Setbacks, Demotions, and Despair

Final Score: Padres 8, Mets 6

I wrote yesterday that I’m afraid to watch the rest of the Mets games because we haven’t seen “Mets rock bottom” yet. Well yesterday the Mets announced they’re shutting down Zack Wheeler and sending him to see Dr. James Andrews! A double elbow injury and potential second TJ surgery setback is precisely the kind of rock bottom I was talking about. Fantastic! Honestly the Mets should shut everyone down. We lost again last night and dropped below .500.

The funny thing about Wheeler getting injured again is it directly ties into last night’s game. Remember when all we heard about was the organizational pitching depth? Well we don’t actually have that anymore. It doesn’t exist. You know how I know? Because Logan Verrett has been terrible since taking over for Matt Harvey. Yet the Mets keep running him out there. He gave up 8 runs over 2.2 innings last night. Unwatchable baseball. But don’t worry, the Mets finally decided to replace him in the rotation after the game last night. Hot new prospect Jon Niese will take his spot. Niese has been terrible since reuniting with the Mets, but the minor league options obviously aren’t what they used to be.

The Upside: Travis d’Arnaud had 3 hits and a two-run homer in the game. The Mets came back late. They scored a run in the fifth inning and 3 in the sixth. But again who cares? They lost. I’m not looking forward to interim manager Dick Scott.

The Downside: The Mets demoted Michael Conforto before the game. The truth is he deserves the demotion. He’s done nothing to show he belongs in the starting lineup. I know the argument has been made that he should just play everyday at the major league level for the experience. I’m sure that will happen in September once the organization officially waves the white flag. Conforto’s sophomore slump should have a big impact on the 2017 plan. The impact being he doesn’t deserve a starting spot. In my mind he’s penciled in at Triple-A unless he takes some big strides in September.

Collect The Rejects: I joked yesterday that the Mets should find a way to get Jonathan Papelbon so he can choke Yoenis Cespedes and we can officially hit the 2015 Nationals kind of rock bottom. Well the Nats are looking to release him according to reports today. Watch the Mets bring him in. That would be hilarious. We also apparently want Carlos Gomez. If we land Gomez, we’ve essentially re-created Omar Minaya’s team and also the Minaya level clubhouse morale. Everyone is depressed and feels like we have no shot.

Today: Padres again. At least we get to watch Jacob deGrom. Maybe it’s Terry’s second to last day?

They’re Back Baby!

Final Score: Mets 3, Marlins 0

A big road series win against a division rival for the New York Mets? Yes sir. Steven Matz, Michael Conforto, and Jose Reyes with big performances? Hell yes. What a great way to end the weekend. The dog days of summer still lie ahead, but this was a key win to get under our belt before heading home for a huge home series against the Wild Card contending Cardinals.

Matz Was Back Baby: Steven Matz was 0-5 in the 9 starts before Sunday’s matinee. But Matzy got the W in this game. He went 6 innings, gave up just 4 hits, and struck out 6. He pitched through his bone spurs. His velocity was there all game. I really hope he can continue to push through these damn spurs. We need him out there on the mound putting up zeroes.

We Shut Down Stanton: Giancarlo Stanton went 0 for 3! We shut him down! Matz retired him with a man on in the third inning and two men on in the fifth inning. Reed even struck him out with a man on second in the 8th inning. It was nice to see Stanton walking back to the dugout with his head down for a change instead of seeing him admiring a ball he just sent into orbit.

Just Sign Him: Martin Prado went 3 for 3 with a walk. He’s been killing the Metsies this season. We should probably just sign him in the offseason. We need to find a way to get these Met killers off of the streets and on to our roster.

Conforto Was Back Baby: Michael Conforto went 2 for 2 and made a diving catch in center field in this game. If his bat is working, then the Mets are going to play him in center field and cross their damn fingers. It’s certainly promising to see him make a gold glove caliber play in his first career start.

Jose Was Back Baby: In the third inning, Michael Conforto singled and advanced to third on two straight productive outs. Then Jose Reyes slashed an RBI triple making it 1-0 Mets. Jose certainly was in vintage spark plug speed demon form this weekend.

