As Spring Training draws to a close there appears to be only two roster position battles among the bench players. There are people doing everything they can to make an impression, though the tendency for the Mets is to go with the familiar player despite underwhelming results rather than taking a chance on someone new. (We'll leave out the fact that it takes a direct order from the front office to get the manager to pencil a new name onto the lineup card.) Let’s take a look at the contenders for each of these last two positions and see how they compare to one another.
Eric Campbell vs. Daniel Muno
“Soup” was a great story last year. He was a long time minor league veteran who slowly and steadily climbed the ladder to the big leagues. As a 27 year old rookie, the combination of his batting average and his positional versatility got him into Queens on the big club where he sat on the bench watching Bobby Abreu and others get chances to play while he collected splinters. By the time his manager deigned to insert him into the lineup, he got out of whatever good hitting groove he’d been in and finished the season slumping badly, striking out in 26% of his ABs. His minor league career was respectable. He was a .284 hitter who knew how to work the counts (resulting in a career .380 OBP mark). He never showed as much power as you might expect for a 6’3” 205 pound hitter, but still managed to produce a .416 SLG over his 2600 career minor league ABs. During his various stops along the way he played all over the diamond, including significant stints at 1B, 3B and LF.
This year’s Eric Campbell appears to be Danny Muno. Leo Durocher once famously said of Eddie Stanky, "He can't hit, can't run, can't field. He's no nice guy ... all the little SOB can do is win." The same might be said about Muno. When you look at his numbers, nothing is too eye popping, yet it seems whenever he plays he’d on base in the middle of things. He’s hit as many as 14 HRs in 455 ABs (extrapolated out to about 19 on a full season). He’s stolen as many as 19 bases (extrapolated out to about 38). He’s a career .276 hitter. He’s delivered a .395 OBP and a .419 SLG throughout his 1600 minor league ABs. He’s a switch hitter who has played 2B, SS and a little bit at 3B. At age 26 this year he’s not yet been in the majors.
Now Spring Training stats must be taken with something of a grain of salt as they are small sample sizes, yet when you compare the two players Muno has outpaced Campbell in this race. Thus far for the spring Campbell is hitting .241 with 2 HRs, 9 RBIs, 8 walks, 9 strikeouts and a stolen base. His OBP is .392 and his SLG is .561.Danny Muno is hitting .378 with 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts and a stolen base. His OBP is .452 and his SLG is .541.
Given he is a faster baserunner, left handed, and can play both middle infield positions, it would seem like it couldn’t hurt anything to give Muno a chance and keep Campbell ready in Las Vegas. If the experiment fails, you can flip-flop them.
Anthony Recker vs. Johnny Monell
A similar situation faces the Mets when it comes to the backup catcher role. Anthony Recker has seemed to have had a knack for slugging home runs at opportune moments but in between the long balls he’s below the Mendoza line for his major league career. At age 30 he’s still never been able to muster more than the 174 ABs in a season that he got for the Mets last year. For his career he’s had 375 ABs and delivered a solid 14 HRs and 50 RBIs but hit a paltry .197 while striking out 36% of the time. He’s looked good behind the plate and has the notable honor of gunning down Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton.
Johnny Monell is a career minor leaguer who has show great pop for a catcher, slugging as many as 20 HRs in a minor league season spanning 415 ABs. That extrapolates out to about 29 HRs for a full season as a starter. That’s pretty serious power. The same holds true for his 71 RBIs which would turn into over 100. This spring he’s done little to diminish his reputation as a solid hitter while posting a .316 AVG with 3 HRs and 8 RBIs over 37 spring ABs. Extrapolated over the course of a full season that’s 48/129 – not likely to happen, but indicative that he’s got some serious run-producing ability. Throw in the fact he’s a left handed hitter and it means you can choose which days to sit Travis d’Arnaud when tough righties like Stephen Strasburg or Max Scherzer pitch and insert Monell into the lineup.
Recker has minor league options available, so, just like the situation with Campbell, you could stash the veteran in Vegas and give the chance to someone with the potential to be even better. You still have the fallback of promoting Recker should Monell fail to adjust at the big league level.
We Come to Bury Cesar, Not to Praise Him
Cesar Puello is obviously not in the Mets plans and his lack of opportunity this spring parallels what happened during his post-suspension year in 2014. He’s not done himself any favors by hitting .241 with no homers and no RBIs across 29 ABs, so his days in Mets minor league laundry are apparently over. The only hope is that he’s done SO poorly that he’ll pass through waivers unclaimed, but even then he’s likely not to get a starting role in AAA either, so it looks as if he’s going the way of Brandon Allen and Cory Vaughn.