After the 2013 season, Curtis Granderson was really a free agent for the first time in his career. While Granderson was always durable, he was coming off an injury plagued season that was the result of getting hit by two pitches. In the prior to season for the Yankees, Granderson was coming off consecutive 40 home run seasons. In fact over that two year stretch, Granderson led the majors with 84 homers. With that in mind, Granderson was one of the most coveted free agents on the free agent market.
To that end, it is surprising that a player like Granderson who had mostly played for good teams in his career would opt to go a Mets team coming who never had a winning record since moving to Citi Field. Moreover, it was surprising that a power hitter like Granderson was so willing to move to the cavernous dimensions of Citi Field.
And yet, Granderson signed a four year deal to become the Mets right fielder. Why?
Well as Granderson told MLB Network during their 30 Clubs 30 Days feature on the Mets, “I was optimistic it was going to happen. Sandy Alderson and the Mets organization told me about the young guys – the Matz’s, the Syndergaard’s, I had see Harvey, the deGrom’s – and all of a sudden here they are. Not only are they here but they’re here to stay. They all piggyback off of each other and do an amazing job.”
Either Sandy did a great job selling, or Granderson just has an eye for talent because heading into the 2014 season things were not that optimistic.
Matt Harvey‘s incredible 2013 season was cut short with him needing Tommy John surgery. Noah Syndergaard was not yet dominating in the minor leagues despite having terrific stuff. Steven Matz was just coming back from pitching after what had been an arduous Tommy John rehabilitation.
Now, Zack Wheeler was coming off a promising season, and Rafael Montero promised to be the next big thing. While Granderson mentioned Jacob deGrom, if we are being honest, no one knew what he was yet. Certainly, not the Mets as they had deGrom lower on the depth chart than Montero.
Despite all of that, Granderson was right, it has all worked out. Even better, the Mets have pitchers like Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo who have developed into good pitchers while Granderson has been a Met. Behind them are pitchers like Thomas Szapucki and Justin Dunn.
Back in 2013, this was the image of the Mets Alderson presented to Granderson. To his credit, Granderson bought in and signed with the Mets. To Alderson’s credit, he not only delivered, but he keeps delivering.
As Granderson enters the last year of his four year contract, it is important to remember he was the first free agent that believed the Mets could one day be World Series contenders. Not only did he sign with the Mets based upon that belief, but he has also been an important contributor to this Mets team both on the field and in the clubhouse. In many ways, the Granderson signing was a pivotal moment. It was the time that the Mets starting the process of going from a rebuilding team to a World Series contender. It was also the time when someone started believing in this team.
* 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
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.
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.”
Last year’s story “One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out!” can be found here
Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!
Recent reports state the Mets and Neil Walker are in the midst of extending Walker’s current one year $17.2 million deal into a three year deal that may be worth north of $40 million. Now, if Walker is truly healthy and capable of repeating the numbers he put up in 2016, this deal could very well be a massive discount for the Mets. But, we don’t know if he can. It’s one of a few reasons why this may not be the time to extend Walker.
Declining Production Against RHP
Much has been made about the turn-around Walker had as a right-handed hitter. Overall, he was a completely different hitter from that side of the plate. The improvement from the right-hand side of the plate masked Walker’s three-year decline as a left-handed hitter:
- 2014: .269/.339/.491
- 2015: .276/.337/.456
- 2016: .266/.333/.433
Now, it is possible this was the result of the back issues. It also could be the result of what could be the natural continual decline of a now 31 year old player. Fact is, it is too soon to know, and if that is the case, how can you re-invest in that player?
If Walker was not extended, he is going to be a free agent along with the teams first baseman Lucas Duda. The Mets also have an $8.5 team option on Asdrubal Cabrera. Potentially, the only infielder that could be back next season is David Wright, who no one can count on to play a full season. On the surface, this is very problematic.
Any concerns that are raised by the pending free agents should be alleviated by the depth of the Mets farm system. For example, the Las Vegas 51s infield will be loaded:
Rivera is the least regarded prospect of the group, and we just saw him hit .358/.378/.552 with two doubles a triple, three homers, and 13 RBI when he took over second base in September. Coincidentally, Rivera was put in that spot due to the injuries to both Walker and Wilmer Flores.
