Mets Merized Online » defense Thu, 12 Jan 2017 18:47:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Why Keith Hernandez Should Be in the Hall of Fame Wed, 21 Dec 2016 14:00:13 +0000 keith+hernandez

Shortly after the New Year, the newest Hall of Fame class will be announced. It will surely pass with its annual hoopla and gripes that surround the voting every season. There’s no good system for this voting and because of it, undeserving players get in and deserving players get left out.

There’s one player that I feel is deserving that is no longer on the ballot. That player has a past and current connection to the New York Mets. That player is Keith Hernandez.

The key to Hernandez’s candidacy is his defense, so let’s start there. Professional baseball has been played for almost 150 years. During that time, at least tens of thousands of players have appeared at first base. Of all of those players throughout baseball history, Hernandez is the best defensive player to ever play the position. The best. Some one who is the best at something as important as playing first base should be in the Hall of Fame.

Hernandez’s defensive prowess is why he earned 11 consecutive Gold Glove awards as a player — the most by any first baseman. He is the only position player to be the leader in his position in Gold Glove awards and to not be in the Hall of Fame. A deeper look also has Hernandez as the all-time leader in total zone runs for a first baseman. Again, Hernandez is the greatest defensive first baseman in baseball history.

But Hernandez isn’t just a defender. He’s no slouch on offense either. The five-time All-Star was of course the NL co-MVP in 1979. He also won two Silver Slugger awards, which doesn’t even include his MVP season. He finished top-4 in MVP three times. He finished his career at a mark of .296/.384/.436 with an OPS+ of 128 over 17 seasons.

If we compare those numbers to another “defense-first” player, Ozzie Smith, there is no comparison. Smith, who is in the Hall of Fame for his glove, finished his career at .262/.337/.328. One will surely make the argument that shortstop is a more important defensive position than first base, and there’s no counter argument here. However, as we change the way we value players, defense at every position is becoming a priority. Hernandez shouldn’t be penalized for the ways players were valued in the era he played in.

Overall, the real point here is that defense is overlooked by Hall of Fame voters. It’s a hugely important part of the game, but since it’s not as flashy as offense, it rarely does much for a Hall of Fame candidacy. Hernandez was a really good offensive player and the best defensive first baseman ever.

For nearly 150 years, there have only been nine positions you can play in baseball. Shouldn’t being the best ever to defend one of those nine be enough to get you to Cooperstown?

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Why Jay Bruce Is Not As Valuable As You Think Wed, 14 Dec 2016 16:00:29 +0000 jay-bruce

By now, you’ve heard the rumors from the winter meetings. Teams have proposed trades to Sandy Alderson for Jay Bruce but offering only fringe prospects and salary relief. Why is this? Are there really no good offers for a potential middle of the order 30 home run hitter?

Unfortunately, I think it’s time for many fans to understand that the potential for 30 home runs is all that Bruce brings to a club. And as he ages, a slightly slower swing does not translate well for an all or nothing hitter. Power hitters who strikeout a ton do not age well. You swing big, you miss big and as your bat speed goes away, the second result happens a lot more than the first.

Let’s review some of the reasons on why he was acquired in the first place and break them down on a deeper level to see if they hold any water.

He Was A Clutch Hitter

A common point of contention on why trading for Bruce was a good idea is that Bruce was hitting very well with runners in scoring position in 2016 while the Mets as a team suffered mightily in these situations. Bruce was indeed hitting very well, about .350 with RISP, 100 points higher than his career average. But did you really expect him to keep that up?

If Lucas Duda started off the first 3 months of 2017 hitting .350, do you expect him to continue that for a whole season or would you expect him to regress towards his career norm? If Curtis Granderson hits 25 HRs in the first 81 games of the season, do you expect him to finish with 50 at the end of the year?

If Bruce had always been much better in his career with RISP than in other situations, then this would be a legitimate point but his career batting average with and without RISP is right around .250 so the likelihood that his hitting in those situations continue at that pace was miniscule.

WAR Doesn’t Measure Bruce Accurately

Some people believe that since Bruce hits 30 home runs a year, he HAS to be a valuable player. The statistic of WAR or wins above replacement (the overall value of a player both on offense and defense) certainly disagrees.

While a major league average player averages 2-3 WAR per season, Bruce averaged 1.2 WAR in the 3 seasons leading up to 2016. Even with his “all-star” first half in 2016, he only produced a meager 1 WAR by season’s end. In layman’s terms, Jay Bruce is a below average starter and produces the value of a bench player.

Some fans look at this and state that WAR is a poor measurement of defense (this is relatively true) so WAR must be over-penalizing Bruce for his poor defense. How can we measure Bruce’s defensive liability in numbers that are familiar to us?

Why don’t we take a look at this from a different perspective? Let’s adjust Bruce’s player ratings and take some of his offensive value away to supplement his defensive rating to the point where he becomes a defensively average oufielder. What would his batting line look like in that case?

Over the course of a season, does Jay Bruce give up 25 more hits than your average defensive right fielder? This comes out to about one hit every 6 games. If he does, then let’s give him those 25 hits on defense and deduct them on offense. We can essentially take away 50 points from his batting line as 25 hits in 500 at bats is worth as much.

In this video game experiment, we traded a defensively poor Jay Bruce who hits .250/.300/.450 into a defensively average Jay Bruce who hits .200/.250/.400. With these statistics being a little more familiar, does this look like the slash line of an average major league outfielder to you now? The math behind this comparison isn’t perfect but it shows you why a 30 HR hitter can indeed be a below average player in the big leagues.

We Needed To Add A Bat

The Mets were struggling and fans were begging for a move. The truth is, we didn’t necessarily need a bat, we needed better production, preferably in the lineup. I won’t speculate about who else was available and at what price but internally on the Mets, Brandon Nimmo was barely given a shot before he was sent back down to Vegas.

Could Nimmo have produced better than 1 WAR in the second half of the year that you would optimistically hope for from Bruce (who produced 0 WAR in hindsight)? I would have taken my chances.

Bruce Was Leverage Against Cespedes

Stop this nonsense. A Toyota Corolla is not leverage against a Mercedes AMG. They don’t drink the same water and do not breathe the same air.

Look, I am not losing sleep over the package we gave for Bruce. However, I do find it frustrating that our offseason may be dependent on moving him. And in the case where Sandy does not find an offer to his liking, we may actually limit Michael Conforto’s playing time in order to play Bruce. This would be the biggest mistake of all.

Sandy is right about one thing. It only takes a couple of teams to be interested for him to get a good deal. If Sandy can indeed swing Bruce for something of value, then that will be another notch on his trade belt. However, it would also mean to me that the GM who does trade for Bruce overvalued him as well.

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2016 Mets Report Cards: Michael Conforto, OF Sun, 20 Nov 2016 14:30:33 +0000 michael-conforto-2


Player Data: Age: 23, Bats: Left, Throws: Right, Under Contract

2016 Primary Stats: .220/.310/.414, 21 2B, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 348 PA

2016 Player Review:

One of the biggest disappointments of 2016, it’s hard to believe for a month Michael Conforto looked like everything we could possibly want from the young slugger.  His April, in which he hit .365 and had 18 RBIs, made the rest of the season even more difficult to take.

Michael fell into a slump and just couldn’t shake it.  His .169 average in May was followed by a .119 average in June and a trip back to the minor leagues.  To give him credit, he didn’t pout.  He went down to Las Vegas and in 33 games he hit .422 with 9 home runs and 28 RBIs.

Michael swung the bat slightly better when he was called back up, but by then Sandy had traded for Jay Bruce and there was no place to play him in the Mets crowded outfield.  In September he only saw 38 at bats, and while he only hit .237 he did manage five extra base hits.

It turned into a long year for young Mr. Conforto and it became very clear that, at least thus far, he has not been able to figure out how to hit lefties at the major league level.  In 48 at bats against southpaws he was able to produce only 5 hits, for a .104 average.

In general his defense was steady, and while he predominately played left field he did see some action both in right field and center.

Grade: C-

2017 Outlook:

Michael Conforto’s 2017 depends greatly on other moves the Mets make. However, last week Sandy Alderson said that whether or not Yoenis Cespedes comes back, the plan is for Conforto to play everyday including against most left-handed pitchers. With his youth and his potential the Mets aren’t giving up on him yet and that’s great to see. If he gets back on track, a .280 – 18 – 75 season seems like a reasonable expectation.

