Rene Rivera

No He’s Not Going to be the Mets First Baseman 

After Terry Collins stated he doesn’t believe the prognosis of Lucas Duda‘s back is good, it has caused many to speculate on how the Mets will proceed in fulfilling the first base vacancy. Many of those thoughts are creative as the Mets may need to get creative to fill the void. Unfortunately, most of the suggestions will not work. Here’s why:

Move Michael Conforto to 1B

The thinking here is Michael Conforto was deemed to have all the tools to be a great 1B by his biggest fan – Keith Hernandez. This move would allow Juan Lagares and Alejandro De Aza to platoon in CF while moving Yoenis Cespedes to LF. 

Admittedly, this sounds great. It’ll improve both the offense and the defense. However, the problem is the Mets never even sought to have Conforto to play RF. Why should we now believe they’re willing to move him to the infield mid-season. They’re not. 

Move Alejandro De Aza to 1B

This one makes sense as De Aza is languishing away on the bench. He went from a platoon player to a fifth outfielder with the Cespedes signing. However, he hasn’t played there in over a decade, and he has just recently started working with Tim Teufel to get acclimated to first. He needs more than a week to get ready. 

Slide David Wright to 1B

The idea here is David Wright is better suited to first now with his back and throwing issues. In actuality next to catcher, first is the last position Wright should play. The amount of twisting and stretching involved is harder on the lower back and would only exacerbate his stenosis. Furthermore, even if he could play first base, all you’ve accomplished is reshuffling the deck chairs as you’ve now moved the hole to third instead of first. 

Slide Neil Walker to 1B

In this scenario, the Mets move Neil Walker to first and call up Dilson Herrera to play second. The argument is this is exactly what the Mets would do if they had Daniel Murphy

The problem with that thinking is Walker isn’t Murphy. Walker has never played first base in the majors. He last played first in AAA in 2009 and that was only for seven games. It’s not fair to expect him to be able to slide over with no preparation. It’s also not fair to add more things to his plate while he’s in the midst of a bad slump. 

Move Asdrubal Cabrera to 1B

The thought is Asdrubal Cabrera was once a utility player who is capable of playing multiple positions. In addition, the Mets have Matt Reynolds on the roster who is a SS. There are two problems here. First, Cabrera is one of the few Mets producing day in and day out. You don’t want to mess with that especially when he’s never played first. Second, Reynolds was in the middle of a slump in AAA, and he hasn’t shown any signs he’s getting out of it in his limited major league duty. 

Move Kevin Plawecki to 1B

This is a holdover from Spring Training when the Mets were looking for ways to keep both of their young catchers in the lineup while letting Duda sit against lefties. Doing this now would also open up more playing time for Rene Rivera, who has shown himself to be a terrific catcher. 

The problem is this really damages your offense. Kevin Plawecki has hit .203/.300/.291 this year. Rivera is a career .209/.258/.329 hitter. It’s one thing to have either one of them in the lineup. It’s a whole other thing to have both of them in the lineup. 

Call Up Dom Smith

The thinking here is if the Mets don’t have the answer at the major league level, they should go into the minor leagues to solve their problems. Who better than one of, if not the, best Mets prospect. The problem is he’s just not ready. He’s only played 41 games in AA. While the obvious counter-argument is Conforto, it must be noted, Conforto was much further along in his development offensively. 

Call Up Brandon Nimmo

The thought process here is Brandon Nimmo is absolutely raking in AAA right now. He’s on an eight game hitting streak that’s seen him hit .364/.462/.636 with three doubles, three triples, and six RBI. While he has played CF almost exclusively, he should be athletic enough to play first. While these are valid points, it should be noted he’s never played first, and like with Conforto, the Mets do not appear inclined to let either one play first. 

Trade for Yangervis Solarte

Yangervis Solarte makes a lot of sense for the Mets. He can not only play first, but he can also play third. In his career, he’s also played at second, short, and left. In essence, he’s a much better version of Eric Campbell. In his first full major league season last year, he hit .270/.320/.428. He’s hitting .250/.379/.375 this year. This is all the more impressive when you consider he plays most of his games at Petco. 

Here’s the rub. The Padres have no incentive to trade him. He’s not arbitration eligible until 2017, and he can’t become a free agent until 2020. If the Mets were inclined to even trade for Solarte, it’s going to come at a high cost, and the Mets most desirable trade assets were traded away last year. No, if the Mets do make a move your looking at the In the interim, the Mets can inquire about the Kelly Johnsons and Ike Davises of the world. 