Rivera could be competing for a spot at second base with Cecchini, Flores, or possibly Cabrera. If the Mets pick up Cabrera’s option, he could slide to second while Rosario takes over at shortstop. Overall, even without Walker, the Mets have plenty of middle infield options remaining, and that is before you take into account the possibility Jose Reyes re-signs with the team.
Regardless of the infield permutations in 2018, it seems reasonable to assume the infield will incorporate both Smith and Rosario. With those two being major league ready next year, the Mets re-signing Walker becomes much less of a priority.
Signing The Starting Pitchers
The young players being able to step in and contribute is important because these players will be extremely cheap. Whereas Walker would probably demand an average annual value of approximately $13+ million per season, Cecchini, Rivera, and Rosario would cost around $500,000. That’s a significant difference. And the Mets can use that money.
Matt Harvey is due to be a free agent after the 2018 season. Zack Wheeler will be a free agent the following year. Jacob deGrom will be in his final arbitration year the year Wheeler hits free agency. Noah Syndergaard will be arbitration eligible next year, and Steven Matz will be arbitration eligible the following year.
These pitchers are about to become extremely expensive. Considering they are the foundation of the Mets success, the Mets need the payroll room to re-sign them and pay them what they will earn in arbitration. Giving $13 million or more to Walker potentially impedes with the Mets ability to pay their pitching. This isn’t a matter of the Mets still being considered to be on austerity; it is a matter of the Mets only being able to spend so much money.
Walker being paid $13 million certainly stands in the way of that happening. If Walker is not capable of playing everyday, or has diminishing skills like most players in their mid 30s, that will create an even bigger issue.
Walker Is An Unknown
If Walker is healthy, he is an All Star caliber player at second base. Regardless of the prospects in place, Walker certainly gives the Mets a safer choice. In fact, Walker could provide the Mets with a better bat than the aforementioned prospects. For a team that is considered a World Series contender, Walker could be an important piece of the puzzle.
However, no one knows what he will be after his discectomy. He could remain healthy, but he could show some effects of the surgery leading to decreased mobility and power at the plate. He could suffer another herniation leading to him needing more surgery. Presumably, he could show no ill effects, and he could return to form. At this point, no one knows, nor can anyone be confident in what Walker will be when he steps foot in the field.
This may be a case where it is better to see Walker play now and have to pay more later. It would be better to pay a production player closer to market value than to try to get a discount and be stuck with an albatross of a contract the next few seasons. Given the depth of the Mets farm system, you really have to question whether this is a worthwhile or necessary gamble.
With many analyzing who should be the fifth starter, there seems to be two camps emerging. The first camp believes Zack Wheeler should be the fifth starter. The main basis for this argument, and it is a compelling one, is his 12 start stretch from July 6th – September 7th, 2004 where he was 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9. Understandably, many believe Wheeler can return to this form. If so, he is a natural choice for the fifth starter.
The second camp believes Robert Gsellman should be the fifth starter. Gsellman has vaulted up many top prospect lists due to the stuff he showed at the end of last season. Like Wheeler, Gsellman was throwing 95 MPH. Like many young Mets starters, he showed a developing slider. Unlike Wheeler, Gsellman had the opportunity to pitch in September games that mattered. With the Mets needing all the wins they could get, he was 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA, 1.276 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. There is every reason to believe the 22 year old can build on this success, and as a result, he should be the fifth starter.
The Mets are justified in going in either direction, and yet, perhaps, the Mets should go in a different direction. For a multitude of reasons, the Mets should start the year with Seth Lugo in the Opening Day rotation.
The biggest argument you can make for Lugo in the rotation is his curveball. There has been much written about it this offseason because it could very possibly be the best curveball in the game, at least if you use spin rate metrics. His curveball naturally belongs on a staff that features some of the best pitches in baseball from Noah Syndergaard‘s fastball to Matt Harvey‘s slider to Jacob deGrom‘s change-up. And yet, Lugo is more than a curveball. He has a fastball he can throw as high as 97 MPH if the situation merits. Like Gsellman, he is improving his slider.
