary Disarcina to be the bench coach because who better to help a young first time manager in a new league than a player who has spent his entire playing, front office, and minor league managerial career in the American League?
Really, that’s just one of several examples of how Alderson has set up both Callaway and this entire Mets team to fail in 2018.
Admittedly, this is beating a dead horse, a horse deader than Jose Reyes‘ ability to contribute to a Major League team, but if you are going to complain about something, you need to present solutions. After all, what is the good in saying Reyes should be released if you are not prepared to suggest improvements?
As much as I like to joke about it, no, David Wright would not be an improvement over Reyes right now, even if the argument could sadly be made. Jokes aside, there are plenty of better options available to the Mets over what Reyes is giving the team right now and in the future:
MLB Stats: .400/.400/.500, 2B, RBI
MiLB Stats: .300/.394/.433, 7 2B, 3B, HR, 15 RBI, 2 SB, CS
The main thing Guillorme brings to the table is great middle infield defense. Even if his ability to drive the ball will remind you of Luis Castillo, he does have the ability to give you a good at-bat and get on base. At a minimum, since getting called-up, he has show he is not over-matched, and he is ready right now to contribute as a utility player for the Mets right now.
MiLB Stats: .274/.350/.500, 7 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 24 RBI, SB
The immediate reaction whenever Kelly is mentioned is he is a Four-A player because he has a MLB career stat line of .211/.297/.340. Even if you’re right, it bears mentioning this would be a huge upgrade over Reyes’ current stats. More than that, Kelly is a versatile player and switch hitter who can play all four infield positions and can handle both corner outfield spots. And for the knocks against him, he is .255/.351/.340 against left-handed pitching.
MLB Stats: .154/.214/.179, 2B, RBI
MiLB Stats: .257/.333/371, 4 2B, 6 RBI
Nido would mean carrying three catchers and pressing Wilmer Flores to become a backup at short as well. Given Reyes’ -15 DRS at short last year, Flores is not a dropoff defensively. Nido’s presence on the roster would accomplish a few things. First, you can give Noah Syndergaard his own personal catcher, which may not be a bad thing given the challenges catching Syndergaard possesses. Second, having Nido would free up both Devin Mesoraco and Kevin Plawecki for more pinch hitting attempts. Third, Nido would allow the Mets to take it easier on Mesoraco, who has an extensive injury history, and it permits the team to not over rely on Plawecki, who is still not quite established as a major leaguer. However, you would ideally keep Nido in the minors once Plawecki returns to give him the regular at-bats he needs to improve offensively.
MiLB Stats: .294/.342/.468, 11 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, SB, CS
After a lost season last year, Cecchini worked on a number of things in the offseason, and he is back to being the player he was just two years ago. However, this is more on the long-term view as Cecchini has not played since May 9th when he fouled a ball off his foot.
MiLB Stats: .328/.403/.715, 11 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 31 RBI, SB
For all the clamoring over Peter Alonso, many are overlooking his teammate McNeil, who has recently surpassed Alonso in doubles, homers, SLG, and OPS. The 26 year old is healthy after a few injury riddled seasons, and he’s flat out raking. With him mashing right-handed pitching, he would be a good platoon partner for Wilmer Flores in Todd Frazier‘s absence. However, ideally, you’d like to keep him in Double-A longer, and you would want to see him in Triple-A before rushing him to the majors, especially when there are more than sufficient options ahead of him.
In complete fairness, Phillip Evans, who has not gotten a hit in seven at-bats and was not great in Las Vegas was not mentioned. Also not mentioned is T.J. Rivera because no one can be quite sure when he will be ready to return to playing after his Tommy John surgery. Really, the Mets need Rivera to return as soon as he can because he would be the best possible internal addition to the Mets bench.
The Mets started 12-2, and it seemed like they could do no wrong. That was until a complete bullpen eighth inning meltdown against the Nationals. Since that point, the Mets have gone 5-9, and they have fallen to second place in the division. With that as the backdrop, we turned to the Mets Blogger Roundtable to ask if Mickey Callaway‘s Mets team is for real:
We’re already seeing the Mets falling back to earth, and there was never any question that they would lose more than 15 games this year. The positive is that they have a core that’s skilled, and a new manager who will hopefully find ways to adapt and keep the room positive throughout the highs and lows of a season.
What *is* reality anyway? We are all one big consciousness agreeing upon a never ending list of rules and quibbling over interpretations of shared perceptions, right? That’s what I learned in third grade from the bus driver who smelled weird. If the reality of the situation is I am being asked if the Mets are as good as they were when they started 11-1, then no, they are not “for real.” They have been the fourth-luckiest team in all of baseball while the Nationals have been the most unlucky. We aren’t going to cry over Bryce Harper‘s misfortune (the Vegas native should be aware of streaks of bad luck at the very least anecdotally). We will cry over the Mets though. Yet we shouldn’t; they just have to play .500 ball from their 13th to 162nd game to hit lucky number 86 wins. They uh, haven’t played over .500 ball since that time but I guessed they would make the wild card game five weeks ago, so I might as well keep my chips on 86.
