Posted by Reese Kaplan at 10:00 AM
While everyone is salivating over the offensive and defensive prowess of the newly acquired middle infield combo of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, there are other faces in the Mets’ collective infield future who also get a lot of ink. First, there’s folk hero Wilmer Flores whose bat surpasses his glove. Then there’s the former SS Ruben Tejada who had turned into something of an on-base machine before he got “Utleyed” during the playoffs. There’s prospect Dilson Herrera who’s had a few cups of coffee and at a very young age is knocking on the door for his chance to shine at the big league level (assuming Walker departs as a free agent or via trade before the 2017 season begins). Then there’s Sandy Alderson’s first big draft choice – Gavin Cecchini – whose .317 Binghamton season turned many detractors into believers. Yes, the middle infield picture indeed looks bright with multiple 26-and-under options available should Walker indeed depart. Behind him nipping at their heels are Amed Rosario and Luis Guillorme.
Lost in this shuffle is the Mets’ current invisible man – Matt Reynolds. Do you remember him? He was actually put onto the post-season roster after Tejada’s spot opened up but he didn’t make a single appearance during his tenure here. A highly regarded draft pick, he was actually the team’s number two selection in the 2012 draft. His initial tenure in the minors was not eye-popping with a .259 season at pitcher-friendly Savannah and a year later it looked as if the team might have been mistaken when his St. Lucie output was a paltry .225.
However, in 2014 he started to put together a hot streak and after hitting .355 over a 58 game stretch in Binghamton he got promoted to Las Vegas where the next level of pitching didn’t seem to phase him as he hit .333 there. He spent all of 2015 for Las Vegas playing primarily shortstop (with a handful of games at second base as well). His batting average dipped significantly in the hitter friendly league to .267, but in 490 ABs he did still manage to drive in 65 while stealing 13 bases. At mid-season he was hitting over .280, so he slumped a bit down the stretch.
In a numbers game with all of the aforementioned players ahead of him (and Tom Brennan favorite Danny Muno behind him), it’s possible he’ll get lost in the shuffle. However, a case could be made that the lead-footed Ruben Tejada and his $2 million or so in salary could be peddled elsewhere, opening up his roster spot to the minimum wage Reynolds as his future is likely that of utility infielder. After a couple of broken legs, weight issues, range issues, and lackluster offensive output, the team may have seen the best Tejada has to offer. Of course, pulling off such a trade might be difficult given Tejada’s gruesome injury and evidence needed that he’s ready to play again.
Tejada’s a career .255 hitter with no speed and no power. Could Reynolds replicate those numbers and play the occasional respectable fill-in role at SS and 2B? It’s hard to say since he hasn’t had a single big league AB, but if they start the Las Vegas season with Cecchini at SS and Herrera at 2B, it may be that the Oklahoma native starts collecting splinters on the bench. The question is whether or not he’s better doing that in Las Vegas or in Queens.