He used this repertoire to pitch extremely well despite extremely difficult circumstances. With the Mets fighting for the Wild Card, and him not having pitched more than three innings since May, he was thrust into the starting rotation. Despite those hurdles, Lugo was 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, and a 5.6 K/9 as a starter. With Lugo being put in a better position next season, with him using his curveball more, and him further developing his slider, he promises to be an even better in 2017.
The obvious question is whether he would be a better option than Wheeler or Gsellman. Arguably, even if Lugo isn’t better, perhaps he should be in the Opening Day rotation anyway.
Based upon the Mets handling of Harvey, the team is likely going to want to limit him somewhere between 160 – 180 innings last year. Given his not having pitched in two years, there is a real debate if Wheeler can do even that. Even assuming he can pitch that long, assuming he averages six innings per start, that’s only 27-30 starts. This would leave the Mets needing to find approximately five more starts.
Then there is Gsellman. If you subscribe to the Verducci effect, 30 more innings would mean Gsellman’s cap is 189.2 innings. If he averages six innings per start, he would come close to lasting a full season. With that said, the Mets would still probably need to find a few more spot starts. That is even more the case if the Mets plan on using Gsellman in the postseason rotation.
Lugo can take the brunt of these starts to begin the season. This would permit the Mets to ease Gsellman or Wheeler into the rotation a month or two into the season. This would allow the Mets to allow either Gsellman or Wheeler to enter the rotation without having to be concerned about their innings.
As for Lugo, he could then move to the bullpen thereby giving the Mets another potentially dominant late inning reliever. And, if needed, we already know the Mets can rely on him for a spot starter if needed.
Ultimately, the best case scenario for the Mets would be to start the year with Lugo in the rotation. And who knows? Based off of what we saw with him last year, he may prove to be the best option for the rotation for the entire season.
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 Taylor. As 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
Well, it has finally happened. With Pitchers and Catchers reporting, the Mets dream rotation all has major league experience, and they are all healthy at the same time. For a fan base that never got to see Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson, and Bill Pulsipher all pitch together in the same rotation, this is no small event.
In fact, this is a momentous occasion where some demons can be slain, and yet, there is some debate over whether we will see each and every single one of these pitchers pitch in the same rotation:
Matt Harvey is coming off surgery to alleviate the symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). This surgery does not have the same history as Tommy John, so while there is always reason to believe in Harvey due to his drive and determination, there is some doubt as to how TOS will affect him in the future.
Jacob deGrom is coming off surgery to re-position his ulnar nerve. As far as pitcher elbow surgeries, this is as easy as it gets. And yet, whenever a pitcher gets elbow surgery, especially when that pitcher has once had Tommy John surgery, it gives you pause.
Steven Matz has pitched in the majors for parts of two seasons, and he was injury prone in both of those seasons. Last season, it was a surgery to remove what was categorized as a massive bone spur. Now that it is gone, he should be free and clear to resume being the pitcher we think he can be. Still, he is one more injury away from us questioning if he, like Travis d’Arnaud, will ever be healthy.
Zack Wheeler has not taken the mound in over two seasons due to his Tommy John and his difficulties and setbacks during the rehabilitation process. Fortunately, he seems ready to go, but he is at this point, we have no idea.
Noah Syndergaard has largely come through two seasons unscathed, and he has emerged as the staff ace. And yet, with his being a pitcher, moreover his being a Mets pitcher, you hold your breath. While you get excited about him adding muscle and his talk about wanting to throw harder, it should also give you some nervousness.
And yet despite all of these concerns and red flags, this is a great day. The dream that was set in motion with the Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey trades is close to coming to fruition. And with these five pitchers going to the mound, it is going to be extremely difficult for the opposition to out-pitch this quintet. It is going to be even harder to beat the Mets when they take the mound.
At some point during the season, we will see all five of these pitchers in the rotation, and if we don’t that might be good news. The reason? Well, it could be because either Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo won a job in the rotation, and they pitched well enough the Mets are loathe to move them out of the rotation.
If the Mets truly have seven pitchers capable of being in THIS starting rotation, the Mets should be primed for a great 2017 season.
