Archive for May, 2016

By Steven Inman

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Photo from NY Post

 

On Monday, Lucas Duda was placed on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his back. Duda wasn’t hitting much recently but the Mets offense could use all the help it could get. Only the Braves and the Padres have scored less runs than the Mets (73 runs) in May.

Duda is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. David Wright had the same injury a few seasons ago and winded up missing a little over 2 months. The Mets are going to have to find some offense at first base. While the trade market hasn’t fully developed yet the Mets do have a few alternatives to Duda. Here are some of their options.

David Wright: With David Wright’s recent throwing issues this could make some sense. It seems inevitable at some point now that David Wright will eventually wind up at first base before his contract is up but the captain has struggled with preparation before games due to his well documented back problems. Adding a new wrinkle like learning a new position after 13 years in the majors might be too much for the veteran to handle right now. Plus then the Mets would have to find someone capable of playing third base every day.

Wright could be an option long-term for the Mets at first base, just not now.

Michael Conforto: At this point, this seems to be Terry Collins preferred option. It would present an opportunity to free Juan Lagares to roam center field every day again and allow Yoenis Cespedes to move back to left field while keeping Conforto’s bat in the lineup. Other than Cespedes, Conforto has been the Mets most consistent bat all season, so making him learn a brand new position doesn’t make a ton of sense either. Conforto, 23, has played a very solid left field for the Mets to start the season. The Mets should leave Conforto alone and let him continue to get better in left field.

Wilmer Flores: Wilmer is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Friday and he should get the first look at playing first everyday with Duda out. Flores has badly struggled this season adjusting to a bench role. If Flores hits the way he did last season, expect him to be the everyday first basemen until Duda is ready to return. The Mets likely won’t consider outside options unless Flores fails to hit as the first basemen.

Eric Campbell: While Campbell has proven to be a very versatile player for the Mets, he hasn’t hit at all since his rookie season, with a career slash line of .227/.316/.320. Campbell has played first in all five games since Duda went down. The Mets can and should do better here.

Ty Kelly: Mike Puma of the NY Post called Kelly “Campbell with more speed” on twitter. If that’s truly the case, not sure why the Mets would want another Eric Campbell on the roster. While the switch hitter raked in Las Vegas, Kelly will probably not be in the first base competition unless he can impress coming off the bench for now.

James Loney: The veteran first basemen is currently in Triple-A in the Padres system. He is a solid defensive first basemen who has 10 years of big league experience under his belt with the Dodgers, Red Sox and Rays. The lefty bat has been playing some right field as a way to become more versatile for a big league team. Loney has never been a big power hitter but he has always hit for a high average. Loney has an opt-out that would allow him to leave El Paso if a club was willing to put him on their big league roster. Loney is a perfect fit for the Mets, as he hits for a high average, especially against right-handers. He has hit .340/.372/.425 in 41 games in the Pacific Coast League this season. Plus Loney’s contact skills could work well off the bench as a pinch hitter once Duda returns. The Mets would only need to pay the prorated version of the league minimum since the Rays are still on the hook for Loney’s $9.66 million 2016 salary.

Juan Uribe: While Uribe didn’t hit well for the Mets when he came to New York last season, the Mets seemed to take off when he and Kelly Johnson were traded to Queens from Atlanta. Uribe hasn’t hit much with the Indians (.237/.305/.342) but he is a versatile player who could play some first along with filling in for David Wright at third. Uribe is only making $4M this season so he could be an option for the Mets but the Indians are unlikely to sell off a clubhouse leader while they are in the race.

Dom Smith: Many think that Dominic Smith is the heir apparent to Lucas Duda at first base. The lefty bat was the Mets first round pick back in 2013. Coincidentally some scouts believe Smith is a very similar player to Loney. Smith, 20, has hit solidly in 44 Double-A games but likely isn’t ready for the big leagues. Smith isn’t an option to fill the Mets first base hole right now.

Who should get the first crack at the Mets first base gig?

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By Steven Inman

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Photo from NY Post

The Mets have gotten off to a hot start this year despite getting very little out of key players such as David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud. With that said the most difficult start to the season for any Met has to be from Matt Harvey. After dominating the Royals for the first 8 innings in Game 5 of the World Series, Harvey has been largely ineffective this season.

It’s really unknown how and why Harvey has a 5.77 ERA and has given up 65 hits in just 48.1 innings. It could be just a slow start, or an injury that Matt isn’t revealing to the Mets, or perhaps fatigue from such a large number of innings in 2015. Regardless at this point it’s probably best for the Mets to place Matt Harvey on the disabled list to regroup.

There is a reason why teams place innings limits on their young pitchers and while it isn’t clear if Harvey throwing 216 innings (including postseason) last season coming off Tommy John surgery is the reason for his 2016 struggles, it didn’t help him.

Stephen Strasburg, who Matt Harvey has often been compared to, went through a very similar ordeal that Harvey is experiencing now. The Nationals right-hander was badly struggling to start last season, his first 10 starts included a 6.55 ERA and opponents were hitting .325 off him. The Nationals placed him on the disabled list for about a month and when he returned he was dominant. Whether it was the rest or being able to take a step back to refine his mechanics, something changed for Strasburg. Since coming off the DL last June, Strasburg is 15-2 with 2.20 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 143.0 innings.

Strasburg and Harvey aren’t the only two pitchers to struggle coming back from Tommy John. Left-handers Patrick Corbin and Matt Moore both looked like they were on the cusp of stardom before they went under the knife. Both have struggled with command since returning and while that hasn’t added to their walk totals, it has caused both to give up home runs at an alarming pace this season.

While Tommy John is now a common occurrence for pitchers, no starter had ever come back from the surgery and thrown as many innings as Harvey. The Mets are in uncharted waters here so it is probably best if they play it safe.
As of right now the Mets are not planning on placing Harvey on the DL or skipping his start. He is expected to pitch Tuesday in Washington.

While Matt has been a soldier for the Mets, never asking for his start to be skipped or blaming his struggles on a defense that hasn’t helped him much, it’s probably in the Mets best interest to place Harvey on the disabled list. It’s a long season and the Mets can get by without one of their star right-handers while he gets himself right.

At the end of the day this season for the Mets is about finishing what they started last year and that’s winning the World Series and the Amazins can’t get that done without Matt Harvey at his best.