Terry Collins

It’s Good That Tim Tebow Was Bad

When Tim Tebow took the batter’s box against reigning American League Cy Young Award Winner Rick Porcello, we could all guess what was going to happen.  Tebow struck out, and he didn’t look particularly good doing it.  In fact, Tebow didn’t look particularly good in any aspect of the game on Wednesday.  Overall, Tebow was 0-3 with a hit by pitch, two strikeouts, and a GIDP.  The only time he got on base via the hit by pitch, he was doubled off of first.

Simply put, Tebow did not look like he belonged out there.

Most Single A players don’t look like they belong out there either.  That is traditionally why most players in the lower levels of the minor leagues do not play until towards the end of the Spring Training games.  If you put a lower level minors player out there against the Porcellos of the world, they are most likely going to look bad up there.  Heck, major leaguers look bad at the plate against Porcello.  That’s partially why Porcello won the Cy Young Award.

However, with Tebow it’s different.  It’s different because of the attention.  Seriously, who gets a round of applause after they hit into a double play?  It’s different because Tebow has always been a lightning rod.  It’s different because Tebow decided to play baseball after not having played the sport in over a decade and after it was made clear his football career was over. As Terry Collins said, “What he’s attempting to do, not a lot of guys would even try.”  (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com).

It’s different because some people believe Tebow is taking someone else’s spot.

That last one simply isn’t true.  Minor league systems are full of “organizational guys” who are signed so each team can have enough guys to fill out a roster.  In terms of this Spring, Tebow wasn’t even the first prospect to get into a game.  David Thompson, Blake Tiberi, Luis Carpio, Kevin Kaczmarski, Luis Guillorme, Patrick Biondi, Wuilmer Becerra, Peter Alonso, Arnaldo Berrios, Gene Cone, John Mora, Colby Woodmansee, and Ricardo Cespedes are all Single A players who got into Spring Training games this year before Tebow.  Overall, Tebow’s presence has not prevented anyone from getting into a game that the Mets deem worthy of getting into a game.  Guess what?  There is no way the Mets are going to let Tebow get in the way of another more deserving prospect.  The Mets aren’t dumb.

For one day, Tebow went out there, and he didn’t look good.  He looked all the bit of the 29 year old player who hasn’t played a full season of baseball in over 10 years.  He looked outmatched, and he looked like he lacked the requisite instincts to play the game.  That’s a good thing.  Baseball is hard.  As the late great Jimmy Dugan once said, “The hard… is what makes it great.”

In reality, the only way Tebow could have made a mockery of baseball was if he went out there and went 3-3 with a couple of extra base hits.  Instead, the man struggled like he was supposed to struggle.  Now, like many who have struggled, it is incumbent upon him to dust him off and get better.  Tebow knows this better than anyone saying, “”There are a lot of things I have to play catch-up on.  It’s just, how fast can I catch up?”

If Tebow is willing to put in the work, he just might be able to catch up.  If he does catch up, he moves away from being a sideshow the Mets are profiting from to being a minor leaguer who is looking for his next call-up.

Trivia Friday – Best Mets Outfielders

Watching Michael Conforto rake during Spring Training, you can once again imagine him becoming the MVP candidate we all thought he was going to be when he was hitting home runs in the World Series.  The only things in his way right now are his manager Terry Collins and Jay Bruce.  If those hurdles are cleared, it is possible that Conforto could well emerge as the best oufielder on the Mets.

If he does, he will join a varied group of Mets outfielders who put up the best season in the outfield.  From year to year, there have been good seasons to MVP caliber seasons to nothing to write home about.  Can you name the best outfielders on the Mets since 2000?  Good luck!


Jay Payton Tsuyoshi Shinjo Cliff Floyd Mike Cameron Carlos Beltran Angel Pagan Scott Hairston Marlon Byrd Juan Lagares Curtis Granderson Yoenis Cespedes

And To Think That I Saw It At Citi Field

* adapted from “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss

When I leave home to go to Citi Field,
Dad always says to me,
“John, keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see.”

But when I tell him where I’ve sat
And what happened each at-bat,
He looks at me and sternly says,
“You did not see all of that.

Stop telling such an outlandish story.
Juan Lagares cannot cover that much territory.”

Now, what can I say
About what I saw today?

All the long way to the game
And all the way back,
I’ve looked and I’ve looked
From the outfield to the bat rack,
But all that I’ve noticed,
Except the green infield,
Was d’arnaud and Matz
At Citi Field

That’s nothing to tell of,
That won’t do, I know . . .
Just the starting pitcher Steven Matz
Hurling pitches to Travis d’Arnaud.

