There are a number of areas the Mets need to address this offseason including both center field and lead-off hitter. Either one of those areas could be addressed through free agency or perhaps the trade market. However, before going down that route, the Mets should take a long look at Brandon Nimmo this season.
The 2011 first round draft pick, the first of the Sandy Alderson Era, just became the fourth rookie in Mets history to reach safely in every plate appearance. That was also the second straight game Nimmo lead off the game for the Mets with a double. Simply put, this is a player with the skills to be a Major League lead-off hitter.
So far this season, Nimmo has a .410 OBP in 62 plate appearances. Dating back to last season, Nimmo has a .369 major league OBP in 142 major league plate appearances. For sure, this is a small sample size, but Nimmo has shown the ability to get on base during his minor league career. In fact, Nimmo’s .410 OBP last year was the best in the Pacific Coast League.
As for his defense, John Sickels of Minor League Ball wrote last year, “his defensive instincts are impressive and he is a quality defender in center field.” Certainly, in the small sample we have seen of him, he has shown he has the tools to be a good center fielder. He has the speed to more than adequately play the position. His arm is strong enough to play out there.
Still, there is a some lingering doubt about the Mets faith in his ability to play there. In his 21 major league starts, Nimmo has only started four of them in center. During that time, the Mets have started Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Alejandro De Aza over him in center. Even if it is not determinative of how the Mets feel about his skills in center, it is certainly not a glowing review. Still, with his skill set, Nimmo should benefit from the coaching from Tom Goodwin, who has shown himself to be a good Major League outfield coach.
There’s also the matter of his ability to stay on the field. In four of the last five seasons, Nimmo has spent some time on the disabled list. He had knee surgery in 2013, which robbed him of some of his speed. In reality, this isn’t a matter of chronic issues, and the collapsed lung was a bit of a freak injury. Still, if you are concerned about that, you could platoon him with Juan Lagares.
With Lagares, the Mets have an elite defensive center fielder, who cannot hit right-handed pitching. You also have an immovable contract with him making $6.5 million in 2018 and $9 million the next. He also has some of his own injury issues missing time in consecutive seasons with injuries to the same thumb. Even with Nimmo having a platoon neutral bat, platooning the two players would serve to keep both fresh, and it would help the Mets get Lagares’ glove in the lineup.
However, it is more important to get Nimmo’s bat in the lineup and his glove in center field right now. The Mets need to find out if they need to address center field and a lead-off hitter this offseason. The Mets don’t really know if they need to look outside the organization to address those needs until they find out what they have in Nimmo. It’s time to find that out now.
If the Mets are really looking to sell, it is time to get rid of everyone that doesn’t have a contract beyond this season. This means the Mets should part ways with Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Addison Reed, and Rene Rivera. Once Neil Walker is healthy enough to play, the Mets should trade him as well. With the Mets having team options on both Jerry Blevins and Asdrubal Cabrera, they should also get moved in the right trade.
But it’s not just the players. The Mets should also part ways with Terry Collins.
When Collins signed his two year contract in the wake of the 2015 World Series, Collins had indicated it could very well be his last. Even if Collins relented from that position, with each game, it becomes clearer and clearer that Collins will no longer be in the dugout for the Mets in 2018. If that is the case, the Mets should part ways with Collins sooner rather than later.
The perfect time would be as the Mets head into the All Star Break. This could allow the Mets to re-calibrate the coaching staff. Internally, the Mets have some managerial candidates.
First base coach Tom Goodwin was given the opportunity to manage in the Arizona Fall Leauge this past offseason. While he was removed from the Mets coaching staff in the offseason, Tim Teufel has remained with the organization. Both are certainly candidates for the managerial job should it ever open, and both should provide the Mets with as smooth a transition as possible.
There are also minor league managers Luis Rojas and Pedro Lopez. With the Mets likely turning to young players like Gavin Cecchini, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, and Dominic Smith, it would be helpful to have a manager with whom they are familiar to ease their transition as everyday players in the majors.
It would also serve as an opportunity to see how any of the aforementioned would serve as a manager at the major league level. If you like what you see with the replacement, you have your answer as to who should be the Mets manager in the future. If that person doesn’t perform well, you at least know you need to move on from that manager and look in a different direction.
Point is if the Mets aren’t going anywhere, they should best utilize that time. That means giving young players an opportunity to establish themselves as everyday players at the major league level. That should also mean finding out who the manager should be in 2018.
