Stephen Guilbert - What Happens to the Mets Lineup if a Major Player Gets Hurt

Injuries, and lack of depth to mitigate them, can make the difference between a contending team and a losing one. One of the more interesting contingencies for an injury on the 2015 Mets is Jon Niese. Given the advantage of having at least one lefty in the starting rotation, will Steven Matz be ready? Will the Mets let him have his chance early if Niese goes down? 

Unless a shortstop position battle yields Matt Reynolds or Ruben Tejada an unlikely victor, the starting lineup for the New York Mets come April 6th will be:

C- Travis d'Arnaud
1B- Lucas Duda
2B- Daniel Murphy
SS- Wilmer Flores
3B- David Wright
LF- Curtis Granderson
CF- Juan Lagares
RF- Michael Cuddyer

SPs- Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon

However, injuries happen. Lucas Duda already has an ailment and the calendar has yet to flip to March. What happens to the Mets lineup if Duda goes down? What about catcher? Here are the contingency plans for each position:

C- Travis d'Arnaud's replacement for a short-term injury belongs to backup Anthony Recker, though anything extended changes the game. Kevin Plawecki, a top prospect for the Mets and a consensus top-100 prospect in all of baseball, deserves a chance to start if d'Arnaud misses significant time. Given TdA's injury history, keeping Plawecki around for at least this year is a smart move. If the Mets trade Plawecki and d'Arnaud suffers a bad injury, the catching depth in the system--as it is around baseball--is weak.

1B- If Duda misses extended time with an injury, the Mets would move Michael Cuddyer to first base. This opens up a hole in right field. While the Mets could slot Kirk Nieuwenhuis in semi-permanantly, pitchers already exploit his weaknesses at the plate as a part-time player and in a full-time role, his offense will hurt the team. A better option is Cesar Puello, if he is protected by the Mets on the 25-man roster. If Puello does not produce well or is lost via waivers, Matt den Dekker gets his opportunity. den Dekker does not have much of a bat but he would join Lagares and Granderson in a very athletic, quick and defensive-minded outfield.

2B- The Mets would approach a Daniel Murphy injury the same way they would address his trade-- with Dilson Herrera. A top prospect with a full toolbox, the Mets need not look outside the organization at second base for many years.

SS- Ruben Tejada slots in for the short term if Wilmer Flores suffers an injury. If Flores fails to handle shortstop adequately or has a long term ailment, the Mets likely look outside the organization for help. Matt Reynolds gets more playing time but the immediate replacement is Tejada.

3B- This happened last year. Murphy shifted to third base, Flores moved to second, Tejada slotted in at shortstop. The movement will be similar, though Herrera likely fills in at second and Flores stays at shortstop (assuming, at the time of the injury, that Flores' performance at shortstop is adequate).

LF- A Granderson injury handles similarly to a Duda injury. Cuddyer moves to left and one of Kirk/Puello/den Dekker slots in right. Most signs point to the Mets not awarding Cesar Puello a roster spot (which is a shame--he still has the tools to be a very good major leaguer), making den Dekker best option for right field in this contingency.

CF- Easy. Matt den Dekker.

RF- Puello or den Dekker using the same logic for 1B and LF.

SP- The Mets have so much starting pitching depth that if one of the above five starters gets placed on the 60-day DL, the question is not, "How can we replace him", it is, "How do we choose who to replace him with?" If Jon Niese goes down, Steven Matz offers the Mets something Dillon Gee, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Shawn Bowman, and Tyler Pill cannot--he throws with his left hand. The organization might not want to promote Matz so soon and will certainly not do so before Super-2 cutoff, but a mid-season injury to Niese should open the door for Matz.

For a RHP injury early in the season, Dillon Gee or Rafael Montero get the call (depending on whether Gee gets traded or either (both?) move to the bullpen), keeping Noah Syndergaard under team control for a year longer and potentially avoiding Super Two status. Come late spring and on, Noah gets his time in Flushing.



James Preller said...

Good piece. Was puzzling over this just the other day. A few thoughts:

* It sure seems like Tejada is going to get 300+ ABs this year, one way or the other.

* A loss of Wright, and the corresponding moves, means that Tejada replaces Wright. This is: season shot to pieces. Unacceptable option.

* Don't want to see too much of Mayberry this season. While I think he may be able to produce in a strictly limited role, this guy has never been able to get it done on any other basis.

Overall, depth is quite good. But if one of the key bats goes down, I think they've got to bite the bullet and go out to get a good RH hitter from outside the system. Plugging real holes with modest "internal solutions" will only get this team so far.

Thomas Brennan said...

My guess is the Mets' depth is as good as, or better than, most.

I like your synopsis. I think Matt DD will hit better than you infer, but if an OF goes down for an extended period, he better make the case for himself as the best fill in or he'll never get the opportunity to show he can get it done as a full timer.

I would have been interested in your bullpen alternates.

IBfromWhitePlains said...