That can’t be my story.  That’s only a start.
I’ll say that a GAZELLE was pitching instead of a Bart!
Add that is a story that no one can beat,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.

Yes, the Gazelle is fine,
He gives batters a migraine,
There’s another marvelous pitcher
Who’s stuff is much more insane.
The story could be so much more
If the pitcher I saw were Thor.
An orange and blue capped pitcher’s fastballs are profound,
Rumbling like thunder from the mound!

No, it won’t do at all . . .
There’s another with the ball.

Zack Wheeler is better;
He’s come back round,
And he’s ready to for a start
On the Citi Field mound

Hold on a minute!
There’s something wrong!
The bullpen is the place for this dealer
It’s off to the bullpen for Zack Wheeler,

It’d be much better, it might,
If the start went to the Dark Knight.

Hmmm . . . A Dark Knight . . .
Say – anyone could think of that,
Dick or Kevin or Dan or Pat
Say, even Terry could think of that.

But it isn’t too late to make one little change.
This story is about Yoenis Cespedes!  No longer on the driving range!

He’s got plenty of power and size,
You can see the opposing pitcher with fear in his eyes.
A then, the sound system emits a loud tone,
Cespedes the Lion King!  Perched high on a throne!

Say!  That makes a batter that no one can heel,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.

But now I don’t know . . .
It still doesn’t seem right.

A Cespedes swinging a bat that’s so light
Would hit balls around in the air like a kite.

But he’d look simply extreme
With a great New York Mets team!

A team that’s that good should have someone to see it,
Wins coming so fast, the Nationals finding it hard to keep near it.
Nationals always the trailer!  They’ll be out of their mind
Not even Daniel Murphy can get them out from behind.

But now is if fair?  Is it fair what I’ve done?
Before they take the field, they’ve already won.
That’s really too heavy a load for one beast;
I’ll give him some helpers.  He needs two, at least.

Michael Conforto to do the trick,
To guide them after the intentional walk schtick –
It takes a lineup to do the trick.
They’ll never lose now.  They’ll race at top speed
With Curtis Granderson, himself, in the lead.

The Manager is there
And he thinks it is grand,
And he raises his hat
As they rise from their seats in the stands.

The Manager is there
Sandy Alderson too,
All waving big banners
The stands are becoming a zoo.

And that is a team whose championship is sealed
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field!

With a roar of its motor an airplane appears
The pitcher steps off the mound and everyone jeers.

And that makes a story that’s really not bad!
But it still could be better.  Suppose that I add . . . . . . . . .

. . . A David Wright
Who can stay upright . . .

A big Duda
Swinging sticks . . .

A Jacob deGrom
And his garden gnome . . .

No time for more,
Cespedes’ coming home.

He swung ’round third base
And dashed towards the plate,
The Mets ran up the steps
And I felt simply GREAT!

FOR I HAD A STORY THAT NO ONE COULD YIELD!
AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT AT CITI FIELD!

But Dad said quite calmly,
“Take the parking pass off the windshield
And tell me the sights
That you saw at Citi Field”

There was so much to tell, I JUST COULDN’T BEGIN!
Dad looked at me sharply stroking the beard at his chin.
He frowned at me sternly from there from the front seat,
“Was there nothing to look at . . . no great feat?
Did nothing excite you or make you jump out of your seat?”

“Nothing,” I said, now becoming more even-keeled,
“But a Matz pitching to d’Aranud at Citi Field.”

The End.

Last year’s story “One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out!” can be found here

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

 

Mets Attempting More Versatility

Last season, other than Wilmer Flores, Terry Collins showed an unwillingness to move players out of their natural position.  With the Mets returning four infielders who each had significant injuries last year requiring stints on the disabled list, Collins may not have the same luxury.  To that end, the Mets appear prepared to better handle to withstand injuries next season.

As the Mets report to camp, it appears that each player has come ready to either learn how to play another position or become more proficient at a position they have played in the past.

For starters, Jose Reyes comes into the season having already played shortstop and third base.  In addition to those responsibilities, Reyes is going to spend time in Spring Training learning how to play the outfield.  As Mets fans remember, Reyes once played second base.  Certainly, he can play there in a pinch if needed.

Last year, the Mets were unwilling to move Neil Walker off of second base.  This year might be a different story.  As Walker reported to Spring Training, he brought a third base and a first baseman’s glove with him.  Depending on not only the health of his teammates, but his own health, it is very possible Walker finds himself playing some games away from second.

His double play partner Asdrubal Cabrera has been working away from shortstop this offseason.  During Winter Ball, Cabrera played both shortstop and third base.  Before Carlos Guillen surprisingly left him off the roster, Cabrera was set to play short and third for Venezuela.  Previously when he was a member of the Washington Nationals, Cabrera had played second in addition to short.