Insurance Again: The Mets added two runs in the eighth inning on two straight RBI singles from Yoenis Cespedes and James Loney. I couldn’t believe the Mets scored any runs in this game let alone runs late in the game on clutch hits with runners in scoring position. I had my TV muted at the time of the late inning rally because I was on the phone. I’m going to experiment with TV muting going forward to see if there’s any correlation between silence and run scoring. I’ll miss Gary, Keith, and Ron, but I have to do my part to help boost this offense.

The Pen Never Left: Hansel Robles, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia combined for 3 scoreless innings of relief to close this one out. If we get to say that a lot in August and September, we’ll be celebrating a playoff berth. I have a feeling that by the end of this week the Mets will have a new face in the late inning relief conversation. My sources tell me Assistant GM John Ricco aka Ricco not so suave is working the hell out of the phones leading up to the August 1st trade deadline.

Lucroy: Speaking of trades, Kristie Ackert of the Daily News says the Mets are in the Jonathan Lucroy trade conversation. She said Travis d’Arnaud is the piece being floated by the Mets along with prospects. The idea of adding Jonathan Lucroy is very appealing to me. Travis is great, but he’s Mr. Glass. I’d obviously love to have the more durable Lucroy. Let’s see how this plays out this week as the hot stove heats up.

Tomorrow: The Mets kick off a big three game home series against the Cardinals tomorrow night. Noah Syndergaard vs. Carlos Martinez. Let’s hope this game goes better than Saturday’s battle of the aces between Jacob deGrom and Jose Fernandez.

Michael Conforto in Center Field Is Bananas

Let me start by saying I fully understand the Mets current predicament. Yoenis Cespedes is playing injured. His legs are sore, and he has stated openly and on the record that playing center field has contributed to his leg problems. As a result of that assertion, the Mets have no choice but to accommodate Cespedes’ request and play him more often in the corner outfield to keep him in the lineup.

I also understand the notion that Cespedes isn’t really a true center fielder, and according to the advanced defensive metrics he hasn’t been that great defensively out there this season anyway. Therefore, if we were willing to play Yo in center field and sacrifice defense, why wouldn’t we be willing to try someone else out there and make a similar sacrifice? I get how someone could come to that conclusion. Unfortunately, that conclusion makes no sense when the “someone” we plan to use in center field is Michael Conforto.

Michael Conforto in center field just feels like something the Mets would try and completely bungle. It’s so Mets. My biggest concern with even entertaining the notion of Conforto in center field is he’s 23 years old, never played the position, and just got sent down to the minors for hitting struggles. Hitting is supposed to be his strength. Hitting is what comes natural to him, and he’s struggled with that at the major league level in 2016. And those struggles are completely understandable for a young player. Now we are going to ask him to figure out hitting as well as learn a position that requires arguably the most athleticism of all the places in the field? It’s borderline unfair to ask Conforto to learn a new position when he’s still learning to hit MLB pitching.

I’m not saying Conforto wouldn’t be able to eventually succeed in center. But this just reeks of a failed Mets experiment that sets a young player’s development back. Let’s teach Jose Reyes a different running style! Let’s move Reyes to second base and make room for Kaz Matsui! For God’s sake, Lucas Duda still wakes up in cold sweats after having nightmares where he’s hurriedly retrieving balls in the left field corner as runners are rounding third and heading home. The Duda outfield experiment screwed with Lucas at the plate, and as a result it took years for the Mets to see what he was fully capable of in the batter’s box. But Conforto in center field sounds great. I’m sure it’ll be different.

I get that Curtis Granderson can’t effectively play the position anymore. He can’t cover the ground in center and doesn’t have the arm. Unfortunately, this whole outfield debacle really exposes one big issue that we’ve all been ignoring/pretending doesn’t exist. If Cespedes opts-out and the Mets pony up the dough to keep him, they have to trade Curtis Granderson for a player that fits better on this roster. I love Grandy. He’s one of the best players on the team and a class act off the field. I don’t want to get rid of him at all. But if Yo can only play the corner then there’s no place for Grandy.