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2016 Mets Report Cards: Neil Walker, 2B Tue, 08 Nov 2016 17:45:36 +0000 neil walker


Player Data:  Age: 31, B/T: S/R, Free Agent: 2017

2016 Primary Stats: .282/.347/.476, 23 HR, 55 RBI, 458 PA

2016 Review:  

Like most of the Mets, it was an up and down season for Neil Walker.  Also like most of the Mets (at least it seemed like most of the Mets), he suffered a serious injury and finished his year on the disabled list.

Walker, acquired by the Pirates for Jonathan Niese in a trade the Pirates regretted almost instantly, got off to a red hot start, hitting .307 in April with 9 home runs.  He even addressed his greatest offensive weakness: in the past, he had been a far inferior hitter from the right side of the plate than the left.  But he improved mightily in that department: in 2015 he hit .237 as a right handed hitter with zero home runs.  In 2016, he hit .330 with 8 home runs.

While it looked like he was primed for a career year, Walker was slowed by a terrible slump that lasted all of June and July.  In 48 games he hit .238 for the eight weeks, with little pop in his bat as evidenced by 7 extra base hits total in the two months.

Then in August Walker turned it on: in only 18 games he hit .389 with 6 home runs, crushing the ball like he had been in April.  Unfortunately, those were also his last eighteen games: Walker’s bad back required surgery and he finished the year on the disabled list.

Walker was a solid, if inconsistent contributor offensively.  He also played a steady defense, making 7 errors at the second base position and handling most balls hit his way smoothly.

Grade: B

2017 Outlook: 

The Mets have tendered him the one year qualifying offer worth $17.2 million, Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters he will be content no matter how it plays out.  I am speculating that he will decline it and seek out a 3-4 year deal elsewhere.  Wherever he plays Walker has been a consistent pro for a long time, and a .270 18 home run season with smooth defense from the second base position should be easily within his reach.

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Would Fowler Fit With Mets if Cespedes Leaves? Sat, 29 Oct 2016 18:52:38 +0000 dexter fowler

In a recent article by Joel Sherman of the New York Post he suggest that Chicago Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler could be a fit for the Mets should Yoenis Cespedes sign elsewhere.

Last offseason, Fowler was met with an underwhelming free agent market after receiving a qualifying offer from the Cubs. He ended up signing what is essentially a one year, $13 million contract once a deal with the Baltimore Orioles fell through in the final stages.

Fowler is coming off a great regular season in which he posted a career high 4.2 bWAR. He hit .276/.393/.447 with 25 doubles, seven triples, 13 home runs, 48 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances. He had a career best 14.3 BB% but also struck out 124 times in 125 games.

A big part of the career year for Fowler was his bounce back on defense with one defensive run saved after combining for -32 in the previous two seasons. He also had a 1.0 UZR, which was the highest of his nine year major league career. He’s played all but one of his major league defensive innings in center field.

Fowler would give the Mets an everyday option in center field while allowing some combination of Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto to stay in the corners.

Yesterday, we took a look at other possible solutions for the Mets if Cespedes was to leave.

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Mets Say No Urgency In Signing Cespedes, We Beg To Differ Mon, 24 Oct 2016 11:19:57 +0000 yoenis cespedes walkoff

The Mets are willing to wait on the Yoenis Cespedes market according to Buster Olney of ESPN Insider . One source told Buster that “there is no urgency” in coming to terms with Cespedes once he opts out of his current deal with the Mets.

Cespedes hit .280/.354/.530 with 25 doubles, 31 home runs and 86 RBI while posting the highest walk rate (9.4%) of his career. He was limited to 132 games because of a right quadriceps injury that placed on him on the disabled list in August. The injury also limited his range on defense in the second half.

Sandy Alderson was patient last year with Cespedes as they signed him in late January to what was essentially a one-year contract worth $27.5 million. The deal does include two more years at $23,750,000 million per, but it’s a forgone conclusion that Cespedes will opt out and test the open market for the second straight offseason.

It will be a strong market for power hitting options with Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Carlos Beltran, Mark Trumbo and Justin Turner all being free agents.

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Thoughts from Joe D.

Clearly, it’s imperative that the Mets front office does everything in its power to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes and keeping from latching onto a potential rival as we saw with Daniel Murphy signing with Washington Nationals and carrying them to a first place NL East finish. And we already know the Nats tried once and failed to secure Cespedes mostly because their offer was heavily backloaded.

Cespedes, who turned 31 this month, is more than just a power bat they can replace with a healthy Lucas Duda or a better version of the Jay Bruce who fell flat on his face after being dealt to the Mets at the trade deadline. With David Wright reduced to a shell of his former self and Travis d’Arnaud failing to meet his lofty power expectations, I shudder to think how exposed the Mets lineup will be without the dynamic right-handed thunder that Cespedes adds to the middle of the order.

The best evidence for how significant an impact Cespedes has had with the Mets and why his loss could spell doom for the Mets offense is looking at the won-loss column. The Mets were 72-54 in games that Cespedes started this past season, and 34-20 in 2015. That adds up to a 106-74 record in his time with the Mets, good for a .589 winning percentage.

Ideally, it would behoove the Mets to get a deal done with Cespedes before that five day window after the World Series in which only them can negotiate with him. After that it’s off to the races as he becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team. Still, if this comes down to a bidding war that drives his price to $100 million or more, I still say that it’s a bidding war the Mets can;t afford to lose. It’s time for the Mets to put on their big boy pants.

The Mets have a 2-4 year window to try and win a championship with their elite young pitching staff before they start hitting free agency and become too costly to keep the rotation together. To waste any portion of that window trying to find a right-handed power bat like Cespedes’ would make for an arduous task and it will probably lead to even more wasted stellar pitching performances than we’ve seen already.

Simply put, it’s time to make a Mike Piazza sized commitment for a player who has had a Mike Piazza sized impact on the New York Mets. If it takes a five-year deal that is beyond the comfort level for Sandy Alderson, he’ll have to grin and bear it – just as he did when Jeff Wilpon handed David Wright that mega deal. It’s no secret that Cespedes loves New York and New York loves him. He’s an incomparable and dynamic talent that thrives in the spotlight not shrink. Let’s get this done.

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Mets Minors Breakout Player of the Year: Thomas Szapucki Wed, 28 Sep 2016 12:05:00 +0000 Photo: Allen Greene, Kingsport Mets

Photo: Allen Greene, Kingsport Mets

Here at MMO/MMN, we have selected Thomas Szapucki as the 2016 breakout player of the year. We had already chosen David Roseboom our Reliever of the Year and Amed Rosario as Player of the Year.

Thomas Szapucki was born in New Jersey but his family moved down to Florida when he was young. He graduated from William Dwyer HS in West Palm Beach, FL. His senior year season, he went 5-2  with a 0.78 ERA across 53.1 IP with 89 K’s.

These numbers along with impressive stuff, got him drafted in the 5th round of 2015 draft. After putting up poor numbers last year in his first pro season(15.43 ERA in 2.1 IP) in a very small sample size, Szapucki wasn’t on many radar screens coming into the 2016 campaign.

This year, he was simply lights out across two levels, playing for the Kingsport Mets and the Brooklyn Cyclones. He started the season with the Kingsport Mets and instantly became the team’s ace. Szapucki was able to miss a lot of bats this year with his fastball sitting in the mid 90’s and a slider with great movement. With Kingsport, he had a 0.62 ERA across 29 IP with 47 K’s while allowing only 16 hits. As a result, the young lefty lefty was named the Mets Sterling Award winner for the Kingsport Mets.

After conquering the Appalachian League, he was promoted to Brooklyn where he continued to perform well. He had an ERA of 2.35 across 23 IP with 39 K’s. His ability to strikeout batters this year was nothing short of phenomenal. Across both leagues Szapucki was 4-3 with a 1.38 ERA across 52 IP with 86 K’s, a WHIP of 0.88 and held opponents to a .145 average between the Cyclones and the Kingsport Mets.

He had five games with double digit strikeouts including his last three starts of the year for the Cyclones which set a new team record. His season was so impressive, he had other teams asking about him at the trade deadline. Unfortunately, his season was cut short in mid-August due to severe back stiffness. The organization decided to take a cautious approach with the young flamethrower.