As Pitchers and Catchers report on Monday, there is likely going to be a position battle for the fifth starter spot. This spot once belonged to Zack Wheeler, but now given his having missed the past two seasons, his spot in the rotation is in jeopardy leaving him to fight for a spot in the rotation with two other pitchers. Likely, the two pitchers who lose the fifth starters competition will wind up in the bullpen. Given what the health has been for the Mets starting pitchers over the past two seasons, we will very likely see starters make relief appearances and relievers being forced to make a starter or two.
This practice has been fairly common ground during the Sandy Alderson Era. Can you name the pitchers who have both started games and made relief appearance(s) for the Mets since 2011? Good luck!
R.A. Dickey Mike Pelfrey Chris Capuano Dillon Gee Jon Niese D.J. Carrasco Miguel Batista Jeremy Hefner Chris Schwinden Shaun Marcum Carlos Torres Aaron Laffey Collin McHugh Jenrry Mejia Daisuke Matsuzaka Rafael Montero Bartolo Colon Sean Gilmartin Logan Verrett Noah Syndergaard Seth Lugo Robert Gsellman Gabriel Ynoa
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:
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.
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.
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.
Back in 2013, Mets fans were shocked and depressed when Matt Harvey missed the remainder of the regular season with a torn UCL. Initially, it seemed Harvey did not want the surgery, but eventually he agreed to have the surgery. Fortunately for Harvey, he went through the rehabilitation process with no setbacks, and he became an important part of a 2015 rotation that went all the way to the World Series.
While rehabilitating, he worked alongside former Mets starter Jeremy Hefner. In 2012 and 2013, Hefner had performed better than expected with the Mets, and he finally seemed to carve out some type of a role in the organization. The team even tendered him a contract while he was rehabbing from his own Tommy John surgery. However, disaster struck, and Hefner would need another Tommy John surgery. He would miss all of the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The Mets would non-tender him, and he would have to agree to a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, with another arm injury, he has since retired.
These are just two of the countless stories we have seen with the Mets when it comes to Tommy John surgery. Recently, we have heard terrific stories about how Jacob deGrom learned how to throw the change-up from Johan Santana while deGrom was rehabiliting from his own Tommy John surgery. It was a great story, and it was something that forever changed the trajectory of deGrom’s career. There have been other Mets who have had their career trajectories change due to the surgery.
At one point in his career, Bobby Parnell was deemed the closer of the future. In 2013, he seemed to take over the role when he recorded 22 saves. In 2014, he would be named the Opening Day closer. It lasted all of one inning as Parnell was shut down and had Tommy John surgery. He tried to come back in 2015, but he did not have the same velocity, and he did not have his command. The Mets showed no interest in re-signing him leading to Parnell signing a minor league deal with the Tigers. After six major league appearances that saw him post a 6.75 ERA, Parnell was released in August.
Of course, the biggest name with the Mets to have issues post-Tommy John surgery was Zack Wheeler. Right before the 2015 season was set to begin, Wheeler was diagnosed with a torn UCL. He would have the surgery, and he would have a number of set-backs. He was initially slated to be a part of the Mets starting rotation around the 2016 All Star break. Instead, he would have a number of setbacks, and eventually, the Mets would shut him down for the season. In total, he threw one inning for St. Lucie in a rehab appearance. Now, the Mets are discussing whether they should move him to the bullpen for at least the start of the season.
Hefner, Parnell, and Wheeler show exactly why the experiment Seth Maness is undergoing is so important to the game of baseball.
For the past four seasons, Maness has been an effective reliever for the St. Louis Cardinals. Because of his own torn UCL, Maness would make his last appearance on August 13th, and it was assumed he would be headed for Tommy John surgery like so many other people have with the same injury. He didn’t.
Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Dispatch reports Maness underwent a surgery called “primary repair” which is ” a repair and buttressing of the existing ligament at the bone, not Tommy John’s reconstruction of the ligament.” Like Tommy John once was, Maness is now a trailblazer that may have the name of a surgery attached to him. The physician that performed the surgery, Dr. George Paletta, spoke about the procedure saying:
In select cases of UCL tears, with this technique, they have the real potential to not miss the next year. This is potentially a huge stride forward in three ways. First, early results show a high success rate. Second, a return to play is cut by 40 percent. That’s a huge factor. We are able to accelerate the return-to-throwing (rehab) program for the athletes. With this technique at the end of 2016 we have a pitcher who is ready to pitch in games by opening day.