Right now I want to jump off of my seat in section 509.
Editor’s Note: this response was sent during the game after we learned about deGrom’s elbow.
Yes, but they have holes to fix and this passive approach to every situation is part of the problem.
Are the Mets for real in the sense that they have a genuine chance to end the season where they ended April, in first place? Based on what we’ve seen…sure, why not? I’d hate to think they’re pulling the cap down over our eyes.
Are the Mets for real in the sense that I’m supremely confident they won’t fall out of the race altogether after a while? That’s what the rest of the schedule is for: to find out.
But overall I feel pretty good about this team. The next 130+ games are always the hardest.
Caveat: All of the above is up for grabs in light of the uncertainty surrounding Jacob deGrom.
I think the Mets’ start is most-definitely indicative of the potential of this team moving forward through the season.
The inevitably-oncoming adage of “Jake and Thor, then pray for it to pour” that was true for most of the first month of the season seems to be slowly fading away.
After the inconsistencies of Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler over their first few starts, as well as the banishing of Matt Harvey to the bullpen and the alarming start to Jason Vargas’ second stint with the Mets, things have started to look up lately.
If Wheeler can be effective (read: keep his pitches low), his stuff alone places him among the upper-crust of middle-of-the-rotation starting pitchers in the NL, and the same goes for Matz.
If Vargas has shown anything over his career, he’s proven to be the model of mediocre-but-efficient consistency, and that’s all the team really needs out of him.
I think this offense is truly one of the more-dangerous groups we’ve seen here since the days of Carlos Beltran/David Wright/Carlos Delgado, and I mean that. The recent upticks in production for Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez are promising.
The Mets’ bullpen has, for the most part, been the strength of this team and will continue to be, in my opinion. AJ Ramos looks to have found his groove and Robert Gsellman is absolutely thriving in his new role. Even Seth Lugo, who may not be adapting as easily as Gsellman has, has had some success and only figures to get more comfortable as time goes on. And, to be honest, Harvey could come to be a key cog in the relief corps once he gets a feel for things.
Are the Mets for real? It’s hard to say, but what’s becoming clear is that this season certainly won’t be easy. We got off to a hot start with Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Bruce all slumping, and you have to think we’ll get more from all of them going forward — but we’ll also presumably see regression from Todd Frazier and Asdrubal Cabrera, and the pitching has gone downhill fast since the first few turns through the rotation. Now deGrom is hurt too…if our starters besides Thor are a failed Harvey, a failed Matz, an inconsistent Wheeler, and an unimpressive Jason Vargas, there’s only so much room to get wins with that kind of rotation. Sure, things could turn out well — anything can happen. But as I said, the only thing that’s clear is that it certainly won’t be easy.
Initially, I had a long piece detailing how much the lineup and the pitching staff could benefit from Kevin Plawecki‘s return. How even with the inability to hit for power right now, Conforto is playing a good outfield and getting on base. How when you look deeper into the farm, you see Gavin Cecchini and Peter Alonso getting off to terrific starts making you wonder “What if . . . .”
None of that matters if deGrom is injured like he was in 2016 or Syndergaard was in 2017.
This is not to say his having a serious injury ends the Mets season. Rather, it means the season needs a miracle. In 2016, the Mets got that out of Lugo and Gsellman. Maybe the Mets get that this year out of some group that includes Harvey, Matz, Corey Oswalt, or Chris Flexen.
Maybe . . . .
Personally, I’d like to thank everyone for being able to respond to this roundtable. It was all the more impressive when you consider how panic striken we were collectively as a fanbase when deGrom left the game last night. We do know when that news finally breaks, there will be some terrific things written about deGrom and the Mets. Some of the best things will be written by the people in this roundtable, and I hope you will visit their sites.
That is except for Becky. She is currently a free agent and needs a home to write about the Mets. Hopefully, someone will soon jump in and find a home for her terrific work.
Due to a family event, I was unable to use the Mets tickets I had originally purchased for the game. Considering it was me who scheduled the family event, it was REALLY poor planning on my part, except for one thing . . . .
With the exception of one of my uncles, an uncle who harbors no ill-will towards the National League team, we are all Mets fans.
We are all split on football and hockey. Generally speaking, we all prefer NCAA basketball to the NBA, with us each having our own colleges we support.
Despite the many differences we have as a family, it is our being Mets fans that bind us. Perhaps more than the blood itself.
So, when you have a group of us together, if there is a television around, any and all family occasions will eventually turn into us sitting there watching and rooting for the Mets. Yesterday was no exception.
We talked about what a great and underrated pickup Todd Frazier was when he delivered an RBI single in the first.
This led to a discussion as to what exactly the Mets should be doing about the cdatching situation. Some wanted J.T. Realmuto. Others, myself included, wanted the Mets to go with the catcher who would get the most out of this pitching staff. Regardless, we all debated what the Marlins would want for Realmuto presuming the discussions would start with Justin Dunn and Peter Alonso.