It’s time for the Mets to thank Collins for his service as the Mets manager, and possibly find a role for him in the organization. It’s time to close the chapter on his Mets managerial career, and it is time to usher in a new era of Mets baseball.
It is highly doubtful that 30 games played in an Instructional League in the month of October will have a far reaching impact on a player’s career. Still, Gavin Cecchini‘s time in the Arizona Fall League appears to be a bit of a missed opportunity.
It became very apparent this year that Cecchini’s future with the New York Mets will be at second base.
That first became apparent because Cecchini has struggled defensively at the position. While fielding percentage can be an overrated and flawed stat, Cecchini’s .933 fielding percentage in AAA, and his minor league career .944 fielding percentage cannot be ignored. His stats show he’s not capable of playing short. It is strange because he has the tools to be a good defender there, but he just can’t put it together.
This begs the question why do the Mets want him to put it together? With Amed Rosario having established himself as the much better defensive shortstop, the much better prospect, and arguably the better offensive player, Rosario, not Cecchini, is the shortstop of the future. If you still like Cecchini as a player, and you believe he is a major league caliber player, he needs to transition to second base.
And the process has begun. He worked on second base on the side during the AAA season. He even got into two games there before being called-up to the Mets. Given the fact that the transition presumably began, it has been surprising to see Cecchini play so much shortstop in the Arizona Fall League. It’s shocking when Mets first base coach, Tom Goodwin, is Cecchini’s manager. It’s downright stupefying when the Scorpions are carrying one second baseman and three shortstops on their roster.
It leads one to search for some logic behind what seems to be an illogical decision. Upon further review, there appears to be a couple of good reasons why the Mets have Cecchini playing a lot of shortstop in the Arizona Fall League.
The first and obvious answer is this is all much ado about nothing. While it would be preferable for Cecchini to play second base, it is more important for him to play everyday to see how he stacks up against the best prospects in the game. The Mets may just want him to focus on his hitting to see if his bat could translate against some of the better pitching prospects in baseball. Note, in a 30 game context, this does not just mean results, it also is his approach and whether or not he appears over-matched. If Cecchini does prove he can hit better pitching, his future would be further solidified with the Mets.
Second, there may be a real issue going forward with Asdrubal Cabrera and his knees (even with him not needing knee surgery). While Terry Collins’ first choice would be to move Jose Reyes to short in Cabrera’s absence, he may not have that luxury as Reyes may be playing third base for David Wright, or Reyes could start next season as the starting second baseman depending on what the Mets are able to do this offseason. Also keep in mind that Reyes has proven himself to be an injury prone player at times in his career.
If any of the aforementioned players are injured, the options at short would be Cecchini or Matt Reynolds. In the short term, the Mets may go to Reynolds who has played in the major leagues, is the better defender, and has had some success at the big league level. Moreover, Reynolds has been transitioning to being a utility player meaning he may be more accustomed to not playing everyday. In the event there is an injury that will require someone to take over for a month or so, Cecchini might get the call. While the Mets may be loathed to use him for a two week stretch, they may be inclined to run him out there everyday for a month or so to see how the better regarded prospect can handle being an everyday player.
Finally, the Mets may not be moving Cecchini from shortstop because you can never have too much depth. Rosario could regress, suffer an injury, or the Mets could be presented with a trade offer where they would include their untouchable prospect. In any of these scenarios, the Mets are going to need another shortstop. That shortstop should be Cecchini as he is currently the best non-Rosario middle infield prospect.
There may be other reasons why the Mets are playing Cecchini at shortstop in the Arizona Fall League rather than capitalizing on an opportunity to transition one of their best prospects to the position he is destined to play. Whatever the case, the hope needs to be the Mets are making decisions based upon sound principles that are in both their own and Cecchini’s best interests.
Editor’s Note: Cecchini left last week’s Arizona Fall League game after fouling a ball off his foot. Despite the injury, he is hitting .258/.359/.419 with two doubles, a homer, and six RBI in nine games. He is part of fan voting to select the final two players for the Arizona Fall League roster.
The Arizona Fall League is a showcase league where Major League teams have the opportunity to not only allow some of their prospects to refine their skills, but also to play in front of other team’s front office personnel. There are six teams total and teams play a 30 game schedule. Here is an in-depth look at who the Mets have assigned to the Scottsdale Scorpions:
Goodwin has been the Mets first base coach since the 2012 season. Goodwin is also responsible for the Mets outfielders and base running instruction.
Goodwin was named as the Scottsdale Scorpions manager leading a team comprised of Mets, Angels, Giants, Phillies, and Yankees minor leaguers.