And the third way, as a consequence of this, in the right setting, one would feel more confident moving to surgery early on.
Believe it or not, Maness is a week away from being able to take the mound after a little more than seven months after the surgery. It is expected the free agent reliever will be ready to pitch on Opening Day. Once he takes the mound, there is going to be a lot of interest in his performance.
Dr. Jeffrey Dugas, another surgeon who performs this surgery and the managing partner at the Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, AL noted there is now a lot of interest in how Maness performs post-surgery:
People are watching this and it’s an interesting thing for all of us. There is a lot that we need to learn from Seth, a lot that we need to learn from all of the guys (who have had it). We need the data. There are still so many hurdles to go over, but we’re excited to watch what is going to happen because of what is possible. We’re going to follow him very closely.
Therein lies the rub. We had gotten to the point with Tommy John surgery where it had felt almost routine; where we looked at pitchers like Masahiro Tanaka and wondered why he just didn’t get the surgery. The “primary repair” or Seth Maness Surgery is far from that point. However, if Maness has a strong 2017 season, and a couple of more pitcher follow his path, and have similar success stories, the treatment fo UCLs may have been revolutionized.
There may no longer see the Harveys of the world miss more than a season. We may also see an alternative route for the Hefners, Parnells, and Wheelers of the world. Ultimately, when there is at least a chance pitchers will miss less time and have an alternative surgery that may work better for them, it is a time for cautious optimism.
And with that, a middle reliever who induces a number of groundballs could have one of the most important seasons in major league history.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
At the 2006 trade deadline, many believed the Mets were in need of a big starting pitcher to help the best team in baseball win the World Series. At that time, the big name was Barry Zito, but the Mets were reportedly balking at the asking price which included their top prospect in addition to their best set-up man in Aaron Heilman. Certainly, Heilman became untouchable with Duaner Sanchez‘s injury. However, there is still some debate whether any of the Mets prospects should have been so untouchable so as to prevent them from being moved in a trade many believed the Mets needed to make to win the World Series.
Keeping in mind the Mets didn’t want to move a top prospect, let’s take a look at who was considered the Mets Top 10 prospects back in 2006 and see how their respective careers fared:
The Mets 2003 first round draft pick was seen by many as a future star in the major leagues. He was supposed to be a five tool center fielder. Unfortunately, it did not pan out that way.
Milledge first got his chance in 2006 at first due to a Xavier Nady injury and then because of Nady being traded to sure up their bullpen due to the Sanchez injury. Milledge would show he was not quite ready for the limelight. That shouldn’t be surprising considering he had only played 84 games in AAA, and he was 21 years old. In 56 games, he would only hit .241/.310/.380 with four homers and 22 RBI. He would be unfairly chastised for high fiving the fans after a game tying home run in extra innings.
Unfortunately for him, the home run that led to much hand wringing might’ve been the top moment in his career. Milledge would never figure it out for the Mets, and his star potential would diminish. In 2007, the Mets would move him for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.
Overall, Milledge would only play six years in the majors hitting .269/.328/.395 in parts of six major league seasons. He would play his last game for the Chicago White Sox as a 26 year old in April 2011. From there, he would play four years in Japan. In Japan, he wouldn’t re-establish himself as a major leaguer like Cecil Fielder did, nor would he become an acclaimed Japanese League player like Tuffy Rhodes. Rather, he hit a disappointing .272/.348/.447 averaging 10 home runs and 32 RBI.
Milledge suffered injuries limiting him to just 34 games in 2014 and 2015. No one would sign him to play professional baseball anywhere in 2016. In the end his professional baseball career is over at the age of 31.
Petit was the one major prospect the Mets would move to help the 2006 team. The Mets included him in a deal with Grant Psomas and Mike Jacobs for Carlos Delgado. Delgado would go on to become a slugger at first base the Mets had never truly had in their history. For his part, Petit has put together a nice major leauge career.