As far as this season goes, there’s only one real answer. If Cespedes can only play center field once or twice a week, then Juan Lagares gets the rest of the starts. That’s the only real option. I realize the plan was to have Juan platoon against lefties. Well throw that plan out the window because having Cespedes in the lineup is the only thing that matters.

Frankly, I’m not quite sure why this is even being made out to be an emergency situation. Michael Conforto wasn’t hitting when he was demoted. We crowned him as our number three hitter before he even had a chance to get fully acquainted with big league pitching. But he’s struggled this season, so why are we rushing to reconfigure our defensive alignment to “get his bat in there”? We’ve tried every configuration imaginable this season, and the team has still failed to produce with runners in scoring position.

The idea of giving Juan Lagares more at-bats and starting him more often in center field down the stretch doesn’t scare me at all. I actually like the idea of prioritizing defense the rest of the season. Our young studs are pitching through elbow bone spurs. Matt Harvey is out for the season. That should mean strikeouts will be down and more balls will be in play. Let’s see how many runs Lagares can save with a healthy throwing arm (let’s just pretend he has two healthy thumbs). Let’s not forget the Mets paid Lagares. We need to determine if he really is the future full time center fielder who will be flanked by Conforto and Cespedes for years to come. There’s no better time to assess that than the present.

Conforto To Vegas; Nimmo To New York To Handle The Family Business

Today the Mets sent Michael Conforto aka Mikey “The Bull” to Las Vegas for a vacation, and they brought Brandon Nimmo aka “Big Fish” Nimmo to New York to handle the family business. Honestly, the Conforto demotion and Nimmo promotion was long overdue. I’ve been calling for this move for weeks at this point. Conforto is hitting .222/.296/.431 this season. But he hasn’t hit a lick in two months. He’s literally hitting .130 since May 1. Nimmo on the other hand was raking in Vegas. He’s batting .328/.409/.508 with five home runs and 37 RBIs in 63 games for the 51s. I respect the hell out of the way Michael Conforto handled this demotion. He knew it was coming. Instead of fleeing and avoiding the media, he faced them head on. He said he was going to head down to Vegas, fix his problems, and come back better than ever.

Remember in December of 2015 when the Mets didn’t want Yoenis Cespedes and instead were going to gamble the entire 2016 season on sophomore Michael Conforto? Thank god they didn’t do that huh? Thank god Cespedes loved it here and insisted on staying. Without him we’d be completely lost. Now we have the luxury of sending Mikey down and giving him some time to get his swing straightened out. He’s a young player, and he desperately needed a breather to get his head straight. We needed to get him out of the New York spotlight. And now we can see what Nimmo brings to the table. If Nimmo takes off like Conforto did last season and Conforto figures things out in the minors, that’ll be great. Then we’ll have two young studs to help us down the stretch. This can even help increase Nimmo’s trade value if we decide to go that direction.

I suppose it took the Mets the entire week (surprise, surprise), but the Great Mets Shakeup of 2016 has finally arrived. Jose Reyes and Brandon Nimmo on the same day? New blood. Let’s go baby.

Mets Somehow Win Game In Pittsburgh

Final Score (in 10 innings): Mets 6, Pirates 5

The Mets needed this win in a big way. Sure they could have easily lost this game a bunch of different times. Sure it was helpful that Mark Melancon was unavailable after pitching both games of the doubleheader. Sure they failed to capitalize on a number of run scoring opportunities. But they scored just enough to get the W. Noah Syndergaard pitched just gritty enough to keep them in the game. Jim Henderson and Jeurys Familia sucked a lot last night. But they didn’t suck enough to fully blow the game.

Gritty Thor: Noah Syndergaard pitched 6 innings, gave up 7 hits, gave up 3 runs (2 ER) and only struck out 5. He did not have his best stuff. In the first inning, Neil Walker made an error that let John Jaso reach base. Thor then walked Andrew McCutchen. Gregory Polanco promptly made the Mets pay with an RBI double. Jung Ho Kang followed that with an RBI single to make it 2-0. But Thor retired the next three batters and got out of a sticky situation. He got out of a jam in the third inning. He got in trouble in the fourth inning and surrendered an RBI double to John Jaso to make it 3-2. But he limited the damage yet again. He gave a gritty performance on a night where he was getting hit more often than we’re used to.