While each of these players have infield experience, the Mets are looking to gain some versatility with their outfielders as well.  While Collins has largely shot down rumors of Michael Conforto trying first base, it appears Jay Bruce will get some exposure there during Spring Training.  This move makes sense for both the team and the player.  The added versatility should help the Mets replace Lucas Duda‘s power at first should he suffer another back injury, and the added versatility should help Bruce as he plays his last season before becoming a free agent.

In addition to the aforementioned players, we know that Ty Kelly, T.J. Rivera, and Matt Reynolds can play a multitude of positions as well as left field.  Top to bottom, the Mets promise to have a versatile roster.

The versatility helps because it will allow the Mets to keep the best remaining bats in the lineup in case of injury, but it also can clear room for Gavin Cecchini, Amed Rosario, or possibly Dominic Smith to play everyday when/if they are ready.  Overall, the Mets are in the best possible situation to withstand injuries now.  All that is left is Collins’ willingness to play people outside of their main positions.

That remains to be seen.

Zack Wheeler Could Be Great In The Bullpen

During Terry Collins‘ first Spring Training press conference, he overtly stated Zack Wheeler is a starting pitcher.  With the Mets publicly considering using Wheeler in the bullpen, at least to start the season, Collins’ statements reminded me of how Bobby Valentine once held a similar opinion about Jason Isringhausen.

Back in 1999, the Mets were using Isringhausen, who had a litany of injuries and surgeries at that point, increasingly out of the bullpen.  It was a natural fit for him with his having only made six major league starts over a two year period.   And yet, Valentine preferred using Isringhausen in the rotation, as only Valentine could so eloquently put it, putting Isringhausen in the bullpen is like “us[ing] an Indy car as a taxi in New York City.”  (New York Daily News).

As we know Isringhausen would be moved later that season in the ill-fated and ill-conceived trade for Athletics closer Billy TaylorAs an Athletic, Isringhausen would work exclusively out of the bullpen.  From there, he would become an All Star closer amassing 300 career saves.

Given the relative injury histories, the reluctance to put the pitchers in the bullpen, and the hope both pitchers carried with them as part of future super rotations, the Wheeler-Isringhausen comparisons are unavoidable.

To that end, it is important to note one of the supposed issues with Isringhausen in the bullpen was his control.  This is certainly understandable given his career 1.520 WHIP and 4.0 BB/9 as a starter.  And yet, when moved to the bullpen, and allowed to focus on his two best pitches, Isringhausen dramatically cut down on the hits and walks.  As a result, the things that made people believe he was a dominant starter came into focus as he became a dominant closer.

The consistently noted fear with Wheeler in the bullpen is his control.  His 3.9 BB/9 is similar to what Isringhausen’s was as a starter even if his 1.339 WHIP is considerably better.  It should also be noted Wheeler struck out more batters than Isringhausen did as a starter.  That is probably because Wheeler’s pure stuff is probably better than Isringhausen’s.  According to Brooks Baseball, Wheeler’s fastball sits in the mid 90s and he has a slider that almost hits 90.

Understandably, with Isringhause and Wheeler being different pitchers, the comparison may seem a bit contrived or imperfect.  With that said, we have seen how the Royals have transitioned pitchers with similar skill sets to Wheeler, and they converted them into dominant relievers.

Luke Hochevar was a struggling starter who gave up too many walks.  He was not having success in the rotation despite a low to mid 90s fastball and a high 80s cutter.  He was transitioned to the bullpen where he thrived.  Before showing the effects of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, he was dominant in 2013 going 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA, 0.825 WHIP, and a 10.5 K/9.

While the Royals didn’t try Greg Holland in the rotation, they saw how well his stuff played in the bullpen.  From 2011 – 2014, he was among the most dominant closers in all of baseball.  Over the stretch he was 15-9 with 113 saves, a 1.026 WHIP, and a 12.6 K/9.  Similar to Wheeler, Holland throws a mid to high 90s fastball and a slider in the high 80s.

Basically what we see in Isringhausen, Hochevar, and Holland is pitchers with great stuff can truly succeed in the bullpen.  Moreover, pitchers who have had control issues as starters can better harness their pitches by focusing one the two or maybe three pitches they throw best and work out of the stretch.  By focusing on what makes the pitcher great can, at times, led a pitcher down the path to greatness.  That is even in the event said greatness occurs out of the bullpen.