The 22-year old Cecchini was the Mets 2012 First Round draft pick and is Mets Minors sixth ranked Mets prospect.
Cecchini was recently added to the Mets 40 man roster, and he was a September call-up.
With the emergence of Amed Rosario, Asdrubal Cabrera having another year on his contract, and Cecchini having defensive issues at shortstop, Cecchini started the transition to second base late in the AAA season. Presumably, Cecchini should see the bulk of his playing time at second base at the Arizona Fall League.
At the plate, Cecchini is a gap-to-gap line drive hitter who has steadily improved and hit for more power at each stop of his minor league career. Last season, his first season in AAA, Cecchini hit .325/.390/.448 with 27 doubles, two triples, eight homers, and 55 RBI.
In his brief playing time with the Mets, we saw a player who was ready to hit major league pitching with the ability to drive the ball into the gap. As he ages and continues to fill-out some of his doubles may eventually turn into home runs.
The 21-year old Molina was signed by the Mets in 2011 as a 17 year old international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. If he is not added to the 40-man roster, Molina will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.
When Molina takes the mound for the Scorpions, he will be throwing his first pitch in the 2016 season. After a rough start to the 2015 season, which was in part due to a torn UCL in his pitching elbow. Molina initially tried rest to deal with the injury. However, after three ill-fated and ill-advised outings in August, he would be shut down for the season, and he would undergo Tommy John surgery on October 31st.
Like with any pitcher returning from Tommy John, it is difficult to ascertain what he will be when he finally takes the mound. Prior to his injury, Molina was a pitcher with poor mechanics, which may or may not have attributed to his injury.
When healthy, he had a mid 90’s fastball with an advanced changeup and slider for his age. As noted, his mechanics are still raw, and a result, he has a tendency to change his arm angles on each pitch, which would obviously telegraph the pitch to more experienced hitters.
In his last healthy, season, he dominated in the New York Penn League making 12 starts going 7-3 with a 1.77 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9. For a comparison, he had the type of year Harol Gonzalez had this year with similar stuff at a similar age. However, Gonzalez doesn’t have the mechanical issues Molina did.
The 25 year old Oberste was the Mets 2013 seventh round draft pick. If he is not added to the 40-man roster, Oberste will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.
Oberste is coming off a mediocre season for AA Binghamton. While he had appeared to make strides offensively and defensively last year in St. Lucie, he seemed to regress this season in both aspects. In the field, he does not have the range or the arm for third base. With that in mind, he is best suited for first base, where he has shown himself to be an adequate defender. The main issue there is Oberste does not have the bat to play first base.
In his four year professional career, Oberste has not hit for power as evidenced by his career .399 slugging percentage. While he has averaged 22 doubles over the past three years, he has yet to hit double digit homers. Oberste’s bat could justifiably play in the majors at second or a utility position. However, Oberste hasn’t shown the range to prove he could effectively handle either role.
On the bright side, Oberste did have a strong finish to his 2016 campaign. Over July and August, Oberste hit .305/.376/.455 with six doubles, two triples, five homers, and 28 RBI. Overall, Oberste hit .283/.340/.409 with 21 doubles, two triples, nine homers, and 54 RBI for the 2016 season. Obviously, he did most of his damage in July and August. He needs to carry forward what he did those two months into the Arizona Fall League and beyond.
Unlike the other Mets prospect, Nido is a taxi squad player meaning he is only available to play on Wednesday and Saturday. The 22-year old Nido was the Mets 2012 eighth round draft pick. If he is not added to the 40-man roster, Nido will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.
No one made a bigger leap in the Mets organization this season than Nido. When drafted, Nido was seen as a good defensive catcher with a strong arm. While he was seen as a player with some offensive promise with some power, that did not prove to be true in his first four major league seasons.
This year Nido put the full package together winning the Florida State League batting title. In 90 games, Nido hit .320/.357/.459 with 23 doubles, two triples, seven homers, and 46 RBI. Behind the plate, he continued to be a good receiver who threw out 42% of base stealers. Nido has a bright future ahead of him, and he appears to be the catcher of the future.
The 23-year old Oswalt was the Mets 2012 7th round draft pick. If he is not added to the 40-man roster, Oswalt will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.
Oswalt is a right-handed pitcher that once projected to be back-end rotation starter. However, Oswalt is being hampered by his mechanics and his inability to repeat his delivery. He was also hampered by his needing knee surgery back in 2013 which has slowed the former high school pitcher’s development. Another issue is Oswalt still has not developed his slider of changeup to the point where they can be an effective pitch for him.