I like the Mayberry signing but still don’t think this bench will get it done. DD and Kirk are strikeout machines off the bench, where situational hitting gets you the win. It seems to me the Mets keep pumping out these AAAA guys and it costs ballgames all year. When I think of the kind of bench the Yankees used to put out there – an all-star team more or less – it doesn’t fill me with confidence. Not expecting a Yankee bench by any means. That’s just gluttony. But some proven pros would be a start. No issues with Recker – calls a good game, think he’s a decent backup. Summing up – I don’t agree the Mets have as much depth as any team out there.

I do think the starting lineup has nice balance and should put together some decent numbers. I’m pumped

IBfromWhitePlains said...

Forgot about Campbell. Cmon.

Thomas Brennan said...

Hey IB

Dekker is no longer a strikeout machine. In fact, after his return to AAA in June, he struck out just 37 times in about 320 plate appearances (major leagues and AAA). I know that rate will rise in the majors only, but he only K'd once every 6 times up after he was promoted later in the year to the majors, a fine rate.

Kirk hit pretty well but his K rate was twice that.

Anonymous said...

This is another reason why I think it makes sense to accommodate Puello, even in the short term. The biggest "ifs" as far as injuries go are MC and Wright, but the Duda issue is of concern. Clearly MC will take over 1B if Duda goes down, but if MC goes down, it will create a situation where Mayberry will be exposed to everyday play, which I think even the FO doesn't want. The backup play would be either Puello or Castellanos as a RH OF, but if MC is at 1B or injured, I would be OK with a Kirk/Puello platoon. It would provide excellent defense and I think the opposite sided platoon would provide surprisingly good offensive numbers. The real debates to fill out the roster should be between MDD/Kirk as LH OF and then Soup/Puello for the last spot. I know how people feel about the MDD/Kirk debate, but I really don't see the value in choosing Soup over Puello. Soup faded after being exposed (not to mention a .500 BABIP for his first 100 ABs!!) and would probably be at best 3rd or 4th on the depth chart at every position, so his versatility is overrated; essentially he would be the equivalent of an emergency C at 3B, 2B; would be 4th on the depth chart at 1B and the 7th OF. He has options, so start him in Vegas and if the Puello experiment fails, you can bring him up, but I even believe they would obviously bring up MDD before him, probably Castellanos and maybe even Muno to play 3B. Soup has no defensive value, no speed, no pop, a terrible BA after his first 100 ABs and K'ed in over 30% of his PA. What makes him the best option, especially where one of the potential issues with depth would be RH power against LH pitching

Anon Joe F

Thomas Brennan said...

As of today, Joe F, I agree - option Soup out, keep him simmering in Vegas, and go with Puello. Let's see who earns what spots this spring, but Puello has more upside potential than Soup.

Charles said...

Let's see Puello have a spring that forces their hands first. This guy has only had one great year during which he was suspended for steroids.

Then he comes back and does horribly in the best hitting environment other than Coors field. Sure he had some moments in winter ball, but he's derserving of nothing based on performance. It's all tools that he's yet to show any sustainable production from without the cloud of steroids hovering over it.

I'd love to see him win a role on this team because having him on the team as a valuable member only makes this team that much stronger. However, if he doesn't win the job with a huge performance this spring, i'd have zero reservations about losing him to another team on waivers.

Also, if this team loses Wright, then their offense is in trouble unless Darno and Flores are in the midst of great offensive seasons. I think Grandy, Duda, and Cuddyer will produce enough based on past performance, but David is their all star and biggest hitter. They need him to be that this year.

Anonymous said...

He had one monster year, but he did have several years where he hit around .300 with some pop and speed, but his development was often interrupted by injury. I understand the skeptics and I don't want to fall in love with tools, but his profile fits so perfectly with existing needs that I would hate to punt on him before finding out if can make it and also because we are talking about the last spot on the roster and the player he would replace could go back to the minors, so nothing is lost if it doesn't work out. I still think this guy eventually figures it out and becomes a productive major league in some capacity and it would steam me forever if the Mets lose out on that talent because of some inexplicable icing in Vegas last year and because they want to give ABs to Soup, who is Satin Lite. I have said it before, if Soup wants to work on skill sets to extend his baseball career, he should learn how to speak Japanese, not learn how to catch
Anon Joe F

Thomas Brennan said...

Good line on Soup, Joe F. Sushi and Miso Soup

Puello's strength, besides overall tools, is he is similar to Mayberry in his proficiency vs. lefties. If they keep Dekker (or Kirk) that balance would be useful.

And it's been said before, but he stepped up in the 2nd half of 2014, and then surged the last 10 games of winter ball. Bring on his spring training shot.

Robb said...

IS it just me or does this actually mean that this is a well constructed team, especially to deal with the inevitable injuries? it's a highly flexible roster with adequate replacements in the minors.

Not to mention the pitching depth is for like 3 trades and two injuries before it would be of concern. gee, thor, matz, monetro are all currently depth. thats impressive.

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