Just Take The Base: The Pirates stole on Thor once in the first inning, twice in the third inning. I think they had four stolen bases. He really doesn’t hold people on base. Have we given up on fixing that problem? Maybe we’re so focused on our offensive woes that we don’t have time to fix the other cracks in our team infrastructure.

Old Kelly: Yesterday the Mets traded for Kelly Johnson. But last night it was old Ty Kelly who came through with a huge two run blast in the fourth inning to tie the game at 2-2. I complain an awful lot about the Quadruple-A mooks that make up this roster, but look at that picture up top. It was Kelly’s first career home run. Good for him. I feel like the Mets are going to keep him on this roster somehow. I can feel it in my plums.

Conforto Stirs: Michael Conforto hit a game tying sac fly in the fifth inning to make it 3-3, and he added an enormous game tying two run blast in the 8th inning to make it 5-5. He said he felt like he had better ABs last night. Keep it up man. We need his bat back in a bad way.

Somebody Please Hit: I’m so happy the Mets won this game, but it was tough to watch. They left a bunch of men on base and hit into a number of double plays as usual. Brutal. They left Cespedes on base in the first inning. With two men on base and one out in the second inning, Rene Rivera hit into a double play. They left a man on in the third inning. Conforto was only able to get a sac fly in the fifth inning because Thor led off with a double and was sacrificed over to third. In the 10th inning, Yoenis Cespedes led off with a single and Neil Walker followed that with a single. James Loney sacrificed them both over and then Asdrubal Cabrera was walked intentionally to load the bases. Wilmer Flores came through with a pinch hit bloop RBI single up the middle to make it 6-5. But then with the bases loaded and one out, Matt Reynolds and Kevin Plawecki were retired to strand everyone. Familia almost blew the game in the 10th inning, but luckily the squandered opportunities didn’t matter in the end.

Familia Tightrope: Jeurys Familia walked the first two batters in the 10th inning. Then he got a double play. With two outs, he proceeded to walk the next batter. He ended up striking out David Freese with first and third and two outs to end the game. Familia has not been lights out this season. He’s walking the damn tightrope every single outing. I hope he hits his stride in the summer. Otherwise we’re screwed eventually.

Guerrero No Deal: The Dodgers released Cuban 3B/OF Alex Guerrero. He’s been pretty bad in his first two years in the states. He did hit 11 bombs last year, and he bats righty. I’d bring him in if I ran the Mets, but I’m pretty sure they already said they have no interest. Ty Kelly it is!

Draft Day: Today is MLB draft day. The Mets have the 19th, 31st, and 64th overall picks. The 31st pick was compensation for Daniel Murphy signing with the Nats. I bet they’d trade that pick to get Murph back right now huh? Well it’s fine. Honestly we need to replenish the farm system. We’ll need more picks to send the Braves when we reacquire Kelly Johnson in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Mini-Series Preview: No off day today?!? I’ll have to keep my Milwaukee Brewers series preview brief. The Brewers are 6-4 in their last 10, but ultimately they stink. Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy are both studs. There’s a preview, that’s a preview. We need to come up big in this four game series and get our season back on track.

Game 1: Bartolo Colon vs. Jimmy Nelson

Game 2: Matt Harvey vs. Junior Guerra

Game 3: Logan Verrett vs. Wily Peralta

Game 4: Steven Matz vs. Zach Davies

The Next Generation: 2016 Top 10 Mets Prospects 

Today, ESPN’s Keith Law released his highly anticipated 2016 Mets Top 10 Prospect rankings. Law is one of ESPN’s baseball analytics gurus, and he previously worked as a special assistant for current Mets Assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi when Ricciardi was GM of the Blue Jays. This year, Law had the Mets farm system ranked at 16th out of the 30 teams. Middle of the pack. Not showing off. Not getting left behind. Now that did represent a significant drop from our 4th place ranking in 2015. That being said, the drop makes some sense considering we promoted the top three prospects from his 2015 list (Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto and Kevin Plawecki), and we traded our top pitching prospect Michael Fulmer to Detroit at the 2015 trade deadline for Yoenis Cespedes.

