With the New York Mets sending Dominic Smith down in a series of transactions designed to make room on the Major League roster for both Yoenis Cespedes and Jason Vargas to return from the disabled list, the Mets will have both Smith and Peter Alonso on the same roster.
This could not have happened at a worse time for either player.
When Smith was called up to the majors, he had not exactly earned his way onto the roster hitting just .260/.343/.370 in 56 games. Unfortunately, things did not improve for him when he was called up to the majors. He would play sparingly, and when he did play he didn’t hit. Overall, he has a -1.1 WAR while hitting .183/.216/.324.
With Smith struggling and Alonso dominating in Double-A, it seemed as if Alonso had easily surpassed Smith as the Mets first baseman of the future. With every homer, it seemed like that future was going to happen at some point this season.
Things changed for Alonso when he was called-up to Triple-A. In 27 games, he is hitting .178/.306/.426 with a 30.1 percent strikeout rate. One thing that has been encouraging is Alonso has not regressed in terms of his newfound plate discipline. Despite his struggles, he has maintained a solid 12.4 percent walk rate.
With both players struggling, Tony DeFrancesco not only has to find a way to get both players back on track, but he also has to find a way to find playing time for both players.
Seemingly, the playing time is the easier of the two issues. With Smith getting up to speed in left field, and the Mets having no prospect of note in the outfield, it would at least seem he could play there everyday. Another consideration is Las Vegas will have the DH available to permit the team to shift both prospects between first base and DH.
The dilemma there is Smith is by far the better defensive first baseman of the two. From that standpoint, Smith should be the everyday first baseman with Alonso at DH.
However, this is the minor leagues where organizations put an emphasis on player development over winning. To that end, Alonso needs the reps at first base much more than Smith does.
To that end, it should come as no surprise John Ricco says Alonso will get most of the reps at first with Smith mostly playing the outfield.
This is really where DeFrancesco is going to have to earn his money. Somehow, some way, he has to help both players improve, have them not just retain but improve their value, and he is going to have to make each player feel as if the organization is invested in them. That’s much easier said than done, especially when the organization is having Smith play out of position to accommodate Alonso.
Further complicating everything is Cespedes interest in possibly making a position change to first base in order to help keep his legs healthy to stay in the lineup. Given his being owed $58 million over the next two seasons, Jay Bruce being owed $28 million over the next two seasons, and the emergence of Brandon Nimmo was an All Star caliber player, it’s very possible the Mets give Cespedes every opportunity to become the Mets first baseman next year.
With that being the case, Smith and Alonso are not only in a position where they have to distinguish themselves from one another, they are also going to have to distinguish themselves to the point where the club is willing to give these two talented young players a job at first base over more established and far better paid players.
Believe it or not, even with their recent struggles both Smith and Alonso possess the talent to force the issue with the Mets organization. If we get to the point where Smith and Alonso are forcing the issue, the Mets will be in a very good position.
When it comes to Jeff Wilpon, you keep wondering how one person could be just so despicable. Over the past few years, he fired an unwed pregnant woman leading the team to have to settle a lawsuit.
In 2015, when former co-owner Nelson Doubleday died, the Mets held a moment of silence, but they refused a uniform patch or even a black armband for the man who rescued the Mets in 1980.
As reported by the New York Time this past December, Jeff Wilpon holds a grudge against Ed Kranepool stemming from an incident from about five years ago when Kranepool said rather than buying shares available for sale, he wanted to buy the team from the Wilpons because he could run the team better.
In response to this, with Kranepool suffering through real health issues causing him to sell off some of his personal memorabilia, Kranepool said, “Not that I need them to do anything for me, but Fred or somebody could have called to say, ‘How you feeling?’”
In and of themselves, each of them are despicable acts, but in true Jeff Wilpon fashion, he seemed to raise the bar yesterday.
In what was a surprise press conference, where Sandy Alderson was announcing he was stepping aside so he could continue his battle with cancer, Jeff Wilpon led things off by saying this:
This is a results business and we’re well below our expectations, from ownership on down. Talk to the baseball department, the scouting department, the development department, the coaches, the players. Nobody expected to be in this position.
You have a range of emotion just like our fans that include incredibly frustrated, disappointed, angry about our season at this point, certainly. We’re in a results business and at this point, we’re well below our expectations.
From there, he went into saying how Sandy Alderson was basically stepping aside, and how there was going to be the triumvirate of J.P. Riccardi, Omar Minaya, and John Ricco, who would bring the decisions to Jeff much in the same way they were handled by Alderson.
Put another way, before giving Alderson the floor, Wilpon trashed the job Alderson did this year, essentially said he could do Alderson’s job better, and then he sat there stone faced, disinterested, and playing with the paper in his hands as Alderson, a man fighting for his life, fought through tears to get through everything.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson announces that he will take a leave of absence as he battles cancer. pic.twitter.com/jAXPkRUTzJ
— SportsNet New York (@SNYtv) June 26, 2018
Jeff Wilpon just sat there as Alderson took responsibility for this season and in his saying his performance does not merit him returning to the Mets after he hopefully wins this battle with cancer. Mets fans can all agree Alderson made some mistakes over the years, but you’d be hard pressed to find a single one who believes everything was completely his fault.
To that end, this smelled more like a “dignified” firing with cancer as an excuse that allowing a good man to focus all of his energies fighting cancer and then being given an opportunity resume his duties as the Mets General Manager. Certainly, Jeff Wilpon had plenty of opportunities to say Sandy was welcome to return to the Mets, but he always made sure to steer clear of that.
Perhaps most disgusting of all was there was not one thank you uttered from the lips of Jeff Wilpon. Not one.
This is a man whose hiring probably helped the Wilpons retain control of the team post-Madoff. This was a man who did the rebuild which led to the Mets making it all the way to the 2015 World Series. He is just one of two Mets General Managers to make consecutive postseasons.
Last year, after the season fell apart, he focused on saving the Wilpons money than maximizing the return for each and every single of those the players traded.
Mostly, this was a good man who fought for his country, and who did all he could do for the Mets. In all the years after 1986, Sandy Alderson was quite possibly the closest to winning that third World Series.
When he leaves, he leaves behind players like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and Amed Rosario. He also leaves behind a farm system with Andres Gimenez, Mark Vientos, David Peterson, Justin Dunn, Peter Alonso, and so much more. Long story short, he did an admirable job in difficult circumstances.
At the very least, even as Jeff Wilpon was trashing him and allowing Alderson to take the heat all upon himself, you would think at some point Wilpon would offer a simple, “Thank you.”
Thank you for serving the Mets for the past eight years. Thank you for 2015. Thank you for allowing us to retain control of the team.
That “Thank you” never did come, and we shouldn’t be surprised if it never comes. After all, Jeff Wilpon has shown himself to be a despicable person who can’t help one gravely ill person in Kranpeool, who fires pregnant women and jokes about it, and lastly, allows Alderson to take the heat for all that has gone wrong.
The point cannot be driven home enough. Jeff Wilpon is a petty and despicable man, and what he did to Alderson yesterday was inexcusable.
For about the millionth time, shame on him.
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