Exploring the Mets’ infield now that Amed Rosario is here

Now that the July 31 trade deadline has passed, the Mets need to figure out their infield deployment, both for the remainder of 2017 and next season. Right now the only thing seemingly written is stone is the status of Amed Rosario, who was just called up and has yet to play a single inning in the majors. Rosario will be the starting shortstop. Who plays elsewhere the rest of the year and in 2018 is a complete unknown.

Neil Walker seems to be the logical choice to play second base. Typically, managers like to break in a rookie shortstop with an experienced second baseman and Walker is that guy on the Mets. What’s keeping this from being a slam dunk is that Walker’s best chance for being a part of the 2018 Mets is as a third baseman. And just to further cloud the waters, Sandy Alderson indicated that Walker would play some first base, too.

My guess is that Walker is the double play partner for Rosario in the beginning but soon moves to a corner spot. But who knows who’ll replace him? Given how well Jose Reyes has played recently, he figures to play somewhere. Reyes’ defense at third base this year has been less than appealing. But if the Mets decide they want to see Asdrubal Cabrera or T.J. Rivera – assuming his PRP injection is successful – at second, they may have to live with Reyes at the hot corner.

The Mets can also go several different directions at first base. Rivera and Walker are candidates here, as is Jay Bruce. Wilmer Flores has seen action here, too, and will get heavy consideration whenever a LHP starts. And everyone expects Dominic Smith to get the call from the minors to take over at some point. Smith has been on a tear lately, even if he did take the collar Monday in his first game after news broke that Rosario was getting a promotion and he wasn’t.

The jury is still out if Smith is ready. The first two-and-a-half month, Smith did his best James Loney impersonation, getting a hit or walk in nearly every game but not showing the power he needed. After 65 games, Smith had a shiny .314 AVG but with just a .462 SLG. To put it bluntly, first basemen with aspirations of starting in the majors need to show more than a .148 ISO when playing in a hitter’s park in a hitter’s league, like Las Vegas in the PCL. Rivera had a .163 ISO at Las Vegas last year and no one is clamoring for him to be the future starter at first.

But in his last 182 PA, Smith has a .380/.440/.650 line. That .270 ISO came about thanks to 26 XBH, including nine homers. This is the type of hitting a top prospect should do in Vegas. But is 182 PA enough of a sample to declare victory? Usually, it’s not. But if the Mets want Smith to be their Opening Day starter at first base in 2018, they would be best served by getting him as many PA in the majors that they can this year. Let him go through the inevitable struggles now when the games mean little, rather than next year when we expect more to be on the line.

My preference is in mid-August to see an infield of Smith, Rivera, Walker and Rosario. In nine days, the Mets begin a road trip in Philadelphia. Speculation is that the Mets prefer to have their guys make their debut away from Citi Field. Could it be that we see Rosario open tonight in Colorado to be followed by Smith on the very next road trip?

Smith showed improvement this year versus southpaws, notching a .748 OPS against LHP. But it would be a big surprise if he wasn’t platooned when he first made the majors. That’s okay, Flores deserves a shot to continue playing against lefties. And Reyes can be used to back up the other three infield positions. If Rivera is not ready to play, Cabrera can take his place until he is. And if Rivera does indeed return, Cabrera can cheer from the top step of the dugout.

11 comments for “Exploring the Mets’ infield now that Amed Rosario is here

  1. August 1, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    I’ve never loved the requirement of a first baseman to be a heavy power hitter. Keith Hernandez and John Olerude were never brute mashers, but rather made tons of contact, hit some extra base hits and had great defense.

    As far as Reyes goes, I’d be concerned about playing him at third after what transpired earlier.

    • Matty Mets
      August 1, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Mike – I agree. I’ll take Eric Hosmer any day. If a first baseman can hit .300 with a .350 OBP while playing gold glove D, I’ll get my homers elsewhere. Shouldn’t be a deal breaker. It was partly this thinking that shifted Murphy from first to second.

  2. Jimmy P
    August 1, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    All good thoughts and very difficult to figure.