Petit would not figure things out until he became a San Francisco Giant in 2012. Under the tutledge of Dave Righetti and Bruce Bochy, he would become a very good long man in the bullpen. In his four years with the Giants, he as 10-7 with one save, a 3.66 ERA, and a 1.128 WHIP.
His best work was in the 2014 postseason. That year the Giants rotation was Madison Bumgarner and a group of starters the team could not truly trust to go five innings in a game. Accordingly, Petit was used almost as a piggyback starting pitcher. In that 2014 postseason, Petit would make four appearances going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA (no runs allowed in the NLDS or NLCS) and a 0.868 WHIP.
In the past offseason, Petit was a free agent, and he signed a one year $3 million deal with the Washington Nationals with a $3 million team option for 2016. He struggled this year in his 35 relief appearances and one start going 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.323 WHIP.
In his nine year career, Petit is 23-32 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP. Whether or not his option is picked up by the Nationals, we should see Petit pitch in his tenth major league season in 2017.
The Mets traded their 2004 third round pick with Dante Brinkley for Paul Lo Duca. Lo Duca was the emotional leader for the 2006 Mets that almost went to the World Series, and Hernandez never pitched in the major leagues.
Hernandez would bounce around from the Marlins to the Mariners to the Red Sox to the Royals to the White Sox and finally to the Diamondbacks. While Hernandez had shown some early promise with the Mets, he never realized it. He topped out at AAA where he would pitch for four seasons going 30-36 with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.562 WHIP.
Hernandez has not given up on his major league dream. Since 2012, Hernandez has been pitching in the Atlantic Leagues. Over the past three seasons, he has pitched Winter Ball. He made 25 starts and two relief appearances for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, he was 7-10 with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.216 WHIP. At the moment, the 30 year old Hernandez has not been signed to play for a Winter Leagues team.
The Mets 1999 38th round draft pick was part of the aforementioned trade that helped the Mets acquire Delgado. The Mets were largely able to use Jacobs as part of the trade because of the tremendous start to his career.
In 2005, Jacobs hit .310/.375/.710 with 11 homers and 23 RBI in 30 games. While Jacobs continued to be a power hitter after leaving the Mets, he would never again reach those levels. Eventually, his impatience at the plate caught up to him, and he would only only last seven years in the major leagues. His penultimate season was with the Mets in 2010 when he was unseated by Ike Davis as the Mets first baseman.
After being released by the Mets, Jacobs has spent the past six seasons in AAA with a 13 game cup of coffee for the Diamondbacks in 2012. In Jacob’s seven year career, he hit .253/.313/.473 with 100 homers and 312 RBI. As a Met, he hit .290/.360/.645 with 12 homers and 25 RBI. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, Jacobs would have the highest slugging percentage in Mets history.
At this point, it is unknown if the 35 year old Jacobs will continue playing professional baseball in 2017.
The one theme that is developing here is that while these players didn’t have a big impact in the majors or the Mets, Omar Minaya utilized these players to help the ballclub. Humber is a perfect example of that.
The Mets 2004 first round pick (third overall) had an inauspicious start to his professional career needing Tommy John surgery in 2005.
With that Humber would only make one start in his Mets career, and it wasn’t particularly good. With the Mets collapsing in the 2007, and the team having a rash of starting pitcher injuries, the team turned to the highest drafted player in their system. Humber kept the woeful Washington Nationals at bay for the first three innings before allowing Church to hit a two run homer in the fourth and then sowing the seeds for a huge rally in the fifth inning that would see the Mets once 6-0 lead completely evaporate in a frustrating 9-6 loss. This would be the last time Humber took the mound for the Mets. In his Mets career, he would make one start and four relief appearances with no decisions, a 6.00 ERA, and a 1.333 WHIP.
Still, he showed enough to be a major part in the trade that would bring Johan Santana to the Mets. Santana and Humber would both enter immortality. Santana would throw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Humber would become perhaps the unlikeliest of all pitchers to throw a perfect game. It was the 21st perfect game in baseball history. He joined David Cone as the only ex-Mets to throw a perfect game. He joined a much longer list of seven former Mets, highlighted by Nolan Ryan, who threw a no-hitter AFTER leaving the Mets. Humber would also become the pitcher with the highest career ERA to throw a perfect game.
