Justin Ruggiano

Terry Collins Needs To Stop Giving Dominic Smith The Michael Conforto Treatment

Last night, the Yankees brought on Aroldis Chapman to close out a Yankees three run lead.  After Wilmer Flores struck out to begin the inning, Dominic Smith strode up to the plate in what would be the rookie’s biggest test in his brief major league career.  Seeing how he hit an opposite field homer earlier in the game, and Rafael Devers hit a huge home run against Chapman in Chapman’s last save attempt, this was promising to be a very interesting match-up.

Sorry, no, the match-up never happened.  Instead, Terry Collins pinch hit for Smith with Jose Reyes.

This is not the first time we have seen this play with Collins.  During Michael Conforto‘s first two years with the Mets, Collins did not let his young left-handed hitter face left-handed pitching.  Instead, he would bat Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares, Justin Ruggiano, Ty Kelly, or really any warm body on the bench to prevent Conforto from facing a left-handed pitcher.

The end result of Collins’ refusal to play Conforto against left-handed pitching was Conforto actually struggling against left-handed pitching.  Over his first two big league seasons, Conforto hit .129/.191/.145 with just one extra-base hit, a double, in the 68 at-bats he did get against left-handed pitching.

However, there was no reason to sit Conforto against left-handed pitching.  His hitting coach, Kevin Long, found the notion that Conforto can’t hit left-handed pitching absurd.  Conforto hit left-handed pitching in both his collegiate and brief minor league career.  Still, despite Conforto’s ability to hit left-handed pitching everywhere else, Collins decided to sit him against left-handed pitching.

When pressed on it, Collins said, “We’re in a situation where we’re trying to win games.  This is not a time to develop players.”  (Barbara Barker, Newsday).

Assuming Collins is correct that you shirk the responsibility of developing young players because you have designs on winning a World Series, why is he now repeating the same tactics with Smith?

Currently, the Mets are 10 games under .500.  The team has to win 62% of their remaining games just to get to .500.  The team has already traded away Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, and Neil Walker.  If an opportunity presents itself, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, and Rene Rivera will find new homes before the end of the month.  Put more succinctly, this team is not in a position where they are trying to win games – this is a time to develop players.

Pinch hitting for Smith the very first opportunity he gets to face a left-handed pitcher in the majors does nothing to accomplish that goal.

Overall, unless Collins is facing some delusions of grandeur, there is no reason to believe the Mets are winning anything in 2017.  Smith is ticketed to be the Mets starting first baseman in 2018.  To that end, the rest of the regular season should be dedicated to helping him best prepare for the 2018 season.  Sitting him against left-handed pitching only hinders his development.

Maybe, just maybe Collins was never truly concerned with player development.  Maybe in his mind young left-handed batters are just incapable of hitting left-handed pitching.  It is likely the reason why he previously sat Conforto against left-handed pitching, and it is the reason why he’s doing it with Smith now.

It’s poor managing, and it has had a tangible effect on player development.  Collins might have had his excuse with Conforto, but he doesn’t have that excuse with Smith now.  If Collins shields Smith from a left-handed pitcher just one more time, the Mets are going to have to find someone else to manage.  Simply put, you cannot permit Collins to hinder Smith’s development to win some meaningless games.

Wilmer Throws This One Away

Imagine believing you need to use multiple relievers every inning. Imagine using the same relievers. relievers day after day after day. Sooner or later it catches up to you. That moment was today for the Mets. 

It spoiled what was a good day for Tommy Milone. Despite being released by the Brewers and his not having started a game since April 25th, he pitched well. 

Milone pitched five innings allowing six hits, two runs, two earned, and two walks with five strikeouts. He exited the game in the sixth after allowing back-to-back singles to Buster Posey and Christian Arroyo

Fernando Salas came on for Milone and allowed one of the inherited runners to score. That run scored when Justin Ruggiano followed a Nick Hundley single with a deep sacrifice fly. From there Salas slammed the door shut. 
Gorkys Hernandez grounded to the third baseman Wilmer Flores. Instead of trying for the around the horn double play, Flores went home. Kevin Plawecki made a terrific play picking up Flores’ short-hopped throw to tag out Arroyo, who just stopped running on the play. Salas followed this out by striking out Mike Morse to end the rally. 
With Salas ending the rally, Milone was in position to earn his first win in a Mets uniform – a win he didn’t get.  Milone was in that position because he helped his own cause. In the fourth, Milone hit an RBI single off Matt Cain to expand the Mets lead to 3-1. The single scored Curtis Granderson, who had a pretty good game himself. 

It started with an opposite field double in the first inning to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. He also reached on a Buster Posey error to get the aforementioned rally started. 

The other run was courtesy of Jay Bruce:

After losing one to the rainout, Bruce finally got his 10th home run back. The third inning homer also snapped a 1-1 tie. The game was tied because Posey hit yet another homer off the Mets. 

The Mets had a chance to put the game away in the sixth. With a perfect Juan Lagares bunt down the third base line, the bases were loaded against Giants reliever George Kontos with one out. Kontos then recorded back-to-back strikeouts of Asdrubal Cabrera (pinch hitting for Salas) and Jose Reyes to keep it at 3-2. 

The Mets similarly fizzled in the seventh. Bruce and Neil Walker hit back-to-back one out singles. Granderson popped up, and Flores lined out to kill that rally. 

The Mets bullpen tried to keep it at 3-2. Josh Edgin (one batter) and Hansel Robles combined to pitch a scoreless seventh. This continues Robles’ 14 inning scoreless streak. 

Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins pitched a scoreless eighth.  Blevins came on with two outs in the eighth because Brandon Belt was announced as a pinch hitter. Blevins probably came on because Terry Collins was probably having a panic attack thinking about the possibility Blevins may not pitch in a game. He also completely disregarded Reed’s numbers against left-handed batters. 

The Mets would rue the town blown opportunities to tack on runs as Jeurys Familia blew his first save of the season. 

Ironically, it wasn’t Conor Gillaspie who got to him. In fact, Familia dispatched with him easily. In fact, it was Flores who got to Familia. After Joe Panik walked, Flores threw off line to second. Instead of an inning ending double play, there were runners on first and second. Hunter Pence singled past a diving Flores to tie the game at 3-3. Posey then walked, and Arroyo hit a bases clearing double to make it 6-3.

At that point, Rafael Montero came into the game. Note, he didn’t make his way into a 6-1 game, but today, he relieved Familia. Because he has a sick sense of humor, Montero recorded two quick outs to get out of the inning. 

Flores redeemed himself a bit in the ninth. After the Mets put two on with two outs in the ninth, he came up. Flores hit one that deflected just off Ruggiano’s glove and the top of the wall. It made it 6-5, but it was too little too late. Kevin Plawecki grounded out to the catcher ending the game. 

 The winning streak is over, and the Mets fell to a game under .500. 

Game Notes: Michael Conforto sat with a hamstring issue. With Bruce in right and Juan Lagares in center, Granderson played left. With Conforto sitting, Reyes returned to the lead-off spot. 

Collins Bullpen Mismanagement 

The Mets were up 6-1 in the eighth inning against a San Francisco Giants offense that showed no life all game long.  This could be a function of the fact the Giants have scored the fewest amount of runs in the National League. In essence, with the Mets up by five runs, the game was over. 

Not according to Terry Collins. He managed the game like it was a one run game in the seventh game of the World Series. 

Hansel Robles pitched a scoreless seventh lowering his ERA to 1.47. With his being a reliever accustomed to pitching multiple innings, it was justifiable to send him out there to pitch the eighth. He opened the inning by hitting Justin Ruggiano
This led to Collins lifting him for Jerry Blevins. Even with the left-handed Joe Panik and Brandon Belt coming up, this was completely unnecessary. The Mets were up five runs. You don’t need to start playing matchups late in the game. This was a chance to rest Blevins who is on pace for 96 appearance. Furthermore, left-handed batters are 1-19 against Robles this year. 

This isn’t a one year fluke with Robles either. In his career, Robles has limited left-handed batters to a .164/.255/.304 batting line. That’s better than the .210/.262/.314 Blevins has allowed in his career. There’s no need to go to a lefty in that spot.

Once Blevins came in and did his job, there was no need to take him out. He needed just six pitches to get Panik and Belt out. He’s been much better against right-handed batters since joining the Mets. He very well could have pitched to Hunter Pence. Instead Collins went to Addison Reed

With Reed coming into the game, he’s now on pace to make 81 appearances. That would top his career high in appearances which he set last year. As if using Robles, Blevins, and Reed wasn’t enough, Jeurys Familia came in to close the ninth.

Collins did that despite Blevins, Reed, and Familia having pitched on Monday. He did this despite knowing  Tommy Milone was starting tomorrow. 

Milone was picked up off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers. Milone was available because he had a 6.43 ERA in six games this season. In his three starts, he’s averaging under five innings per start. Chances are the Mets are going to need to heavily rely on their bullpen in a day game after a night game. 

Certainly, it’s too soon to pitch Paul Sewald after 3.1 innings on Sunday. To that end, he shouldn’t be available tomorrow. Fernando Salas needed a day off after pitching in seven of the last nine days. 

This is all the more reason you let Robles finish that eighth inning. Then with a five run lead the Mets can pitch Rafael Montero in the ninth inning now that he’s once again out of the rotation.  

Doing this keeps the key bullpen arms fresh for when the team really needs them. Instead, Collins burned the arms with a five run lead against the worst offensive team in the National League. This is how bullpens get burned out. This is why key bullpen arms aren’t as effective later in the season when they’re needed the most. 

Collins Made Sure The 6-1 Lead Held Up

It doesn’t matter how poorly the Giants are playing this season. If Zack Wheeler is going to pitch like he did tonight, he is going to beat even the best offensive teams. 

Through six innings, Wheeler allowed just two hits and one run. The only issue was the four walks, but with the stuff he had there was no way the Giants were capitalizing. His slider was sharp, and he was getting his fastball up to 98 MPH. The only damage against him was a Buster Posey fourth inning solo homer. 

By the time Posey hit that homer, the game was effectively over. The resurgent Mets offense jumped all over Jeff Samardzija

In the first, Eduardo Nunez misplayed a Neil Walker ball into a two RBI “triple.”  The ball was likely going to land and score one run, but it was not a triple. 

Jose Reyes singled home Walker, and Rene Rivera doubled him home. Just like that it was 4-0. 

In the second, back-to-back doubles by Michael Conforto and T.J. Rivera made it 5-0. In the seventh, Conforto put the final nail in the coffin hitting a solo home run to left-center field. 

Now, despite having a 6-1 lead in a May game against a terrible offense, Terry Collins managed the eighth inning like it was the eighth inning in the seventh game of the World Series. 

After a scoreless seventh, Collins let Hansel Robles start the eighth.  After Robles hit Justin Ruggiano, Collins brought in Jerry Blevins to pitch to the left-handed hitters Joe Panik and Brandon Belt. Collins went to Blevins despite him being used way too frequently early this season despite the score being 6-1, and despite left-handed hitters hitting just 1-19 off Robles. 

After Blevins got the two lefties, Collins went to Addison Reed to face Hunter Pence because of a little known MLB rule that if Pence hits a home run in Citi Field in the eighth inning of a game played on May 9th with the Giants down by five runs, the home run counts for 10 runs. 