Overall, that’s the issue. The Mets don’t have what it takes right now to address the first base position internally or externally. Although, the idea of having Travis d’Arnaud work at first during his rehab assignment is intriguing given his shoulder problems and injury history (hat tip Brian Mangan). However, short of that happening, it’s more of the same for the Mets. 

This means Campbell is your everyday first baseman until Flores comes off the DL. At that point, the Mets will probably go with Flores until Duda is healthy. Ultimately, Duda needs to be the answer there because in reality any other solution is unrealistic or just a question mark. 

Matz Back on Track

After all the Mets fans hysteria after Matt Harvey struggled against the Nationals, it was easy to forget there was a game to be played tonight. 

Like most of May, the Mets offense seemed to forget as well. For the first five innings, the Mets offense could only muster one run with three hits and a walk against Wily Peralta. This is the same Peralta who came into tonight’s game with a 2-4 record, 7.30 ERA, and a 1.992 WHIP. It didn’t matter as the Mets offense lately has been worse than Peralta . . . at least until the sixth inning. 

Asdrubal Cabrera lead off the inning with a single, and he scored when Michael Conforto hit one into what used to be the Party City Deck. 

Mets led 3-2. 

There was a chance for more, but well, no one is quite sure what happened. Yoenis Cespedes singled, and he took off on a 3-2 pitch to Neil Walker. Walker took the pitch right down the middle for strike three, and Cespedes didn’t even bother sliding into second. Former Met Carlos Torres came on, and he got the Brewers out of the inning. 

The three runs were enough for Steven Matz, who was terrific. He pitched seven innings allowing three hits, two earned, and no walks with eight strikeouts. He only made one mistake, which was hit for a two run homer in the first by Chris Carter, who is tied with Cespedes for the league lead in homers. Matz’s start was all the more incredible when you consider he had been shut down with elbow inflammation. 

However, it looks like he’s back on track, and the Mets are back on track as well. 

Game Notes: Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Torres got their NL Championship rings before the game. Eric Campbell started at third as David Wright had a scheduled day off. Rene Rivera had a nice game with an RBI ground out in the second, and he threw out another basestealer:

Thor Hammers Two Homers

Move over Walt TerrellNoah Syndergaard “hammered” two homeruns:

The two homers were more impressive than originally thought:

The second homerun was after Syndergaard failed to bunt the runners over. With two strikes, he then swung away hitting his second homerun of the game. At the plate, Syndergaard went 2-3 with the aforementioned two homers and four RBI (which also tied a Mets record for most RBI in a game by a Mets pitcher). Syndergaard might’ve struck out in the sixth with the bases loaded, but he certainly got his hacks in. He was trying to hit that’s third homer, but it was for naught. He also struck out on the eighth while swinging for the fences. 

Interstingly enough, Syndergaard was responsible for four homeruns. While he hit two, he also allowed two.  The first was hit by Corey Seager in the third and Yasmani Grandal in the fourth. Other than those two homers, Syndergaard shut down the Dodgers. He pitched eight innings allowing six hits, two earned, and one walk with six strikeouts. Jeurys Familia pitched the ninth to preserve the 4-3 win he’s now a perfect 12/12 in save chances. 

Overall, you know it’s a good game when your dominance on the mound is little more than a footnote. For Syndergaard’s next game, he had some big shoes to fill. Tom Seaver and Ron Darling are the only two Mets’ pitchers to homer in consecutive starts. Interestingly enough, the Mets received Terrell and Darling in exchange for Lee Mazzilli. As we know, Syndergaard was involved in a pretty big trade himself. 

Game Notes: It appears Rene Rivera is becoming Syndergaard’s personal catcher. It’s a good solution to Syndergaard’s problem with base stealers. David Wright sat with what was either normal rest or a sore shoulder. Eric Campbell got the start over a slumping Wilmer Flores. Both Campbell and Yoenis Cespedes would steal a base. Coming into the game, the Mets had only stolen eight stolen bases. Neil Walker returned to the lineup for the first time since bruising his shin. 

Do the Mets Need a Catcher?

Is this situation from 2015 or 2016?  Travis d’Arnaud suffers an injury that is going to keep him on the DL for an extended period of time. The Mets then turn to Kevin Plawecki, who just doesn’t hit. 

It’s like Groundhog Day except no one is laughing. 

