Reese Kaplan -- Why Can't the Mets Develop HItters?


I couldn’t help noticing the batting averages of the Chicago Cubs players as they came to bat in this series.  With the exception of (surprisingly) Jason Heyward, there are no easy outs.  It seemed like nearly everyone was over .280 with power.  Ithey lose a Kyle Schwarber and up comes a Willson Contreras.

t got me to thinking about the New York Mets and how few homegrown hitters they’ve developed over the years.  It makes you wonder the reason for the greater success in honing pitchers than in finding guys who slug the ball.  Also, the dearth of hits with runners in scoring position points to another flaw in the winning formula.  Remember how the Royals seemed to make every at-bat a tough out?  How many tough outs are there on the Mets?

How much of this offensive dearth is the result of bad drafting?  How much of it is bad talent evaluation on the trade front?  How much is the result of bad coaching?  How much of it is the pressure of being asked to play in New York?  How much of it is the manager benching the players that are hitting until they grow cold and create a self fulfilling prophecy for why they’re not starting?  Or is it a combination of all of the above?

Then there’s the question of hitting philosophy.  It seems the Mets have precious few players who know fundamentals like hit and run, hitting behind the runner, bat control and working the count.  Again, how much is on the player, how much is on the hitting coach and how much is on the manager?

Anyone who’s watched the team doesn’t need to know the actual numbers to underscore the difficulties, but bear with the most obvious ones.  Asdrubal Cabrera who has had a fine season overall has not had a hit with a runner in scoring position since May 23rd.  Curtis Granderson has clubbed 16 HRs this year but has only 29 RBIs to show for it.  Is it any wonder the Mets are at or close to the bottom in just about every offensive category?  David Wright still leads the team in steals with a whopping total of three!!!

Of course, the club is doing itself no favors with the AAA club in hitter-happy Las Vegas.  Look at the roster of high .300 hitters who have flourished there and it’s filled with luminaries who have gotten a look such as Ty Kelly, Eric Campbell, Josh Satin, Brandon Nimmo and Johnny Monell.  Then there are those hitters who for reasons of 40-man roster status do not get a look, including T.J. Rivera, Travis Taijeron and Gavin Cecchini.  The problem is that the stats are so over inflated that you don’t know whether or not the gaudy numbers will be replicable in the majors.

The flip side is the number the altitude and dry air does to the minds of the pitchers.  There are a great many who hit the wall while playing for the 51s, including Rafael Montero, Matt Bowman and Darin Gorski.  Some move on and become productive players (like Bowman) while others may be beyond repair.  News came out today that the owners of 51s are looking to get a new stadium on the outskirts of the city with proper cooling, luxury boxes and all the accouterments of a modern minor league franchise.  It doesn’t change the weather nor the altitude, however, so it is akin to putting lipstick on a pig.

Today it was announced that Lucas Duda will return to light baseball activities starting Monday with an eye towards returning him in September when the rosters expand which would allow them to keep both he and James Loney around.  It’s ironic that Loney, a singles hitter above .280 is likely being shown the bench when the team can't put men on base, but Wilmer Flores can tell him what it’s like to do your job and only get to watch..

By the way, did you happen to catch Jose Reyes’ mental gaffe in the 9th inning vs. the Cubs last night?  With runners on 1st and 2nd the batter hits a spinning bunt down the 3rd base line which was headed right into foul territory but Reyes’ shortstop instincts likely kicked in and he felt compelled to field it.  To add insult to injury, he didn’t get the batter running to first and it loaded the bases.  Jeurys Familia tap danced out of the bases loaded and no one out situation to preserve the win, but it was sure looking ugly.

To be fair to Reyes, he did pull a triple to RF which lead to the Mets’ first run, but the offensive road has been a rough one for the guy so far.  If he’s not hitting and not fielding and not drawing walks, why is he playing every day?  I know, I know…Collins has just got to get him going.  It’s going to go down in Mets’ history as a derisive refrain alongside “We battled.”