Anyway, here is Law’s list and my thoughts:

1) Dominic Smith: The scouts love this guy. He was drafted 11th by the Mets in the 2013 draft. Law has him at 29th in his overall MLB Top 100 Prospects list. Law describes him as “one of the best pure hitters in the minors”, and he hit .305 in 118 games at High A ball last season. His power is still developing, but his glove is supposedly MLB ready and gold caliber. The idea of a defensive-minded player in our infield is borderline unfathomable (closes eyes…sees Lucas Duda throwing ball over D’Arnaud’s head in Game 5… shudders). His ETA is 2017 which would align well with Duda’s free agency timeline after the 2017 season. The only negative mentioned by Law is that Smith looked like he had gained a lot of weight in the Arizona Fall League, and he wasn’t talking about muscle mass.

Keith Law just fat shaming the hell out of Dom Smith. I think we can cut the guy a break, I mean after all it is winter. A perfect time to put on a little mass in the midsection for the sake of warmth. Granted, Smith is from California so additional blubber might not be entirely necessary. And conditioning is part of his job description as a professional athlete. But I am just going to pretend its a minor seasonal weight fluctuation, and that he’s on track for a breakout rookie campaign in 2017.

2) Steven Matz: Hard to count Matz as a prospect, but he didn’t hit maximum rookie innings thresholds in 2015. So he’s still technically a rookie. And why didn’t he meet the thresholds? Late promotion but also injuries. And injuries are the biggest red flag with him. In fact Law indicated his ceiling is capped at a number 4 starter with number 1 stuff because he fears he just won’t pitch enough. He doesn’t see him as a horse like Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, or Jacob deGrom. Let’s hope Matz proves Law wrong.

3) Amed Rosario and 4) Gavin Cecchini: Two shortstops in our Top 5 and in the leagues Top 100? Really? Is a Jose Reyes successor really on the horizon? Are the annual Spring battles between Ruben Tejada and someone else finally coming to an end? According to Law the answer is yes. Rosario, ranked at 42 in Law’s Top 100, is 20 years old but projects as a possible star. Law says “he has the kind of raw tools and athleticism to be a top 10 prospect in the game in a year”. Cecchini, ranked at 89 in Law’s Top 100, is closer to the major leagues then Rosario. He projects as a contact hitter with above average defensive skills. We selected Cecchini 12th in the 2012 draft, so the high expectations around him make sense. He broke out offensively at AA last year and is likely to start at AAA Vegas this season. If he can get past the distraction of the Vegas clubhouse slot machines and have a big season in AAA, he may be in the plan for 2017.

5) Wuilmer Becerra: We got this OF in the R.A. Dickey trade. He is 20 years old and projects to be a regular who can hit for average and power. The idea to trade R.A. Dickey after he won his CY Young Award in 2012 was an absolute no brainer. However, the haul Sandy got for him is truly astounding. Thor, Travis d’Arnaud, and this outfielder Becerra. It’s already looking like an all time heist based on the early success of Thor and D’Arnaud. If they both really go on to have successful, healthy major league careers and Becerra actually becomes a viable major leaguer, it’s going to look even more lopsided in the Mets favor.

6) Brandon Nimmo: Jose Fernandez, Sonny Gray, Kolten Wong, and Joe Panik. All pretty good players right? Well we passed on all of them in the 2011 draft when we selected Nimmo 13th out of high school. Nimmo doesn’t project to have the defensive skills to play CF, and he has not developed the power that the Mets originally anticipated. He was going to start the season at AAA, but he tore a tendon in his foot so he will now miss 4 to 6 weeks. “4th outfielder” is being thrown around. “Bust” can’t be far behind.

7) Desmond Lindsay: Mets second round pick in 2015. He projects as a speedy defense first CF.

8) Robert Gsellman: He’s a sinkerballer that projects as a 5th starter. Should start the year in AAA Vegas and serve as rotation depth. Hopefully, our young starters are healthy and we never see him in the rotation. Ever.

9) Jhoan Urena: He’s a 21 year old third basemen that played at Single-A last year but battled injuries. Keith Law likes his swing and propensity to make contact.

10) Luis CarpioHe’s a 17 year old SS that has raw skills and handles himself well in the field and at the dish for his age.