When d’Arnaud is on the field, he’s a terrific catcher. He’s good defensively, and he’s a good hitter. However, he has trouble staying on the field. Call it bad luck or him being injury prone, but the fact remains, he had trouble staying on the field. Now, he has a shoulder injury, and there’s no telling when he can return to the Mets. 

In his place is Plawecki, who is squandering his chance to become the Mets starting catcher again. Last year, he hit a woeful .219/.280/.296 in 73 games. There were reasons from that stemming from his being rushed to the majors and his dizziness. However, last year, he got major league experience and time to work with a terrific hitting coach in Kevin Long. He had offseason sinus surgery to alleviate his dizziness issues. Despite all of that, we’re seeing more of the same from Plawecki. 

Plawecki has hit .167/.348/.167 since d’Arnaud’s injury. Yes, it’s a very small 18 at bat sample size, but he hasn’t shown any improvement since last year. He still can’t hit the breaking ball. He’s still a pull hitter who doesn’t hit the ball hard. In short, Plawecki is still overmatched by major league pitching. 

If this continues, the Mets are going to have a hole at catcher they are going to have to address. 

Until such time, the Mets are going to have to continue to try to develop Plawecki at the major league level. Ironically, Terry Collins previously said the Mets can’t develop players at the major league level because the Mets are a win-now team. It was his justification for not wanting to play Michael Conforto against lefties. Now, the Mets have no choice. 

They have no choice because Rene Rivera can’t hit (despite his HR yesterday), and Johnny Monell is Johnny Monell. Furthermore, the trade market is yet to develop. The likely target would be Jonathan Lucroy, who is a good offensive and defensive catcher on the last year of his deal. However, with the Carlos Gomez debacle of yesteryear, it’s hard to imagine the Mets and Brewers pulling the trigger on a trade again this year. 

Whatever the answer may be the Mets are going to have to find it fast. Sooner or later, d’Arnaud is going to have to stay in the field, and Plawecki is going to have to hit major league pitching. They are the weak link in what is a win-now team. This team can win the World Series. Hopefully, the catchers won’t stand in the way of that.

Editor’s Note: this article was also published on metsmerizedonline.com

Matz Dominates the Braves

Terry Collins must be relieved that for the second straight day, a Braves pitcher got the better of a Mets starter. Last night, it was Matt Wisler only allowing one hit in eight innings against a struggling Matt Harvey. Today, it was Jhoulys Chacin getting the better of Steven Matz

With two outs in the third, Chacin singled off of Matz. It would put the game in a completely different perspective. 

Instead of Collins agonizing again whether or not to leave Matz in during a no-hitter, he could manage it like any other game. Strange enough, Collins said before the game if he was presented with another Johan Santana situation, especially with a young pitcher, he wouldn’t hesitate to pull him. Collins did pull Matz after he threw his 106th pitch. At that point, Matz had thrown 7.2 innings, and he just allowed his second hit. Matz was just terrific. In addition to the two hits, he allowed no runs, no walks, and he struck out eight. 

Matz has completely recovered from his awful first start. Matz is now 4-1. He’s lowered his ERA from 37.80 to 2.89. Matz is showing why many had him as an early favorite for the Rookie of the Year Award. 

While Matz dominated the Braves from the mound, the Mets batters dominated at the plate:

By the way, who had Rene Rivera as the first Mets catcher to homer this year in their office pool?

The other homers came from Asdrubal Cabrera and Lucas Duda, who hit two. Overall, the Mets completely dominated the Braves like we should all reasonably expect. The final score of 8-0 was deceptive. It made the game appear closer than it was. 

Game Notes: This was the Mets third shut out of the year. The Mets have now won six consecutive series. This is the first time they’ve done that since 2006. 

Mets April 2016 Report Card

The Mets finished an interesting month that saw them finish 15-7. Over the course of the month, they received contributions from everyone, well almost everyone. They finished in second place only a half game behind the Nationals. 

Below are the first month grades for each of the Mets players. Bear in mind, these grades are on a curve. If a bench player gets an A and a position player gets a B, it doesn’t mean the bench player is having a better year. Rather, it means the bench player is performing better in his role. 

Position Players

Travis d’Arnaud  (F). Overall, d’Arnaud struggled offensively and defensively. He’s on the DL now with a shoulder injury. It’s the worst possible start to the season he could’ve had. 

Kevin Plawecki (C-). Plawecki has only seen limited duty.  While he did get a big game winning hit in his second start of the year, he hasn’t done much from that point forward. Furthermore, he’s not making a case he’s fit to take over full time for d’Arnaud whenever he does come back. 

