Posts Tagged ‘Michael Conforto’

 

By Steven Inmanlucasdudatravisdarnaud2kkhqgxhhwhm

As Met fans, tell me if you’ve heard this before, the Mets ability to score runs consistently, will come down to the success of Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud. The major league careers to date for both players have been roller coasters, with 2016 being hopefully closest to the low point. Both hitters battled injuries and ineffectiveness all of last season to the point where they lost their starting jobs to inferior offensive players, at a time when the Mets really needed more offense. It’s no coincidence that both Duda and d’Arnaud combined for 11 homers, 38 RBI and less than 100 hits while the Mets finished just 25th in runs last season. The two had their best seasons offensively in 2015 where the Mets finished middle of the pack in runs. For the most part, health permitting, the Mets have an idea of what they’re going to get out of Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker. Duda and d’Arnaud when they’re swinging the bats well lengthen the lineup and allow those middle of the order hitters to possibly see an extra plate appearance a game with guys on base.

There isn’t a ton of stability in this Met lineup. Curtis Granderson is getting up there in age, Michael Conforto likely doesn’t have everyday plate appearances after the Mets completely botched the Jay Bruce situation and we all know the issues David Wright is going through to stay healthy. After the poor offensive season this group had as a whole, combined with all the question marks going into 2017, make Duda and d’Arnaud the Mets biggest x-factors offensively in ’17.

Besides the Mets need for these two to perform, 2017 is a HUGE year for both players.

Lucas Duda is set to become a free agent after the 2017 season and the free agent market has recently evolved into one that doesn’t reward all or nothing power hitters. Chris Carter, who tied for the NL lead in homers last season with 42, was non-tendered months ago and now can’t find an everyday job. The same goes for clubhouse favorite Mike Napoli. The Mets can’t even trade slugger Jay Bruce without eating some of his $13M remaining on his contract. Teams don’t value these  less athletic, non-versatile players anymore despite their enormous power. For Lucas Duda to find an everyday job in 2018 and beyond he is going to need to have a career year and show that he is more than just a power threat when healthy. The Mets have top prospects Peter Alonso and Dominic Smith getting closer and closer to the Mets 1st base job so the writing is on the wall for a Duda departure, especially after he turned down a contract extension a few seasons ago. Duda slashed just .229/.302/.412 a season ago but he has put up healthy OBP’s with impressive power numbers in the past. While the Mets need Duda to perform in 2017, he needs a big year even more.

Like Duda, Travis d’Arnaud also badly needs a breakout season. The former top prospect has never been able to stay healthy at the major or minor league level. The backstop has struggled defensively and has shown he is unable to throw out runners to date. There are plenty of offensive minded catchers in the game and there is nothing wrong with that but d’Arnaud hit just .247/.307/.323 last season after a strong 2015. Even when d’Arnaud was healthy he lost at-bats to backup Rene Rivera, who the pitchers preferred to throw to. The two catchers offensive potentials are vastly different but the Mets didn’t seem to regret Rivera taking over for d’Arnaud down the stretch, which is terrifying considering Rivera is a career .213/.264/.332 hitter across 8 major league seasons. It seems as if the Mets are willing to give d’Arnaud another chance as the Mets starting catcher but it would surprise no one if this was his last chance. It’s no secret the Mets were interested in Jonathan Lucroy last summer and were willing to include d’Arnaud in a deal for him. Travis d’Arnaud’s upside is still of an elite offensive catcher (albeit with defensive issues) but the catcher will never be able to show off those skills if he doesn’t stay healthy this year. The Mets are a better and deeper team when d’Arnaud is hitting. Whether or not you believe in RBI as a legit stat, the Mets were 8-2 in ’16 when d’Arnaud drove in a run. The Mets are going to need d’Arnaud to drive in a run (or runs) in more than 10 games if they want to be a decent offensive club.

It’s pretty clear to any baseball fan that the New York Mets will rely heavily on their pitching in 2017 but without Duda and d’Arnaud contributing to this offense the Mets will remain an unbalanced team that will continue to be forced to search for offensive help.

