Sep 12

Forecasting 2018 Mets’ Position Battles

Including tonight’s game at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, the Mets have 19 games remaining in this lost season. That’s not nearly enough time for GM Sandy Alderson to get answers to his most pressing questions heading into next season.

The following are thumbnail sketches to each potential position battle:

DE GROM: Only sure thing. (AP)

                    DE GROM: Only sure thing. (AP)

ROTATION: The Mets enter next season with health concerns for each starter, with the possible exception of Jacob deGrom. Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard are rehabbing after spending most of the season on the disabled list. Harvey has made two rehab starts on the major league level – one bad and the last one encouraging – and could make three more. Syndergaard was scratched from his most recent rehab start, but played catch today.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler remain on the DL and will report to spring training as questions. What else is new?

Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have not pitched to last season’s levels, but have shown glimpses of being viable commodities, but next year – barring the acquisition of a veteran arm capable of going 180 innings – one, or both, could enter the rotation, with the other going to the bullpen. Of course, wanting 180 innings and paying for a starter capable of that workload are two different things.

Rafael Montero has been a surprise and worthy of entering spring training competing for a rotation spot.

BULLPEN: The Mets have spots locked in for Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins. I’m thinking either Lugo or Gsellman will get a long-relief role, with possibly Montero also getting a spot.

Paul Sewald, Erik Goeddel, Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker, Jacob Rhame, Chasen Bradford and Jamie Callahan likely won’t win a roster spot in the remaining games, but could make enough of an impression to where Alderson to write any of them into his plans for spring training.

Familia will go in as the favorite to close again, but that’s based on his resume over his current performance since coming off the DL.

CATCHING: Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki go in competing for the starter role. Plawecki has been especially impressive since his promotion from Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Mets have been patient, almost to a fault, with d’Arnaud, who hasn’t made the most of his opportunity. Plawecki has been more impressive in his limited window, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he won the job next March.

I don’t envision the Mets signing a veteran – like a Rene Rivera – and believe both d’Arnaud and Plawecki will make the 2018 Opening Day roster,

FIRST BASE: The plan was for Dominic Smith to win the job, but he hasn’t hit enough to make anybody believe he has this mastered. I’m not worried about Smith hitting for power, but simply raise his on-base percentage. As of now, who can’t see Smith platooning with Wilmer Flores?

I can’t see Flores winning the job outright – the Mets won’t commit to him – or for them sign a veteran this winter. Hopefully, Smith will show enough with his bat over the next 19 games to limit Alderson’s agita.

SECOND BASE: It’s wide open. Given that the Mets won’t make a free-agent splash, my first inclination is to think they will pick up Asdrubal Cabrera’s option and he’ll go in as the starter.

Flores, Jose Reyes or Gavin Cecchini, could also compete or win a roster spot as a reserve.

T.J. Rivera will undergo Tommy John surgery, but likely won’t be ready for the start of the season. Rivera can also play first and third.

SHORTSTOP: Amed Rosario has made more of his opportunity than Smith has of his. This isn’t to say Rosario is a given, but you have to like the odds of him going into next year as the starter.

Currently, Reyes seems a good bet to make next year’s roster as a utility infielder, capable of playing second, shortstop and third base.

THIRD BASE: Ideally, David Wright will make a comeback, but nobody is counting on that happening. Wright underwent rotator cuff surgery, but the Mets aren’t counting on him returning, let alone, for Opening Day.

Flores, who is out for the remainder of the season following surgery to repair a broken nose. Depending on what happens with Smith, he could go in as the starter for next season.

Rivera, Cabrera and Reyes could all see significant time at third base.

LEFT FIELD: Yoenis Cespedes is out for the season with a strained right hamstring. He played in only 81 games this year – half a season – and considering he also missed significant time in 2016, his durability must be questioned.

First, Michael Conforto, and then Brandon Nimmo, replaced Cespedes, who isn’t a given to come out of spring training healthy. If he doesn’t, figure Nimmo to start in left.

CENTER FIELD: Unquestionably, Juan Lagares is the best defender, but his offense is a question. Actually, Lagares has hit better than expected, so I wouldn’t be reluctant to start him in 2018.

Alderson said Conforto was more than just a viable defender, but his recovery from shoulder surgery will keep him off the Opening Day roster, so that’s a moot point.

RIGHT FIELD: As much as I like the idea of bringing back Jay Bruce, I don’t see the Mets shelling out the bucks it would take to sign him.

With Conforto and Cespedes seriously injured, signing a power bat is imperative, but do you really expect Alderson to write some serious checks?

Personally, it might be a stretch to think they’ll spend enough to bring back Nori Aoki.