Rene Rivera (Inc). He played in only one game.

Lucas Duda (C-). While Duda did have one hit streak, he hasn’t done much in other games. He had a .294 OBP. He’s not seeing the results from his new leg kick. At least he did throw out a runner at home. 

Neil Walker (A+). He led the league with nine homers. He’s even hitting lefties. Walker has been far better than anyone could’ve expected. 

David Wright (B). Wright went from being a corpse to being the Wright of old to just old. He’s having problems on his throws. With all that said, he’s still getting on base at a decent .354 clip, and he remains the Mets best 3B option. 

Asdrubal Cabrera (A). Cabrera has been better than expected. He’s hit like he did in the second half last year. Even if his range is limited, he’s made every play he should’ve made at SS. 

Wilmer Flores (D). He was woeful at the plate hitting .107/.194/.214. This grade would’ve been lower except he’s only played in 12 games, and he’s shown himself to be a terrific defensive first baseman. 

Eric Campbell (F). He’s seen even less time than Flores, but he’s also done less on those opportunities. 

Michael Conforto (A). He’s consistently been the Mets best player. When Terry Collins moved him to the third spot in the lineup, both he and the team took off. Even more amazing is the fact he has the potential to do more. 

Yoenis Cespedes (B+). Cespedes had a rough start to the season, but he seems back to the form he was in last year. In the field, he still shows limited range for center while still having that cannon of an arm. 

Curtis Granderson (B-). Granderson experienced the same slow start he experienced last year but without the walks. He’s started to turn things around and return to his 2015 form. 

Juan Lagares (A). He’s hitting lefties and his incredible defense has returned. 

Alejandro De Aza (C) Aside from one incredible game in Cleveland, De Aza hasn’t hit much. However, when you play limited time that one game does carry a lot of weight. 

Pitchers 

Matt Harvey (D). This was the year he was supposed to completely fulfill his potential as the staff ace. So far, he’s 2-3 with a 4.76 ERA. There may be a million valid excuses for the slow start, but ultimately we’re judged by performance. On the bright side, he’s pitched much better his last two times out. 

Jacob deGrom (A). With decreased velocity and troubles at home, the results are still where they are supposed to be. 

Noah Syndergaard (A+). He’s throwing harder than anyone in the majors, and in a very short time frame, he’s become the staff ace. 

Steven Matz (B). His last three games were spectacular. However, his first start was horrendous, and it really jammed up the bullpen. 

Bartolo Colon (B+). He’s back doing Bartolo Colon things out there from great defensive plays to the helmet flying off his head when he swings. He’s poised to eat up innings again while feasting on lesser competition. 

Logan Verrett (A+). When deGrom couldn’t pitch, he stepped in and made two great starts. He’s also pitched well out of the bullpen.

Jeurys Familia (B-). He’s perfect in save chances, but he’s been shaky at times. He’s allowing more baserunners than usual.  In his last three outings, he does seem to be returning to form. 

Addison Reed (A-). Reed has recoded six holds and one save. His WHIP is 0.973 and his K/9 is 11.7. Would’ve been an A except for one blown save in Cleveland and one rough appearance on Saturday. 

Jim Henderson (A-). Henderson went from non-roster invitee to locking down the seventh inning. He’s been all the Mets could’ve asked for and more. His WHIP is a little high, and as we saw from Collins, he’s susceptible to overuse. 

Hansel Robles (A). Collins has asked him to pitch on seemingly every situation imaginable, and he’s succeeded. 

Jerry Blevins (A). He’s really a LOOGY, and he’s limited lefties to a .158/.158/.211 batting line. When he’s been asked to do more, he’s performed admirably. 

Antonio Bastardo (A). We’re a month into the season, and he still has no clear cut role. Based upon his usage, it appears Terry Collins views him as the worst reliever in the bullpen. Even with all of that, he has pitched very well. He sports a 2.61 ERA. 

Rafael Montero (F). He’s only appeared in two games, but he was dreadful in those two games. He sports a seemingly low 11.57 ERA. It was clear Collins didn’t trust him in the bullpen. Montero the went out and proved Collins right. 

Manager

Terry Collins (C-). His team struggled to start the year, but he got things on track. He’s managed Wright’s back, and he’s found ways to get his reserves into games to keep them fresh. With that said, his early lineups were ponderous, and things didn’t turn around until he fixed the lineup. Additionally, his use of Henderson was egregious.