Given Wheeler’s past control issues, his not having pitched in two seasons, and the emergence of both Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, it might be an opportunity for the Mets to move Wheeler in the bullpen where he may truly thrive.  Of course, we won’t know that unless the Mets are willing to try.  At this point, given Collins’ statements, it appears the Mets are not quite at that point yet.  Maybe they should be.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

Last Roster Spot Candidates

While most are focused on the bullpen, this Mets team has some other areas it needs to address prior to the start of the 2017 season. One of the main issues facing this team is which player is going to get the last spot on the bench?

At first blush, this may not seem like it is a major issue. If any of the infielders with an injury history go down, it is expected that Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes can more than capably handle any one of the four infield spots. If two were to go down, we have seen enough from both Flores and Reyes to know that they can at least be a good stop gap option at a position. However, lost in the confidence you would have in Flores or Reyes is the fact that once they are moved to a starting position, the player who is the last man on the roster will begin to take on a larger role on the team.

Last year, that player was Eric Campbell. While Campbell may have had his positive attributes, he was certainly not capable of playing everyday. And yet, when Lucas Duda and David Wright went down that was the position Campbell found himself. In 2017, there is no reason to believe that Duda or Wright could last a full season. Same goes for Neil Walker, who just had season ending back surgery, and Asdrubal Cabrera, who played with a knee injury for the entirety of the 2016 season. The long story short here is the Mets need a deep bench for the 2017 season to prevent a player of Campbell’s caliber being a starter for two or more weeks.

For the past two seasons, the Mets have made trades to obtain Kelly Johnson to serve as a bench player. He has proven himself to be a useful player who has hit .260/.319/.441 over two brief stints with the Mets. Last year, he was clutch as a pinch hitter hitting four pinch hit home runs. He is versatile in his ability to play second, third, and both corner outfield positions. In 2015, we saw him play shortstop in a game. If given Spring Training to work on it, he could add first base to his repertoire. The main issue facing Johnson is he remains unsigned, and at this point, it is questionable whether the Mets have interest in him with the team already espousing that they need to cut payroll entering the 2017 season.

The next in line would likely be Terry Collins‘ favorite Ty Kelly. Like Johnson, Kelly is versatile in his ability to play across the infield and his ability to play the corner outfield positions. While he is a switch hitter, Kelly showed he was a better hitter against left-handed pitching in what was a very small sample size. Late in the season, Collins used Kelly as a pinch runner late in games. Overall, while Kelly does nothing outstanding, and is clearly best suited to being a bench player at the major league level, Collins has shown that he appreciates what Kelly can bring to the table.

In addition to Kelly, T.J. Rivera was the other standout 27 year old Mets rookie during the 2016 season. Late in the season with the injuries to Walker and Flores, Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job and hit .333/.346/.476 in 33 games. Unlike Johnson and Kelly, Rivera has played a fair amount of games at shortstop. With that said, there is a reason why the Mets began transitioning him away from short beginning in AA. With that said, RIvera can legitimately play all four infield positions. When he was passed over for promotion to the majors, he began working in LF in AAA meaning it is possible he can play the outfield if necessary. The main sticking point with Rivera is the fact that he is an aggressive hitter that rarely draws a walk.

Last, but certainly not least, is Matt Reynolds. Unlike the aforementioned players, Reynolds is a legitimate shortstop who quite possibly has the best range out of all the major league options the Mets have at the position. For one glorious day game, Reynolds showed he can play left field, and he can get that clutch hit to help the Mets win the game. On the downside, Reynolds is the worst hitter of the bunch. In his 47 games with the Mets last year, he only hit .255/.266/.416. In the hitter’s haven that in the Pacific Coast League, he was only a .264/.336/.357 hitter last year. Ultimately, Reynolds is the guy you want out there defensively, but he is not the guy you want at the plate.

Unless the Mets sign Johnson, it looks like the fight will be between Kelly, Rivera, and Reynolds for the last spot on the bench. IN those three players, the Mets have three intriguing if not flawed players. Ultimately, that is your best bet when looking to round out your major league bench. The good news for the Mets is if one should falter, there are two more behind them that can pick up the slack. If the Mets face a number of injuries like they did in 2015 and 2016, the Mets have a couple of options that have proven they can be useful major league players. With that, it seems the Mets bench should not be a problem for the first time in a good number of years . . . at least that’s the hope.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

Michael Conforto Has No Future at First Base

With the news that Jay Bruce is likely going to be the Mets Opening Day right fielder, many are pushing the idea that Michael Conforto should start to learn first base in order to make room for himself on the major league roster.  Sorry, but that is a poor decision.