In all, Humber played for five major league teams over his eight major league seasons. In those eight major league seasons, he has gone 16-23 with a 5.31 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. He threw his last major league pitch in 2013 in a season he went 0-8 in 13 starts. In 2014, he pitched for the Oakland Athletics’ AAA affiliate. In 2015, he pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leagues going 3-3 with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.855 WHIP in 11 starts and one relief appearance.
Humber had signed on with the San Diego Padres and was invited to Spring Training in 2016. He was released prior to the start of the season, and he did not throw one pitch for any professional team in 2016. He is currently 33 years old, and at this point, he has not announced his retirement.
Gomez has been far and away the best player on the list of the 2006 Mets top prospects. He would be moved with Humber as a centerpiece in the Santana trade.
In Gomez’s early career, it was clear he was a Gold Glove caliber center fielder. He made highlight reel play after highlight reel play for the Twins. However, it was clear from how he was struggling at the plate, the projected five tool player wasn’t quite ready to be the hitter everyone anticipated he would be at the major league level. Eventually, the Twins traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers, and in Milwaukee, Gomez would figure it out.
In Gomez’s five plus years with the Brewers, he won a Gold Glove and was a two time All Star. He was also a coveted player at the 2015 trade deadline, and he almost became a New York Met again in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores. As we all remember, Flores cried on the field, and the Mets front office was disappointed in Gomez’s medicals causing them to rescind the trade due to a purported hip issue.
Gomez would then be traded to the Astros, and the Mets would appear to be vindicated for their decision. Gomez played 126 games for the Astros before being released and picked up by the Texas Rangers. In Texas, Gomez began playing like the player the Mets coveted at the 2015 trade deadline. The 33 game burst came at the right time as the 30 year old Gomez will be a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason.
Overall, Gomez has played for 10 years, and he is a .257/.312/.415 hitter with 116 home runs, 453 RBI, and 239 stolen bases. He is still a good center fielder, and he may still have a couple of good seasons in front of him.
From the moment the Mets signed him as a 16 year old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic, F-Mart was seen as a top prospect. Many imagined he would become a five tool player like a Carlos Beltran. Instead, his career went the way of Alex Ochoa.
F-Mart was the first big prize Minaya brought in when he become the General Manager of the Mets. Understandably, he was considered untouchable in trade discussions. As it turns out, the Mets wished they moved him when they had the opportunity.
F-Mart would only play in 47 games over three years with the Mets hitting just .183/.250/.290 with two homers and 12 RBI. Eventually, with him not progressing as the Mets once hoped he would, and a different regime in place, F-Mart would eventually be put on waivers and claimed by the Houston Astros. With the Astros, he would only play in 52 games over two years, and he would just hit .225/.285/.424 with seven homers and 17 RBI.
In 2013, the Astros traded him to the Yankees for minor league depth. After the 2013 season, F-Mart would become a free agent, and he would find no suitors.
In 2014, he only played in the Dominican Winter Leagues, and in 2015, he played in only seven games in the Mexican Leagues. Given how he has bounced around and seeing how many major league teams have either passed on him or have forgotten his existence, it is hard to believe that he is just 28 years old.
Hernandez is undeterred, and he is still playing baseball. Right now, he is playing alongside current Mets shortstop prospect Luis Guillorme for Spain in the World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds. Spain would go 0-2 in the European Qualifier and will not be a finalist for the World Baseball Classic.
The Mets acquired Hernandez from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for backup catcher Vance Wilson in 2005. Hernandez intrigued the Mets because he was an exceptionally skilled defensive shortstop. The question with him was whether he was ever going to hit.
Despite these questions, and with Kaz Matsui starting the year on the disabled list, Hernandez would actually be the Mets Opening Day second baseman. On Opening Day, he would show everyone why he was so highly regarded defensively with an impressive over the shoulder catch. However, Hernandez would also show he would never be able to hit at the big league level. That fact may have forever changed Mets history.