We marveled at just how dominant Noah Syndergaard was with him finally returning to form early this season with his striking out 11. We also groaned in that sixth inning when the Brewers plated two unearned runs on an Amed Rosario throwing error.
My family had smiles bigger than the one on Brandon Nimmo‘s face when he hit a game tying homer in the bottom of that inning. All right, almost as big a smile.
We got nervous and held on for dear life as AJ Ramos had one of those heart in your throat innings, and he was not helped by Jose Lobaton. To a man, we agreed wild pitch or not, your catcher has to get that. Regardless, Ramos got out of the inning with some help from Jerry Blevins.
Surprisingly, no one seemed that nervous about Hansel Robles anymore. Sure, he may not have been everyone’s first choice, but there was a calm believing he could get the job done. For Robles, that must’ve been a different feeling from past years.
And in my family, we are smart baseball fans, so there was no waiting for Jeurys Familia to lose the game in the ninth. We’re better than that, and with his stretch, I hope all Mets fans are getting to that point as well.
Finally, like Citi Field and wherever you were, we cheered and celebrated when Wilmer Flores hit the walk off homer.
Did I get to go to the Mets game yesterday? No, I didn’t. However, one of the reasons we go to games is to sit in the stands and have a shared experience. Considering I watched yesterday with my family, and it was bitterly cold yesterday, I think watching it from an Italian restaurant a state away was probably a much better experience.
The next experience will hopefully be the group of us at Citi Field as we look to recreate one of our old traditions. Hope to see you all there.
Game Notes: Wilmer’s second career walk-off happened against the very same Brewers team he was supposed to be traded to back in 2015.
When Mickey Callawaybecame the new manager of the Mets, every player got a bit of a clean slate. Sure, the front office as well as holdovers like Ricky Bones and Glenn Sherlock could probably Callaway with pertinent information, but at the end of the day, Callaway was going to meet each player, see their work and preparation, and then he could make his own determination about a player.
This was really important for a young player like Dominic Smith.
There is no doubt Smith is talented, but he has shown some maturity issues. Despite the team stressing his physique to him, he put on 20 pounds or so during the season. That was after he had reported to Spring Training last year in terrific shape.
When he did get the call-up last year, as reported by Abbey Mastracco of nj.com, he had been late to the park on more than one occasion. This led to veteran players “reprimanding” him for his behavior.
This was all part of a difficult first experience in the Majors which saw Smith hit .198/.262/.395 in 49 games. In total, he had a -1.2 WAR.
If there was anyone who needed a fresh start, it was Smith. Initially, he made the most of it by losing more than 30 pounds before the start of Spring Training. He reported to Spring Training early. He was doing all the right things.
He was having the type of Spring where he earned a chance to show the Mets he deserved at least a long look this Spring. He was starting to give the Mets to at least consider having him be the Opening Day first basemen. Whether as a reward for his dedication or not, he was going to get a chance right away with his being named as the first baseman in the Mets first Spring Training game.
Smith would be late to the ballpark before the first game.
THE FIRST GAME!
Fair or not, this was a player who had to prove to the Mets he was dedicated and mature enough to be a Major Leaguer, and the first chance he gets, he fails to show up on time.
He left Callaway no choice but to bench him. That left Smith watching on as five time All Star and a former teammate of CallawayAdrian Gonzalezget a couple of at-bats as the DH. He also looked on as Peter Alonso take his place in the lineup.
Smith watched the player taking his spot on the Opening Day roster, and he watched the prospect who has begun breathing down his neck as the Mets first baseman of the future.
Smith knew he had an uphill climb to surpass Gonzalez. He had to know Alonso has been making a name for himself. It shouldn’t be lost on Smith that while the organization has concerns about his power, Alonso has it in spades.
Despite knowing all of this, Smith failed to show up on time to the first game of Spring Training. With that, he’s shown he’s not yet mature enough to be entrusted with the first base job. Not yet.
And that right there is why he’s already lost the first base competition.
Looking at the different talent evaporators around the sport, many will peg the Mets farm system in the lower third of farm systems. There are a myriad of conflicting and reasonable opinions why this exists.
There is the fact that over the past few seasons, the Mets organization has seen top prospects like Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and Amed Rosario graduate from prospect status. Knocking names like these off your lists is going to take a toll on how your farm system is perceived.
There are those like Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, who surmises the Mets have made a series of mistakes in the draft that include drafting Gavin Cecchini over Corey Seager and drafting L.J. Mazzilli over Cody Bellinger.
While either or both of these may be true, there may be an alternate explanation. What if, the Mets are actually drafting the right players, but they are failing their prospects by failing to do what is needed to help cultivate each prospect’s talents to get them to reach their full potential?
Consider for a moment, the difference between Keith Law’s 2017 and 2018 prospect lists. In Law’s 2017 rankings, he had listed Mets prospects Rosario (1), Dominic Smith (29), Thomas Szapucki (60), Robert Gsellman (76), and Justin Dunn(84) in his Top 100. (ESPN Insider). This year? Well, only 2017 first round pick David Peterson made the list. (ESPN Insider).
Now, it is true Rosario, Smith, and Gsellman are no longer considered prospects. It is also true Szapucki and Dunn have dropped off the list. Their dropping off the list does seem to answer the question why the Mets prospects are not developing with way many believed they would.
With respect to Dunn, Law comes close to, but does not quite say the Mets handling of him was a complete disaster. In a conference call discussing his Top 100 prospect list, Law had this to say about Dunn:
They probably pushed him too far to high A just speaking in hindsight, but also there were a lot of issues with his fields of pitch, with his fastball command, with lack of life on the fastball that you almost look — and again, this is all hindsight, but you look and say, nobody caught that? Nobody on the player development side looked and said, well, hey, wait a minute, here are two things we’re going to have to work on in instructional league last year in spring training this year, before sending you out to high A, which is normal for a typical college draftee, but maybe not for him.
Really, it is quite an indictment on the Mets organization to say they completely missed something on a top prospect during the Instructional Leagues, and the team also failed to address the issue during a season in which Dunn would go 5-6 with a 5.00 ERA.
As we saw with Law’s rankings, seasons like this tend to cause evaluators and organizations to begin re-assessing their opinions of certain players. This is not something unique to Dunn.
Certainly, we saw something similar happen with former first round draft pick Kevin Plawecki. Entering the 2015 season, the Mets were excited about him, and when Travis d’Arnaud got hurt in April, they rushed Plawecki to the majors. Over the next few seasons, he would bounce between Triple-A and the majors. In that time, he would never quite progress. That was until last year, when he finally had a prolonged stretch in Triple-A. Judging from his performance last year, that helped him figure things out and help him enter the Mets plans for the 2018 season.
Certainly, the mismanagement of the development of prospects goes further than Dunn and Plawecki. The same could be said for someone like Cecchini, who after two very good years in 2015 and 2016, completely regressed last season, and his status on the 40 man roster is now teetering.
While the Mets handling of prospects like Dunn and Plawecki are instructive. The situation with Szapucki is equally as enlightening.
After dominating opposing batters in his first two professional seasons, Szapucki first appeared to take small step back with Low-A Columbia. Eventually, it was discovered Szapucki had a torn UCL requiring season ending Tommy John surgery.
With that Szapucki joined other promising Mets prospects Jordan Humphreys, who was having a break-out season on the mound, and position player Blake Tiberi in needing the surgery. If only, those were the only season ending surgeries and injuries the Mets suffered in their minor league system last year. Frankly, it has become a pattern, and it’s hindering development, and it is one that has not escaped Law’s attention:
They have had a ton of injuries on the farm, too. I’ve written the Mets’ org report already. I think it goes up on Monday. And I’m struck by how many guys were hurt, are coming back from getting hurt, guys who haven’t come all the way back. Luis Carpiois a good example of a guy who I thought was going to be a pretty good prospect at least, threw out his shoulder, had surgery, and has just not been the same player since he returned. So some of this is health, and I don’t know if that’s player development, the training staff, or just rotten luck.
Really, it goes much further than Szapucki, Humphreys, Tiberi, and Carpio.
Catcher Ali Sanchez has had hand injuries in successive seasons. Desmond Lindsay has had issues staying on the field, and he needed major surgery last year. Jhoan Urena effectively lost two seasons of development time to injuries. Even rising star Peter Alonso has suffered broken bone injuries the last two seasons, which given the Mets current track record, should give everyone pause. It should surprise no one the list goes on and on from there.
Looking at everything, maybe you still conclude the main issue is the graduation of prospects. It’s still possible many believe the real issue is the inability to select the right player. Regardless of your point of view, the one thing that cannot be discounted is this Mets organization is having difficulty keeping players healthy, keeping them on the field, and surrounding them with the things they need to succeed.
Now, one thing I have been upfront about is that I am partial to Lucas Duda. For me, seeing Duda go from the Mets organization was more than just seeing a good player leave, it does close a small chapter of my life. Unlike most writers, I want to be upfront about my biases because everyone writes with some bias. If you understand that, you’re better able to assess the evaluation.
Now before addressing this specific trade, Duda was arguably worth a second round pick or the equivalent due to the changes in the qualifying offer system. Ultimately, when assessing the Mets trade of Duda for Drew Smith, the question is whether the Mets accomplished that in this deal.
The answer? Maybe.
On the one hand, only earlier this year his trade value was just a fourth outfielder in Mikie Mahtook. However, judging his value on that alone is silly. It’s very possible the Tigers made a bad trade. It’s also possible Smith got better as the year progressed. With Smith, it seems both might be true.
Based on various scouting reports, Smith is a reliever who throws it in the high 90s and he can reach 99 MPH. He combines that with a good but inconsistent curveball. Both pitches have been dominant for him this year with him going 1-2 with a 1.60 ERA, 0.911 WHIP, and an 8.0 K/9 across three levels of the minors and in two different organizations. Smith certainly gets the most out of these pitches because he locates both of these pitches well.
Looking at the stats and his stuff, there is a lot to like. He has been getting good results. One thing that stands out with him is he has allowed just five extra base hits in 45.0 innings pitched. Four of those extra base hits were doubles, and the lone home run he has allowed was to now fellow Mets prospect Peter Alonso. Remarkably, that homer is the only one he has allowed in his career.
On the downside is there’s not a lot of strikeouts. For someone with his stuff, you’d expect a lot more. More troubling is the fact he has yet to strike anyone above Single-A. It should be noted he’s pitched 4.2 innings above Single-A. One of the reasons why his strikeouts are low could be his fastball is a straight fastball.
Ultimately, Smith is an interesting relief prospect, but in some ways, he’s also a project. Given Duda’s production, the Mets probably should have done better than this. Arguably, they should have also received another lower level prospect in return to mitigate some of the boom/bust potential in Smith.
However, this analysis does ignore the down market for sluggers like Duda, and the fact Sandy Alderson probably waited too long to trade him. It also ignores this is a pitcher with high upside. If he hits his ceiling, and he’s in an organization where he very well could, you’re probably calling this trade a win for the Mets.
Another factor is this trade does make room for Dominic Smith to play sooner rather than later. This will allow Smith to get his feet wet this year and make the necessary adjustments heading into the 2018 season to help him be a much better player.
Overall, the Mets likely sold low on Duda. In the end, we’re probably not going to care much if Smith becomes the 10 time All Star Duda said he wants him to become. We’ll care even less if Smith becomes a dominant late inning reliever. As of today, anything is possible
With the 2017 MLB Draft having begun and the Mets selecting David Peterson and Mark Vientos in the first two rounds, now is a good time to review the selections the Mets made last year and check-in to see how these players are progressing. The one thing that really stands out with all of these players is the inordinate amount of injury issues the Mets have had with these players over the past two seasons. Still, despite this, there are a number of players who have shown real talent and provide hope for the future for the Mets organization.
BIG STEPS FORWARD
2B Michael Paez, 4th round (130th overall)
MMN Rank 50
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 46 G, 201 PA, 179 AB, 18 R, 34 H, 11 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 8 SB, 6 CS, .190/.270/.285
2017 Stats (Columbia) 58 G, 236 PA, 199 AB, 30 R, 58 H, 20 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 7 SB, 4 CS, .291/.386/.503
Paez has shown the type of power that led the Mets to draft him. So far this season, he leads the Sally League in doubles, and he is top five in total bases. So far this year, he is easily having the best season out of all the 2016 draft picks.
RHP Austin McGeorge, 7th Round (220th overall)
MMN RANK 59
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 0-1, 2.84 ERA, 16 G, SV, 19.0 IP, 1.474 WHIP, 8.5 K/9
2017 Stats (Columbia & St. Lucie) 0-1, 1.84 ERA, 16 G, SV, 29.1 IP, 1.023 WHIP, 11.66 K/9
A hot start for McGeorge this year led to a quick promotion to St. Lucie where he has continued his dominance out of the bullpen. Whereas last year, left-handed batters hit well against him, he has become a platoon neutral pitcher. More than that, McGeorge is learning how to put batters away with a huge increase in his strikeout rate.
RHP Max Kuhns, 21st Round (640th overall) –
2016 Stats (Kingsport) 0-0, 6.28 ERA, 13 G, SV, 14.1 IP, 1.395 WHIP, 9.4 K/9
2017 Stats (Columbia) 1-0, 2.10 ERA, 17 G, 5 SV, 25.2 IP, 0.896 WHIP, 13.0 K/9
There is perhaps no Mets prospect that has shown more improvement than what Kuhns has shown this year. He has learned how to control his pitches, and more importantly, he has learned how to attack hitters. He has started to become the team’s primary option at closer, and he has been named a Sally League All Star.
LHP Anthony Kay, 1st Round (31st overall)
After he was drafted last year, it was discovered he needed Tommy John surgery. It is not likely we will see him pitching in the minor leagues until next season.
1B Peter Alonso, 2nd Round (64th overall)
MMN RANK 12
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 30 G, 123 PA, 109 AB, 20 R, 35 H, 12 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 21 RBI, CS, .321/.382/.587
2017 Stats (St. Lucie) 18 G, 71 PA, 68 AB, 3 R, 10 H, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, CS, .147/.183/.265
Similar to Dunn, the Mets rewarded Alonso for an outstanding season in Brooklyn by having him skip Colombia and having him start the year with St. Lucie. Also like Dunn, Alonso has struggled this year. We have not seen the same power from him that we saw last year. It should be cautioned that may be the result of his having suffered a broken hand earlier in the season.