Now, there is nothing wrong with Conforto learning another position to increase his utility to the Mets.  In fact, if Lucas Duda were to go down to injury, or if he is going to struggle due to any lingering effects from him having gone on the disabled list in consecutive seasons with back injuries, Conforto would be the first person you would want to replace him in the lineup.

With that said, the Mets need to figure out what they want Conforto to be.  Do they want him to be the best outfielder this organization has developed since Darryl Strawberry?  Or do they want him to become the next Eric Valent?

Simply put, at his age and with this talent, Conforto needs to be playing everyday somewhere.  Ideally, that should be at the major league level as we have seen Conforto is ready to play in the majors.  During his second stint in AAA, Conforto hit .493/.541/.821 with three homers and 11 RBI in 17 games.  Those are video game numbers.  A player that can dominate like that at the highest level of the minors does not belong there.  He belongs in the majors.

He belongs in the major leagues where he has already shown glimpses of being a very good hitter.  As a rookie who never played a game above AA, Conforto hit .270/.335/.506 with nine homers and 26 RBI in 56 games.  In April last year, before he injured his wrist, Conforto hit an astounding .365/.442/.676 with four homers and 18 RBI in 21 games.  Even with this subsequent struggles with the wrist injury and Terry Collins giving him irregular playing time, Conforto has shown he can hit at the major league level.

Again, the problem is he needs to play everyday.  The problem is Bruce stands in his way.

This is the same Bruce who hit .219/.294/.391 in 50 games with the Mets last year.  This is the same Bruce who is a career 109 OPS+ and 107 wRC+ career hitter.  The same Bruce who has a career .318 OPB and .295 OBP over the past three seasons.  This is the same Bruce who is just a few years removed from a season where he had a knee injury and hit .217/.281/.373 with 18 homers in 137 games.  This is the same Bruce who is declining defensively posting a -8.9 UZR and -11 DRS last year and has averaged a -6.4 UZR and a -3 DRS over the past three seasons.

Ideally, Bruce is the guy who should be providing power off the bench.  He should be learning first base to provide insurance for Duda.  He should be the guy to step into the lineup should Conforto struggle or Curtis Granderson shows his age.  However, we don’t live in an ideal world.  A guy who has 30 homer 100 RBI potential is going to play everyday.  A guy who is making $13 million is going to play everyday.  A guy the Mets want to showcase so they can trade him is going to play everyday.

That leaves Conforto on the bench if he is in the majors.  With Collins in charge, that leaves you to question when exactly Conforto will play.  You know he’s not going to play him against left-handed batters, which is a problem because Bruce, Duda, and Granderson are all left-handed batters.  Further complicating the matters is Juan Lagares is going to play against left-handed pitchers, and he is going to be a defensive replacement late in games.  On top of that, the Mets are looking to see how Jose Reyes can handle the outfield.  Long story short, Conforto’s not going to play, so why are you wasting time trying to get him reps at a position he’s never going to play?

Moreover, why are you wasting time getting him reps at a position he has no future?  After the 2017 season Bruce, Duda, and Granderson are free agents.  Assuming one or two leave in free agency, there is now a spot for Conforto to play everyday in the outfield whether that be in center or right.  The first baseman in 2018 is either going to be Dominic Smith, if he makes strides in 2017 like he did in 2016, or a one year stop gap.  Keep in mind that if Smith should falter, Peter Alonso, who has shown he has the potential to be a terrific major league hitter, may not be too far behind.

Overall, the Jay Bruce situtation has put Conforto in a terrible position.  He’s either going to be a pinch hitter who gets very little playing time or a minor league player.  This is the exact type of situation where you can mess up a prospect.  The Mets should not compound this by trying to make him a first baseman when Conforto is likely not going to have a chance to play more than 20 games at first base in his entire career.

No, the Mets should instead use the time to focus on getting Conforto to work on the areas of his game that needs improvement.  By doing that, you make him a much better player.  By stashing him on the bench and trying to make him a 1B/OF, you are only going to accomplish making him the next Eric Valent.

At the end of the day, which is the better course of action?

Mets May Have Enough Internal Bullpen Options

With Baseball America‘s Adam Rubin reporting the Mets are considering using low A starter P.J. Conlon out of the bullpen, the Mets are really giving the impression that they may not sign any relief pitchers this offseason. This would coincide with earlier reports the Mets may not have the budget to acquire another player unless the team is able to trade an outfielder, namely Jay Bruce. When considering the difficulties the Mets have in trading Bruce, it’s becoming increasingly more likely the Mets will use internal options to build their bullpen.

The Mets should have varying degrees of confidence in returning relief pitchers Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, and Hansel Robles. Last season, Reed and Familia combined to be the best 8-9 combination in baseball. Robles has shown versatility whether it was his bailing Jim Henderson out of a bases loaded no out jam or pitching 3.2 innings because Bartolo Colon left a game in the first inning with an injury.