Photo: Ed Delany

Photo: Ed Delany

It was not an easy decision to select Szapucki as other players in the system also had breakout seasons. With that in mind, we have selected Tomas Nido as honorable mention. After struggling at the plate for most of his minor league career, Nido turned things around this year setting career highs in hits and home runs. He also set a career low in K percentage with 11.9%, a drop-off of from last year’s 25.7%.

The Florida State League, which he led in batting average, is notoriously known for being tough on hitters due to many of the deep baseball parks, as well as the competition from college players, who were selected in the top rounds.

Tomas Nido finished the year batting .320 with seven home runs, 46 RBI, and a OPS of .816. One thing that people never questioned about Nido was his defense, something he has prided himself on since Day 1. He continued his great defense behind the dish wielding a .987 fielding percentage and he threw out over 40% base runners attempting to steal a base.

This impressive season netted him the Mets Sterling Award for the St. Lucie Mets and the FSL batting title. Nido was drafted in the 8th round of 2012 draft out of Orangewood Christian School in Florida. As a result, he will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter and the Mets would be prudent to add this guy to the 40-man roster.

Other names discussed were Binghamton Mets infielder Phillip Evans, GCL Mets catcher/first baseman Carlos Sanchez and right-handed starter Andrew Church.

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Asdrubal Cabrera is Primed for a Big Second Half Sat, 16 Jul 2016 19:15:11 +0000 asdrubal cabrera

Coming into the season, the Mets wanted to upgrade at shortstop. They wanted a player who had more range and power than what Ruben Tejada provided the Mets.  They wanted a player who was a steadier fielder who got on base more frequently than Wilmer Flores.

With that in mind, as free agency opened, the Mets jumped at the chance to add Asdrubal Cabrera. During the month of April, Cabrera seemed to be exactly the type of player the Mets both wanted and needed to take them to the next level. Cabrera was playing steady, if not spectacular defense, while hitting .300/.364/.400 with one homer and seven RBI. He was a big reason why the Mets found themselves eight games over .500 and only a half-game back in the NL East at the close of April.

Then as the calendar turned to May, Cabrera turned into Flores. Since May 1st, Cabrera has hit .249/.305/.435 with 11 homers.  Yes, his power numbers went up, but he’s also getting on base less frequently.  In addition, he seemingly good defense took a step back. So far this season, Cabrera has a -6 DRS and a -3.3 UZR. These numbers do not seem like a mirage either as Cabrera has averaged a -10 DRS and a -8.5 UZR over the past three seasons. As Cabrera has struggled, so have the Mets. Since May 1st, the Mets have been one game under .500 and they have fallen to six games behind the Nationals in the division.

Yes, there have been a number of issues that have led to this. The Mets have been beset with injuries with Lucas Duda‘s back and David Wright‘s neck. Cabrera was no stranger to injury.  As Terry Collins‘ brings up from time to time in his postgame press conferences, Cabrera has been dealing with a knee injury all season.

With that in mind, the All Star Break should prove beneficial to Cabrera to let him rest that knee and come out better in the second half. And he will as Cabrera has been a second half player most of his career. In fact, Cabrera has a better batting average, on base percentage, slugging, and OPS+ in the second half of the season.

This was mostly fueled by the incredible second half he had for the Tampa Bay Rays last year. In the second half, Cabrera hit .328/.372/.544 with 10 homers and 36 RBI. This included a three game set against the Mets in August of last year that saw him go 4-11 with a walk, a run, a double, and a stolen base in games started by Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, and Noah Syndergaard.

That was following a stretch that saw Cabrera hit .232/.287/.387 with five homers and 12 RBI for May and June. July rolled in with the All Star Break, and as mentioned above, Cabrera was a different player. We’re seeing it again this year.

Since July 1st, Cabrera has hit .333/.368/.694 with four homers and five RBI.  In a small sample size, Cabrera repeat the outstanding second half he put together for the Rays last year.  If Cabrera is capable of doing that, the Mets will have a much improved lineup that should see them compete not just for the Wild Card but also for the division.

We have already seen what Cabrera is capable of doing and how that can help the Mets.  If he gets back to being that player, there is no stopping either him or the Mets.

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Morning Grind: Asdrubal Cabrera Comes Up Big Against Royals Thu, 23 Jun 2016 13:00:30 +0000 20626452-mmmain

Coming off an infuriating, deflating and frustrating weekend series in which the Mets were swept by the cellar dwelling Atlanta Braves and could muster up all but four runs, the citizens of Panic City were coming out of the woodwork’s left and right.

The incumbent World Series champs were set to return to Citi Field for the first time since they celebrated their defeat over the Mets and partied on our field seven months ago, the Amazin’s were desperately seeking a hero.

In times of adversity, guys who have been around the game for a long time have a way of stepping up both on and off the field.

Asdrubal Cabrera did just that the last 48 hours, getting the Mets back on track and vastly contributing in the quick two game sweep against the Royals.

Cabrera went 3-for-7 with two homers, three RBI’s, and three runs scored against Kansas City and also added some stellar defense, which has been a recurring theme for the veteran shortstop all season.

Cabrera raised his batting average to .270 on the season and has been just what the doctor ordered up the middle for the Mets so far this year.

A lot of the hype yesterday was surrounding the injuries to Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes (which thankfully both turned out to be minor), but Cabrera’s contributions did not go unnoticed.

Now sitting only 3.5 games behind the division leading Nationals, Cabrera will look to keep up his recent success and hopefully help the Mets get a little revenge against the team that embarrassed them this past weekend.

Photo courtesy of Brad Penner – USA Today Sports.


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Rene Rivera Has Earned Mets Backup Catcher Role Tue, 07 Jun 2016 03:59:40 +0000 rene rivera

Neither of the Mets catchers have great batting lines at the moment, but with Travis d’Arnaud coming off the disabled list relatively soon, the competition for the backup job is heating up. For the first time in over a year, Kevin Plawecki‘s status as the top reserve is in jeopardy and Rene Rivera may just snatch it from him.

Plawecki is hitting just .200/.304/.280 on the year while Rivera sits at a slightly better .194/.310/.333. Rivera has come through in a few key moments, racking up some clutch late-game hits that Plawecki has not. Plawecki also made a few bone-headed mistakes this weekend that cost the Mets some runs.

The big difference, though, comes on defense. Rivera has played great defense while Plawecki continues to struggle. He has kept baserunners at bay far more than Plawecki has, throwing out 38% of runners compared to Plawecki’s 28% mark, putting Rivera well above average.

The pitchers seem to be taking a liking to Rivera as well. Despite joining the Mets after spring training, he’s managed to learn the pitchers and their arsenals pretty quickly.

“I’m just looking to get to know them well,” help them out as much as I can back there,” Rivera told reporters recently. “You just have to keep them focused, concentrate on what they want to do, and they’re going to execute their pitches.”

“He’s done a great job with sitting down and getting to know your style of pitching, learn your strengths and weaknesses,” Logan Verrett said. “He does a great job of whenever he calls a certain pitch, he lets you know exactly where he wants it.”

Rivera has caught Matt Harvey his last two outings, which were both fantastic. Pitchers have a sub-two ERA with Rivera behind the plate.

For now, it looks like Plawecki will finally get a much-needed stint in Triple-A while Rivera will take over the backup role.


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2016 MLB Draft: Five Players The Mets Could Select Mon, 06 Jun 2016 14:20:23 +0000 will craig WF2016Photo: Wake Forest

The First Year Player Draft is quickly approaching: three days, and thankfully dwindling. I’m getting antsy waiting to see who will be a new Mets Top Prospect, and there’s so much to look forward to as the Mets have 41 picks waiting to happen. Today however, we have a list of five guys we believe the Mets could pick with some of their selections.

19th Overall Pick

Will Craig, 1B/3B – Wake Forest, 6’3″, 235 lbs, R/R College Stats

The guy at this point is a consensus choice among all national mocks, and is going to get the longest explanation from me. Craig has been mocked to the Mets 14 times in 79 possible mocks, which is eight more than the next player. At this point it may be a foregone conclusion that the Mets are into the college BAT of Will Craig, who is likely one of the best pure hitters in college aside from Zack Collins and Kyle Lewis. A .392/.537/.766 hitter with 16 home runs, Craig oozes some nice bat speed and ability to put the bat on the ball from the right side of the plate.