This ladies and gentleman is why Collins has stuck around long enough to pass Bobby Valentine for the second most games managed in Mets history. 

Naturally, given how close this 6-1 game was Collins went to Jeurys Familia to close it out in the ninth. Somehow, the official scorer did not give Familia a save for this one. In any event, thanks to Collins pulling out all the stops, the Mets are back to .500. 

Game Notes: Josh Smoker was sent down before the game to make room for Matt Harvey whose suspension just ended. Rafael Montero remains on the roster. 

Mets Who May Still Lose Their Spot on the 40 Man Roster

After protecting Amed Rosario, Tomas Nido, Chris Flexen, Marcos Molina, and Wuilmer Becerra from the Rule 5 Draft, the Mets 40 man roster now stands at precisely 40 players.  This means that now when the Mets look to add a player in free agency, they will have to cut one of the players off of their 40 man roster.  And yes, the Mets will have to remove some players off of the 40 man roster.

From all indications, even if the Mets do no re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, they are pursuing other outfielders to replace him.  With the possible suspension of Jeurys Familia looming, it is likely, the Mets will have to add one, if not two, late inning relievers.  The team may be interested in bringing back Jerry Blevins or finding another LOOGY.  In addition to those moves, there are some other moves or upgrades the Mets may make this offseason.  With that in mind, here are some players whose spot on the 40 man roster is tenuous:


Josh Edgin

Heading into the 2015 season, Edgin was supposed to be the Mets LOOGY for years to come.  Those plans changed when he needed Tommy John surgery causing him to miss the entire 2015 season.

He returned in 2016, and he was not the same pitcher having lost velocity off of all of his pitches.  He went from having a mid-90s fastball to having a low 90s fastball.  As a result, Edgin got hit around.  In AAA, he had a 3.51 ERA and a 1.650 WHIP.  In his limited stints in the majors, he had a 5.23 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP.  Another complication for Edgin is he is arbitration eligible meaning the Mets are presumably going to have to pay him a lot more to keep him on the roster.

On a positive note, Edgin still did get left-handed batters out at the major league level.  In a very small sample size (20 plate appearances), lefties only hit .235 off of him with no extra base hits.  It is a big reason why he was on the Wild Card Game roster when the Mets faced a San Francisco Giants team stacked with lefties.  Between his ability to get lefties out, the hope his arm could improve a second year removed from surgery, and his still having options available, there is still some hope for Edgin.

Sean Gilmartin

Gilmartin has gone from an important bullpen arm the Mets acquired in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft to a player who is seemingly lost his ability to get batters out.

Despite Gilmartin being a valuable long man in the pen, the Mets had him start the year in AAA to become starting pitching depth.  In 18 starts and one relief appearance, he was 9-7 with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.425 WHIP.  On a couple of occasions, he was recalled, and he pitched exclusively in relief for the Mets.  Things did not go well for him in those 14 relief appearances as Gilmartin had a 7.13 ERA and a 1.585 WHIP.  Between his performance and his having to go on the minor league disabled list with shoulder soreness, it was a lost year for Gilmartin.

Some of the struggles of Gilmartin were the result of his uneven usage between AAA and the majors.  The other issue was his shoulder soreness, which for now, appears to no longer be an issue.  Another strong factor in his favor is the fact that he is not yet arbitration eligible meaning the Mets do not have to pay him much to see if he returns to form.  His having options available is also a positive.  The Mets could still keep him on the roster with the idea of returning him to the role he was most successful.

Erik Goeddel

There is perhaps no Mets pitcher that evokes such split opinions than Goeddel.  For years, there were people who saw a pitcher that was able to go out there and get outs.  There were others who saw a guy who had fringy stuff that was more the beneficiary of good luck than good pitching.  After the 2016 season, most people agree that Goeddel was a liability for the Mets.

In 36 appearances for the Mets, Goeddel had a 4.54 ERA and a 1.318 WHIP.  It should be noted this was a big departure from how he had previously pitched with the Mets.  In 2014 and 2015, Goeddel had a combined 2.48 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP.  His prior success, his pre-arbitration status, and his having options remaining, gives him a chance to remain on the 40 man roster.

Rafael Montero

How he is still on the 40 man roster is anyone’s guess. Entering the 2016 season, the Mets had it with him, and they sent him a message by making him one of the first people sent down to minor league Spring Training.  Montero responded by pitching so poorly in Las Vegas that he was demoted to Binghamton.  It was only due a rash of pitching injuries that he got a shot at pitching in the majors again, and like his other opportunities, he squandered that.  Still, despite all that, the Mets cut Eric Campbell and Jim Henderson, AND exposed Paul Sewald to the Rule 5 Draft all for the sake of holding onto Montero that much longer.  Eventually, you have to assume Montero is going to get cut from the roster.  It is only a matter of when.

Logan Verrett

Strangely enough, the Mets had to make a decision on whether to expose Verrett to the Rule 5 Draft or to remove a player from the 40 man roster to protect him.  The Mets chose the former, and lost him for a period of time.  After Verrett struggled with the Rangers, the Mets took him back where Verrett pitched well out of the bullpen and the rotation for the Mets.

The Mets envisioned Verrett succeeding in that role in 2016, but it wasn’t to be.  He wasn’t as effective replacing Matt Harvey in the rotation as he was in 2015.  He went from a 3.63 ERA as a starter to a 6.45 ERA.  He performed so poorly out of the rotation that the Mets gave Montero a chance to start over him down the stretch of the season.