While the Mets should have confidence in these three pitchers, they still need at least four other arms to complete their bullpen. Here are the leading options:

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS

RHP Seth Lugo – While he should get the opportunity to compete with Robert Gsellman for a spot in the rotation, indications are Lugo will land in the bullpen. In limited bullpen duty last year, Lugo was terrific. In his nine relief appearances, he had a 2.65 ERA, 0.941 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Pitching out of the bullpen should also permit Lugo to ramp his fastball up to 95 MPH and throw his curveball, which has the best spin rate in the majors, making him an even more dominant pitcher.

RHP Zack Wheeler – Like Lugo, Wheeler may get an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, but early indications are he will start the year in the bullpen. Wheeler’s fastball-slider combination should play well out of the bullpen, and it should lead to him recording a high number of strikeouts. Conversely, he may have a high amount of walks as well. Unfortunately, Wheeler may not be able to sustain the same workload of a relief pitcher as the Mets will likely want to ease him back after Wheeler missed two years due to Tommy John surgery.

RHP Paul Sewald – With a high 80s to low 90s fastball with a slider in the low 90s with a low 80s slider, Sewald doesn’t have the dominating stuff you would typically look for in a major league reliever. However, despite having “lesser” stuff, Sewald has succeeded at every level of the minor leagues including his being an effective closer for the 51s last year. Despite pitching in an extreme hitter’s league, Sewald had 10 saves with a 1.85 ERA, 0.945 WHIP, and an 11.8 K/9 in the second half of the season.

RHP Erik Goeddel – If Goeddel can return to his 2014 – 2015 form, the Mets have a reliever they can rely upon. During that time, he was on the New York – Las Vegas shuttle making 41 major league appearances. Over that stretch, he had a 2.48 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9. For many, it was believed Goeddel did it with smoke and mirrors, an impression that was given credence with his 4.54 ERA and 1.318 WHIP in 2016. With Goeddel able to strike out 9.1 batters per nine last year, he has at least shown he can get batters out, and as a result, should get another chance. His success in 2017 is going to depend on his ability to regain some of his fastball velocity or his ability to adapt to pitching without it.

RHP Chase Bradford – Like Sewald, Bradford has fringy stuff with a low 90s fastball and a low to mid 80s slider. However, unlike Sewald, Bradford has struggled in AAA. Over the past three years, Bradford has pitched to a 4.88 ERA, 1.454 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9. It should be noted many pitchers, like Lugo, struggle in Las Vegas, only to have success in the majors.

RHP Ben Rowen – The submarine style Rowen was brought in on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The hope is that Rowen can be a modern version of Chad Bradford in what was an excellent 2006 Mets bullpen. However, given his low 80s fastball, and with both right-handed batters and left-handed batters hitting him hard in his brief 12 major league appearances, this seems more hope than reality.

RHP Rafael Montero – Despite being terrible for the Mets, he somehow remains a part of the Mets organization. As if his presence on the roster wasn’t baffling enough, Sandy Alderson even mentioned him as a possibility for the bullpen. (ESPN). It figures that this year is the year push comes to shove with Montero. Either he is finally going to trust his stuff and throw strikes at the major league level, or the Mets are going to designate him for assignment for someone who can.

RHP Gabriel Ynoa – Ynoa struggled with the Mets last year, but those struggles could have been the result of him being asked to pitch out of the bullpen when he’s never done that before and the team shifting him between the bullpen and rotation late in the year. Fact is Ynoa has real talent. He has a low to mid 90s fastball that he may be able to consistently get in the mid 90s if he was airing it out in the bullpen. His slider is also effective in generating a number of groundballs. With him in the bullpen as opposed to the rotation, he can primarily utilize his two best pitches to get batters out.

LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS

LHP Josh Smoker – There are three things we learned about Smoker last year: (1) he strikes out a lot of batters; (2) left-handed batters absolutely crush him; and (3) he is not effective for more than one inning. Now, if Smoker is able to work with Dan Warthen to develop a slider to get help him get left-handed batters out, he’s got closer potential. If not, he’s still an effective arm out of the bullpen so long as Terry Collins acknowledges his limitations.

LHP Josh Edgin – Even with his reduced velocity, Edgin still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out. Until such time he re-gains his velocity, if it ever were to happen, he should primarily be used as a LOOGY. Now, with Familia, Reed, and Robles each being extremely effective against left-handed batters, the Mets are not in dire need of a LOOGY. Still, in a division with Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, and Bryce Harper the Mets could benefit from having more than one pitcher who can get left-handed batters out.

