The 2016 Mets and six new position players

Blend logoBaseball-Reference has a page for each team in both leagues going back seemingly forever. A quick check showed one for the 1901 Tigers and the 1899 Giants. The layout for these pages is simple. They list a starter at each position, the player with the most PA at said spot, and then the reserves in descending order of PA. The 2015 Mets are interesting when you look at their offense. The expectation is that four of the year-long “starters” on the team that went to the World Series will be different this year and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if six of the eight guys were different from a season ago.

Compare that to the Giants, the NL representative in the World Series from the previous year. Six of the eight starters for the Giants in their World Series year of 2014 held the same spot in 2015 and the two that didn’t left the club via free agency. The previous league champion Cardinals had five starters return. And the 2012-2013 Giants had six of the same starters in both seasons.

The 2016 Mets know that neither Daniel Murphy nor Michael Cuddyer will be among their starters. They strongly hope that neither Kevin Plawecki nor Eric Campbell will, either. And it would be a surprise to few if both Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares were listed down with the reserves.

Of those six players, only Murphy and his .770 OPS will be truly missed. But odds were against Murphy repeating his strong season of a year ago and his replacement, Neil Walker, has a career OPS just one point lower than what Murphy gave the club last year. Marcel projects Walker to have an OPS 29 points higher than Murphy in 2016.

There were 352 players to amass at least 200 PA in 2015. If we ranked them in ascending OPS+ order, Plawecki would place 21st and Campbell would check in at 42nd. Two of their alleged starters were in the bottom 12th percentile offensively. While it’s true they combined for just 464 PA, there’s still a ton of ground to be gained offensively for the 2016 Mets at these positions.

Lagares and Flores were markedly better, yet still no great shakes offensively. Lagares ranked 78th if we continue with our ascending order while Flores was 146th. Meanwhile, their replacements both were better last year. Alejandro De Aza ranked 204th while Asdrubal Cabrera checked in at 209th. Of course, the 2015 starters might well improve over their totals from a year ago, while the two veteran replacements were unlikely to do the same.

Finally, everyone expects Michael Conforto to be a nice upgrade from what Cuddyer gave the Mets a season ago.

These six starters gave the 2015 Mets a .255/.301/.384 line over 2,385 PA. The 2016 version hopes to improve across the board in each of the slash categories, as well as in actual playing time. Here are the Steamer forecasts for the expected six replacement starters in 2016:

Player AVG OBP SLG PA
Travis d’Arnaud .257 .320 .444 343
Neil Walker .258 .329 .427 468
Asdrubal Cabrera .243 .305 .394 530
David Wright .267 .338 .410 556
Michael Conforto .260 .321 .435 557
Alejandro De Aza .241 .304 .365 418
Totals       2,872

We see a nice bump in expected playing time. What we don’t see is a great increase in expected average from the group. However, all six are expected to have a higher OBP than the average of our 2015 group and five of the six are expected to post a higher SLG mark, too. The above sextet is projected to produce a .255/.320/.413 line. That’s an additional 48 points of OPS over an additional 487 PA.

That difference is significant and a reason to be optimistic. However, it’s still fair to ask if it’s enough or if the Mets could have done better allocating their offseason resources elsewhere. Clearly, they were going to get a bump going from Campbell, Cuddyer and Plawecki to Conforto, d’Arnaud and Wright. But was the money + trade chip spent on acquiring Cabrera, De Aza and Walker worth it?

Is the bang the Mets are going to get for the roughly $23 million spent on those three players, combined with the low-risk nature of the short-term deals an acceptable tradeoff for not shopping in the high-rent district of free agents or trade acquisitions? Or not spreading the wealth over different players? It’s a nearly impossible question to answer now. We all have opinions but no one can say if my version or your version would be better than Sandy Alderson’s reality.

We can say with confidence that it’s little surprise that Alderson chose the low-risk path. It’s likely both his mandate and his inclination if left on his own. It’s my opinion that these moves in isolation are fine. Not one of these three, when judged strictly on its own merits, leaves you scratching your head. Most everyone loves the Walker deal, the Cabrera deal is fair given his expected output and De Aza will likely outperform his contract.

But the issues are that the moves are not made in isolation, they offer little in the way of upside and they send the message to the fan base that management prefers bunt attempts to swinging for a base hit.

The one comforting thing is that last year we saw Alderson accept risk at the trade deadline. Risk has got to be part of your portfolio and while Alderson might be mostly risk-averse, at least we know he’s not 100% opposed to the concept.

Even if he spent $20-plus million this offseason to avoid it.

19 comments for “The 2016 Mets and six new position players

  1. James Preller
    January 10, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Good post. One issue here is the comparison tends to break down into the basic question of whether the 2016 lineup — healthy, today, in January — is better than the one that played the first half of 2015, not the one that stepped forward and helped take the team to the WS.

    So, yes, this group definitely looks to be better than the first half club of 2015. It’s not that bad.

    We’ll see where this goes with health, how de Aza actually plays in CF, how many rollers get through at SS, and with the big question mark at 3B.

    I don’t think it’s a bad team. And it might be a good one. I wish it were better.

    We shall see.

  2. January 10, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Nice post, Brian. It’s always going to be tough to make direct comparisons of the 2015 and the 2016 offenses like this, adding to what James said above. The offense for the first half of the 2015 season was not what the Mets had in mind, obviously. They certainly didn’t expect to give so many at bats to Plaw and Campbell, though they chose to go to war with both Flores and Cuddyer as their starters. The injuries were such huge blows that it didn’t resemble what they most likely had in mind: a league average or slightly better offense with a dominating staff and effective bullpen.