By Steven Inman

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Photo by Fox Sports

After losing the N.L. Wild Card Game, the Mets entered the offseason with a long list of needs. The club did most of their heavy lifting early by bringing back Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker. The Mets feel their bullpen is an area that needs improvement with the possibility that closer Jeurys Familia will miss time with a suspension after an alleged domestic violence incident. The Mets reportedly had interest in a few relievers that have gone off the board recently such as Brad Ziegler, who signed a multi-year contract with division rival Miami.

Junichi Tazawa, 30, would also have been a good fit for the Mets to eat up some middle relief innings but he also went to the Marlins. The Mets have been saying to agents that they are unable to add more salary now until they can move one of their expensive outfielders, most likely Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson. The Mets have gotten more bites on Granderson than Bruce but neither has been seen by other teams as much more than a salary dump. Granderson finished the season red hot for the Mets and in my opinion is the better fit for New York in 2017. The Mets should have just dumped Jay Bruce so they don’t get left out in the cold on the reliever market. The longer the Mets stubbornly hold on to Bruce, the more likely they are going to miss out on adding to this bullpen.

The trade for Jay Bruce was very perplexing when it happened as the Mets didn’t really have a fit for him and the team was overly left-handed before the deal. The team was probably hoping Bruce, who didn’t cost much to get, would get hot like Cespedes did when acquired the summer before, but Bruce went on to not hit at all in his 2 plus months in Queens. That should have been the reason for the Mets to decline Bruce’s $13M team option as he really didn’t have much trade value. There is also the legitimate question of whether Bruce can handle the spotlight of playing in New York City. Some Mets fans believe picking up Bruce’s option was done as a “hedge” to protect themselves if Cespedes departed. If the Mets lost Cespedes they would have been better off declining Bruce’s option and using that money to add a different outfielder like Ian Desmond. It’s easy to wonder if the Mets, who were 25th in runs last year, lost Cespedes and replaced him with Jay Bruce for a full season, would they have scored the least amount of runs in the National League?

To start the offseason teams like the Blue Jays and Orioles reportedly were willing to take on Bruce’s contract but the Mets demanded something for the slugger. When the Orioles showed interest earlier in the offseason, the Mets reportedly asked for All-Star reliever Brad Brach. It seems like the Orioles moved on to trying to re-sign Mark Trumbo after that request, at least for the moment.

Now with so many notable home run hitters still stuck on the free agent board the Mets would be very fortunate to get someone to take Jay Bruce off their hands. Think of the scenario from an opposing team’s viewpoint: why would a team take on Bruce’s $13M and give the Mets something in a trade when they can just sign a similar player like free agent Chris Carter to a cheaper contract?

The Jay Bruce move continues to hurt the Mets and if they don’t clear payroll soon, they might lose out on re-signing Jerry Blevins or another lefty specialist that they need.  Also moving Bruce is vital for the Mets so they can get Michael Conforto every day at-bats. It’s going to be a distracting storyline in Spring Training if the Mets are unable to move Jay Bruce before camp opens in 6 weeks.

Do you think the Mets have been asking for too much in a Jay Bruce deal?

By Steven Inmandownload

Met fans can rejoice as “La Potencia”, Yoenis Cespedes is now back in Queens and locked up long term. The Mets had to give Cespedes the 2nd highest average annual value ever, but the team locked up their best hitter. After years and years of payrolls under $90M, the Mets being broke is a thing of the past. Ownership wants to win and they are giving Sandy Alderson the resources to get it done. While the Mets are back to spending big money, they are still being cautious about it. The Mets in the past when they spent big money always seemed to agree to deals one year too long on key contracts such as Pedro Martinez and Billy Wagner. The Mets stood their ground this time on not giving the 31-year old Cespedes a 5th year and they look very smart today for doing so.

With all that said, the work is not done here just yet. The team now has 4 corner outfielders and no starting center fielder. Based on various reports it seems fairly obvious the Mets plan on trading a corner outfielder with Jay Bruce being the most likely to go. The Mets shouldn’t stop with Bruce, they should trade Curtis Granderson also and get a center fielder. The Mets have never prioritized defense but if they could put Cespedes in left and Michael Conforto in right, planked by a defensive, right-handed, center fielder, the Mets could have one of the best outfields in baseball. Here are a few of their options.