Despite hitting .152/.164/.242 in 25 games with the Mets, he would make the NLCS roster. In Game 7 of the NLCS, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Instead of going to Hernandez to pinch-hit for Heilman to get the bunt down, Willie Randolph went to an injured Cliff Floyd to try to win the game. Floyd would strike out, and Hernandez would enter the game only as a pinch runner for Lo Duca, who had worked out a walk to load the bases. From first base, Hernandez got a good view of how the series would end. Had Hernandez been able to hit just a little bit, it is possible he would have been sent up to bunt, and maybe things would have gone differently.
Overall, Hernandez never did show the ability to hit at the major league level. The Mets gave up waiting. In 2008, with the Mets desperate for relievers to plug in holes to a decimated bullpen, Hernandez was traded to the Nationals for Luis Ayala.
Hernandez would play for four teams in six seasons hitting .241/.300/.314 with four homers and 60 RBI. While he did show he was skilled defensively, he could never hit enough to stick in the majors, and as a result, his major league career was over in 2010 when he was 27 years old.
From 2011 – 2013, Hernandez would play in AAA. For the past three seasons, he has played in the Japanese Leagues. In every season since 2006, the 33 year old has played in the Dominican Winter Leagues for Tigres del Licey. It is unknown at this point if he is going to play for the Tigres this year or if he will return to the Japanese Leagues next year.
Bannister was the Mets 2003 seventh round draft pick out of USC. He would become the first ever Brooklyn Cyclones pitcher to pitch a game for the New York Mets. Bannister had earned that right by beating out Heilman for the fifth spot in the 2006 Mets Opening Day rotation. There were a myriad of reasons including but not limited to Heilman’s importance in the bullpen.
Bannister’s career would get off to quite the start with him going 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.393 WHIP. While he struggled with his command and couldn’t go very deep into games as a result, the Mets were willing to stick with him through those five starts. Unfortunately, Bannister would suffer a hamstring injury at the end of April that would linger for most of the year. By the time he was healthy, John Maine was already a fixture in the rotation. With the Mets acquiring Perez at the trade deadline, there was no longer a spot for him on the major league roster.
With there no longer being any room for him, the Mets moved him in the offseason to the Kansas City Royals for Ambiorix Burgos. It was a trade that was detrimental for both players. Bannister would pitch four years for the Royals going 35-49 with a 5.13 ERA and a 1.417 WHIP. Burgos’ Mets career was marked by ineffectiveness, injury, and domestic violence.
After going 37-50 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.421 WHIP in his five year major league career, Bannister had signed a two year deal to pitch for the Yomiuri Giants. Bannister would never pitch for the Giants. After an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Bannister retired from baseball. Since the 2015 season, the 35 year old Bannister has been a professional scout for the Boston Red Sox.
In 2003, Soler defected to the Dominican Republic from Cuba. The following year he would sign a three year $2.8 million contract with the New York Mets.
Soler would only pitch for the major league club in 2006. He would make eight starts highlighted by a complete game two hit shut out of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, the rest of his starts weren’t as great, and he would finish the year going 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.578 WHIP. His contract would expire at the end of the season, and the Mets would not re-sign him.
Soler would pitch in 14 games, mostly out of the bullpen, for the Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate in 2007. In the following two seasons, Soler would return to the tri-state area pitching for the Long Island Ducks and Newark Bears of the Independent Leagues. He would not pitch well at either stop, and no one would offer him a contract to play professional baseball in 2010. In 2011, he pitched in two games in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues. Since that time, the 37 year old Soler has not pitched in professional baseball.
At this time, it is unknown as to what Soler has been doing in his post-baseball career.
What is known is that while the top prospects from the 2006 season largely did not pan out, then Mets GM Omar Minaya was able to utilize a number of the players to improve the 2006 and 2007 Mets teams that fell just short. This has left many fans wondering what would have happened if Milledge was moved at his peak value or what would have happened if Hernandez learned how to hit. Things may have gone very differently in both of those seasons.
Still, while you could call each of these prospects, save Gomez, a bust. It is notable that nine of the 10 players played in the major leagues for multiple seasons. Three of the players played in the postseason, and one won a World Series. There have been All Star appearances and a perfect game from this group. While you expected more, each player left their own mark on the Mets and the game of baseball.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.