Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
Depth is a key to winning championships because injuries can and do happen. Just look at the Mets last year when it seemed at one time or another everyone this side of Bartolo Colon missed time on the DL. While there are a lot of pundits saying the Mets have the horses to win IF they stay healthy, the 2016 season sure should have made people realize the magnitude of that two letter word. As I've said before, wishing and hoping is not a sound plan for success.
If you bow your head to some deity, then please pray that no more James Loney or Eric Campbell types should get starting assignments for the Mets if Lucas Duda is unable to play. Wilmer Flores proved he can hammer left handed pitching and each of the last two seasons as a part time player has provided 16 HRs. 25 HRs on a full time basis does not seem beyond the realm of possibility if the manager will let him out of his doghouse long enough to contribute. Beyond Flores it gets mighty thin quickly. Jay Bruce has had but 3 games of experience there. T.J. Rivera has had 40. Kevin Plawecki (remember him?) has just 25. Theoretically they could bump up Dominic Smith from the minors if the injury happened early enough and was severe enough that they felt he could have time to adjust to the majors.
As thin as the Mets are at 1st, they have an embarrassment of riches should Neil Walker hit the DL once again. Players with extensive major league experience include Jose Reyes, Asdruba Cabrera and Wilmer Flores. Then you have the guys with mostly minor league time there including T.J. Rivera and Matt Reynolds. I’d throw Gavin Cecchini into the mix as well as most feel he will likely be the starting 2nd baseman for Las Vegas with Amed Rosario taking over at SS.
Many of the same bodies you have in the 2nd base mix could also be factored in should Asdrubal Cabrera become unable to play. The first option would of course be Jose Reyes, followed a distant second by Wilmer Flores if they wanted offense or Matt Reynolds if they wanted defense. T.J. Rivera provides more with the bat than the glove. The same applies to error-prone Gavin Cecchini. After Reyes the next long term solution might be an early promotion for Rosario.
David Wright’s gone from face of major league baseball to almost an afterthought despite still being paid like the former. In his case it’s not if but when he misses time and the same cast of infield characters will be available, including Reyes, Flores, Rivera and perhaps Reynolds. Cecchini has not had time there, but both Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera have, so an entire infield rotation is possible, too.
As Travis d’Arnaud has not proven to very durable, the reality of a prolonged absence is probably as good a bet as Wright being on the DL. Unfortunately, the d’Arnaud alternatives over the past several seasons have not been very good – Anthony Recker (gone), Kevin Plawecki (minors) and Rene Rivera (all glove/no hit). The team has not addressed this issue and the public statements seem to reflect it’s once again TdA’s job to lose. Somewhere Matt Weiters has to have a d’Arnaud voodoo doll. This position seems the most vulnerable of all.
I’m going to lump all of the outfielders into one bucket since there is no clear answer as to who will or will not be here when the season begins in April beyond Yoenis Cespedes. Right now if nothing changes (and so far it appears that nothing will) your starting outfield should be Yoenis Cespedes in LF, Curtis Granderson in CF and Jay Bruce in RF. Juan Lagares is pretty much a given as one of the backups with his Gold Glove pedigree and expensive contract. The wildcards are Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. Conforto rebounded beautifully in AAA after having skipped that level when he was promoted during the 2015 World Series year. Having hit .424 down there, you’d think there’s nothing much to be gained except the guarantee to play every day. Nimmo appeared unintimidated by major league pitching and came within a single point of the PCL batting title, falling just behind teammate T.J. Rivera. Beyond these players creating a logjam at the major league level there’s not much. Travis Taijeron has been on the cusp of the majors for a few years now, but his strikeout totals have been somewhat alarming. Wuilmer Becerra should continue to make his way up the ladder but this year he’s likely going to repeat A+ after an injury shortened campaign with a promotion to AA later in the year.
Another yet-to-be-settled situation is who starts, who relieves and who is waiting in the wings. In an ideal world the Mets would go to battle with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob de Grom, Matt Harvey, Steve Matz and Zack Wheeler with late season heroes Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman either in AAA or in the bullpen should someone falter. Of course, there are people advocating Wheeler take the bullpen role with one of the younger pitchers getting the 5th starter slot. There’s also Gabriel Ynoa as a wildcard factor as well as Sean Gilmartin who has had extensive starting experience.
After Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed and Hansel Robles, the rest of the pen is pretty unsettled and ranks right up there with Catcher as an area of concern particularly when the duration of Familia’s likely suspension is revealed. Josh Edgin has had health issues and Josh Smoker has had control issues, but unless they bring in someone from the outside, they loom as the likely lefties. The aforementioned Gilmartin is also a lefty, but he's apparently sharing space in Collins' doghouse after a terrific 2015 when he was rewarded with a ticket to Vegas. There’s Erik Goeddel, the starter turned reliever, who has also had health problems each of the past few years. It’s pretty sketchy after that with minor leaguers not on the 40-man roster like Paul Sewald, David Roseboom as well as newcomers Ben Rowen and Cory Burns fighting for spots. Given the precarious state of health of the starters it’s doubly puzzling to most fans that Sandy Alderson has not addressed how thin this group is.