Dexter Fowler

Of the hitters listed here, Dexter Fowler is perhaps the best fit for the Mets. While he will cost a draft pick, Fowler, 30, could be a difference maker for the Amazins. The switch-hitter has been significantly better from the right side of the plate throughout his career which works in this very left-handed Met lineup. Fowler really improved his defensive numbers in center field this year thanks to playing deeper. The questions that would pop up if Fowler can handle center anymore are gone. Fowler is likely looking at a 4 year deal worth around $60M which is what the Mets handed Curtis Granderson 3 winters ago. Fowler was on perhaps the biggest stage in sports when he homered to lead off Game 7 of the World Series to help end a 108-year title drought for the Chicago Cubs so no, New York will not be too much for the Atlanta native to handle.

A.J. Pollock

pollock

Photo by CBS Sports

A.J. Pollock is a gifted, 5-tool center fielder who possesses a blend of power, speed and strong range in center field. He is the right-handed bat that would complete the Mets lineup and would make New York a strong threat to the Cubs to get back to the World Series. Pollock will be 29 next week and has 2 years left of club control before becoming a free agent as a key part of the 2018 monster free agency class. After a breakout 2015 season where he slashed .315/.367/.498, Pollock missed 150 games in 2016 following a serious elbow injury. After all the time he missed in 2016 and the Diamondbacks rough season, it’s hard to imagine the Notre Dame product isn’t available. The team already dealt Jean Segura on Thanksgiving, Segura also had 2 years of control left like Pollock. The Diamondbacks look to be rebuilding with a new front office after a disastrous stint with Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa running the ship.  Pollock will make $6.75M this season before going through arbitration in his final year of club control next winter. Despite his low monetary price tag, he will not be cheap under any circumstance in terms of prospects. The Mets should be willing to give up anyone in their farm system not named Amed Rosario to acquire Pollock if he is indeed available.

Ian Desmond

The Mets have had interest in Ian Desmond in the past. The Nationals dangled him out on the trade market before his final year in Washington but the asking price (Noah Syndergaard) was obviously a non-starter for New York. (Imagine the Nationals with Syndergaard right now) Desmond transitioned to the outfield beautifully in 2016 after a few rough seasons defensively as a shortstop. While he was much better in left field for the Texas Rangers this past season, he showed he could handle center field. Last winter he got frozen out of the market with a compensation draft pick attached to his price tag. I’d be a little concerned about giving Ian Desmond a long-term deal at this stage of his career but he is a big right-handed bat that has shown in the past he can hit the ball a long, long way at Citi Field. Desmond, 31, has a draft pick attached to him again and if he gets frozen out of the market again this winter the Mets should pounce.

It looks like right now the Mets plan is to trade Jay Bruce for anything they can get and try to get by with Curtis Granderson in center field in 2017. While Granderson wasn’t horrible in limited playing time in center field this past season, he certainly doesn’t give the range the Mets are going to need out there and is now another year older. The Mets are trying to win now and to do that they are going to have to sure up this defense. Even with Cespedes’ return this is still a significantly below average offense, remember the Mets last year were tied for 25th in baseball in runs last year despite Cespedes’ fantastic campaign. The Mets are going to need another bat here and they can get the payroll for one by trading both Granderson and Bruce.

What should the Mets outfield look like next season?

By Steven Inman

If you haven’t noticed, the Mets season is at a crossroads. The Mets offense is at a point where it’s hard to expect runs no matter who is on the mound for the opposing team. While losing Lucas Duda and David Wright has hurt, the rest of the team just hasn’t produced offensively. The Mets were counting on Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes to carry the load like they did in the second half of last season. Cespedes has cooled off dramatically since a hot April and Conforto is in the minor leagues after not being able to adjust to pitchers strictly throwing him breaking balls. The Mets have really had no answers on how to fix this lineup internally. Since then the Mets have brought back Jose Reyes.01-terry-collins-080915-getty-ftrjpg_dduuxh7xyqfg1ckk33738rts9