As well, he is able to draw walks very easily, and produce some high On-Base-Percentages and doesn’t strike out very easily. The top knocks to watch for is his subpar performance in the Wood-Bat Cape League, and the fact that Wake Forest’s ballpark is a hitter’s park, likely juicing his numbers slightly. His bat could easily produce a .280 20+ home run season annually despite these issues.

The main issue for why Craig isn’t considered for higher than #19 is because of his body-type, and why I accentuated bat at the top. As noted in their report and I’ll repeat, “If he was body beautiful, he’d be the first player taken”.

Craig is a large guy in general, has a plus arm that he also uses when pitching as Wake Forest’s closer. This could be helpful as he has below-average speed, but  with legs like tree-trunks, giving him below-average speed, and limited lateral mobility. While displaying fine hands, the mobility is the main fear for many scouts. That could be a concern for him sticking at third base in the long run, and may sooner or later force a change to the other infield corner.

My Take: I’ve been on the fence about this pick, but it’s not in my hands, so i’ll try to see what I can do to change your mind, and mine. Craig is the most advanced and complete hitter in this draft, despite playing in a bandbox and hitting poorly in the Cape League, and that’s fantastic, but the questions about his defense are not favorable. When looking on the bright side of this potential pick, I need to note a few things:

  1. He’s a guy who works very hard on everything he has done, and when challenged by his coach, he has exceeded expectations. He changed his diet to try to make him more mobile, and able to play at third, and the Mets have Barwis doing workouts at their Port St. Lucie that assist at agility. It may not make him improve exponentially, but it could definitely improve with the workouts.
  2. Should Craig stay at third base, it may not be an idealized circumstance and be at the range of a Machado, Donaldson, or Arenado. However, Third base isn’t usually considered a primary defensive position like Shortstop, Middle Infield, and Catcher. In some circumstances, you can possibly trade some defense for offense, and especially with Mets’ current offensive woes, having a little sacrifice could help. Not every pick is going to be sexy or have pizzazz, or five tools, especially not a top college performer, but if he’s adequate, it could play.
  3. They may be using an under-slot pick to go after for more upside later. An under slot pick could indeed fetch a high-upside arm with a high-demanded bonus in a later round such as a Chris Flexen, or a more elusive player that got away like J.B. Woodman or Anthony Kay, or A.J. Reed.
  4. If he can’t stick at third, he or Dominic Smith can be used as a trade chip for something of need. That’s the beauty of prospects.

Either way, the Yankees, who pick before the Mets have been tied to Craig heavily as well, so let’s see what happens there. I must remind fans, we have no say in this pick, whatsoever, so let’s hope Scouting Director Tom Tanous and Farm Director Ian Levin know what they’re doing.

matt thaiss1Photo: Virginia Athletics

Matt Thaiss C – University Of Virginia, 5’11″, 197 lbs, L/R  College Stats

You’re going to ask why another college guy? According to national mocks, the Mets are only interested in college position players, and if Craig is taken, Matt Thaiss is possibly their next guy. Thaiss is another college top performer, this time at catcher, and is possibly the best catcher in the draft after Zack Collins, who will be selected before him in the top 10-15 picks. A college performer, but yet again, not a Cape League one, Thaiss is an excellent Left-Handed Bat, hitting .380/.474/.585 slash line, with 10 homers, and a 37/16 BB/K ratio in a home stadium designed for pitchers. He can hit line drives to all fields, and has average power. As an advanced bat with a patient approach, he has the ability hit and get on base for a good average and OBP.

The knock, as with most college position players with first round caliber that aren’t Kyle Lewis or Nick Senzel, is that they aren’t great defensively, and that continues here with Thaiss. Not a pretty receiver, he has some rough hands behind the plate. He’s allowed 12 passed balls behind the plate in 60 games this past season. One net positive is that he has an above-average arm behind the plate, and a decent release, but his hands are going to need a lot of work if he’s going to stay behind the bag. Should the Mets believe they can help clean up the hands behind the plate, he may be what they’re looking for in a catching prospect at #19

My Take: I’d be disappointed if he was the #19 pick, because if the Yankees don’t take him at 18, he wouldn’t be taken until the 30′s if the Mets passed. As well, it would prove the Mets pro-scouts haven’t learned their lesson about getting a catcher with subpar defense, which Rene Rivera proves is very essential. I’d hope that if Craig isn’t there, they go for a high school bat, preferably one that can take Wright’s mantle…

31st Overall Pick

Taylor Trammell, OF – Mount Paran Christian School, 6’3″, 195 lbs, L/L

As I wrote last week on Another double-plus runner, Trammell has at least four potential tools to work with, and the last one, his arm, he’s worked to improve.

With a quick left-handed swing, Trammell could probably hit for a decent average, should he hone some his raw nature. He is split between two sports, and has not completely worked out how to recognize off speed pitches and have a plan up at the plate. Should he choose one sport finally, he has a decent chance to hit, and hit well. He also has the potential for 15-20 homers annually, should he learn to tap into his power.

Because of his speed, he should be able to steal plenty of bases, and cover plenty of ground in center field. However, his arm is below average, but he has worked hard to improve it, and that has shown up as a positive development lately. He is definitely a high-upside pick the Mets would love to pick.

My Take: Trammell is a true boom-or-bust guy, considering his speed being close to top of the charts, and will allow him to stick in Center Field. As a left-handed hitter, he’s a raw player stuck between two sports, but one with upside, and no matter the consequence, upside’s a good choice.

Kevin Gowdy, RHP – Santa Barbara High School, 6’2″, 170 lbs, R/R 

Kevin Gowdy is definitely a high-upside high school arm with a lot of projection. A great sized pitcher with a commitment to UCLA along with elite draftees Mickey Moniak and Blake Rutherford, Gowdy sits in the low 90′s, touching 95, with room to fill in on his skinny frame. The delivery is easy and repeatable from over the top, and he has plenty of control along with it. He has performed well on the pro circuits, such as the Area Code Games, but at times his velocity became inconsistent and dropped to the high-80′s.

As well, he has a sweeping curveball that sits in the 70′s, which has plus potential, and a decent changeup that needs a bit more use and refinement, but can become above-average at times. With high potential and a great Commitment to a big baseball school like UCLA, he could be a tough signee.

My Take: This seems like another high upside pick to go after, and with the Organization always needing high-upside Arms, this could be a great guy to get, and could be a fast-moving arm. This is where the ability to go over-slot may come in handy.

64th Overall Pick – Second Round

Luis Curbelo, SS – Cocoa HS, 6’3″, 185 lbs, R/R

For people in the know, Curbelo should come as no surprise as he headed a Mets Scout-run Puerto Rican Prospect team that played in Jupiter, as well as Puerto Rico. Curbelo moved from the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy, Carlos Correa’s former High School, to Cocoa High School in Florida for his senior year.

This exciting shortstop has above-average bat speed from the right side, that produces some pretty loud contact, with power that is below-average right now, but could possibly get to above-average with some good coaching. As a fielder, he doesn’t have the greatest actions and he’s an average runner with an average arm, but he could move to the hot corner. He sounds like a guy that should be available in round 2 with some untapped potential.

With this pick Curbelo would be the highest ever draft of a Puerto Rican Native by the Mets. Javier Rodriguez was the prior highest at #68.

My Take: I need to make a few amendments to Curbelo’s scouting report. The arm is above-average, the bat speed is plus, and when I mean the greatest actions, I mean at shortstop, third base he can be above-average. I think he would be a great pick, and if he is selected by the Mets, they already know what they’re getting, and possibly can get him under-slot despite a commitment to University of Miami. A high pick from Puerto Rico wouldn’t surprise me either because of a lot of drafts by the Alderson Era with players like Joel Huertas, Arnaldo Berrios and Kenneth Bautista drafted in recent years.

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Juan Lagares Homers In Back to Back Games Sun, 29 May 2016 13:26:42 +0000 juan lagares

While the Mets’ offense was stymied by Kenta Maeda and the Dodgers’ bullpen, Juan Lagares provided the only spark with a pinch hit solo home run against reliever J.P. Howell during the 8th inning.

It was Lagares’ second homerun of the season, and he’s now hit one in consecutive games.

Overall, he’s batting .310 with an OPS of .803 during 74 plate appearances this season.

It’s encouraging progress for Lagares, who disappointed last season after signing a 4 year, $23 million dollar extension. He batted .259/.289/.358 with six homeruns in 465 plate appearances in 2015, and his defense in the outfield noticeably declined.