Mostly, Oswalt relies upon a low 90s four-seam fastball and a high 80s two-seam fastball. With him mostly relying on those pitches, he made 13 starts and one relief appearance for St. Lucie going 4-2 with a 4.12 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9. If Oswalt is unable to develop his other pitches, he may be best suited to moving to the bullpen to see how well he could pitch putting maximum effort on his fastballs for an inning or two.
The 24-year old Roseboom was the Mets 2014 17th round draft pick. He was named Mets Minors Reliever of the Year.
The collegiate starter was immediately made a bullpen arm by the Mets organization despite his low 90s fastball. However, Roseboom was able to make a name for himself this season by not only combining that fastball with an effective slider and changeup, but also trust his stuff and pounding the strike zone.
Given his success, trades, and promotions, Roseboom found himself as the Binghamton Mets closer. As the B-Mets closer, Roseboom made 26 appearances converting 14 out of 15 saves. In that stretch, Roseboom had a 0.92 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP. Batters were only hitting .110 off of him. All season long, he showed the ability to get both righties and lefties out with righties hitting .189 off of him and lefties hitting .141 off of him. Ultimately, he is a platoon neutral left-hander who has the ability to pitch in high pressure and high leverage situations.
The 23-year old Stuart was the Mets 2013 sixth round draft pick. Another player that has to be added to the 40 this offseason to protect from the Rule 5 draft.
Stuart is an elite defensive outfielder that has speed on the bases as evidenced by him stealing 40 this season. The issue with Stuart is that he is a maddening offensive player. He went from hitting .265/.347/.407 in 71 games for Advanced A St. Lucie to hitting .201/.264/.261 in 43 games for AA Binghamton.
While Stuart has tremendous speed, he has not been able to use that speed to get extra base hits. This was the first season he has ever had double digit doubles, and he only had 12. While he has speed, he is still unable to take full advantage of it as he doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Ultimately, while the Mets should be fully willing to see how far Stuart’s speed and glove will carry him, if he does not start hitting, he may never make it to the major leagues.
Taylor was the Mets 2015 17th round draft pick.
Taylor was a dominant collegiate reliever, and he has proven to be a dominant reliever in the low levels of the minor leagues. Taylor does it with a low 90s fastball and a still developing slider. Basically, he is your prototype of what you think is a Mets pitcher. While he has been working to develop a changeup, it is not yet at the point where it is a reliable pitch for him in games.
Taylor is successful because he uses his fastball to generate an almost inordinate amount of groundballs. In his minor league career, he has a 1.92 ground ball out to fly ball out ratio. Taylor used this pitch to help him have a successful season as the St. Lucie Mets closer. In 45 games, Taylor converted 20 out of 23 save opportunities. Overall, Taylor was 4-5 with a 1.87 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.
As many people know, Tebow was signed by the Mets after he put on a showcase for major league teams. At the showcase, the one skill Tebow showed more than anything else was he had natural power. Everyone saw that power in effect when he hit a home run in his first ever professional at-bat in the Instructional Leagues.
Both Tebow’s proponents and detractors will say he is in the Arizona Fall League to boost attendance and revenues for the Arizona Fall League. As we have seen in Tebow’s NFL and very short baseball career, he attracts a crowd, and assuredly, much like Michael Jordan did back in 1994, he will bring record numbers to the ballpark.
If you are a proponent, you point out how this is a good thing because more revenue and attention is always good for baseball. Furthermore, it is a good thing because it will bring more attention to the players who are playing in the games.
If you are a detractor, you believe this is a bad thing because it is merely a distraction which creates a circus like atmosphere that is not conducive to the true intentions of the Arizona Fall League which is prospect development.
One way Tebow fuels his detractors is that he will get playing time that should have gone to another prospect. However, those 30 games isn’t going to change a team’s opinion on a player. Whether or not Tebow deserves to be on the roster, he is there.
In his short duration in the Instructional Leagues, he did show some ability to play baseball. Given his profile and, yes his marketability, the Mets have every interest in seeing how far he could go as a professional baseball player. The Arizona Fall League will help them in that assessment.
Tebow and the other Mets get their chance starting today as the Scottsdale Scorpions visit the Glendale Desert Dogs at 2:35 PM. Tebow will indeed be in the lineup today to make his AFL debut.
As of right now, there is no published TV schedule for any of the Arizona Fall League games.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors