Reese Kaplan -- What's on Second; I Don't Know's on Third


The Mets are in an interesting position with two seemingly productive ballplayers who, against all odds (and against the wishes of a certain manager who shall remain nameless) seem to be forcing their way into the lineup on a regular basis with their bats if not their gloves.  T.J. Rivera and Wilmer Flores profile somewhat similarly as bat-first players who, like Michael Jackson, wear a single glove on one hand for no apparent reason. 

This year’s spate of injuries is providing the team the opportunity to see how beneficial it can be to have their bats to help score runs.  While neither of them will win a Gold Glove (or a Silver or a Bronze) anytime soon, you have to wonder if given the opportunity whether or not their offensive games will be sufficiently good to compensate for their defensive shortcomings. 

By some accounts they have penciled in T.J. Rivera to be the everyday third baseman for 2018.  (This assessment, of course, came before his torn UCL which could end up requiring Tommy John surgery).  While corner infielders are traditionally boppers, Rivera is more of the Placido Polanco type who had a long and productive career, finishing with a .297 career batting average despite only hitting double digits in home runs three times and in stolen bases twice. 

Perhaps as parallel for T.J. Rivera who is familiar to Mets fans (and makes them cringe) is Justin Turner.  He was a Baltimore infield prospect who floated from position to position, always having hit well in the minors with a career .308 mark.  He never tallied more than 12 HRs in a single season so it was assumed he was a singles/doubles hitter when Sandy Alderson chose to let his $800K utility player leave.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Interestingly Turner provided 27 HRs in 2016 for the Dodgers during his age 31 season so he’s either a late bloomer or perhaps he found the syringe of youth (no rumors nor accusations, but it was out of character). 

The other big stick who gets no respect is Wilmer Flores.  He’s demonstrated an ability to mash left handed pitching, and although he struggles more with righties, his numbers speak for themselves.  If you extrapolate what he’s done over the past few years he’s good for about 25 HRs and 88 RBIs over the course of a full season while batting in the .260s. 

The analogous player in Mets lore who comes to mind also causes some cringing – Jeff Kent.  He was a guy who did 20/80 production but the Mets thought he was not a good fit and banished him to Cleveland as part of a trade to get Carlos Baerga, the poster child for underperforming former All-Stars until Jason Bay came to town.  Kent didn’t really become a mainstay regular until age 29 with the San Francisco Giants but he put together an extremely solid run producing career that saw him make multiple All Star Selections as well as an MVP award. 

Although sometimes it seems as if Flores has been around forever, he’s not yet hit his 26th birthday and that suggests there’s still time for him to get even better.  With a more supportive manager he might develop into an All-Star himself. 

Many people have clamored (myself included) for the Mets to go hot and heavy after Mike Moustakas to take over 3B for 2018.  Moustakas is also a late bloomer, having his first truly noteworthy season as part of the 2015 World Series Champion Royals when he hit .284/22/82 with only 76 Ks for the year at age 26.  The following season was lost to injury, but he's come back with a vengeance, already having hit 29 HRs, 62 RBIs and batting .277.  There is an uptick in his strikeouts with 62 already, but he's on a pace for around 110, hardly a high number for someone who should crack 40 HRs.  The question is do you want to fork over $80 million or more in a FA contract to someone like Moustakas or roll the dice on your homegrown, under $3 million solution in Wilmer Flores?

The question for the Mets in 2018 is who plays where?  Everyone is assuming the two minor league blue chippers – Amed Rosario and Dom Smith – are being handed the jobs at shortstop and first base respectively.  With perhaps no Asdrubal Cabrera, no Neil Walker and no Jose Reyes next season, could the strong gloved rookie duo help make up for the defensive liabilities of both Rivera and Flores with one at 2B and the other at 3B?  As bad as Wilmer Flores has shown at SS and 3B, he makes himself look like Brooks Robinson compared to Rivera at 3B.  Maybe the flip-flop makes sense with Flores at 3B and Rivera at 2B.  

Many have written here about the need for strong defense up the middle.  If that’s the new direction, then catcher, 2B and CF are all up for grabs.  If the team pitched the way everyone had hoped they would, then you could probably withstand glove-first players in those positions with sufficient offense coming from Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Dom Smith, Amed Rosario and one half of the lead-gloved duo at 3B.  However, with a staff ERA closer to 6.00 than it is to 3.00, is that the right path to take?

Oddly, I think a lot rides on how well Chris Flexen does in his part-year trial in Queens.  If he can show flashes of success, they may opt for the defensive route assuming you have solid contributions from Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, more consistency from Steve Matz and a comeback from Matt Harvey.  If he merely muddles through the last two months then the Mets may continue looking to put a team capable of scoring 6 runs per game on the field in support of lackluster pitching.  Or they could surprise us all and actually reinforce the roster with more pitching and have contingency plans for a change.  

Do Rivera and/or Flores see what they could do with 500+ ABs?  If you're the Mets, do you take a chance on making both of them full-time infielders and thus freeing up all of your departing FA money to go after pitching and catching?


