Reese Kaplan -- Could There Be Roster Surprises?


Perhaps the sign of a good team is when there are few position battles up for grabs.  In years past the Mets weren’t clear who many of their starters would be, let alone their role players.  This year a lot of it was predetermined before spring training began, though there is still room for surprises to occur.


Let’s go with the easy ones first.  You have the returning Asdrubal Cabrera at 2nd base and the hopefully healthy Amed Rosario at SS forming an interesting double play combo with somewhat similar offensive profiles (a tad more power from Cabrera and significantly more speed from Rosario).  Todd Frazier will provide power, defense and a good clubhouse presence at his familiar spot on 3rd base. 

First base, however, could be something of a surprise.  The Mets have taken a pretty much no-risk gamble in bringing former All-Star Adrian Gonzalez to camp at minimum wage with the Braves picking up his $21.5 million salary.  He is coming off an injury-plagued year that saw his ailing back take a tremendous toll on his offensive output.  Normally a veteran with his resume would not have to audition to get his spot in the starting lineup, but he’s not generated the offense in his short spring sample to suggest his back injury is completely behind him (or that age hasn't simply caught up to him).  No one likes a bargain more than Sandy Alderson and his bosses, but if Gonzalez doesn’t start kicking it into gear, then he may get the Bobby Abreu treatment.

Who then takes over at 1st base?  Personally, I think if they do part ways with Gonzalez, then the job is initially handed to Wilmer Flores while Dominic Smith works his way back into hot prospect form in AAA.  Getting a home run yesterday had to help his cause.  That situation may change when Michael Conforto returns as it opens up the possibility of Jay Bruce shifting to 1B to give some ABs to suddenly hot Brandon Nimmo.  The main beneficiary of a hypothetical Gonzalez cut might be Gavin Cecchini as they would need another spare infielder if Flores is starting at 1B. 

On catcher, Travis d’Arnaud had better start looking over his shoulder.  He may have more power than Kevin Plawecki, but defense and a higher batting average potential may mean Plawecki gets more starts than d’Arnaud.


While everyone knows that four people are set in stone – Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares – who is the 5th outfielder?  Now it’s understandable in a Terry Collins camp that you would sit Jose Reyes or have him play the infield positions while declaring him a spare outfielder.  I was thinking Mickey Callaway would be a bit smarter than that, but thus far I haven’t seen the fleet footed role player taking any fly balls in the outfield. 

It’s entirely possible they will muddle through the first several weeks of the season short-handed in the outfield while awaiting Michael Conforto’s return.  That move would enable them to carry an 8th pitcher in the bullpen, one of whom would be dropped when the All Star outfielder is set to return. 


Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey are locks.  Jacob deGrom is certainly going to be there once he has been medically cleared from his back stiffness.  After that it’s actually fairly murky.  Steven Matz has been flat out awful until yesterday when he turned in the kind of performance they'd been hoping to see.  Until recently Zack Wheeler has not dominated either.  Wheeler will likely get a shot to start and see how it goes.  Seth Lugo has pitched to sub 2.16 ERA thus far while Robert Gsellman may have put himself back in the mix with 3 strong innings vs. the Yankees on Wednesday.  Rafael Montero had been cruising along until he imploded on that same day.  Given the fact Gsellman and Lugo both have options I would expect one of them (likely Gsellman) to be in AAA.  I’m actually thinking that given Matz’ health issues in the past, he might benefit from steady work out of the spotlight in the warmer weather in Las Vegas. If that happens, then one of Lugo or Montero will temporary get the nod for the rotation.  The other likely goes to the pen as a swingman.  Montero will be on the thinnest of ice, only earning the call north due to being out of options.