LHP Sean Gilmartin – In 2015, Gilmartin was an important part of the Mets bullpen as the team’s long man. That season, he made 50 appearance pitching 57.1 innings going 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Surprisingly, Gilmartin had reverse splits allowing a .216 batting average to right-handed batters and a .260 batting average to left-handed batters. Last, year, Gilmartin began the year in Las Vegas as a starting pitcher. Due to some bullpen issues at the major league level, the Mets had him fly on a red eye and pitch on short rest. Eventually, he would suffer a minor shoulder injury, and his promising season would tail off. Ultimately, the Mets will need a long man in 2017, and there is enough evidence here to suggest Gilmartin can competently fill that roll.

LHP David Roseboom – It’s not common for pitchers to go from AA to the Opening Day roster the next year, but Roseboom may just be capable of doing it. While a closer by trade, who is coming off a season with a 1.87 ERA, he is extremely effective against left-handed batters. Last season, he limited left-handed batters to a .141 batting average. Primarily, Roseboom is a sinker/slider pitcher who also has a change that allows him to remain effective against right-handed batters. While Roseboom primarily sits in the high 80s to the low 90s, he remains effective because he is able to effectively locate his pitches, and he induces a high rate of ground balls.

LHP P.J. Conlon – As touched on above, considering Conlon for the Opening Day roster was a surprise given he has not pitched in AA, he consistently throws in the mid to high 80s, and he was used as a starter last season. Another reason this was a surprise is the Conlon is better against right-handed batters than left-handed batters. The main reason for that is while Conlon is a four pitch pitcher, his out pitch is his change-up. Like with most left-handed pitchers, Conlon’s change-up is more effective against right-handed batters than left. Overall, it is highly unlikely he will make the Opening Day roster, but he should still benefit from the opportunity to further develop his slider.

PREDICTION

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Wheeler seems assured of being in the Opening Day bullpen with Familia, Reed, and Robles. Considering the Mets probably want to add another left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, and the fact that he is out of options, Edgin seems to be the next best guess as to a pitcher who will make the r0ster. Based upon their performance in the bullpen last year, it is likely the next two spots go to Lugo and Smoker. Right there, the Mets have a seven man bullpen with an interesting array of arms that can both register strike outs and induce ground balls to try to get a double play to get out of the inning.

If there is an injury, suspension, or someone proves to be ineffective, the Mets have interesting options behind this group in Rowen, Sewald, and Roseboom. There is also Gilmartin and Ynoa who can provide either a spot start or be able to serve in the bullpen if needed.

Ultimately, while you would feel much better with the Mets having at least one more veteran arm in the bullpen like a Jerry Blevins or a Fernando Salas, there is at least enough quality arms in the Mets system that can conceivably build a good bullpen.

 

David Wright In 2017

At this point, no one should expect anything from David Wright in 2017.  He has been limited by the spinal stenosis.  He’s going to be further limited by the cervical fusion.  He’s going to be limited by the sheer fact that 34 year old players tend to at least be on the beginning of the downside of their careers.  Anything, and I mean anything they get from him in 2017 is gravy.

With that said, there are certain things we might be able to see out of Wright during the 2017 season.

For starters, we know that he can still get on base.  In fact, he’s still one of the best Mets in terms of his ability to get on base.  Over the past two seasons, even with the spinal stenosis, Wright has a .365 OBP.  While anything Wright does comes with the caveat he has only played limited playing time, his .365 OBP ranks the best on the Mets over the past two seasons.

We also know Wright can make solid contact.  According to Statcast, Wright led all major league batters with “barrels” during the 2016 season.  A barrel is defined as “a batted ball requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. At that speed, balls struck with a launch angle between 26-30 degrees.”  With Wright’s ability to barrel a ball effectively, nearly one-half of his 31 hits went for extra bases.

Fortunately, even with his health issues, Wright can still catch up to a good fastball.  As we saw in the 2015 World Series, he was able to hit the late Yordano Ventura‘s 96 MPH fastball, which was up in the zone, for a home run.  Wright’s ability to not only catch up to the pitch, but also hit it for a home run shows he can change his approach depending on the type of pitcher on the mound.

Simply put, Wright still knows how to hit.  Even with his health issues and his aging, Wright is still an effective hitter that can hit anywhere in the lineup.  And for as long as Wright remains an effective hitter, he is going to be an asset to this team going forward.

Unfortunately, Wright is also declining in the field.  While it is true that single season, especially partial season stats, should not be over-analyzed, Wright’s defensive numbers should not be ignored.  Over his past two injury riddled seasons, Wright has averaged a -4.4 UZR with a -10 DRS.  Using UZR/150, which estimates what a player’s UZR would be at a certain position over 150 games, Wright’s average UZR/150 over the past two seasons would be -19.5, which would rate among the worse in the major leagues.