Tom Brennan said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your criticism of the Mets' failure to develop REAL big league hitters.

I am still very hopeful on Conforto, far more hopeful on Nimmo than I was at the start of the season, and am extremely pleased by Rosario's stellar hitting this year and Smith's increasingly hot bat and increased power (11 homers) and great run production (65 RBI). So there are some lights there.

But not sure any of those are 5 star bats like Bryant. Or even like Smith's Eastern League Philly counterparts Rhys Hoskins (25 HR, 83 RBI, 2nd round 2012) and Dylan Cousins (25 HR, 82 RBI, 5th round 2014) - why the Mets can't draft raw power like that, ever, is so darned baffling to me.

holmer said...

I was discussing this very problem with a fellow Met fan recently and the names Strawberry, Wright, Reyes, and Cleon Jones are the only real impact hitters who were drafted and played for the Mets. Compare that to the list of pitchers produced the last 50+ years (Seaver, Kooseman, Ryan, Gentry, McGraw, Matlack, Swan, Gooden, Orosco and then the recent crop) and it is amazing how they can produce pitchers and not hitters. It's been the entire history of the New York Mets that they don't produce hitters. The flip side is teams like the Pirates and Cubs, who have had great success with hitters, have had far less success with pitchers. Some things are hard to figure.

eraff said...

Conforto Profiles as a Major Bat...I'm sticking with that.

You have 4 position players who are young and productive--Herrera, Nimmo, Rosario, Smith. I believe there's some hope that they will develop.

The Cubs Hunted and Gathered Hitters.... as the Mets did with Arms. Different Focus?...different Breaks and opportunities?

Interesting that the Met's Draft seemed ARMS WEIGHTED..... their org. philosophy may be that it's easier and cheaper to patch offense versus Pitching--I agree.

Tom Brennan said...

eraff, I agree it is a Mets' focus on pitchers - but it bugs me to see Phils select power bats AFTER the first round that show real pop, and the Mets never get guys like that in secondary rounds (rare exception being Duda). SO many drafted guys never make it, but if a guy has power, it gives him a greater chance - and if we get really lucky once (like Cards did with Pujols in the 13th(?) round, wow. I'd draft a lot more power, and hope for a winning lottery ticket. Danny Muno, Matt Reynolds - those are wasted picks as the power is not there, nor the high end potential.

I was happy they drafted powerful Ivan Wilson, although he cratered quickly. Some power guys will develop. They won't, though, if you don't draft them.

Holmer, you mention Strawberry - I'd leave him out - he was the Lebron James of that draft year, so to pick anyone else would have been lunacy. Take him out of the picture and the track record gets a lot worse than it already is.

Hopefuly Alonso is a successful power bat this year.

Dallas said...

Honestly I think Reyes has done well so far considering he is playing a new position. He has a number of extra base hits and some steals so far with an OPS around 800. That being said they do need to fit in Flores more. Lets be honest, Walker, Cabrerra and Loney arent lighting the world on fire and a rotation of resting all of them a game to play Flores couldnt hurt. When you rest Cabrerra you have Flores play 3rd and Reyes SS. With Reyes able to play 3rd, SS, 2nd it gives you some flexibility.

Unknown said...

Lets not forget Chilcott over Jackson and because of the times and M. Donald's bias I have a hard time believing it was anything more than a racial thing and if anyone has anymore input I'd love to hear it. I always remember Seaver referring to Grant as "The Plantation owner" which was quite the statement back in the day. Also lets not forget about 2 player we traded that had very careers Amos Otis and Ken Singleton but I certainly get your point. More to the point is just how bad we are with RISP it almost doesn't seem possible but it is and what will they do to correct it. I too love the long ball but can we please try and get some base runners. I'm sure Loney will sit when Lucas comes back but to me Loney is the better player as his defense has reminded me of probably our least appreciated player John Olerud defensively but maybe we can platoon Duda and Loney like wait till Duda has a hot week then put Loney in for a month....might just work:)

Tom Brennan said...

Good points, Gary

Stubby said...