Assuming Cespedes is ready for the start of the season, Nimmo will likely open the year in right field.

Once Conforto is ready, I see him taking over in right.

Sep 10

Mets Matters: DeGrom Improves

I didn’t really expect the Mets to skip Jacob deGroms start today, but it wouldn’t have killed them if they had done so. DeGrom rebounded from going 3.2 innings in his last start to post his tenth double-digit strikeout performance of the season. DeGrom came away with a no-decision in the Mets’ 10-5 loss to Cincinnati.

DeGrom will likely make four more starts before calling it a winter. He has accumulated 188.1 innings, so barring something unforeseen he should reach his goal of 200.

DE GROM: Better. (AP)

DE GROM: Better. (AP)

“Jake’s our guy and we ride him. We kind of push him, let him go a little deeper than others,” manager Terry Collins said. “We think when we send him out there we’re going to be in the game.”

Today was just deGrom’s sixth no-decision of the season, a testimony to his ability to work long into games. Since pitch counts dominate most pitching conversations these days, it’s rather remarkable deGrom’s low this year was 69 in a June 6 loss at Texas.

My point in skipping deGrom is that with him coming off surgery, I don’t think it’s worth taking a risk with his arm. So much has gone wrong this season, that why take the chance?

DISTURBING TREND: There have been numerous statistics that have defined this season for the Mets, and today revealed another that showed a lack of a killer instinct. The Mets not only had their 18th blown save of the season, but it went deeper than that. The Mets had a chance today to complete a weekend series sweep, but for the sixth time failed to put away the opposition on a Sunday.

SMITH HAS WORK TO DO: Despite hitting his fifth homer, rookie Dominic Smith has struggled to the point where nothing is assured for him for next season.

A .210 batting average with a .257 on-base percentage illustrate holes in his offensive profile that must be improved. Currently, I would be reluctant to simply gift the first base job to Smith right now.

NOAH SCRATCHED: Noah Syndergaard’s rehab today was delayed because of “general soreness.’’ It’s possible he could throw Tuesday in Chicago.

“We aren’t going to push him, first of all. We’ll go at his pace and how he feels,’’ Collins said. “[Saturday] night he said he was feeling a little sore from the outing the other day and wanted to throw a bullpen and we just said, ‘No, until you feel better we’re not going to do that.’ So, we’ll wait.’’

Syndergaard threw 36 pitches in Brooklyn Thursday, throwing 36 pitches.

Sep 07

Harvey Takes Big Step; Nimmo Homers Twice

Matt Harvey didn’t have a great line, but was impressive nonetheless. The Reds got to Harvey for single runs in the first two innings, but he regrouped to throw three scoreless innings to win his first game in three months.

HARVEY: Needs to step up. (AP)

HARVEY: Major improvement. (AP)

What started as another potential blowout, ended in optimistic feelings. And, the Reds can hit, with five players having at least 20 homers.

The turnaround was a seven-pitch third inning, something we haven’t often seen from the one-time Mets’ ace. The Mets are searching for signs Harvey isn’t washed up at age 28, and if he can build on this, then maybe his future isn’t so bleak, after all.

To get him through five innings, it’s a huge step for him,’’ manager Terry Collins. “His command was a lot better. … He should feel good about himself. As the game wore on, he was better with his mechanics.’’

Consequently, he kept the ball down, and was effective with his secondary pitches, in particular, his slider.

“I’m not where I want to be with my mechanics, but it was a step in the right direction,’’ said Harvey. “I know it’s going to take time. It has been a rough two years. I felt it was good for me to get five innings.’’

Another positive was getting two shutout innings from Jeurys Familia.

“This guy has pitched in the World Series, so he’s familiar with pitching under pressure,’’ Collins said. “But, what’s more important is getting his arm strength back and putting that blood clot behind him.’’

NIMMO SHINES: Brandon Nimmo slugged two homers and made a spectacular lunging catch in left field. Juan Lagares also homered, and Jose Reyes’ two-run single put the Mets ahead to stay.

It will be interesting to see where Nimmo fits into the Mets’ outfield plans for next season.

You have to figure with the injury concerns surrounding Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Confortothat Nimmo will make the Opening Day roster

INJURY UPDATES: David Wright called his decision to have rotator cuff surgery a “no brainer, because I want to play catch with my kids.’’ Regarding retirement, Wright said he hasn’t thought when: “I have had enough. I still feel I have something more to give.’’ … Wilmer Flores underwent surgery to repair a broken nose and will be shut down for the remainder of the season. … Noah Syndergaard gave up three runs in two innings in his second rehab appearance. … Asdrubal Cabrera will undergo an MRI tomorrow on his hamstring.

