T.J. Rivera

Now or Never for T.J. Rivera

With the prognosis on Lucas Duda’s back not looking good at the moment, it seems like it’s not a matter of if but when Duda is placed on the DL. When that happens, the Mets are going to have to make a move on the 40 man roster.  

The Mets are not likely to call up either Brandon Nimmo or Dilson Herrera. Both are performing well at AAA, but both players are also seen as possible everyday players. It’s likely the Mets aren’t going to call them up, wasting service time, just so they can sit on the bench. No, the Mets are going to have to make move to call up either T.J. Rivera or Ty Kelly. 

Early reports are that it may be Ty Kelly. There’s some logic to this move. Terry Collins seemed enamored with him during Spring Training. He’s hitting .391/.478/.548 in AAA. He’s played every position, but catcher. Yes, that includes him pitching one scoreless inning. He’s earned this call-up. 

Problem is so has T.J. Rivera. He’s hit .375/.406/.569 in 20 more plate appearances. So far this year, he’s played first, second, third, and left. 

Like Kelly, he’s a gap to gap line drive hitter with doubles power.  They’re both 27 year old AAA utility players whose value is predicated on their bats. Neither are good defenders. Neither have a set position. Overall, there’s very little separating Kelly and Rivera.

The case for Kelly is he’s a switch hitter who’s been known to have an exceptional eye at the plate. This year, Kelly already has 19 walks. In his minor league career he has walked 505 times and struck out 504 times.  While he’s struggled the past two plus years in AAA, he seems to be putting it together this year. 

However, Kelly has played the vast majority of his time in left field this year, and the last thing this Mets team is another outfielder. With that said, he has primarily been an infielder prior to this year. Of note, he has only played four games at first base. Overall, while Kelly has had a nice year at the plate, he isn’t exactly what the Mets would need if Duda went on the DL. 

If the Mets truly wanted a backup infielder, they would go with Rivera. He has played all but one of his games in the infield this year. While he doesn’t have Kelly’s eye at the plate, he strikes out less frequently. Rivera also typically gets more extra base hits. 

There’s another important reason to call up Rivera. This is Rivera’s sixth season with the Mets organization after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent. He has improved his game each and every year. He has gone from a minor league depth player to being on the cusp of the major leagues. Calling him up would be a moral boost to every player in the organization. It’s a sign to every minor leaguer that if you continue to work on your game and continue to improve, you are eventually going to get a shot at playing in the majors. 

Is that why Rivera should be called up over Kelly?  Of course not. However, with so little separating the two of them, you might as well call up the infielder in whom you have invested six years.  It’s time to call up T.J. Rivera especially with the Mets running out of excuses to keep him in the minors. 

Editor’s Note: this was first published on metsminors.net

Where’s Flores?

Given the Mets offseason moves and roster construction, a lot was going to be asked of Wilmer Flores. He had to be the main backup at all four infield positions. He had to learn first base. He had to be the power bat off the bench. He had to be a platoon option at second base in the event Neil Walker continued his career struggles against lefties. He had to be the Mets insurance for David Wright‘s back. 

So far this year, Flores is hitting .159/.229/.273 with an OPS+ of 36 and a wRC+ of 39.  His main issue is he can’t hit the fastball. Even worse, he’s not hitting breaking balls. Overall, he’s just not hitting. Put if this way: he has as many homeruns as Bartolo Colon

He’s also not fielding. According to UZR and DRS, he’s only played well at first and short. He’s struggling with his throws from second and third. He’s not good at the plate. He’s not good in the field. He’s a -0.4 WAR player thus far. He’s having a nightmare of a season. He’s failing miserably. 

Worse yet, the Mets need him. 

Wright’s stenosis isn’t going away. Walker hasn’t hit lefties his entire career. Neither has Lucas Duda. The Mets need Flores to play for one of them at least once a week. When he’s not starting, Flores is the Mets lone power bat on the bench. He’s an important player on the team. So far, he’s not up to the challenge. 

The only thing saving him is he has no options left. This means players like Matt Reynolds and T.J. Rivera will stay in the minors despite having earned a call-up. Instead, Eric Campbell, who is coming off a good game, may need to play more. Until Flores figures it out, Campbell may be the Mets best infield option. No one planned on that happening. 

No, the plan was for Flores to play an important role.  For now, Flores still has that role. However, if he continues playing this poorly that role is going to have to someone else. That switch may need to happen sooner rather than later.