The postseason is just getting underway, but for the 20 other teams not captivated by October baseball, now is a good time to do some reflecting on the year that was. Who performed really well? Who performed terribly? How can these areas stay good or get better?
They’re all valid questions that are likely being answered — to some degree — by each big-league front office before the hot stove starts heating up.
For the 2018 New York Mets, the best and worst areas of their roster is awfully clear when using fWAR as the benchmark. Here’s how each part produced this past year, and where it ranked against the rest of baseball.
No surprises here, right? The rotation took a substantial step forward, and there were a handful of players who propped up the outfield and second base positions. All the others? Let’s just say there’s some work that needs to be done.
Well, this one is easy — Jacob deGrom‘s 8.8 fWAR accounted for just over half of the entire rotation’s fWAR. As we covered not too long ago, the Mets’ production in this department ended up being rather top-heavy. DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard (4.2), and Zack Wheeler (4.1) were not only the team leaders in this respect, but they were the only starting pitchers that produced more than 1.0 fWAR.
There are a number of statistics about these three that I love hearing about, but the one that sticks out the most is their collective efforts at inducing soft contact. Among starters with 150 innings, this trio ranked second (Syndergaard, 25.3%), third (deGrom, 25.2%), and sixth (Wheeler, 23.4%) in that category.
Both Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto ended up having encouraging seasons from a production standpoint in the outfield. However, since Nimmo’s emergence was the more unexpected of the two, he definitely takes the cake here. It also helps that his 4.5 fWAR led New York outfielders and was second on the squad to only deGrom.
Nimmo’s 17 home runs more than doubled his career total entering 2018, and his .404 on-base percentage made him the first Mets player since some guy named David Wright in 2007 to have an OBP above .400. Amed Rosario did find some success upon getting plugged into the leadoff spot, but that seems to be the most logical place in the order for Nimmo heading into next season.
In 407 plate appearances prior to getting traded to the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, Cabby hit .277/.329/.488, which led to a 124 wRC+ and 2.2 fWAR. McNeil only registered 248 plate appearances upon getting called up toward the end of July, but made them count — his 2.7 fWAR surpassed Cabrera, as did his .329/.381/.471 triple slash and 137 wRC+.
And it’s never a bad time to marvel at the 26-year-old’s bat-to-ball skills: his 56.0% swing rate was the fifth-highest in baseball during the second half, but he backed that up with an 85.1% contact rate (among top 30) and a 9.7% strikeout rate (second-lowest).
Amed Rosario received plenty of on-the-job training this year, and for the most part, his overall stats don’t exactly jump off the page. The 22-year-old hit .256/.295/.381 with nine home runs, 56 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 24 stolen bases in 592 plate appearances. It was the last two months of his season where some progress really started to show, though.
August was a banner month in many respects for Rosario, but mostly because it was the first time he was considered an above-average offensive contributor based off his 102 wRC+. Despite a (predictable) drop in line-drive rate and a drop in hard-hit rate, he produced the exact same wRC+ in September.
Unless New York does something drastic, like putting Rosario in the outfield, it sure seems like he’ll be manning shortstop come Opening Day in March. That won’t stop me from dreaming about how the Mets can both afford and find a place for Manny Machado to play.
Clearly, catcher is an area that needs to be addressed this winter.
Who knows what Travis d’Arnaud‘s future with the organization holds after yet another year decimated by injury, and since he was limited to just four games in 2018, the bulk of playing time ended up going to Kevin Plawecki and Devin Mesoraco. Of the five guys who donned the tools of ignorance for New York, they were also the only two to produce a positive fWAR (0.7 for Mesoraco, 0.6 for Plawecki).
Plawecki is under team control through 2021, so he’s almost certainly in the team’s plans moving forward, while Mesoraco’s immediate future is more cloudy because he’s headed to the open market. This would be a great time for the front office to go out and make a move, like for Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos — both of whom are set to become free agents at the conclusion of the World Series.
There are a couple things that stand out from his year, though. One is that 10.2% walk rate, which is the second consecutive season it’s been in double digits, while the other is Frazier’s quality of contact. After two straight years of posting a soft-hit rate above 20.0%, that settled in at 17.4%, with his hard-hit rate rising up to a career-high 40.8%.
This will undoubtedly be one of the most interesting situations to watch throughout the winter and into spring training, just to see exactly what the Mets are thinking — and if it matches what they say publicly.
Once Adrian Gonzalez finally got released, the bulk of the playing time went to Wilmer Flores, who quietly had a solid year despite a slow start and abrupt end due to injury. He took a page out of McNeil’s book by making a ton of contact, too. Flores’ 87.9% contact rate tied his career high, while he also set new personal bests in swinging-strike rate (5.7%) and strikeout rate (9.8%).
What happens here is as good as anyone’s guess, though. Dominic Smith and Peter Alonso are the younger options, and it may be a place to put Bruce so he can get at-bats when wondering what happens in the outfield. Flores could still be an option here, over at third, or he may even end up being a non-tender candidate.
Do we really have to talk about the bullpen? I mean, jeez, outside of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, these guys were just awful overall. There will be plenty of options in the free agent market once the offseason officially hits, as guys like Bud Norris, Craig Kimbrel, and Adam Ottavino will be available, just to name a few.
Building a quality bullpen can inherently be a crapshoot based on how volatile the position can be, but this area of the roster basically needs a complete makeover.