Sep 05

Mets Should Skip DeGrom’s Next Start

With the Mets’ season long since over and Jacob deGrom almost a certainty to get his 200 innings, it might not be such a bad idea to have him skip a start. After getting shelled tonight, 9-1, by the Phillies, deGrom is 2-6 in his last eight starts.

DE GROM: Skip him. (AP)

DE GROM: Skip him. (AP)

DeGrom gave up a career-high nine runs on ten hits in 3.2 innings. He’s given up at least five runs in three of his last five games. Something isn’t right with the Mets’ ace, and don’t forget he’s coming off surgery, so what’s the problem?

Of course, deGrom will want to pitch, that’s the kind of pitcher he is, but if he’s fatigued, that’s how he could re-injure himself, so, is it worth it to push him?

I’m thinking not.

“That’s always the possibility this late in the year,’’ manager Terry Collins said when asked about fatigue. “He couldn’t get the ball down. It was not a typical Jacob deGrom start.’’

DeGrom, as is always the case, was stand-up.

“I wish I knew,’’ was deGrom’s response to if he knew what went wrong. “Everything was flat and up in the zone. No excuses, I was terrible tonight. Everything feels good. I just wasn’t making pitches. It’s unacceptable.’’

Collins said nothing about skipping deGrom. He has enough on his mind trying to figure out who will pitch tomorrow, as after the game he announced Matt Harvey would be skipped.

Sep 02

The Importance Of The Mets Playing Today

It’s easy to sit back outside of Houston and say “the Mets and Astros shouldn’t have played today,’’ and you could be right.

But, you’d also be wrong.

HARVEY: Ripped in return. (AP)

HARVEY: Ripped in return. (AP)

Unless you’re from that community – the way we experienced September 11 and Sandy – you can’t comprehend the impact sports has on a region. It’s almost a cliché to say sports brings a sense of normalcy to a community.

SNY told the story of a man who took six kids to the first game – only one his own – to give his neighbors a chance to dig out from their homes destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. It’s been said sports act as a diversion, which Mets manager Terry Collins could relate to.

“If we can bring a distraction to what the town’s going through, certainly we’re up for it. We’ve been through it before obviously in our city,’’ Collins said “We know what the feeling is like. Tough atmosphere to play in when you’re a visitor.’’

The Mets not only lost both ends of today’s day-night double-header, but did so after volunteering throughout the Houston area during Friday’s off-day.

“We did what we thought was right,’’ said Travis d’Arnaud.

The Mets went where the Astros and Houston’s civic leaders thought they would help the most.

“We all wanted to help out however we could,’’ said outfielder Brandon Nimmo. “I know we only made a little dent in what could be done, but that’s the way that we felt like we could go in and just help out a little bit at a time.’’

One group helped unload a truck full of supplies. Others volunteered at shelters. Still, Astros manager A.J. Hinch said the Mets’ biggest contribution was to agree to move the series from Tampa to Houston, so the Astros players could reunite with their families.

“For that,’’ Hinch said, “I’m forever grateful.”

“It takes tragedies to bring people together, and that’s what’s going on here,” said Collins. “If this helps people’s spirits … then it’s the right thing to do. We’re willing to do anything to help. … You do what you’ve got to do. When they ask you to do this for the reasons they asked, you just do it. You don’t question it. You don’t complain about it. You just do it. … We just hope we can add something to help get these people through the next several months.”

HARVEY ROCKED: The best thing one could say about Matt Harvey’s return from the disabled list was he didn’t get hurt again.

Harvey threw 70 pitches – only 45 for strikes – in two innings in which he gave up seven runs on eight hits. Despite the numbers, felt optimistic.

“I’m fully confident that within the next start, or the start after that, whatever it is, that by the end of the season I’ll be comfortable on the mound and throwing to hitters,” Harvey said. “There’s not one doubt in my mind that with health, mechanics will come, and so will success. I’ve been there before. I’ve come back from Tommy John healthy and effectively, and there’s no doubt that by the end of the season I will do the same.”

FLORES INJURED: Wilmer Flores, who hit a grand slam in the Game 1 12-8 loss, left the Game 2 4-1 loss in the fourth inning after a foul batt struck him flush in the face.

Flores sustained a broken nose and will be out indefinitely.

CONFORTO TO HAVE SURGERY: The Mets confirmed outfielder Michael Conforto will undergo surgery on his left field, making it questionable he will be ready for the start of next season. The news puts the Mets in the market for an outfielder this winter, creating speculation the team might revisit bringing back Jay Bruce.