No matter what you think of Reyes’ off the field issues, it’s pretty clear that this isn’t the same Reyes that won a batting title in his last tour with the Amazins.  Reyes was never a gold glove caliber shortstop by any means, but his defense has dramatically regressed over the last few years with the Marlins, Blue Jays and Rockies. Now the Mets are relying on Reyes to be the dynamic spark plug he once was along with learning third base, a position he has never played in the big leagues. Reyes is a good enough athlete where he could adapt to third base or even the outfield but the Mets wouldn’t be asking this of Reyes if the guys in the lineup were producing. It seems pretty desperate to bring in Reyes and hope he can be the Reyes of old and not just an old Reyes. Expect him to be up at Citi Field next week.

Washington just swept the Mets and while there is still half a season still to be played, it’s hard to imagine the Mets offense being good enough to hang with Dusty Baker’s club down the stretch. The Nationals clearly look like the better team and the Mets starting pitching looks tired. It may be because of all the extra pitches the young starters endured in the postseason or perhaps some nagging injuries that we haven’t been made aware of but this rotation just isn’t the same as it was last year. That doesn’t mean the Mets should regret throwing their arms deep in the playoffs by any means but it’s clear that there’s some fatigue.

Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are both dealing with bone spurs in their elbows. While the Mets doctors have ensured the team that pitching through these injuries won’t make their elbows worse, you often see players develop new injuries trying to overcompensate from the pain they are dealing with.  Steven Matz has basically stopped throwing his slider in June, you have to wonder if that pitch was causing him pain. Matt Harvey hasn’t been the same elite pitcher this season and Jacob deGrom’s velocity has been down most of the season. Bartolo Colon at the ripe age of 43 is still pitching as strong as ever.

While there is still plenty of baseball to be played, the Mets are in a very dangerous part of their season as we head towards the All-Star Break…

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?

By Steven Inman

With less than 2 weeks before Opening Day, the Mets Opening Day roster is pretty much set. The only questions left are with a few injuries along with spots on the bench and the bullpen still to be determined. Here’s how we expect it to all shake out.

The Starting Rotationdownload

  1. Matt Harvey
  2. Noah Syndergaard
  3. Jacob deGrom
  4. Bartolo Colon
  5. Steven Matz

Matt Harvey has already been named the Mets opening night starter in Kansas City. After a strong 2015 season along with a brilliant performance in WS Game 5 against KC, Harvey has certainly earned the honor of starting opening night.  Jacob deGrom’s wife is expected to give birth around April 5th so Noah Syndergaard will start the second game. If deGrom is back from his expected paternity leave he will likely start Game 3 with 3rd year Met Bartolo Colon and rookie Steven Matz behind him in the rotation.

The Starting Lineup

  1. Curtis Granderson RFdownload (1)
  2. Neil Walker 2B
  3. Yoenis Cespedes CF
  4. Lucas Duda 1B
  5. David Wright 3B
  6. Michael Conforto LF
  7. Travis d’Arnaud C
  8. Asdrubal Cabrera SS

Asdrubal Cabrera (hamstring) is questionable for Opening Day. It is unknown if he will get the at-bats needed this spring to be able to be ready for the season. The Mets seem to believe that he will be ready so we will put him in the starting lineup for now. After releasing Ruben Tejada the Mets don’t have much shortstop depth with major league experience.

If Cabrera is not ready Wilmer Flores will likely step in to the starting lineup at shortstop. The Mets will need Wilmer to play third base a few days a week for the aging David Wright. This could be a very big year for the Mets two youngest starting position players, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto.

The Bullpen

  1. Jeurys Familiadownload (2)
  2. Addison Reed
  3. Antonio Bastardo
  4. Jerry Blevins
  5. Hansel Robles
  6. Sean Gilmartin
  7. Jim Henderson

Terry Collins said a few weeks ago that the first five on this lists already had spots cemented in the Opening Day bullpen. Hansel Robles will be suspended for the KC series but the Mets will not be able to replace him on the roster while he is out. Gilmartin was very solid last year as a long man for the Mets after coming over from the Twins as a Rule 5 pick. Jim Henderson, the former Brewers closer, has regained velocity and looks very sharp this spring. While the Mets can send Henderson to the minors, he has looked very solid and if the Mets believe he can go back to being the reliever he was when he pitched the 9th for Milwaukee, then he certainly would be a fine addition to the Mets bullpen. Other candidates are Erik Goeddel who has been injured most of the spring and Logan Verrett who is likely competing with Gilmartin for the Mets long man role.