His Ultimate Zone Rating dropped from 18.5 in 2014 to 3.5 last year according to Fangraphs.

But he seems to be adjusting well to his role as the team’s fourth outfielder. His excellence on defense appears to have returned, and the power he’s flashed the last two days shows he can be a valuable bat off the bench. He’s become a formidable weapon for the Mets against left-handed pitching.

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Live From Tradition Field: Thoughts On St. Lucie Mets Prospects Sat, 28 May 2016 14:05:30 +0000 amed rosario

It was Military Appreciation Day at Tradition Field on Thursday night and I was one of the lucky ones who was able to make it out to Port St. Lucie to watch the St. Lucie Mets defeat the Charlotte Stone Crabs 2-0.  The game was highlighted by solid pitching, speed and defense (yes, I know Luis Guillorme made a couple of errors) which led the team to victory.

Regarding the pitching, the night belonged to Chris Flexen. He had the opponents off balance all night, mixing up his pitches, hitting the corners, and allowing only one early hit the entire game.  There were not a ton of swings and misses off Flexen stuff tonight but the hitters still looked overmatched and confused throughout. Not a lot of solid contact made by the Stone Crab hitters, and despite the minor mishaps by Guillorme the defense came up big in making all the routine plays.

The stadium radar gun was off so I couldn’t get a reading on the his MPH, nor could I even keep track of his pitch count. What I do know is that Flexen fought through each hitter, inducing many soft grounders and fly balls that were easily tracked down.  His delivery looked consistent and I did not notice any wearing down even into the 7th before he was taken out.  Oh, and I would like to mention ladies and gentlemen that yes there is a pitcher with a Mets uniform who consistently throws it in the dirt when ahead 0-2 and 1-2 in the count and his name is Mr. Chris Flexen. I look forward to keeping an eye on Flexen in the box scores throughout the season to see much he continues to progress.

As far as the hitting the number one guy to mention is the was the lead off man Champ Stuart.  I watched a handful of games at Tradition field last year and this year, and tonight was the very best I have ever seen him.  Champ worked ever single count like he was channeling his inner Curtis Granderson and drew three walks to go with a bunt single for the game. Perhaps he was at his best because in the stands (sitting next to me) was his very lovely girlfriend Jessica.

What I learned is that nobody works harder than Champ Stuart. He’s putting in the time, early and often, on the field and watching videos.  Champ has the tools to succeed. He has the talent. He has the speed, solid defense, a strong arm and does have gap power at the plate.  If he can continue to get stronger physically and perhaps just as importantly mentally, I think there can be a place for Champ and his plus plus speed at the higher levels.

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On the night the box score showed walks and a hit, but what it doesn’t show is the line drives he was consistently hitting foul in multiple at bats throughout.  I just notice him making more consistent contact this year than last. Again, with his speed, there’s simply no discounting how much havoc this young man causes on the bases.  All four times he was on base there were numerous balls thrown to first and second for pickoff attempts.  He became the main focus each time he got on those bases and that kind of distraction is a good kind.  Overall it was his speed and patience at the plate that led to both runs coming in courtesy of the other offensive hero of the night Mr. Luis Guillorme.

In the first inning, Luis stroked an opposite field liner down the left field line, scoring Champ from first after his leadoff walk.  Luis made contact all night, also showing off his speed and aggression by pulling off a solid bunt for a base hit and also an infield single to score the second run of the game.

My critique of Luis last month watching him was that he didn’t appear to be as aggressive as I would have hoped for offensively, but tonight he shut me up completely.  He attacked at the plate the way he attacks in the field and showed a ton of spark and energy.  Defensively, Luis showed off his amazingly quick hands and agility early and often in the game, including a highlight reel play for a putout rushing to his left to scoop a liner for an out.  However, on separate occasions during the game Luis, on my vantage point, just seemed to have a couple of minor issues in the transition of the ball out of his fast glove and into his hands.  All in all there’s no denying the talent defensively of the young Guillorme.

The only other Mets player to manage a hit on the night was Tomas Nido.  I liked what I saw in the young catcher. He looks extremely aggressive at the plate.  If its close to the strike zone, he’s taking a hack. Looked big and strong, had a nice solid opposite field liner for his hit in the game. He looks to have a pretty quick bat.


Mets super prospect AKA “The Future” (that’s how they announced him when a player announced the starting lineup and their nicknames pregame) Amed Rosario had a quite night offensively. He did hit into a double play to halt a rally but he also did not strike out.  He certainly gave one a ride to deep center during the game.  He continues to show an extremely quick bat without a lot of swing and misses these days.

Defensively, we got exactly what we could have expected, which was above average range, above average speed, and above average arm.  Rosario made some of the putouts look so easy that it was hard to tell just have difficult they may have been during the course of the game to get those needed outs.

The one prospect I’m still waiting and hoping to see bust out offensively is switch hitter Jhoan Urena. He’s physically built, compact and strong. When he makes contact he hits it hard. My eye ball test seems to show that he looks stronger as a left-handed hitter than as a righty.  But tonight I only got one look at him as a righty in the game.

The other pitcher to keep an eye on at the is Corey Taylor, the former 7th rounder who appears to now be entrenched as the closer on the St. Lucie Mets.  Last month I watched Corey get robbed by the umps and having it cost him earned runs he didn’t deserve off a foul ball that was called fair.  And pretty much ever since he has been close to untouchable, including tonight.  I see him as physically imposing, tough and strong with a fastball I’ve previously seen inch close to the mid 90′s. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Corey promoted to AA level later this summer.

Unfortunately for me, Mets outfield prospect Wuilmer Becerra got the night off and didn’t appear at all in the game.

Be sure to check out for last night’s recap!

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MMO Players of the Week: Some Old, Some New, Some Bold Mon, 18 Apr 2016 13:00:30 +0000 Mets POTW

“You win some, you lose some.” That has been the case for the 2016 Mets so far, but somehow they add much more stress than necessary. This week was another up-and-down string of games, with a bad series loss to a mediocre team to a good series win against an above-average team. It opened with an atrocious start from Steven Matz, and ended with a stellar one from him. We saw Michael Conforto move from the six spot to the three hole with exceptional results. We saw… well, if I say any more, I’ll give away my Player of the Week picks!

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With Jacob deGrom missing Wednesday’s start due to a combination of lat troubles and the birth of his son, Logan Verrett took the ball in what proved to be a crucial game against the Marlins to avoid a sweep at home. He pitched absolutely stellar, going 6.0 innings (and, honestly, he should have gone seven) while giving up only three hits with no runs. His pinpoint-accurate fastball, coupled with a nasty changeup and slick slider powered him to six strikeouts. While Noah Syndergaard pitched absolutely amazing the day before, the pressure that was placed on the shoulders of Verrett was far greater. He is an incredibly reliable spot starter and is one of the Mets’ most valuable bullpen arms. Props to you, Logan. Props to you.

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If I were to poll the entirety of Mets Twitter at the end of week one, they would have been in strong favor of trading Yoenis Cespedes away, because he, and I quote, “is being paid $25 million a year to strike out and make errors.” Well, good thing the season spans about 27 weeks, because it looks like Cespedes has finally overcome the first week blues. The slugging outfielder batted .318 with two home runs and seven RBIs over the course of the week. It’s pleasing as well as critical that he finally gets going, especially with Conforto in the three hole now; he needs to start slugging like a true cleaunup hitter, because he is the only candidate on the Mets’ roster right now that fits the bill as close as it can get. Plus, if Cespedes starts hitting, there’s a nice chance that Lucas Duda might begin to follow suit… stay tuned on that one. This will be bold. 

neil walker asdrubal cabrera


Color me impressed… super impressed. I know last week I kind of blew off this category and haphazardly gave it to Bartolo Colon for fun… but it’s crunch time now. Asdrubal Cabrera‘s middle infield defense has, honestly, been one of my favorite things so far about this young season. He’s got great range and a vacuum of a glove that seems to suck up almost everything that comes his way. Even when presented with a tough turnaround play, his arm is so accurate that even if the throw is late, I know that it’s not sailing over Duda’s head or even taking a hop before it gets to him. Middle infield defense has been a scarcity for the Mets in recent seasons, and even though Cabrera is contributing the bare minimum at the plate, we brought him here to play defense, and that’s exactly what he’s going.


