Mets Ready to Defend National League Championship
The guys are back in Port St. Lucie (or St. Port Lucie as Rickey Henderson famously said), and Terry Collins has made his speech. Now the only thing left is to play ball.
So what kind of team do the Mets have this year? This is a team built on top-of-the-line, young starting pitching, and enough balanced offense to cover up any lacks, such as average-to-below defense and an unproven but promising bullpen.
The only roster questions at this point are the last two bullpen arms, and the last position player on the bench. Not bad, considering some of the names they were relying on at this time last year, such as John Mayberry, Jr. and Eric Campbell (although he hasn't gone anywhere yet). Those two will live forever as the epitome of the bottom-scraping that led to one of the worst major league lineups of all time, which many people credit for kicking Sandy Alderson to acquire and call up some real hitters. The rest is history.
Anyway, this year, we have Jim Henderson, Eric Goeddel, Logan Verrett, Sean Gilmartin, Josh Smoker, Buddy Carlyle, Rafael Montero, the delightfully-named Stolmy Pimentel and a few more unknowns in the mix for the last two spots. All-in-all, that's not a bad group to be fighting for a chance to hold down Josh Edgin's spot for a few weeks, or to be the long man. My bet is on Jim Henderson to make the team as a middle reliever, and Verrett or Gilmartin to be the long man.
Position players fighting for the last spot include the afore-mentioned Eric Campbell, Ruben Tejada, Matt Reynolds, Dilson Herrera, Ty Kelly, Danny Muno, and whatever others make a name for themselves. People seem to assume Tejada will make the team, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him cut or traded, to save a couple of million dollars and to give the team a different look.
The bench right now includes Plawecki, Flores, Lagares, De Aza. I would like to see Lagares starting in CF against all LHPs, moving Cespedes to LF (or in my dreams, RF, where he belongs). Granderson needs to rest more, and he does not hit lefties particularly well, so for the most part, it should be Conforto, Lagares, and Cespedes vs. lefties. Conforto looks like he will learn RF to accommodate Cespedes's seeming disdain for RF, running out dropped third strikes, and ordinary vehicles.
As for the starting outfielders, this is the best group the Mets have had in a very long time. I fully expect Conforto to the team's best all-around player by the end of the season, and expect good things from Cespedes, Granderson, and Lagares. De Aza is fine as a top LH pinch-hitter and fifth outfielder, if a bit pricey.
Neil Walker had a horrendous year against lefties last year, and I would like to see a platoon at 2B. Right now, that would be Flores, but eventually I would like Dilson Herrera to come up and take over, in preparation for becoming the regular 2B in 2017. Flores will also need to play at least 30 games at 3B this year to rest Wright. Flores is also expected to back-up both Cabrera and Duda. Flores does much better against lefties, so it would be excellent to add a left-handed hitting (or switch-hitting) infielder to the mix, preferably one who can play multiple positions. I really understand why Alderson wanted Zobrist so much.
The starting infielders and catcher are fine, except for the giant question mark that is the Captain. If he approaches his old numbers: .280, 20 HRs, 80 RBIs, .350 OBP, .450 SLG, and plays 130+ games, that would be great. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely. His throwing is also problematic, no doubt resulting from the back injury. The other three are solid average to above players, and I look forward to having a double-play combination with lots of major league experience.
D'Arnaud seems ready to break out into a top-tier catcher, despite the obvious questions about his endurance/health and throwing. Plawecki is an incredible luxury to have as a backup catcher. Most teams would be happy for him to be the starter.
I doubt the Mets are looking to upgrade the bench at this point, but acquiring a good left-handed hitter would make De Aza totally expendable, and eventually making room for Brandon Nimmo to come up in July or August. Of the bench options available now, I would go with Herrera rather than Tejada. Herrera has nothing left to prove in the minors, and he has much more to offer as an all-around player than Tejada.
As for the starting pitchers, all I have to say is don't mess with them. No more six-man rotations, no more innings limits. Just let them pitch. Deal with the amazingly wonderful challenge of adding Zack Wheeler to the mix when the time comes. In the meantime, let's enjoy this group while we have it, including the stupendously entertaining and useful Bartolo Colon.
© Judy Kamilhor 2016