Zozo said...

Nope I want a defensive 3rd basemen and I would let both of them fight it out at 2nd base. Let TJ get TJ surgery and do it the right way. No ifs ands or buts about about it Sandy, don't mess with another players health. When he comes back he can fight for 2nd base with Flores and Cecchini.
Now onto the Ramos trade. Unless they are gonna flip him right away for some younger prospects as part of big package deal, I am not in favor of this trade. He will only be around for one more year and you gave up 2 prospects that I was hoping would be the next wave of talent coming through our system. Merendy more so than Ricardo. Why make this trade when you can just spend money in the offseason to build a bullpen? Nothing worse than wasted talent.

Mack Ade said...

As of today, we do not have a true major league third baseman or second baseman for 2018.

2019 yes... David Thompson and Luis Guillorme

And both of them come with questions.

Let us see how the weekend ends.

Anonymous said...

Morning Mack:

Now that they've added to next season's bullpen.
My thoughts on adding the Moose is YES, also go after another KC player!
Lorenzo Cain, let Jay Bruce leave as a FA.
These 2 signings will add better balance and defense
plus a lineup of
Rosario ss
Conforto rf
Cespedes lf
Moustakus 3b
Cain cf
Smith 1b
Flores/riveera 2b
d'arnaud or a diff catcher


Thomas Brennan said...

Nice, Steve. Good 2018 ideas.


Merandy - his K #s did not overly impress me. As a future major leaguer, let's see how good he is. Let's see their plan for Ramos too. Staying or not? If he stays healthy, he is also trade fodder in the future.

Mack Ade said...

Tom -

Trade fodder for Ramos?

So, are we going to suck again in 2018?

Zozo said...

We have so much money coming off the books this offseason. They need to spend some money and fill out holes.
I would sign either Wade davis or Greg Holland this offseason. 5year 80 million dollars. That would have been money well spent instead of trading for Ramos.

I also heard a suggestion by one of the sport gurus(either Heyman or Rosenthal) suggested someone take the whole contract of Justin Upton on and get Mike Fulmer as part of the package. If this is at all possible I would do it in a second and just keep Conforto in Center.

Anonymous said...

Sorry mack:
I also forgot to mention,earlier this week you brought up teams to trade with?
The team and player I most wanted for the 2018 Mets team is, Francisco Mejia!
If the Mets could trade Cabrera and Bruce for him you could add him as the 8 hitting Catcher instead of D'arnaud.
I do like the fact Sandy is looking at retooling instead of rebuilding.
But I'm hoping for a trade for Mejia


Mack Ade said...

Zozo -

Well, we just spent the Duda money on Ramos.

So far, we have RP Smith (team controlled) and RP Ramos (est. $8.5mil-2018, FA 2019)...

In exchange for 1B Lucas Duda (expiring $7.25mil), RP prospect Merandy Gonzalez (team controlled) and long shot prospect OF Ricardo Cespedes (team control)

I don't see any long term progress here so far.

Mack Ade said...

Steve -

We all would love Mejia but he is untouchable.

Look for next move to be more movement in the infield

Thomas Brennan said...

Mack, what I meant by trade fodder in Ramos is maybe a team that needs a reliever and a bat from the Mets would pay really big to get both in one deal, like a Gleyber Torres type. A can't miss minor league star type.

Those do get promoted - I saw Clint Frazier's bomb for the Yanks last nite - I am sure the fans love their super-prospect turned major leaguer.

That said, I have no problem keeping Ramos as a key piece for 2018

Thomas Brennan said...

By the way, I think we did all right with the 10th pick in the 2014 draft in Conforto. Some prior pickers must kick themselves.

Thomas Brennan said...

I wonder if the Mets might have tried to offer Justin Dunn in the Ramos trade but the Marlins insisted on Gonzalez. Gonzalez has pitched so much better than Dunn this year. Makes one wonder if the Dunn pick was a dumb first round pick. 1.56 WHIP, 6.8 Ks /9, 5.04 ERA. Lots and lots of minor league Mets pitchers doing better.

Hobie said...

OK, i you like Moustakas (and I don't DISlike him) with his lifetime:
.251/.304/.425 with 111 HR 363 RBI & 484 K in 2849 AB

How about a younger guy with almost identical per AB stats:
.262/.300/.422 with 50 HR, 182 RBI & 201 K in 1387 AB?

That younger guy is, of course, Wilmer Flores.

There's D of course nd Mooses numbers (I have not look up the fancier D stat) are marginally better than Flores' 3B numbers: Moose: 80 E / 2031 TC to Flores: 14/254
But if you include Flores' SS & 2B stats he has a higher FPCT. Add Wilmers' 1B TC's and he's way ahead.

Wilmer has 4 times the chance in twice the innings at as a MINF than 3B and only 9 more errors. Let him play regularly at 3B, now and in 2018.

Mack's Mets © 2012