    Would that have worked? Well, we don’t know because of the injuries and the failure of Cuddyer to add any value. It seems as though the FO is similarly unconvinced that it wasn’t a sound strategy, either, and they’ve doubled down on it this off-season though with better depth a key consideration.

    So yeah, I guess we’ll see if it works this time. If injuries don’t derail the plan again, that is.

  3. Matty Mets
    January 10, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Can we really trust the steamer forecast on plate appearances? Seems pretty optimistic on the Captain.

    • Name
      January 10, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      Can we trust any forecast on plate appearances?

      How are we or any computer model supposed to predict that a player gets hit by a ball on the hands in Spring Training, or pulls a hammy running to first, or gets taken out on a slide to second base?

      • Chris F
        January 10, 2016 at 5:54 pm

        IMO the projections are worthless. You could consult a magic 8 ball and do just as well. We know that, because its impossible to consistently predict the outcomes of games and seasons.

        • January 10, 2016 at 9:37 pm

          Well, if you want projections to tell you exactly what’s going to happen, then yes, they’re worthless.

  4. Name
    January 10, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    “They list a starter at each position, the player with the most PA at said spot, and then the reserves in descending order of PA”

    Actually, that’s may not be the right criteria. Plawecki is listed over TDA despite having fewer PA and AB. My guess is that they look at innings played at each position to determine the starter.

    • January 10, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      Yeah, thanks for pointing this out. Looking at it closer, it’s got to be innings or Games at the position

  5. Tommy2cat
    January 10, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Numbers seem low.

  6. LongTimeFan1
    January 10, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    I’ll stick with the eyeball test, mechanics, upside, mental makeup, tools and skills, strengths and weaknesses plus projected usage to evaluate for 2016.

    Position player talent is just better and deeper than 2015 overall. Though I think Murphy could hit 20-25 homers, Walker’s better overall providing speed and defensive upgrade.

    Cabrera far better than Flores then people realize. Flores has absolutely no opposite field power. The numbers will shock those who decide to look.

    Moreover, Cabrera is big speed upgrade over Flores who is extremely slow.

    I’m not sold on D’Arnaud and his inability to retain same stance and mechanics, putting himself in position to fail before even swinging. Pay attention to his ever changing habits, wrist wrap, bat wrap during his swing and how badly he slumped when his set-up involved pointing the bat to the pitcher in postseason and part of September.

    I think Plawecki will eventually become the starting catcher.

    In terms of CF, we must consider the platoon of Lagares and De Aza when evaluating both players in their designated roles rather than full season stats. When factored together hitting vs. opposite throwing pitchers, this is solid CF offense in OBP, BA and speed. They just have to table set or keep the line moving. If they hit 15 -20 home runs combined and 30 -35 doubles, some triples, this platoon will do its job.

    • January 10, 2016 at 9:41 pm

      You keep saying Flores has no opposite field power which makes me again point out that in 4,140 ABs in the majors that Cabrera has zero homers to the opposite field.

      Cabrera had 6 SB last year and 16 in the last three. If you’re trumpeting that as some huge advantage – well, good luck with that.

      Can I get a wager on Plawecki becoming the starting catcher because he’s a better hitter than d’Arnaud?

  7. Eraff
    January 10, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    The Starting Lineup and Bench is stronger at the start. I expect them to run bases better and field better.

    The Pitching starts with very high expectations, especially from the SP’s and the Closer.

    If the Pitching can match 2015, I would expect 86-88 wins from this club…as is. I haven’t measured it by WAR—I’d be interested in a projection from someone who has done deeper technical analysis….and I’d be interested in the analysis.

    Health and an offensive Pop—an addition…an emergence…a re-establishment of D Wright at a high level—that would boost the team and wins.

    PS– I don’t believe in D Wright as an impact player over a Full Season.

    • January 10, 2016 at 9:44 pm

      Is anyone expecting Wright to be an impact bat? Certainly Steamer isn’t projecting that.

      • Eraff
        January 10, 2016 at 10:48 pm

        Steamer projects 556 PA for Wright—That’s about 135 games????

        They show a similar # for Conforto….and 343 for d;Arnaud— that’s 90 ish games???

        • January 10, 2016 at 11:07 pm

          It’s a computer model – it doesn’t know Wright has back trouble. What it does know is that from 2012-2014, Wright averaged 583 PA per season. And while he didn’t have a ton of playing time in 2015, he hit well when he played last year. I don’t think 556 is an unreasonable forecast given the inputs.

          TDA has failed to reach 343 PA in three of the last four years. Why should it project more than that?

  8. January 11, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    Assuming Tejada and Flores are our 5th and 6th infielders, do the Mets go with a 7th INF, 6th OF or 12 pitchers. Unless Tejada is traded that seems to be the only position battle in the spring, once we actually identify the 5th OF.

    The 5th OF could be Ceciliani, since we have no left handed bench players at all or a cheap OF signed to a minor league contract. With the 40 man roster full, it seems that any additions have to come in on minor league contracts and added to the 40 man roster once Wheeler and Edgin go on the 60 day DL when camp breaks.

    • January 11, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      I think they’d like to add a righty-hitting OF/1B to be the fifth OF.

      If they don’t start the year with 12 pitchers, they’ll be there by the middle of April.

      • January 11, 2016 at 3:23 pm

        I agree, but they will need to find someone who will take a one year contract. Seems that Pearce and Rayburn are still hunting for multiple year deals.

        How about our own Travis Taijeron? Do the Mets see him as a major league bench player or organizational fodder?

        • January 11, 2016 at 4:09 pm

          I don’t recall ever hearing any comment from an official about Taijeron.

          Personally, I’ve never been a backer. I think he’s an org soldier.

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