3B Blake Tiberi, 3rd Round (100th overall)
MMN RANK 47
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 56 G, 225 PA, 196 AB, 21 R, 46 H, 6 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 2 SB, 6 CS, .235/.316/.316
2017 Stats (Columbia) 5 G, 22 PA, 18 AB, 3 R, 3 H, 2B, 2 RBI, SB, .167/.318/.222
It is hard to glean anything from Tiberi as he had suffered a torn UCL requiring him to have season ending Tommy John surgery this May.
SS Colby Woodmansee, 5th Round (160th overall)
MMN RANK 40
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 64 G, 276 PA, 249 AB, 30 R, 64 H, 11 2B, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 4 SB, 3 CS, .257/.305/.325
2017 Stats (St. Lucie) 2 G, 8 PA, 7 AB, .000/.125/.000
Woodmansee was the standout shortstop in the New York Penn League last year. Although he cooled off after a hot start, he still showed enough to skip Columbia and begin the year in St. Lucie. Unfortunately, after his first two games, Woodmansee needed surgery to repair a core muscle tear, and he has been reassigned to Brooklyn.
RHP Colin Holderman, 9th Round (280th overall)
MMN RANK 68
2016 Stats (Kingsport) 1-0, 3.86 ERA, 13 G, 3 SV, 18.2 IP, 1.500 WHIP, 6.3 K/9
2017 Stats (Columbia) 1-2, 4.60 ERA, 4 G, 4 GS, 15.2 IP, 0.830 WHIP, 9.8 K/9
After a promising start to begin the season, Holderman struggled, and eventually found himself on the seven day disabled list. The undisclosed injury has kept Holderman out since April 29th, and it is still unknown when he can return.
OF Jacob Zanon, 15th Round (460th overall)
MMN RANK 93
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 44 G, 184 PA, 157 AB, 19 R, 31 H, 6 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 20 SB, 2 CS, .197/.284/.287
2017 Stats (Columbia) 4 G, 13 PA, 8 AB, 3 R, 4 H, 3B, RBI, 4 SB .500/.692/.750
Zanon got off to a hot start showing the ability to not only get on base, but to utilize his terrific speed. Unfortunately, for the second straight season, he has not played a game since leaving an April 10th game after being hit in the helmet. While it is not known if it was related to the beaning or last year’s torn labrum, Zanon is on the seven day disabled list, and it is unknown when he can return this season.
RHP Justin Dunn, 1st Round (19th overall)
MMN RANK 6
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 1-1, 1.50 ERA, 11 G, 8 GS, 30.0 IP, 1.167 WHIP, 10.5 K/9
2017 Stats (St. Lucie) 4-3, 4.81 ERA, 11 G, 8 GS, 48.2 IP, 1.521 WHIP, 6.5 K/9
After a promising half season with Brooklyn, Dunn skipped Colombia and started the season with St. Lucie. Dunn struggled, and he was temporarily moved to the bullpen to help him figure things out. In his first start back in the rotation, he pitched five scoreless innings with no walks and seven strikeouts, which seems to indicate he’s back on track.
OF Gene Cone, 10th Round (310th overall)
MMN RANK 90
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 60 G, 261 PA, 229 AB, 35 R, 52 H, 6 2B, 3B, HR, 17 RBI, 9 SB, 4 CS, .227/.312/.275
2017 Stats (Columbia) 57 G, 249 PA, 209 AB, 32 R, 52 H, 8 2B, 2 3B, 22 RBI, 6 SB, 2 CS, .249/.361/.306
Cone has a refined approach at the plate, and he has the ability to get on base. However, at this point in his career, he is not hitting for much power. In order to progress further, he is going to have to start driving the ball more.
C Dan Rizzie, 13th Round (400th overall)
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 33 G, 126 PA, 105 AB, 10 R, 17 H, 3 2B, 3B, 8 RBI, 3 SB, 2 CS, .162/.286/.210
2017 Stats (St. Lucie) 19 G, 67 PA, 56 AB, 2 R, 9 H, 2B, RBI, .161/.284/.179
Rizzie has certainly lived up to his billing as a defensive minded catcher who struggles offensively. While he is sound behind the plate, his 28% caught stealing percent this year is disappointing for someone who’s calling card is defense.
LF Jay Jabs, 17th Round (520th overall) –
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 52 G, 200 PA, 175 AB, 13 R, 31 H, 6 2B, 3B, 12 RBI, 2 SB, 3 CS, .177/.275/.223
2017 Stats (Columbia) 30 G, 108 PA, 94 AB, 11 R, 18 H, 7 2B, HR, 14 RBI, .191/.296/.298
After struggling in the infield last year, he was transitioned to the outfield. It’s been difficult to find him playing time with a lot of players in Columbia who command playing time, Tim Tebow included, and the fact that he has not maximized his limited opportunities.
RHP Adam Atkins, 18th Round (550th overall) –
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 0-2, 3.71 ERA, 19 G, 17.0 IP, .471 WHIP, 11.6 K/9
2017 Stats (Columbia & St. Lucie) 1-0, 5.54 ERA, 10 G, 13.0 IP, 2.000 WHIP, 9.7 K/9
After struggling with St. Lucie to start the year, he was demoted to Columbia where he has pitched much better. While it was surprising Atkins had reverse splits last year with his 3/4 delivery, that has normalized this year with left-handed batters teeing off on him this year. Still, there is promise for him with him holding right-handed batters to a .188 batting average against in Columbia.
RHP Gary Cornish, 19th Round (580th overall)
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 0-0, 2.16 ERA, 14 G, 3 SV, 25.0 IP, 1.080 WHIP, 15.8 K/9
2017 Stats (Columbia) 1-1, 2.19 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12.1 IP, 0.982 WHIP, 7.3 K/9
After an outstanding season for Brooklyn last year, the Mets decided Cornish should be transitioned to the rotation. His start to the season was delayed as Cornish was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for amphetamine use. His is off to a strong start to the 2017.
2B Nick Sergakis, 23rd Round (700th overall)
2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 38 G, 167 PA, 143 AB, 21 R, 36 H, 10 2B, 2 Hr, 15 RBI, 11 SB, .252/.353/.364
2017 Stats (St. Lucie) 29 G, 107 PA, 90 AB, 15 R, 21 H, 8 2B, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 4 SB, .233/.330/.456
Sergakis got off to a hot start to his professional career, but he soon fell off, and he became a part-time player. While he has made the most of his opportunities this year, he has not yet done enough to crack the starting lineup on a consistent basis.
YET TO PLAY THIS YEAR
RHP Chris Viall, 6th Round (190th overall)
MMN RANK 81
2016 Stats (Kingsport) 0-2, 6.75 ERA, 9 G, 6 GS, 20.0 IP, 1.750 WHIP, 12.2 K/9
The one thing that really stands out for Viall is his ability to strike out batters. A large part of that is his ability to get his fastball up to 101 MPH. In college, he split time between the rotation and the bullpen. For now, the Mets are keeping Viall in the rotation. My interview with him can be found here.
LHP Placido Torres, 8th Round (250th overall)
2016 Stats (Kingsport) 2-2, 3.38 ERA, 13 G, 18.2 IP, 1.500 WHIP, 12.5 K/9
After a partial season pitching out of the bullpen, Torres will be used as a starting pitcher this year.
RHP Cameron Planck, 11th Round (340th overall)
MMN RANK 34
The Mets were prudent with this high school arm that they were surprisingly able to sign last year. He will likely being the season with one of the partial season affiliates come the end of the month.
RHP Matt Cleveland, 12th Round (370th overall)
MMN RANK 51
2016 Stats (Gulf Coast) 0-1, 12.27 ERA, 7 G, 7.1 IP, 2.455 WHIP, 2.5 K/9
The only thing we have learned about Cleveland is the pre-draft reports of him struggling with consistency and control proved to be true in his seven innings for Gulf Coast.
RHP Christian James, 14th Round (430th overall)
MMN RANK 86
2016 Stats (Gulf Coast) 0-1, 0.52 ERA, 14 G, 3 SV, 17.1 IP, 0.923 WHIP, 7.8 K/9
Labelled as a power pitcher, James certainly lived up to the billing with a dominant year with the Gulf Coast Mets.
RHP Trent Johnson, 16th Round (490th overall)
MMN RANK 98
2016 Stats (Kingsport) 0-3, 6.61 ERA, 14 G, 16.1 IP, 1.531 WHIP, 7.7 K/9
While Johnson’s stats looked ugly, it should be noted it was mostly the result of a terrible July. Those six appearances aside, he had a 2.70 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. Essentially, he had a strong start and a strong finish which give you reason to believe the developing pitcher could still put it all together.
CF Ian Strom, 22nd Round (670th overall) –
2016 Stats (Kingsport) 37 G, 166 PA, 145 AB, 19 R, 33 H, 9 2B, 2 3B, 10 RBI, 9 SB, 4 CS, .228/.319/.317
Strom’s game is speed, and he best utilized it last year in the outfield where he was named Kingsport’s Gold Glover.
RHP Dariel Rivera, 24th Round (730th overall) –
2016 Stats (Gulf Coast) 0-0, 2.79 ERA, 8 G, SV, 9.2 IP, 1.241 WHIP, 2.8 K/9
The 18 year old out of Puerto Rico is a project in terms of developing more consistency in every aspect of his game. Once he develops more consistency, we may be better able to gauge exactly what he could be for the Mets.
RHP Eric Villanueva, 30th Round (910th overall) –
2016 Stats (Gulf Coast) 0-1, 6.97 ERA, 10 G, 10.1 IP, 2.323 WHIP, 4.4 K/9
Like Rivera, he is a project that needs to develop physically. The hope is that once he does begin to mature, his fastball velocity will increase from the low 80s towards the upper 80s or somewhere in the 90s.