Still, there was a silver lining to Verrett’s 2016 season.  In his 23 relief appearances, he had a 2.84 ERA.  When you consider his reliever ERA, how well he performed in 2015, his pre-arbitration status, and his having options remaining, there is still a chance for Verrett to remain on the 40 man roster.


Kevin Plawecki

Thinking of Plawecki being on the bubble is a bit odd especially when he is only 25 years old, has shown himself to be a terrific pitch framer, and he has only had 409 plate appearances at the major league level.

The problem there is Plawecki hasn’t hit at all in those 409 plate appearances.  In his brief major league career, Plawecki is a .211/.287/.285 hitter.  That’s worse than what Rene Rivera could give you, and Rivera has firmly established himself as Noah Syndergaard‘s personal catcher.  Worse yet, Plawecki is not the defensive catcher Rivera is.

When you also consider Tomas Nido‘s breakout season in St. Lucie possibly forcing the Mets to protect him a year earlier than anticipated, the Mets are going to be faced with the dilemma of carrying four catchers on their 40 man roster.  With Nido perhaps passing him as the catcher of the future, and Travis d’Arnaud having shown he has more offensive ability than Plawecki, it is quite possible, Plawecki could find himself having run out of chances with the Mets organization.

With all that said, it is hard to believe the Mets moving on from Plawecki this soon is his career.

Ty Kelly

This is an interesting situation for Kelly to be in considering he was signed to be minor league depth last season.  With a rash of injuries and some hot hitting in AAA, Kelly finally reached the majors after his long seven year odyssey in the minor leagues.

After some time, the Mets actually discovered who Kelly was.  Despite his switch hitting skills, he really could only hit from the right-hand side against major league pitching.  He was versatile, but his best position was left field.  Overall, his main asset down the stretch in September was as a pinch runner.  He was mostly used as a pinch runner because of the dearth of team speed on the Mets roster.  With all the said, he did make the Wild Card Game roster, and he got a pinch hit single off Madison Bumgarner.

Basically, all the reasons you can make for him being kept on the roster or being cut from the roster are the same exact things you could have said about Campbell, and he just signed a deal to play in Japan.

Overall, it is hard to guesstimate how many of these players are going to remain on the roster because we are not sure how many moves the Mets are going to make this offseason.  Normally, you would say Montero was sure to be cut, but he is more and more looking like the pitching version of Campbell . . . there is just no getting rid of the guy.  Still, as we learned from Campbell, there is going to become a breaking point, and that point may well be when the Mets sign enough players this offseason to take them from the Wild Card back to being World Series contenders.

Editor’s Note: a version of this story was originally run on Mets Merized Online


Mets Have Rule 5 Decisions to Make

With the Mets adding Gavin Cecchini to the 40 man roster to sit on the bench as the Mets are chasing down a Wild Card spot, the team had one less decision to make on who should be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason.  Even if the Mets didn’t add Cecchini now, he was going to be added in the offseason.  Cecchini is too valuable a prospect, and he would be snatched up immediately in the Rule 5 Draft.

Cecchini was not the only player the Mets were going to have to make a decision on this offseason.  In fact, the Mets have to make a decision on 66 different prospects about whether or not they should be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.  Here is a review of some of the more notable Mets prospects that need to be added to the 40 man roster in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft:


SS Amed Rosario (Advanced A & AA) .324/.374/.459, 24 2B, 13 3B, 5 HR, 71 RBI, 19 SB

Yes, if it hasn’t been apparent this entire year, Rosario is in a class all by himself.  If he’s not added to the 40 man roster someone is getting fired.


1B/3B Matt Oberste (AA) .283/340/.409, 21 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 54 RBI, 1 SB

One issue that has plagued Oberste his entire minor league career is he has to fight for at bats as he is usually behind a bigger Mets prospect.  That has been literally and figuratively Dominic Smith (who is not yet Rule 5 eligible).  Oberste was an Eastern League All Star; however, the issue that is always going to hold him back is the fact that he is a corner infielder that does not hit for much power. Most likely, Oberste will not be added to the 40 man roster.

CF Champ Stuart (Advanced A & AA) .240/.314/.349, 12 2B, 7 3B, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 40 SB

Stuart is an elite defensive outfielder that has speed on the bases as evidenced by him stealing 40 bases this season.  The issue with Stuart is 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 he certainly has the tools to possibly be a big leauger one day, he’s too far away at this point.  Also, with teams putting more of a premium on offense than defense, it’s likely he will not be protected, and he will go undrafted.

C Tomas Nido ( Advanced A) .320/.357/.459, 23 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 0 SB

This year was a breakout season defensively and offensively for the Florida State League batting champion.  Normally, with Nido never having played a game in AA, the Mets would be able to leave him unprotected and be assured he wouldn’t be drafted.  However, with catcher being such a difficult position to fill, it’s possible a bad team like the Braves takes a flyer on him and keeps him as the second or third stringer catcher all year.  It’s exactly how the Mets lost Jesus Flores to the Nationals many years ago.

SP Marcos Molina 2015 Stats (Rookie & Advanced A) 9 G, 8 GS, 1-5, 4.26 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.9 K/9

Molina did not pitch for the Mets organization for the entire 2016 season as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery.  The Arizona Fall League will be his first time facing batters in a game since his eight starts for St. Lucie in 2015.  It’s likely he will go unprotected and undrafted.


RHP Paul Sewald (AAA) 56 G, 5-3, 19 saves, 3.29 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 11.0 K/o

In many ways, it is surprising that a Mets bullpen that was looking for an extra arm never turned to Sewald.  While he struggled to start the season like most pitchers transitioning to the Pacific Coast League do, Sewald figured it out and had a terrific second half with 10 saves, a 1.85 ERA, and a 0.95 WHIP.  Sewald should be protected.  In the event he isn’t, he should be as good as gone.

RHP Beck Wheeler (AA & AAA) 47 G, 0-3, 6 saves, 5.98 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 12.1 K/9

Wheeler went unprotected and undrafted last year, and based upon the numbers he put up in his time split between Binghamton and Las Vegas, it appears the same thing will happen this year.  The one reservation is like with the Braves interest in Akeel Morris, teams will always take fliers on guys with mid 90s fastballs who can generate a lot of strikeouts.  It just takes one team to think they can help him reduce his walk rate for him to go in the Rule 5 draft.

RHP Chasen Bradford (5 saves, 4.80 ERA, 1.48 WHIP) – Bradford regressed statistically from last year in large part because he is a sinker/slider pitcher that pitches to contact.  On the bright side, he walks very few batters meaning if you have good infield defense, he will be a successful pitcher for your team.  His numbers should scare off a number of teams in the Rule 5 draft just like it did last year.

RHP Ricky Knapp (Advanced A & AA) 25 G, 24 GS, 13-6, 2.69 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 6.3 K/9

Knapp started the year in St. Lucie, and he finished it with a spot start in Las Vegas.  Knapp doesn’t have any plus pitches, but he gets the most out of all of his pitches because he is excellent at hitting his spots.  He is a very polished product that is best suited to being a starting pitcher.  Since he doesn’t strike out many batters, teams will most likely pass on him in the Rule 5 draft.

RHP Luis Mateo (AA & AAA) 51 G, 4-4, 1 save, 2.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.0 K/9

He’s a fastball/slider pitcher with a low 90s fastball that generates a fair share of groundball outs while keeping the ball in the ballpark.  While his ERA should entice teams, his WHIP and strikeout rate may keep them away just like it did last year when the Mets left him exposed to the Rule 5 draft.  He will most likely begin next year in AAA.


2B/3B/SS Phillip Evans (Advanced A & AA) .321/.366/.460, 30 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 1 SB

The Eastern League Batting Champion certainly raised his profile with a much improved offensive season.  He’s starting to become more selective at the plate and learn how to be less of a pull hitter.  The main issue for Evans is he may not have a position.  While he can make all the plays at the infield positions, he lacks range to be a solid middle infielder.  He also lacks the arm strength and power numbers you would want at third base.

RHP Chris Flexen (Advanced A, AA, AAA) 25 GS, 10-9, 3.56 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.4 K/9

Flexen appears to be in the mold of a typical Mets pitching prospect in that he has a high 90’s fastball and a good slider.  Despite the repertoire, he is not generating a lot of strikeouts right now.  On the bright side, he does generate a number of ground balls while limiting home runs.   He was rumored to be part of the initial Jay Bruce trade that fell apart due to an unnamed prospect’s physical (does not appear to be him).  A second division club like the Reds could take a flyer on him and put him in the bullpen for a year to gain control over him despite him never having pitched at a level higher than Advanced A St. Lucie.

RHP Tyler Bashlor (Full Season & Advanced A) 54 G,  4-3, 2.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11.8 K/9

While the 5’11” Bashlor is short on stature, he has a big arm throwing a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider which he used to dominate in the Sally League.  Bashlor used these pitches to strike out 11.8 batters per nine innings.  Like Flexen, there is danger exposing a big arm like this even if the highest level of experience he has is four games for Advanced A St. Lucie.

RHP Kevin McGowan (Advanced A & AA) 42 G, 4 GS, 2 saves, 2.35 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.9 K/9

McGowan is a fastball/changeup pitcher that still needs to develop a breaking pitch.  While that fastball/changeup combination has been good enough to get batters out at the lower levels of the minor leagues, he is going to need another pitch if he is going to progress as a pitcher.


RF Wuilmer Becerra (Advanced A) .312/.341/.393, 17 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 34 RBI, 7 SB

Around the time of the Rule 5 Draft last year, the debate was whether a bad team like the Braves would take a flyer on Becerra just to get the promising young outfielder into their organization.  Unfortunately, Becerra would have a shoulder injury that would rob him of his budding power.  More importantly, that shoulder injury would require surgery ending his season after just 65 games.

1B/3B Jhoan Urena (Advanced A) .225/.301/.350, 17 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 0 SB

With the emergence of David Thompson, Urena was pushed from third to first.  However, that isn’t what was most troubling about his season.  In fact, many questioned whether he could stay at third given his frame.  The issue was the switch hitting Urena stopped hitting for power this season.  With his not hitting for power, Rosario’s best friend in the minors should go undrafted in the Rule 5 Draft.

LHP Paul Paez (Advanced A & AA) 34 G, 4-1, 3.88 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 8.9 K/9

This year Paez failed to distinguish himself by not pitching particularly well for St. Lucie and then struggling in Binghamton.  He only has a high 80’s fastball and lacks a true swing and miss breaking pitch.  While lefties hitting .308 off of him this year, he may not even have a future as a LOOGY in a major league bullpen.


OF Patrick Biondi (Advanced A) .271/.352/.332, 17 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 34 RBI, 26 SB

While Biondi’s stats look good on the surface, it should be noted at 25 years old, he is old for the level.  On the bright side, Biondi has speed and is a good defender in CF.  However, until he starts getting on base more frequently, he will not be considered for the 40 man roster.

RHP Nabil Crismatt (Short & Full Season A) 13 G, 7 GS, 1-4, 1 Save, 2.47 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 10.1 K/9

Crismatt is only 21, but he is mature in terms of his ability to control his changeup and curveball and throw them at any point in the count.  Couple that with a low 90s fastball that could gain velocity as he ages, and you have someone who has the repertoire to be a major leaguer.  However, considering he hasn’t faced stiff competition yet in his career, he is nowhere ready for the majors, at least not yet.

2B/3B/SS Jeff McNeil 2015 Season (Advanced A & AA) .308/.369/.377, 18 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 40 RBI, 16 SB

Coming into the season, McNeil appeared to be more mature physically and at the plate.  He seemed ready to begin hitting for more power while still being able to handle 2B defensively.  Unfortunately, he would only play in three games this season for Binghamton before going on the disabled list needing season ending sports hernia surgery.

RHP Tim Peterson (Advanced A & AA) 48 G, 4-1, 2 saves, 3.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 12.3 K/9

At each and every level Peterson has pitched, he has shown the ability to strike people out with a fastball that touches on the mid 90s and a plus curveball.  The only issue for him in his career so far was his PED suspension in 2014.


OF Travis Taijeron (AAA) .275/.372/.512, 42 2B, 5 3B, 19 HR, 88 RBI, 1 SB

Taijeron continued to do what he does best, which is get on base and hit for power.  Despite a strong Spring Training and another solid offensive season, the Mets really showed no interest in calling him up to the majors.  He will most likely go unprotected, but maybe this year a team out there desperate for some power in the outfield or on the bench will give him a shot.

2B L.J. Mazzilli (AA & AAA) .239/.320/.348, 18 2B, 6 3B, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 8 SB

Lee Mazzilli‘s son is a grinder out there who plays a decent second base.  Unfortunately, it appears his bat will prevent him from ever getting a real shot to ever play in the big league.


Guaranteed: Rosario

Likely: Flexen, Nido

Bubble: Bashlor, Knapp, McGowan, Sewald, Wheeler

As for the remaining players, the Mets may very well gamble exposing them to the Rule 5 Draft and potentially lose them to another team.  It is also possible the Mets unexpectedly protect a player like Knapp.  In any event, the Mets have a number of important decisions to make that can have far reaching implications.



Mets Final Season Grades – Outfielders

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the fifth set of grades, here are the Mets outfielders:

Yoenis Cespedes B+

Is it possible for a player to have a great season, but you wanted just a little more from him?  Overall, Cespedes had one of the great statistical seasons from a Mets outfielder with him hitting .280/.354/.530 with 25 doubles, one triple, 31 homers, and 86 RBI.  For most of the season, Cespedes was everything you could have expected from him.

Still, there were other points where he wasn’t and much of that was due to the injured quad he tried to play through much of the season.  The quad injury was a major reason his numbers were slightly below where you expected they would be.  It was also a reason for his subpar defense this season.  Even when healthy, he was a disaster in center as evidenced by his -10.6 UZR and his -7 DRS.  Eventually, his quad left Cespedes telling the Mets he could no longer play center (but not golf), and that he needed to go back to left field.  In left, Cespedes was a good defender, but he wasn’t at the Gold Glove level he usually is.

However, despite all the negatives you could point out, Cespedes was still a great player for the Mets in 2016, and he was a major contributor for a team that returned to the postseason.  He proved his 2015 stretch with the Mets was no fluke.  He showed everyone why the Mets need to bring him back next year.

Michael Conforto D

This was supposed to be the year Conforto took off and became a star.  It seemed like it was happening in April when he hit .365/.442/.676 with 11 doubles, four homers, and 18 RBI while leading the major leagues in hard hit ball rate.  It was all coming together until it didn’t.

The rest of Conforto’s season was marred by slumps, injury, and multiple demotions.  After April, Conforto would only hit .174/.267/.330 with 10 doubles, one triple, eight homers, and 24 RBI.  There are a million different reasons we can use to explain these numbers away including his injuries and the very poor way both the Mets and Terry Collins handled him.  Looking at his AAA numbers, the injuries and mishandling of him look more like good reasons than they do excuses.

However, no matter the reason, Conforto still only hit .220/.310/.414 with 21 doubles, one triple, 12 homers, and 42 RBI.  Those are disappointing numbers for a young player that should be a star in this league.  Conforto did work hard all year, made no excuses, and he seems better off for it.  As a result, we should see more of the April Conforto in 2017.

Curtis Granderson C

It is really hard to say a player who became the oldest Met to ever hit 30 homers in a season had a disappointing year, but Granderson did have a disappointing year.  He went from the Mets MVP to a guy hitting .237/.335/.464.  Despite the 30 homers, he only had 59 RBI.  Although, it should be noted he spent most of the year as the leadoff hitter.  He also regressed in the field going from a Gold Glove caliber player to a subpar defensive player.

On the positive side, he did hit 30 homers, and he had a great September helping the Mets drive to claim the top Wild Card spot.  He was willing to do anything to help the team including playing center field when Cespedes was no longer able to do so.  He was a leader on the team, and he deservedly won the Roberto Clemente Award.  The organization is better for having a person like Granderson.  The real question is whether the team will be better for having a player like Granderson around next year.

Jay Bruce D+

Up until the last week and a half of the season it looked like the Bruce acquisition was going to be an unmitigated disaster.  In Bruce’s first 42 games with the Mets, he hit .174/.252/.285 with four doubles, four homers, and 11 RBI.  He went from the major league leader in RBI to finding himself outside the Top 10.  He went from a career year to a guy completely lost at the plate.  To boot, he wasn’t that good in the field either.

During the stretch drive, he seemed to adapt to playing in New York, and he started to hit much better.  In his final eight games, he hit .480/.536/1.000 with a double, four homers, and eight RBI.  That stretch made his overall Mets numbers seem a little better with him hitting .219/.294/.391 with five doubles, eight homers, and 19 RBI.  Certainly, both Bruce and the Mets were hoping for better production than that.  Hopefully, he provides it in 2017.

Juan Lagares B-

Lagares’ value has been and will always be with his glove, and that is why his 2016 season was mostly a success.  Despite Lagares being limited to 68 games in center field due to his being a platoon player and his ligament injury, he was still Top Five in the National League in DRS.  If Lagares had played more games, it is safe to assume he would’ve won his second Gold Glove.

However, Lagares is not going to get that type of opportunity because of his offense.  In 79 games, Lagares hit .239/.301/.380 with seven doubles, two triples, three homers, and nine RBI.  It is hard justifying keeping that bat in the lineup no matter how good your defense is.  It is even harder when you consider the struggles the Mets had scoring runs last season.  It should be noted that Lagares’ role was as a platoon player and a late defensive replacement.  While he didn’t hit well in 2016, he was great defensively.  We should expect more of the same next year.

Alejandro De Aza C-

In a short period of time, De Aza went from the probable Opening Day center fielder to the fifth outfielder without an inning of baseball even being played.  The Mets brought him here to platoon with Lagares, and with the unexpected Cespedes signing, De Aza really found himself without a role.

As a a result, he really struggled to start the year.  Not only was he struggling at the plate, but Collins was questioning his effort level.  Eventually, De Aza had a great July, and he turned his season around.  From there, he became an effective bench player, and he capably played all three outfield positions.  Overall, he hit .205/.297/.321 with nine doubles, six homers, and 25 RBI.  Those numbers were so low because that is how bad he was in the beginning of the year.  Ultimately, it was a rough year for what should prove to be De Aza’s only year as a Met.

Brandon Nimmo B+

The biggest beneficiary of Conforto’s struggles was Nimmo.  With Conforto being sent down, Nimmo got his chance to play in the major leauges, and he made the most of it.  In 32 games, Nimmo hit .274/.338/.329 with one double, a long home run, and six RBI.  Mostly, the 23 year old former first round draft pick showed the Mets he could very well be a part of the future of this organization.

Justin Ruggiano Inc

With his removal from the 40 man roster, Ruggiano’s Mets career lasted all of 22 plate appearances.  In those 22 plate appearances he did hit .350/.409/.650 with two homers and six RBI.  In that mix was a grand slam he hit off of Madison Bumgarner, which only serves to highlight how much the Mets missed a guy who only had 22 plate appearances for them in the 2016 season.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links.

Cespedes Opt Out Day

With the 2016 World Series going seven games, today marks the deadline for Yoenis Cespedes to opt out of the remaining two years of his contract.  Once Cespedes opts out of his contract like we all expect him to do, the danger of losing him in free agency will begin to be fully realized.

The Mets have had over a month to negotiate a deal with Cespedes.  Over this time period, they were the only team that could negotiate with him, and yet, the Mets haven’t had any real contract discussions with him.  Instead, the Mets have let everyone know they are pessimistic about re-signing him because he wants a five year deal.  Then they began the process of putting out there the team is concerned about what type of effort Cespedes will give once he receives the five year contract he is looking to obtain in free agency.

This is the beginnings of the same smear campaign the Mets launched against Cespedes last offseason.  As you remember last offseason, the Mets quickly moved on from Cespedes by signing Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares in center.  It was only after Cespedes didn’t get the deal he was expecting in free agency that he and the Mets were able to negotiate the current deal Cespedes is opting out of today.

There will be no bat signals like De Aza this offseason.  The Mets already have a glut of outfielders with Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and Lagares.  The Mets also have Justin Ruggiano for the moment.  With all of those pieces, the Mets are likely going to figure out how to piece those outfielders together.  With that in mind, it is likely Cespedes is gone.

And if he is as good as gone, just let him go.  He was great for the Mets for the last year and a half.  He was a fan favorite, and he was a difference maker in the lineup.  If the Mets believe they can build an offense without Cespedes much in the same fashion many of these same front office people did with Oakland after Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi left in free agency, more power to you.  This decision right here is exactly why this front office is in place.

However, no matter what your decision, don’t smear the guy on the way out.  You’re not changing the fans’ opinion on him, nor are you ever going to convince the fans you are not willing to have a payroll commensurate with the payroll a big market team should have.

With the smear campaign already in place, and the Mets not negotiating with Cespedes when they had the time, the handwriting is on the wall.  We just do not know how many more days, weeks, or possibly months lie ahead before Cespedes signs elsewhere.  No matter what happens from this point forward, the Mets front office better be right in how they handle this decision.

Mets Should Pick Up Jay Bruce’s Option

No matter how you look at it, the Jay Bruce acquisition has been a disaster for the Mets.  In 40 games, Bruce has hit .176/.255/.289 with only four doubles, four homers, and 11 RBI.  Bruce has gone from the major league leader in RBI to tied for 30th in the majors and 10th in the National League.  He went from hitting .360 with runners in scoring position to .172 with the Mets.

Yesterday was rock bottom for him.  He got mixed up with Curtis Granderson on a catchable flyball that lead to a Matt Kemp RBI single instead of a an out with Bruce having a chance to throw the runner out at home.  At the plate, Bruce was 0-3.  Worse yet, when the Mets were rallying to try the game, Terry Collins pinch hit Eric Campbell for him when the Braves brought in the lefty Ian Kroll to face him.  Bruce was brought to the Mets just for these RBI situations.  However, it has now gotten to the point that no one trusts him in those spots.

Bruce’s struggles have led some to suggest the Mets should decline Bruce’s $13 million option and give him his $1 million buy out.  If the Mets were to do that, it would be a very poor decision.

Over his career, Bruce is a .247/.317/.465 hitter who averages 26 homers and 81 RBI.  With Bruce turning 30 years old next year, there is every reason to believe Bruce’s struggles with the Mets are the result of a player struggling when joining a new team more than it is a Jason Bay falling apart when signing the Mets and playing his games under the old outfield configurations of Citi Field.  So yes, there is reason to believe Bruce will return to form next season whether or not he is wearing a Mets uniform.

Admittedly, the Mets are going to have a glut of outfielders next year.  Curtis Granderson is under contract for another year.  The Mets figure to give Michael Conforto an everyday job next year.  Juan Lagares should be healthy and could form a center field platoon with Brandon Nimmo.  Furthermore, Justin Ruggiano, who mashed lefties in the short time he was with the Mets, is arbitration eligible.  In addition to that, the Mets should do all they can to bring back Yoenis Cespedes in the even he opts out of his contract.  Looking over this list, it’s hard to find a spot for Bruce in the Mets outfield.

The Mets could shift Bruce to first base.  However, Lucas Duda, who has been a much better offensive player than Bruce, is still under team control.  Additionally, with the overcrowded outfield, it is possible the Mets will seek to move Conforto to first base as has been recommended by Keith Hernandez.  Overall, no matter where you look, there may not be room for Bruce.  With that in mind, why pick up his option?

The reason is Bruce is an asset in what is going to be a weak free agent class.  After Cespedes, the best free agent outfielders will be Ian Desmond, Mark Trumbo, and Jose Bautista.  Each of these free agents have their own issues.

Desmond was a surprising All Star outfielder after struggling last year with the Nationals.  However, overlooking his stats, Desmond has a number of issues.  First, he is hitting .239/.287/.362 in the second half.  Second, he’s showing himself to be a platoon bat hitting .272/.329/.442 against righties and .338/.373/.507 against lefties.  Lastly, Desmond appears to be a product of Globe Life Park hitting .336/.374/.516 at home and .244/.309/.405 on the road.

Trumbo is essentially Bruce with vastly inferior defense.  He also has the same issues as Desmond.  He’s hitting .188/.266/.431 in the second half.  He’s hitting .183/.232/.415 against lefties.  He’s also hitting .257/.337/.552 at Camden Yards and .242/.282/.498 on the road.

Bautista is a 35 year old outfielder who has taken a step back this season.  Over his last six seasons with the Blue Jays, he played at a superstar level hitting .268/.390/.555 while averaging 38 homers and 97 RBI.    This year he is only hitting .258/.359/.433 with only 18 homers and 59 RBI.

Another team could look at these options and determine they would rather obtain Bruce who should have similar production at a reasonable $13 million price tag.  Teams may also prefer to keep their first round pick rather than give it up for Desmond, Trumbo, or Bautista.  Additionally, if Bruce bounces back from his struggles with the Mets, the acquiring team could make him a qualifying offer allowing them to obtain a compensatory first round pick in the event Bruce leaves them next offseason.

There’s the other issue.  Cespedes is far from a lock to return.  In that scenario, the Mets may feel compelled to find a player who can put up the power numbers Cespedes does.  Like it or not, the Mets only real opportunity to replace Cespedes’ bat in the lineup will be a Bruce caliber bat.  With Bruce most likely being the cheapest option as well as the option that doesn’t require the Mets to forfeit a first round pick, he is probably the Mets best Cespedes replacement (NOTE: no one can truly replace Cespedes).

So yes, Bruce has been a terrible with the Mets.  However, that shouldn’t prevent the Mets from picking up his option as he is going to have value for someone next year.  Just cross your fingers that team won’t be the Mets.

Juan Lagares Begins the Wave of Reinforcements

The Mets have had a number of players serve as admirable replacements and stop gaps to help lead the Mets charge back to the postseason.

Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have replaced the injured Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz in the Mets rotation, and  they have combined to go 6-3 with a 2.64 ERA and a WHIP in nine starts and 10 relief appearances. James Loney had a terrific first half to help cushion the blow of the loss of Lucas DudaWilmer Flores and Kelly Johnson have helped to replicate the offensive production of Neil Walker who is done for the season after having season ending back surgery.  After Flores went down with a neck injury, T.J. Rivera had the game of his life.  When Juan Lagares needed surgery to repair a torn ligament in this thumb and Yoenis Cespedes found himself unable to play center field with his injured quad, Curtis Granderson began playing center field and hitting again.  Same goes for Alejandro De Aza.  For the very few games Justin Ruggiano played, he mashed left-handed pitching.

However, while each of these players have done a better than expected job, there is no doubt the Mets would be better off with their regulars.  Fortunately, the reinforcements are on their way with Lagares being activated off the disabled list.

With the minor league seasons having been over for about a week, Lagares has not had the benefit of being able to face live pitching.  That shouldn’t matter much as Lagares’ true value has always been as a center fielder.  This season the 2014 Gold Glover has returned to form with a 4.5 UZR and a 7 DRS in 59 games this season.  This will allow the Mets to put out their best defensive alignment of Cespedes in left, Lagares in center, and Granderson in right late in games.

This was the alignment the Mets used effectively in the stretch run last season and in their run to the World Series.  Speaking of which, Lagares was a tremendous contributor to the Mets postseason run last year.  Lagares appeared in 13 postseason games last year playing a Gold Glove caliber center field while hitting .348/.375/.435 with two stolen bases.  If Lagares is again able to play and raise his game again, the Mets chances of returning to the World Series will greatly improved. 

And as if that wasn’t enough, Duda will be activated later today, and at a minimum, he will be available to pinch hit. On Sunday, deGrom will return to the rotation. He will start to work his way back as he’s limited to 75 pitches. Finally, Matz has been throwing off a mound. 

The reinforcements are coming, and with them the Mets chances of winning a World Series has vastly improved.