The Chilcott over Jackson being a racial decision is such a lie, it sickens me to hear Mets fans repeat it. M. Donald grant wasn't involved in the player side of things in those years; his job was on the business side. He had no input at all in that draft. You could possibly make a racial bias case against George Weiss; he had a history. But he was gone and had no input on that draft either. You know who made the decision and drafted Chilcott? Bing Devine. And you can't show me anything in Bing's background to suggest racial bias. The reason we went with Chilcott over Jackson was that Chilcott was a left-hand hitting catcher and Jackson was an outfielder. Outfielders are common as dirt and we already had a ton of them in the pipeline. Left hand hitting catchers are rare and golden. Go back over the drafts in the 60s and 70s, etc. You'll find lots of left hand hitting catchers drafted high who never panned out. Even the ones that made it were generally marginal players. Every once in a while there's a Ted Simmons and that's what you're hoping for. But far more fail than succeed. And yet they keep drafting them high.

Scouts were equally divided between Jackson and Chilcott at the time. They really were. Other scouts felt the best guy on the board was Ken Brett (who went 4th). And there was another catcher in the mix that some scouts thought should be #1, but the name escapes me at the moment (he didn't go in the first round).

Devine looked at our organizational depth and decided we had lots of good outfielders, but we were very unsettled behind the plate. Grote had yet to establish himself as the starting catcher of the present and future and the rest of the organization showed a real mess at catcher, with little talent and no depth. It was a need and Chilcott figured to reach the majors quickly.

Even so, Bing sent Casey Stengel out to scout Chilcott personally. Say what you will about Casey at that late date. Yes, he'd fall asleep in the dugout during games. But even players who hated playing for him in those days will tell you he had the sharpest baseball mind--yes, still--they ever encountered. Casey came back to Bing and said, "That's your man."

Jackson has always loved playing the martyr, so he wrote it up as racial in his biography. But Bing Devine made the pick and Bing has no history of racial bias that I know of. And, without Bing Devine, I doubt there would have been Miracle Mets in '69. It was Bing, by the way, who decided the quickest way to the Series for the Mets was by signing and developing pitchers.

We'll never know what Chilcott could have been because he separated his shoulder diving into second base on a pick-off play in 1967 and he never really recovered from that. He was plagued by other injuries for the remainder of his time in the pros, so it could be he wouldn't have panned out anyway. But the shoulder did him in.

Grant was an ass and that's the nicest thing I can say about him. He may well have been a bigot, too. But I think the "plantation" remark had more to do with Grant's opinion that all ballplayers (regardless of race) were property and that it was wrong to pay them the kind of money that they had started commanding and demanding. But he didn't really have much, if any, input into the baseball side of things until all the baseball people were gone. The baseball people (Scheffing, Devine, Herzog, etc.) would all tell you he didn't know the first thing about baseball and his opinion on players carried zero weight with them. He became THE guy in the front office when Mrs. Payson died. Lorinda deRoulet was drowning in TWO worlds she knew nothing about--business and baseball--and she turned her weary eyes to Grant, who had always been around (so, to her, he was like an uncle). She is the one who gave Grant dictatorial authority on all matters Mets. But that was in the mid-70s....long after the drafting of Chilcott.

Stubby said...

Just as a quick PS... The Otis and Singleton trades were essentially made by Hodges. Hodges though Ed Charles was too old to be an everyday third baseman and that Garrett wouldn't hit enough. He tried Otis at third and it was obviously not Otis' position. But that soured Hodges on Otis and he was only too happy to swap him out for a third baseman (not realizing Foy would be stoned most of the season).

Hodges had always loved Staub and would've given up anything to get him. Herzog argued against it. Whitey didn't have a problem trading Foli and Jorgensen, per se, but thought that that was more than enough talent to give up for Staub. He felt Singleton for Staub straight-up would have been a lopsided deal in favor of the Expos. Herzog thought Singleton should be untouchable. But Hodges wanted Staub and had enough sway with Mrs. Payson that he got his way.

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