As stated above, Noah Syndergaard certainly gets a mention. His performance on Tuesday, consisting of 7.0 IP of seven-hit, one-run, 12-strikeout ball was more than enough for a pitcher on any team to get a win– except for THIS team, apparently. Even though he was denied a W, it was another performance that further solidified the fact that Syndergaard is the clear ace of the staff.

Michael Conforto has been tearing it up ever since he was moved to the third hole. He went 5-for-12 with three RBIs on three doubles and a home run during the Cleveland series, after recording just one hit and five at-bats all throughout the Marlins series (granted, he didn’t play in Wednesday’s game). He makes for the perfect three hitter: puts together quality at-bats (the kind of at-bats you see veteran hitters putting together… seriously, he gets pitched to as if he’s a 10 year vet), he is patient and can draw a walk, he has pop in his bat and the striking ability to go opposite field, especially for power. If this kid hasn’t caught your attention yet, we probably haven’t been watching the same team. I don’t know about you, but I’m pre-ordering my Michael Conforto All-Star Game jersey right now.


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Jump Starting the Mets Offense and Beating the Shift Thu, 14 Apr 2016 18:44:23 +0000 yoenis cespedes

Through eight games this season, the New York Mets offense has been less than inspiring, ranking dead last in the NL in hits, runs scored, Avg, OBP, OPS, and extra base hits. While this is just a small sample size and nothing to get overly concerned about yet, it does give us a not too distant reminder of the early season offense during the 2015 season.

One of the alarming imbalances to this team, is that its standard 1 through 8 lineup consists of four players – Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Lucas Duda, and Michael Conforto – who regularly face a defensive shift when at the plate. This means that half of the Mets’ starting lineup are at a statistical disadvantage.

When you look at those players, and realize that against a traditional balanced defense they would each have close to a .300 avg and a .900 OPS, it makes you wonder what needs to be done to counter the shift.

Lucas Duda in particular is a dead pull hitter, accumulating only 5 ground balls to the 3rd base position during the entire 2015 season, so there is no surprise that teams vacate the 3rd base position in favor of adding an extra right side infielder.

We saw what Duda could do against a standard alignment in 2011 when he had a .292 avg and .852 OPS before teams started implementing the shift.

However, while Duda has shown little ability to be capable of hitting even soft contact on the ground the other way, Granderson, Conforto, and Cespedes all have the ability to choke up and make contact towards the 3rd base position. Understanding that making solid contact is not always what is required to obtain a hit, sometimes it’s better to make soft contact in an attempt hit the ball where the defense isn’t. We have seen all too much of players like Eric Hosmer sacrifice power, instead hitting a soft chopper or dropping a bunt to the left side of the infield to secure a hit, start a rally, or continue an inning.

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The issue is that the Mets seem locked in on an antiquated philosophy that our power bats need to always produce power and we have too many players that seem to swing for the fences each time up.

Despite the steroid era and love affair with the homerun, despite all the advanced metrics in today’s game, and despite all the advanced scouting and defensive shifts we see, the philosophy of getting men on, getting men over, and getting men in is still the prevailing goal.

There is noting in the rule book that says Lucas Duda and Yoenis Cespedes have to launch balls over the fence every time at bat, or that Duda and Granderson have to drive in runs via the extra base hit.

Baseball is in a transition phase, and teams that are successful are starting to revert back to the 80′s way of producing offense. Directional hitting to beat the shift, less home runs and more speed – opportunistic baseball is the key to offense these days.

Do we still have team offense’s that are successful via the homerun, of course we do. Teams like the Astros and Cubs have double digit homerun bats littered throughout their lineups. But we have seen that come playoff time, runs are at a premium, and good pitching still beats power bats.

The teams that are successful are the teams that have balance and can scratch out a run. Teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, and San Francisco Giants are all teams that have won World Series in the past 6 seasons that all have a strong pitching foundation surrounded by an offense that is balanced and can manufacture runs in a multitude of ways (adapt and overcome, situational hitting, take what the defense gives you).

It’s time for the Mets to start playing some small ball… Take what the defense gives you and it’s okay to let the next man up drive in the runs in the right situation. Keep the inning going, or start the inning off with a simple bunt, or soft ground ball through the vacated hole.

The Mets power will come. Once the weather warms up and the Flushing Bay winds subside, the balls will start to leave Citi Field. But in October and November when the cold temps returns and the winds are howling, the Mets will still need to know how to manufacture runs. So lets get a solid philosophy started now — a foundation of getting on base and generating runs the old fashion way.

All too often power can be streaky and go into slumps,. But when that happens, a well rounded team can find other ways to score runs, and that is what the Mets need to learn and implement now.

The defenses have made their move, so now it’s time to adjust and counter punch. If you are going to implement a defensive shift against us, then we will simply take what you are giving us, hit the ball where you are not, and you can deal with the next man up. We will put runners on base, drive up pitch counts, and make you adjust your philosophy. After all, isn’t that what baseball is all about, making adjustments? So lets adjust and get this offense rolling, time to beat the shift.


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2016 Season Preview: Juan Lagares, CF Fri, 01 Apr 2016 16:10:26 +0000 juan lagares

Juan Lagares, CF
DOB: March 17, 1989 (27 on Opening Day)
Bats/Throws: R/R
Contract Status: First year of four-year, $23 million extension ($2.5 million salary)

2015 Recap

After showing the outrageous potential he had in 2014, Juan Lagares came back down to Earth in 2015 in a big way, seeing a decline in both offensive and defensive value.

The thought with Lagares has always been that if he can simply be a league average hitter, his defense will make starting him every day more than worth it. This past season exposed a big flaw in that idea, with Lagares seeing a big drop in defense. After being plus 28 Defensive Runs Saved and plus 18.6 in Ultimate Zone Rating in 2014, his numbers dropped to 2 and 3.5. His arm and range were both worse than what they were in 2013 and 2014, which was clear throughout the season as well.

Lagares also saw his batting line drop from .281/.321/.382 (101 wRC+) to .259/.289/.358 (80 wRC+), a very significant decline. All of this brought Lagares’ overall value down from an overall 4.0 fWAR in 116 games in 2014 to just 1.0 in 143 games this past season.

2016 Projections

Marcel – 478 PAs, .264/.305/.377, 7 HR, 9 SB

Steamer – 410 PAs, .257/.297/.366, 6 HR, 7 SB

ZiPS – 505 PAs, .261/.297/.369, 5 HR, 11 SB

It’s important to note that Lagares will likely be used very differently this season compared to previous ones The Mets will likely look to Lagares to be a capable platoon partner with Yoenis Cespedes in center field for the majority of his playing time. Cespedes will slide over to left field when Lagares is in the lineup, Terry Collins confirmed yesterday. As long as he continues to struggle against right-handed pitching, Lagares will likely get every at-bat possible against left-handed pitching and not very many against righties.

Even in a down year like 2015, Lagares hit left-handed pitching very well. He hit .273/.333/.438 (116 wRC+) against lefties compared to just .253/.271/.328 against right-handed pitching, a 65 wRC+.

For his career, Lagares has hit .279/.325/.427 (112 wRC+) against lefties, so it will really be about whether he can become adequate enough against right-handers to get more playing time. While I don’t think anyone expects Lagares to exclusively play against lefties, he will certainly get as many at-bats as possible against them. I doubt we’ll see a strict platoon in center field this year, especially if Lagares bounces back on defense. Expect Terry Collins to bring him in often late in games as we saw last postseason.

That being said, decreasing his exposure to righties will definitely help Lagares’ overall numbers. So while he won’t get 450 or 500 plate appearances like some of the projections say, he’ll probably hit somewhere around league average. With a bounce back season with the glove, that would make playing Lagares regularly more than worth it.

One last thing to note is how impressed the team was with Lagares at Mets camp, where he showed up in superb physical shape and showed off the defense he exhibited in his 2014 Gold Glove campaign. He also was no slouch at the plate and wrapped up a solid Spring Training, batting .318 with a .400 OBP and .832 OPS. The six walks and three stolen bases were notable as well. He’s still young, having only just turned 27 last week.


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How Vital is a Quick Start to the Season? Mon, 28 Mar 2016 12:59:02 +0000 harvey syndergaard

As I grow older, I’m quick to forget what my mind doesn’t consider important. It’s been years since I remembered the name of the first girl I kissed, but I know the full name of the first female to break my heart.