The Bench

  1. Wilmer Floresdownload (3)
  2. Juan Lagares
  3. Alejandro De Aza
  4. Kevin Plawecki
  5. Eric Campbell

Thanks to additions to the Mets starting lineup, players that were expected to get major at-bats like De Aza and Flores now become solid and versatile bench players. Flores will help Wright at third and will back up at short and second. Neil Walker didn’t hit lefties much last season so Flores could get at-bats at second vs. lefties. Expect Flores to play a lot this season even though he isn’t an “everyday player” anymore.

While Juan Lagares is a very good center fielder expect him to play some left field as a defensive replacement for Conforto. Terry Collins is wary of moving Cespedes all around the outfield so Lagares may not play much center field while Yoenis is in the game.

The Mets were interested in finding a backup catcher so Kevin Plawecki wouldn’t be sitting on the bench so often but they haven’t found a player they like yet so Kevin stays on this list. The Mets believe an extra 200 plate appearances for Plawecki in the minors would really help his development offensively. Thanks to the trade of Ruben Tejada, Eric Campbell makes the club as the 25th man. Campbell has struggled in the majors the past few seasons but has had a strong spring and can play the infield and outfield corners. A majority of Terry Collins’ bench can play multiple positions.

With two weeks to go still before the season, injuries can alter this list. On paper this is a very strong roster that should have Citi Field buzzing all summer. Do you agree with this 25-man roster projection?

By Steven Inman 

Yoenis Cespedes has been key to the Mets revival

Yoenis Cespedes has been key to the Mets revival

All season the Mets have been thought of as solid team that is two or three bats away from seriously competing. Things changed last week with the promotion of Michael Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud’s return from a lengthy DL stint. The team all of a sudden looked like it could stay competitive against the big bad Nationals but things changed drastically when Sandy Alderson made the big trade that fans have been clamoring for when he traded top prospect Michael Fulmer and prospect Luis Cessa for Yoenis Cespedes.

Cespedes has been great early on as a Met. The slugger has 5 RBI in 6 games since arriving in New York. He has been a great baserunner and has looked solid in both left field and centerfield. Perhaps most importantly pitchers now are being forced to throw fastballs to Lucas Duda who has torn the cover off the ball since the new lineup addition. The Mets are 6-0 since Cespedes joined the lineup.

Cespedes, 29, will be a free agent this offseason and many have speculated that he could be looking for a contract around what Shin-Soo Choo got from the Rangers a few winters ago, 7 years, $130 million. Many have speculated that with a strong finish that Cespedes can prove that he is a franchise player, capable of carrying a team to the playoffs. If that happens expect the Cuban outfielder to get even more than the $130M.

Even if the Mets were willing to pay that contract Cespedes has a unique clause in his contract that states he must be released from his contract 5 days after the World Series. When you release a player you cannot bring him back to the franchise until past May 15th. So in other words, if Cespedes can’t agree to a contract extension with the Mets by the end of October he will be elsewhere next season. Even if the Mets wanted to commit to Cespedes long-term they likely would have to severely overpay to prevent him from hitting the free agent market.

With all that it is highly unlikely that Cespedes is a Met next season. Perhaps with the Mets playing better and getting more fans at Citi Field it will help add needed revenue needed to replace Cespedes in the lineup next season. The front office clearly understands that the club needs a big bat preferably right-handed behind Duda so even if Yoenis isn’t a Met next season expect them to bring in somebody who can drive in runs.

That being said, on this website and many others like it we no longer need to talk about the future. The Mets are in win-now mode and a very entertaining division chase with the Washington Nationals. The Mets own one of the better pitching staffs in franchise history and are armed with a lineup that is finally component enough not to drag the arms down. The 9-year playoff drought has a legit chance of ending this season. So enjoy it Met fans, I know I will.