Latest Update – Oct 1
Campbell’s chances of making the team have been bolstered by the recent news that Wilmer Flores is done for the season with the wrist injury he sustained sliding headfirst into home in a September 10th game against the Braves.
Additionally, Puma hears that the Mets are leaning toward Alejandro De Aza over Michael Conforto for the last backup outfield role in the playoffs. Mets believe De Aza is best suited to handling a bench role.
Original Post – Sep 29
One of the quirks of the Wild Card Game is a team is able to create a standalone 25 man roster just for that game. After the completion of the Wild Card Game, the winning team is able to reset its roster for the Division Series.
With that in mind, when the Mets construct their roster, they really have no need to carry extra starting pitchers. Instead, they can carry an extra reliever or two, and they can add a couple of bats on the bench for pinch hitting and running opportunities.
Here is how I would construct the roster –
With the Wild Card Game starting pitcher likely to be either Syndergaard or Lugo, it seems that Rivera will be Terry Collins choice as the starting catcher. If the Mets fall behind early, he may very well go to d’Arnaud for offense. However, for now, Rivera seems the likely starter.
The only variable we don’t know right now is whether Duda can play everyday during a postseason run. However, we have seen him play effectively here and there as he gets more playing time. If Duda is ready to go, he has to start. If not, Loney can start with Duda being the power bat off the bench. Loney is there for insurance for Duda’s back, and he can hit right-handed pitching reasonably well in the event the Mets need an extra pinch hitter.
If the Mets face the Giants and Madison Bumgarner, it is likely Rivera gets the start. If the Mets face the Cardinals and Carlos Martinez, it is likely Johnson gets the start. No matter which one gets the start, we know that the other one will be the best pinch hitting option when the Mets need a bit hit.
Third Base (1) – Jose Reyes
At this point, barring something unusual happening, Reyes is the team’s everyday third baseman and leadoff hitter. He also serves as a backup shortstop in the event something happens to Cabrera
Shortstop (1) – Asdrubal Cabrera
Cabrera is the best hitter in the major leagues during the month of September, and while he has two injured knees, he is able to effectively handle all the balls that come within the vicinity of shortstop.
Given how Bruce’s bat has come alive the past few games and with the way Conforto has been adapting to being a pinch hitter, both players should find themselves on the Wild Card Game roster. What will be curious is whether it is Bruce or De Aza that finds themselves in the outfield with Cespedes and Granderson. In a winner-take-all situation, Collins just might be inclined to go with the defense over the bat.
Whether or not Syndergaard pitches on Sunday, he has to be on the roster. You cannot go down without the ability to throw your best pitcher, even if it is for one inning. Same goes for your second best pitcher, which is why Colon should be on the roster. As for Lugo, he should make the roster because: 1) he has experience as a short reliever; and 2) it is his turn in the rotation, so he can give you as many innings as you need.
If things go to plan, it is likely the Mets are not going to need more than Reed and Familia. If the starter is able to go six, Reed can pitch the seventh and Familia can get the final two innings like he did in the NLDS clincher last year. In the event things don’t go as smoothly, this bullpen can effectively mix and match. Smoker seems like a given to make the roster because it gives the Mets an extra lefty in the pen, one with reverse splits, that can get a big strikeout when the Mets are in a jam.
If the Mets were to go with this group of players, and it seems likely they would that leaves the team with 21 players on the roster with decisions to make for the final four spots. Here is a case for each of the potential bubble players:
UT Eric Campbell – As we saw when the Mets faced Adam Conley and the Marlins, Collins has fallen back in the habit of using Campbell as his right-handed first baseman. In the event the Mets face the Giants, Campbell may well find himself getting a postseason start. If not, he has shown the ability to be a very effective pinch hitter in tight games.
UT Ty Kelly – Collins has liked using as a pinch runner towards the back-end of the season. Even though he is much better hitting right-handed in his short major league career, Kelly’s switch hitting ability does have some usefulness in neutralizing an opposing manager’s ability to go to a lefty/righty in a big spot for multiple outs.
CF Juan Lagares – In his last couple of games, Lagares has finally been able to swing a bat after surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left thumb. If he is capable of handling a bat for consecutive days, and he has no flare-ups, he could see himself on the roster as a late defensive option and a pinch runner.
C Kevin Plawecki – Plawecki has not done much of anything offensively this season. However, he remains a good defensive catcher, and his presence on the team would permit Collins to be aggressive in case he wants to pinch hit for the starting catcher.
SS Matt Reynolds – Especially given Cabrera’s injuries further limiting his range, Reynolds could very well be the Mets best defensive shortstop. Should Cabrera have to leave the game with an injury, Reynolds could step right in defensively. Additionally, in the event Collins needs to start double switching people in and out of the game to keep a pitcher in longer, Reynolds’ ability to competently play second, third, short, and left make him a versatile and valuable bench piece.
LHP Josh Edgin – His chances of making the roster increase if the Mets play the Giants given the presence of Denard Span and Brandon Belt. In that event, the Mets may want that one extra lefty to have multiple matchup opportunities. Against the Cardinals, the need for the extra left-hander won’t be as great.
RHP Erik Goeddel – Even if it has been mostly in mop-up duty, Goeddel has pitched much better in September than he has all season. Unlike Edgin or Henderson (below), Goedell has also shown the ability to go multiple innings lately thereby increasing his usefulness out of the pen.
RHP Robert Gsellman – Gsellman could make the team as a long reliever with Collins then using Lugo as a one inning reliever who can let it fly for one or two innings. Additionally, with Gsellman’s sinker, Collins could elect to go with him in a situation in which the Mets need to get a double play.
RHP Jim Henderson – Henderson hasn’t been the same since coming back from the disabled list. With that said, he’s still striking out 10.6 per nine, and so far this month, he has seven scoreless appearances. More than any of the above, he has the biggest upside. However, when he loses with 95+ MPH fastball, and it happens without a moment’s notice, he’s going to get hit around.
Who the Mets carry for the final three spots will be largely based upon the opponent. In the event that the Mets face the Giants, the odds of Campbell and Edgin making the roster go up significantly. If the Mets face the Cardinals, who have multiple effective lefties out of the pen, someone like Kelly with his switch hitting ability could see his chances of making the roster increase.
The wild card for the Mets is going to be Lagares. If he is truly able to swing a bat, he gives the Mets a right-hand hitting option of the bench, and he allows the Mets to protect a late lead as he is the best defensive outfielder on the team. With his speed and base running ability, he also serves as the team’s best pinch runner option off the bench.
Overall, considering how the Mets have handled the catching situation late in the season, the Mets should probably carry Plawecki as a third catcher.
If the Mets face the Giants, it is likely that Campbell will make the roster as the starting first baseman. Given the concerns over Cabrera’s knees, the need to double switch late in games, and because Reynolds has some extra pop in his bat than Kelly, Reynolds should be the choice.
In the event Lagares cannot play, the last spot on the team becomes a bit dicey. As the Mets bullpen is constituted, the team has multiple pitchers who can go multiple innings thereby negating the need to carry an eighth reliever, but depending on the opponent, the Mets can still benefit from that extra arm.
Right now, there are no easy choices towards the back end of the Wild Card Game roster. Ultimately, the Mets will have to make the right decisions as the last player(s) could very well be the difference between the Mets advancing to the NLDS and the Mets wondering what could’ve been.