In the bullpen I have Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Jerry Blevins, Paul Sewald, Rafael Montero/Seth Lugo and Jacob Rhame.  Conlon has adapted well to his new role as a reliever and conventional wisdom would state that they do need a second lefty.  Jamie Callahan could push Jacob Rhame, but I think Hansel Robles has rapidly dug his own grave (even before he gave up 4 runs yesterday).  Corey Taylor had been quite good until giving up the grand slam that Montero set up for him, but there’s likely only one more spot on the 40-man roster once they put David Wright on the 60-day DL and they need the southpaw more than another righty.  Would it be Matt Purke who doesn't have Conlon's pedigree but who has pitched at the ML level before?  Could a last minute effort from lefties Kyle Regnault or David Roseboom happen?  Not likely, but there's no clear lefty answer for the pen.  Some would say stick Matz out there, but I'm thinking someone coming off multiple health issues needs steady rather than erratic work.  That's the same reason I think Wheeler doesn't belong in the pen either.  Now Jason Vargas..nah, that would represent too much out of the box thinking for this team.  .  

So my roster would include:

Conlon (but more likely Purke)

What do you think?


Mack Ade said...

Morning Reese -

1B - It is getting close to impossible to get Smith available for any opening day availability. I agree with most of the guys here that say it can't hurt to start the season with Gonzalez here. I would give him 100 at-bats and revisit this position then.

Reserve IF - Gavin Cecchini and Wilmer Flores are my two coming out of camp.

5th OF - Do not be surprised if Sandy and Company goes to the last week waiver wire and picks up someone without any options left that was DFAd by another team. If not that, prior to Conforto's return, I would give it to den Decker over Kelly.

Bullpen - there is nothing going on in the Mets pen right now that seems right. And there is no room for either Gsellman or Lugo in the rotation. Both these guys deserve more than a demotion to Vegas. Strengthen the pen with both of them

Rotation - I keep staring at six names on my board... Thor, deGrom, Harvey, Vargas, Wheeler, Matz...something has to give here.

That Adam Smith said...

The surprise I’m seeing come into view is Phil Evans as the 5th OF / utility guy. With early days off, they could go with 7 in the pen, which would open that spot. Or he could make it straight up over Cecchini, since he can play both IF and OF (and maybe emergency C?)

TexasGusCC said...

Good morning Reese. You speak of good teams not having position battles, but are the Mets a good team? It’s the pitching that makes them, because there are hardly many all-stars on the roster. But, mediocre starters combined with mediocre reserves make for no spring battles. As the outfield is solid though not spectacular, I’m referring to Cabrera at 2B, Gonzalez at 1B, and Frazier at 3B. I would have loved seeing better. Too, as you mention Abreu, Alderson likes to have one lottery ticket per year.

My one surprise is Philip Evans. He has the versatility to make it onto a short bench as has been hitting whenever he gets a chance. Ty Kelly isn’t an option to me. MDD hasn’t been all that anyway, plus the 51’s don’t have enough outfielders.

TexasGusCC said...

Sorry Adam, hadn’t seen your post.

Viper said...

I think new homes have to be found for Montero and Robles. Great arms who can't seem to put it all together as Mets players. Give them the chance to start over with another organization which enables the Mets to reward 2 relievers who are performing.

Flores at 1B if Gonzalez shows his tank to be empty? I would take it.
And just for those who think Flores would not be a good 1B, I ask, why would playing Bruce be better? Just saying this because there are some who say, Flores can't field but are okay with experimenting with Bruce at 1B.

I would send Matz to AAA until the All Star and start Wheeler if all remains the same. Give him his normal starts to put it all back together.

holmer said...

Where's Vargas?

Reese Kaplan said...

Good catch, Richard. I had mentioned him in the narrative but neglected him on the list. I think he should be the temporary solution to a 2nd lefty in the pen while Conlon and others log some innings in the minors but they won't do that.

Shoehorning him into the rotation means that indeed Montero is the odd man out.

Mack Ade said...

The Wilpons will never let a guy, that is being paid as much as Vargas is going to be paid for the next two years, to pitch out of the pen.

We can write about it all day but the Wilpons/Ricco "brain trust" doesn't roll like that.

That Adam Smith said...

No problem, Gus. Great minds. 😉

Mack's Mets © 2012