    Right now, contracts expire for Walker and Bruce and Reyes. Cabrera can come back for $8 million, I think.

    I’m not a fan of over-extending for Neil Walker — and find any thought of him at 1B to be ill-conceived at best.

    I do think Walker might be a reasonAble option at 3B if he can play the position with any skil. Would he even want to do it?

    Tired of juggling the old, failed pieces.

    Again, I just don’t have a sense that organization is going to set up Smith at 1B and let him work through struggles to (maybe) become a decent MLB first baseman. Historically, he struggles for half-a-season at each new level. Will Mets have patience for that?

    Do we miss Lucas Duda already?

  3. Reese
    August 1, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    What about Wilmer Flores who is hitting close to .290? Does he ride the pines because he’s not a veteran?

    • August 1, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Flores has nearly 1,500 PA in the majors so him not being a preferred option to start has nothing to do with his experience level.

      Instead, it’s that every other option hits RHP better than he does. And that he can’t throw. And can’t run.

  4. Chris B
    August 1, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    Brian it would be cool if you can get the Mets360 team to run your projections on how Rosario is going to perform the rest of this season. In the same vein as your preseason outlook.

  5. Eraff
    August 1, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    I see the possibility of Cabrera and Bruce being back. I don’t see putting Walker at 3rd so that I can be weaker at 2 Positions. Reyes could be back as well…or instead of Cabrera.

  6. Metsense
    August 1, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    The Mets have an opportunity to get major league at bats for two of their premier young players Rosario and Smith. They should take advantage of it.
    As for the rest of the infield, Walker is the best offensive player of the five and should get more playing time than the others. Reyes should have his playing time limited to back up shortstop.
    Walker at third base should be tried to open up Flores and Rivera at 2B where they are better defensively that as third baseman. Keep Cabrera in the mix also. The important thing is to get ready for 2018 by getting at bats for Rosario and Smith.

  7. Eraff
    August 1, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    Cabrera, Walker, Reyes will get ab’s to keep them fresh and marketable. They will get enough of a Look at Cabrera all around the Infield to make a decision on Next Year. I’d prefer to pair Rosario with good, professional company at 2b through the next string of games…Walker.

    Wilmer is an extremely limited player..he’s useful, but there is very small chance that he would be a starting caliber guy for every day—ditto TJ. I like them both, but there is little to be”discovered” about them over the next string of Games.

    It is necessary to “force” Rosario at this point, based on team needs going forward…..not so much with Smith

  8. TJ
    August 1, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    Good article, excellent comments with various perspectives. Here is my take/contribution. Rosario is here and Smith needs to get here ASAP. Both need to play regularly with off days only for rest. Rosario will have SS in 2018 barring anything crazy. Smith will be in the mix for 1B and plenty of MLB ABs this year can help decide if 1B is his next year. Wilmer and TJ are both contributors and keepers, and solid bench options. Reyes is another consideration and provides a lefty bat. I would like to see him daily at 2B for the remainder of the season. Out of TJ, Wilmer, and Jose, Jose has the best chance to be a starter in 2018, but only at 2B. 3B is the biggest open spot. We are all assuming David Wright is unable to play any further. Current options are Cabrera and Walker. I am interested in seeing Walker there. If he can field well, he may be a better choice than Moustakas, requiring a lower financial commitment and knowing he can handle NYC. If he isn’t dealt, Cabrera isn’t a bad option but they need to see quality defense from him at 3B for the balance of 2017.

  9. Eraff
    August 1, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    If Walker would sign for a “get healthy and wealthy” one year deal, I would keep him at 2b and say goodbye to Cabrera— 1 cheap year. Otherwise, I’d strongly consider exercising the option on Droobs and letting Walker go.

    That said, Asdrubal is absulutely the Oldest, and Worst looking 31 year old ballplayer I’ve ever seen. Between He and Ryan Hannigan, it was a Baseball ScareCrowFest in Mile High Tonight. Does Asdrubal wince and limp after pulling on his sox? He scares me even as a 100-120 game utility starter.

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