I don’t remember the last time I was in Shea Stadium, but I’ll never forget my mother taking me to Flushing on Mother’s Day with ground level seats. Thanks to the power of Google, I can confirm it was May 14, 1989 and I moved down to the front row to watch Lenny Dykstra score on an infield error for a walk-off win before an announced crowd of 35,547.

That improved the team’s record to 20-14 and they were 1.5 games up in the National League East. It was an impressive start to the season, similar to what the team put together last year. With such a strong finish and an eventual National League championship, it’s easy to forget about the beginning.

After a 2-3 start that included taking two out of three from the preemptive greatest team ever assembled that still waiting for the rings that Bryce Harper ordered last offseason, the Mets won their next 11 games.

A team that came into the season with questions about their offense scored 57 runs during the streak, allowing 31 runs and truly taking advantage of the schedule by beating up on dregs of the division.

The 15-8 record in April helped keep them in first until mid-May, helped them overcome playing just below .500 in May and June and allowed them to stay with the underachieving gNats while waiting for John Mayberry Jr. and Eric Campbell to provide some kind of offense with David Wright out indefinently.

But that was then and this year is different. Now we know that Wright won’t be the centerpiece star of the offense, that he won’t be required to knock in 100 runs. We know that Lucas Duda should have something resembling protection in the lineup for the first time since he’s been on the major league roster.

We know the pitching is top-quality, that Jeuyrs Familia can close games and Wilmer Flores can hit enough to offset questions about his defense.

OK, maybe we don’t know that last one but the optimist tells me to think positively about our super-sub who cries tears of orange and blue.

With just a week before the first pitch, I know it’s unrealistic to predict a similar start to the season but I feel it’s necessary and possible. After the silly two games in five days to start the season, they’ll face the Phillies and Marlins. What follows is nine games in 10 days against Cleveland, Philly and Atlanta.

I don’t remember how the team looked last spring, but I know I’m not the only one feeling a touch of panic watching games this spring. That panic will only grow if they get off to a slow start, especially thanks to the added expectations of defending their National League championship.

So what can you tell me to ease my tension? Am I overreacting to spring results or are you nervous too?

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2016 Season Preview: Alejandro De Aza, OF Wed, 23 Mar 2016 13:02:17 +0000 alejandro de aza

Alejandro De Aza, OF
DOB – April 11, 1984 (31 on Opening Day)
Bats/Throws: L/L
Contract Status: One-year, $5.75 million with $2M incentives

2015 Recap

Alejandro De Aza had his best season at the plate since 2012, posting a .262/.333/.422 line (104 wRC+) between three teams last year. The outfielder had a weak first month with the Orioles, hitting just .214/.277/.359 in 30 games, but had success in both Boston and San Francisco.

As a left-handed hitter, De Aza has had continued success against right-handed pitching throughout his career, and 2015 was no exception. De Aza hit .278/.351/.448 with seven homers in 314 plate appearances against right-handed pitching last year. That .799 OPS against righties was well above the league average of .723.

De Aza had a so-so year defensively, posting a -4 DRS and -1.1 UZR. Overall, he was worth about 1.2 Wins Above Replacement according to Fangraphs and 0.9 according to Baseball-Reference.

2016 Projections

Marcel – 435 PAs, .256/.319/.399, 9 HR

Steamer – 413 PAs, .241/.304/.364, 7 HR

ZiPS – 479 PAs, .257/.319/.401, 9 HR, 103 OPS+

The Mets signed Alejandro De Aza purely to face right-handed pitching which should immediately boost his numbers. I think you’ll see Juan Lagares get significant at-bats against right-handed pitching simply to have his glove on the field.

That being said, De Aza has been effective at what the Mets signed him for. Over his career, he has a .274/.338/.418 line against right-handed pitching, which is slightly above average.

In terms of indicators, there is nothing to point to that says De Aza’s 2015 season was a fluke. His BABIP was right around his career average, his line drive rate didn’t change very much, nor did his hard hit ball rate. And keep in mind he is still 31 years old, so he’s not old either.

The real question with De Aza is not how well he is going to hit right-handed pitching, because he is well-established as above average against them. The real question is whether or not he can handle center field. He hasn’t played much center field of late because he’s simply been on rosters with some great center fielders like Jackie Bradley, Adam Jones, and Adam Eaton.

However, the defensive stats are a bit strange for De Aza. UZR pegs him as a tick above average over his career in center while Defensive Runs Saved has him at -18 runs. Still, that DRS number was fueled by just one season. While he certainly isn’t an above average defender De Aza’s awful season in center a few years ago could have very well been a fluke or a flaw with the DRS statistic.

This is certainly not a Yoenis Cespedes situation where all the defensive metrics say the defense is bad. This is just an example of a situation where a defensive metric may not work perfectly for certain players. We’ll have to see how De Aza handles center field this year to know for sure.

If De Aza sticks around and actually gets significant playing time against righties, we can expect a slightly above average hitter (his career slash line against righties is .274/.338/.418). De Aza is by no means a flashy player, but he will do the job. Having Cespedes in center certainly makes the signing more palatable, no matter your opinion of him.

NOTE: This was written before the Cespedes signing, with slight modifications made.


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MLB Domestic Violence Policy: Manfred’s Not the One in No-Win Situation Sat, 20 Feb 2016 21:56:38 +0000 rob manfred

Due to the disturbing actions of a couple of players, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that Rob Manfred is in a “no win” position when doling out punishment in these domestic violence cases.


The only way that Manfred is in a no-win position is if he doesn’t come down hard on Jose Reyes and Aroldis Chapman. You want to know if he did his job in suspending these players?  He needs to be able to look Joe Torre, Baseball’s Chief Operating Officer, in the eye and explain to him he did the right thing.

For those that are unaware, Torre started the Safe at Home Foundation to help the victims of domestic abuse. It was started out of his experiences with a physically and emotionally abusive father. Torre saw his mother repeatedly beaten by his father. His father was never arrested. No charges were ever brought against him. It would finally end when Torre’s older brother, Frank, was finally able to stand up to his father at the age of 20 and kick him out of the house.

So when I hear about how Chapman’s girlfriend, the mother of his child, didn’t press charges, I scoff. It’s not a defense to his actions which allegedly included pushing her against a wall and choking her. After the alleged attack, she fled the house because she was scared for her life and her daughter. At the same time, Chapman was firing a gun off in his garage.

Of course, she didn’t cooperate with police. Domestic violence victims don’t always cooperate. Some would say they rarely cooperate. Reasons for the lack of cooperation include a fear for their own safety for cooperating with an investigation, wanting to reconcile, and/or the financial pressures that would ensue if there was a separation or conviction.  Don’t believe this is the case?  Look no further than Torre.

Yes, Chapman is innocent until proven guilty. However, that principle only applies in criminal courts, not in the courts of public opinion. More importantly, Major League Baseball is not held to such a standard.  They are not beholden to a victim’s refusal to cooperate. They can and are able to conduct their own investigation and implement their own punishment if warranted.

If there is any proof that Chapman did indeed choke his girlfriend, he should be suspended for the year. Let him appeal the suspension as he says he will. Let an arbitrator be the one to be weak on the domestic violence issue. Commissioner Rob Manfred can’t appear weak, he needs to show some backbone and prove that his new Domestic Violence Policy is legit. That doesn’t mean he’s in a no-win situation, it means he has an important decision to make.

That’s the job.

Unfortunately, he’s got a resource in Joe Torre. I say unfortunately because no one should have to live through what Torre did growing up. Hopefully, after his investigation and all the deliberation and analysis, Commissioner Manfred makes the right decision. He needs to be able to look his Chief Operating Officer in the eye and tell him he came down hard on the players that attack women.

The only person right now in a seemingly no-win position is Chapman’s girlfriend. Manfred has an easy decision to make. He just has to have the courage to do what’s right.

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ESPN Law’s Top 100 Prospects: Dom Smith Leads Mets Quartet Thu, 11 Feb 2016 17:03:43 +0000 Smith Dominic

A day after releasing his annual Minor League System rankings, in which the New York Mets placed 16th, ESPN’s Keith Law rolled out his Top 100 Prospects today on ESPN Insider.

1B Dominic Smith headlined a quartet of Mets prospects at No. 29, here’s what he says:

“Smith is one of the best pure hitters in the minors — and he has to be, considering he can play only first base defensively and has yet to show his raw power in games after two years of playing in some of the worst parks for left-handed power in the minors.”