This means when the Mets have the lead late in games, the team should probably lift him late in games for defense for either Jose Reyes or Wilmer Flores.  This would also have the added benefit of saving him some wear and tear on his body over the course of a full season.

The overriding issue with Wright is he is going to try to do too much out there.  There was at least one known incident last year where Wright was not forthright with his manager about his ability to play.  Once Terry Collins was tipped off by the training staff of Wright’s physical struggles, he sat him despite Wright’s wanting to play.

More than Wright wanting to play when he shouldn’t, he is trying too hard at times during the games.  In the second game of the season, Wright attempted two stolen bases against Salvador Perez of all people.  It is important to note these stolen base attempts came on the heels of a complete overreaction by almost everyone to Wright’s going hitless with two strikeouts on Opening Day.  Wright’s stolen base attempts that day could be construed as him trying to prove everyone he was still capable of being the David Wright of old.  To be fair, it could have been Wright showing his veteran savvy by trying to attempt stolen bases off his former teammate Chris Young, who is notoriously slow to the plate.

When trying to project what Wright can contribute in 2017, the safest bet when it comes to Wright is he is going to miss a number of games next year.  The hope is the Mets can manage his condition and prevent him from having to go on the disabled list.  Another hope is that if he winds up on the disabled list, it is due to a flare up of one of his conditions as opposed to a worsening of his back or neck.  At this point, we don’t know if that is going to happen.

And that is the overriding theme of Wright’s 2017 season.  We have no idea what is going to happen.  While there is room for optimism, it is skeptical optimism.  On the field he has shown he can play when he can play, but he hasn’t played more than 38 games in a season with his condition.  Hopefully, he will be able to play in more than 38 games.  Hopefully, when he does play, he can be as productive as his past stats indicate.

More than any of that, the hope is he can get a World Series ring before he retires.  He’s almost literally given everything he can give to the Mets.  With that, he deserves a ring.  Hopefully, the Mets will surround him with a team that can win.  If they do, the hope is he can contribute to that win.

Good Luck Alejandro De Aza

Sometimes deals were not a good idea at their inception.  At other times, deals don’t just work out as planned.  Then there was Alejandro De Aza‘s tenure with the New York Mets.

Back when De Aza signed with the Mets, he was supposed to be the left-handed platoon option to go along with Juan Lagares in center field.  It was an extremely unpopular signing at the time beacause it was a clear indication the Mets were not going to sign Yoenis Cespedes.  Except the Mets, due to a combination of sheer luck and the depth of top end outfielders on the market, did actually re-sign Cespedes.

Just like that De Aza went from the platoon partner getting the bulk of the at-bats to being the team’s fifth outfielder.  Considering the talent level ahead of him,  he seemed like he was going to be the team’s seldom used fifth outfielder.  Anyone would struggle under those circumstances, and De Aza did.

In the beginning of July, he was only batting .158 with just five extra base hits.  Keep in mind, both of those extra base hits came in the same game.  Essentially, the irregular to lack of playing time was wrecking havoc with his ability to produce, and it was affecting him mentally.  It got to the point where Terry Collins began to question his work ethic.

With all that in mind, De Aza deserves a lot of credit.  De Aza went on a tear in July hitting .375/.487/.531 in 21 games and six games started.  The tear came at the right time too because it was a Mets team seemingly falling apart.  Lagares had a thumb issue.  Cespedes would deal with a quad injury.  Both Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto were struggling as well.  In fact, the entire Mets offense including Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera was struggling.  The Mets needed this boost from him, and they go it.

De Aza would also step up as the Mets were making a push for the Wild Card.  In a crucial late August series against the Cardinals, with Seth Lugo making his second ever major league start, De Aza came up huge not only robbing Matt Carpenter of a home run in the first at-bat in the bottom of the first, but also by hitting his own three run home run.  It was all part of how De Aza came up big when the Mets needed in most.  In fact, over the final month of the season, he would hit .265/.366/.353 in 25 games.

Overall, De Aza’s tenure with the Mets was a disappointing one with all involved.  However, he made significant contributions to the Mets when they needed them most.  That should never be overlooked even if ultimately he was usually the outfielder overlooked when Collins was filling out the lineup card.

De Aza’s struggles are a large reason why he was only able to muster a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics.  With that said, he is in a much better situation than he was in 2016.  This should allow him to return to being the player he never really got the chance to be with the Mets.  Hopefully, he gets back to that point.