January, 2016. Spring training number fifty five for the Mets is less than six weeks away. Yep, we’re on the downhill side now. Sure, there are still free agents out there. Big name free agents like Yoenis Cesedes, Justin Upton, and Howie Kendrick among others guys the Mets won’t be taking on.
And yeah, a couple ‘lesser’ free agents the Mets might sign include: Antonio Bastardo or Tyler Clippard. I type ‘lesser’ to be sarcastic. We won’t think either is ‘lesser’ when he is pitching in the eighth inning, bases loaded in a tie game against Bryce Harper or Daniel Murphy. Okay, it’ll take a little getting used to hearing that last bit. So, all the gushy former player stuff behind us, let’s see where the Mets prospective starting players stand heading into 2016.
Catcher: Travis d’Arnaud finished off last season playing more games consecutively than he has in his career. His power numbers were fine, he calls a nice game and the passed balls were down. Back-up Kevin Plawecki had a tough time in the batter’s box but he played well defensively, which when your team is built around pitching, is critical. Grade: B
First Base: Okay, let’s get this out there. I am not a big Lucas Duda fan. Sure, I love the two weeks each year he gets red hot and homers every other time at bat, but the rest of the season with all the strikeouts, that get old. Really, really old. His fielding looks bad but I will admit it is not how the outs are made, but that they are made. He does okay there. Grade: C+ .
Second Base: It’ll look strange out at second base without you know who. Neil Walker has been the enemy for a few seasons and it will take some getting used to seeing him in Met orange and blue. Alderson and Collins weren’t, and maybe never will be, ready to hand the second base bag over to Dilson Herrera but they’ve given him this season to take it over. Walker will be a free agent following 2016 and the Mets’ penchant for not spending money tells me he won’t be playing for the Mets in 2017. (It’ll be Herrera, Cecchini, or another one year guy will but that’s another story) Grade: C+
Shortstop: Ruben Tejeda performed admirably in 2015 but he has not been consistent from season to season. Wilmer Flores, as well, did well in the season that was, but he strikes me as to be a stop-gap shortstop, a utility man capable of handing the position for an extended period, but not a full season. I like Wilmer to be the backup at second, third, and shortstop. The starter for 2016, Asdrubal Cabrera, had a similar batting average to Flores (+.002) and slightly higher on base and slugging (+.020 and +.022 respectively) while Wilmer had a slightly higher fielding percentage (+.002) albeit in forty fewer games. All said, the position appears to be set to perform the same as last season. Grade: C
Third Base: We all know and love David Wright, the Mets lifetime leader in most offensive categories. My son, Drew, and I attended a 2004 spring training game in Port St. Lucie. It was the first we’d seen of our young infielder. We were a couple rows behind the Mets bullpen down the third base line. About mid-game David began loosening up for entry into the game. A fan behind us shouted down to David asking him if he was entering the game. David turned and gave him a big smile and said, “Yeah…late inning defensive replacement.” David then entered the game and promptly made two errors. Grade: A
Right Field: In a perfect world Curtis would not strike out as much and he’d be five years younger. That said, sweet, sweet 2015 season. Love the walks, home runs, and attitude. Grade: A
Center Field: Juan Lagares has ridden, is still riding a roller coaster career. Nice rookie season, great sophomore year, and ‘eh’ third year. Seems the team is trying to replace him in center, at least for the first six innings of the game. I think Juan grew as a player last year; benched, put in his place after getting a major raise following year number two. Watching Cespedes, he saw the good (dang…it was great) and also the not so great (kicking the ball from center to left as runners circled the bases comes to mind) and hopefully, learned from the veteran. Lagares turns twenty seven in spring training. It’s a big year for him. I think he’ll come through. Grade: B
Left Field: Nice entry into the big leagues (and my APBA Met’s franchise) for Michael Conforto. No pressure on the young man, but success for the team in 2016 depends greatly on what Michael does. The great unknown. Rookies and sophomores are like that. I expect him to improve as he gains major league experience, he’ll do okay versus lefty pitching, and become a huge contributor. As David Wright did before him, he will learn from the team leaders and take over as leader on the field as well as in the clubhouse. But he knows his place. He knows he has to earn the leader position, not be handed it by some writer in south Mississippi. He’ll do it. Grade A
Next segment of Grading the Mets, we’ll talk pitching, so stay tuned to Amazin' Clubhouse!