“Smith is an exceptionally smart, low-heartbeat hitter who uses the whole field as well as any 20-year-old in the minors right now; four of the lefty hitter’s six homers in 2015 were down the left-field line. His swing is simple and direct, and he has unusual wrist strength to generate so much hard contact.”

“Smith is a 70 defender at first with a 70 arm, but his body has gotten far too big over the past year. Never svelte, he looked sloppy in the Arizona Fall League. We like fat hitters when they can hit, but Smith appears to be blowing off basic conditioning — even as he’s proving to be a more astute hitter. Also, no one wants to see him start to deal with knee or back injuries because he can’t keep his weight down.”

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After Smith Law ranks LHP Steven Matz at No. 37 and while he likes his makeup, he has issues with his durability.

“Matz looks like a league-average starter who might show flashes above that but won’t have the durability to profile as more than a mid-rotation guy.”

“Matz will pitch at 92-96 mph and has a plus changeup with outstanding arm speed that makes his fastball more effective even when he works up with it; almost two-thirds of his swings and misses in the majors last year came on fastballs, about as positive a sign for his future as I could throw at you.”

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SS Amed Rosario came in at No. 42 and Law is more glowing on him.

“Rosario has outstanding tools, from plus-plus bat speed to plus raw power to a plus arm — yes, a lot of pluses — to above-average range at short. He makes a lot of difficult plays look easy and has the excellent hands at short to become an excellent defender there in time. At the plate, he has good plate coverage if not plate discipline, and stays inside the ball very well, wearing out the right fielder rather than trying to pull pitches on the outer half.”

“He’ll probably go to Double-A Binghamton, a more neutral hitting environment, but I expect a little more of the power to come through. He has the kind of raw tools and athleticism to be a top 10 prospect in the game in a year.”

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Finally, rounding things out for the Mets is SS Gavin Cecchini at No. 89.

“It was a bit of a mixed year for Cecchini in 2015. He finally had the offensive breakout the Mets had been waiting for, but ran into some throwing issues that put his defense in doubt for the first time.”

“At the plate, he had an outstanding season. He got a bit stronger in 2014 and last offseason, and started getting better results on contact. It’s a short swing with no load, coming directly at the ball, so the contact he makes is hard but isn’t going to have any lift.”

“He’s probably a 50 or 55 defender at short, assuming the throwing woes are behind him, and that kind of glove to go with a .280/.350/.380 line is at least a solid regular, probably an above-average one given the current state of offense at shortstop.”

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2015 Mets Contact Rates: A Tale Of Quality vs. Quantity Thu, 04 Feb 2016 14:00:45 +0000 lucas duda

It used to be you could tell when a ball was hit hard because it made a loud noise and it moved quickly through the air. Now, according to Baseball Information Solutions, you need an algorithm

“BIS now records certain hard data (duration of hang time and landing location) with the observed hit type — liner, grounder, etc. — and then an algorithm decides if the ball is hard hit.” Neil Weinberg via Hardball Times.  The actual algorithm is proprietary, so we have to take their word for what constitutes “hard contact,” but, generally speaking, the calculation is based on hang time, location, and trajectory.

I see it playing out something like this, David Wright lines out to Dee Gordon and as he’s taking his batting gloves off in the dugout he complains to Kevin Long, “Dagnabbit Mr. Long, I really thought I tattooed that one,” at which point Kevin Long pulls out a handy printout, “Sorry son, the algorithm says it was medium – see, right there.”

The truth is that the almost infinite diversity of statistics is one of the things that makes baseball so fascinating for so many. There was a time when a kid who saw [∂∂pβ(λ)∂∂λ+2(1−γ(λ))] G(2)(p)=0 in his head, when told to put a bunt down the first base line, would have no place on a baseball diamond. Now, the same kid can turn a soft blooper into a screaming liner with the right algorithm.

It’s amazing what data can tell you. For instance, it was recently discovered that guys like Giancarlo Stanton who routinely hit the ball hard, tend to be good hitters. A shocker, I know – there’s even proof in the form of a correlation study between wOBA and exit velocity.


It’s not the biggest of correlations, but it’s there.

Ultimately BIS modified their approach with hang time and landing to presumably make it less of an abstraction. Previously hard/soft hit% data involved some guy who would watch the games and decide whether balls were hit hard, medium, or soft … I mean, if he drops a melted cheese Dorito on his vintage Jethro Tull jersey, it can skew the results. So the algorithm is a good thing in spite of my incessant persiflage.

But technology is only good if you can use it, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why StatCast exit velocities have yet to be employed quantifying hard and soft hit%. There are limitations (StatCast has trouble with weak contact) but the potential to disambiguate contact rates at the initial judgment level is tremendous. There is in fact some preliminary data showing that StatCast exit velocity correlates closely with hard% contact, which I’m sure brought a sigh of relief from the guy with the stained Jethro Tull shirt — who may want to keep his job options open nonetheless (I hear UZR is hiring).

Over the past few seasons, indications are that soft and medium contact rates have risen in MLB while hard contact has fallen. Teams have increasingly delved into contact rates in an effort to improve, and for good reason. A top 10 leaderboard for hard% contact features dignitaries such as Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, and Miguel Cabrera (by the way Lucas Duda comes in at #11).

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The Mets had a 31.5% hard contact rate in 2015, good for best in the game. The Mets are also tied for the fourth lowest hard% contact rate allowed (27.5%). Now there are lots of reasons teams succeed, but you have to think that the ability to make solid contact while preventing the opposition from doing the same gives you quite the advantage.

Sure enough the 2015 Mets made it to the World Series where they faced … the Royals with their 22nd in the league hard% contact rate and their 19th in the league hard% contact allowed … nothing to write Dorothy about. The Royals also had the lowest line drive percentage (19%) in all of baseball, while the Mets were third (22%).

The 2015 Mets hit the ball with authority more than just about anyone, which is very much in line with their selective philosophy – wait for your pitch, square it, clobber it. Yet they were beaten by a team who threw quality contact out the window in favor of plain old ordinary contact. The Royals led the league in contact% with an 81.9% mark.

KC also gave up quite a lot of hard contact (29.3%) but compensated with a top-notch defense. For the Mets, on the other hand, it didn’t make much sense to spend a lot of time or money on defense, given their high-K pitching staff and relatively low hard% contact rate (27.5%). The Mets looked like the better team, yet the Royals, a catch and throw outfit designed to spray the ball around, beat them in 5.

It’s doubtful that Dayton Moore, knowing his Royals were destined to play the Mets in the fall classic, specifically designed a team that would act as their ultimate foil … but it felt that way. The Mets vs. the Royals in the World Series was a tale of quantity trumping quality. In the end, the Royals were able to scrape enough runs together by putting the ball in play, while many a Met line drive ended up in a Royal mitt.

Still, the ability to hit the ball hard has to count for something, and, given the correlations (below) between that skill and other offensive indicators, (not to mention the wOBA / EV chart above), I’d hesitate to scrap the pursuit of quality contact in favor of increasing overall contact.

R2 with ISO: 0.70
R2 with SLG: 0.63
R2 with wRC+: 0.57

(Courtesy of Hardball Times)

From the Mets perspective it’s hard to find fault. Chances are they won’t have to face this same Royals team again in a World Series, and there’s a good chance that if they do, they could just as easily beat them. I’m also not sure there’s an overarching lesson here … for instance, in spite of the fact that the Mets lost to the Royals, I’d take hard contact over more “general” contact, because, again, according to the correlations above, it means you have better hitters. Furthermore, if you’re facing a team that can field, that’s all the more reason to hit the ball hard – anybody can make the routine play.

If there’s a caveat it’s that defense has to be more than an afterthought. The most ambiguous and unwieldy of all the branches of Sabermetrics, defense it turns out was the Mets’ Achilles heel all along. Hard contact will play as will power pitching, but if you are going up against a team who puts the bat to the ball, you’d best be able to field.

The Royals had an insane 59.6 dWAR in 2015, easily tops in the game (26.7 points ahead of the second place team). The Mets? 17th, with a 2.3 dWAR. In 2015, the Royals had 24.4 more defensive wins above replacement than the Mets.

If I’m Sandy Alderson, I am all of a sudden very interested in recalibrating the value of defense in a seven game series and I’m checking to see whether StatCast velocity data comes in a dry aerosol.

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