LF Jeremy Wolf, 31st Round (940th overall)
MMN RANK 70
2016 Stats (Kingsport) 50 G, 206 PA, 183 AB, 31 R, 53 H, 12 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 33 RBI, CS, .290/.359/.448
Despite coming out of a Division III school, Wolf was seen as a polished hitter. He certainly proved that last year for Kingsport. Somewhat surprisingly, Wolf was not assigned to a full season affiliate. This may have been a result of him being blocked by Alonso and the Mets wanting to get another look at Dash Winningham at Columbia.
RHP Garrison Bryant, 36th Round (1,090 overall) –
2016 Stats (Gulf Coast) 0-0, 9.72 ERA, 7 G, 8.1 IP, 2.040 WHIP, 5.4 K/9
Bryant is a raw pitcher with some talent who for the first time this year will be solely focusing upon baseball. There is a possibility he could both harness and refine his pitches leading to him taking a big step forward this season.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on Mets Minors
With the full season minor leagues having their Opening Day on Thursday, the Mets have announced the rosters for each of their minor league affiliates. Each team includes an interesting group of prospects. Each team also features a particular strength of each aspect of the Mets farm system. Keeping in mind each particular group is viewed not just in terms of how good the players are now, but also how they project going forward, here are the best of the best:
Best Starting Pitching – St. Lucie Mets
The St. Lucie rotation features a number of pitchers who may very well make their way to a major league mound. The former second round draft pick Church fixed both his hip and his mechanics, and he had a breakout season last year. Dunn is already a top 10 Mets prospect a year after he was drafted. Molina is back from Tommy John surgery, and he has looked good in both the Arizona Fall Leauge and Spring Training. Crismatt more than held his own against the vaunted Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic. This is as exciting a rotation as there is in the minor leauges, and possibly, you will see some version of this rotation with the Mets one day.
Honorable Mention: Columbia Fireflies. A rotation with Jordan Humphreys, Merandy Gonzalez, and Harol Gonzalez is a very interesting minor league rotation. It would have been more interesting with Thomas Szapucki, but he is slated to miss time due to a shoulder impingement.
Best Bullpen – Las Vegas 51s
The 51s bullpen features Sewald and Roseboom who were both extremely effective closers last season. Certainly, both impressed the Mets enough to get long looks during Spring Training. Prior to having bone spurs removed, Goeddle was an effective major league reliever. Rowen gives you a different look with his sidewinding action on the mound. Arguably, this could be a major league bullpen that could hold its own.
Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The Rumble Ponies bullpen has Corey Taylor, who has been favorable compared to Jeurys Familia, as its closer. There are some other interesting names like Ben Griset, who is a very promising LOOGY, and Luis Mateo, who was once a very well thought out prospect before he faced some injury issues.
Best Catching Tandem – Las Vegas 51s
If nothing else, Plawecki has established he can handle a major league starting staff. More to the point, Plawecki has shown himself to be a very good pitch framer. While his bat has lagged in the majors, at 26, he still has time to improve. Behind him is Carrillo, who is a good defensive catcher that won the Gold Glove in the Mexican Winter Leagues this past offseason.
Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Tomas Nido seemingly put it all together in St. Lucie last year, and he appears poised to take the mantle as the Mets catcher of the future. Binghamton very easily could have been named the top catching tandem off that, but some deference was paid to Plawecki showing he can handle the position defensively at the major league level.
Best Infield – Las Vegas 51s
When the weak point of your infield is a player who is coming off a season where he won the Eastern League batting title, you know you have something special. Rosario and Smith are considered two of the best prospects not only at their positions, but in the entire game. Cecchini played well enough last year to be put on the 40 man roster a year ahead of schedule and earn a September call-up where he hit two doubles in six major league at-bats.
Honorable Mention: St. Lucie Mets. The team features a pair of 2016 draft picks in 1B Peter Alonso and SS Colby Woodmansee who showed real ability during their time in Brooklyn. Due to that success, they both skipped Columbia and joined an interesting second base prospect in Vinny Siena and a promising hitter at third base in Jhoan Urena.
Best Outfield – Columbia Fireflies
No, this isn’t because of Tebow. This is mostly about Lindsay, who has been labeled as an “offensive machine” by the Mets organization. He is a five tool prospect that with a little health will arrive at Citi Field sooner rather than later. Another interesting five tool prospect is former Division II player Zanon. He certainly has all the tools to succeed. It is a question whether those tools can translate against better competition. Cone is a player who has a good baseball IQ, but he still needs to translate that and his talent to on the field success
Honorable Mention: Las Vegas 51s. The outfield got demonstratively better with the recent signing of Desmond Jennings. It will get better with either Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto playing for them again. That depends on Nimmo’s health as well as the health of the major league outfield. It will also be interesting to see how Matt Reynolds handles taking on what was Ty Kelly‘s role last year in being a utility player that mostly plays left field.
Overall, the Mets have a number of good to very good prospects who are either close or project to be major leaguers. Some of those players like Rosario will be stars. Others should have long major league careers. While we are getting excited for another year of Mets baseball, we also have a lot to be excited about for years to come with these prospects.