It’s one thing when you enter a season with no expectations and your team turns in a stinker of a year. But it’s another thing entirely when you have visions of a deep playoff run and instead you find yourself in mid-September 18 games under .500 and hoping for a top-five draft pick. Unfortunately, that’s our lot in life this year as Mets fans. If you’re a diehard and still watching the games – congratulations, you’re the ones this blog is written for and thanks for your support.
Anyway, it’s easy to get bogged down in everything that’s gone wrong. But if you’re breathing, you know what those are already. Instead, let’s take a look at the guys on the active roster now – ignoring those who’ve been traded or who are on the DL – and look for the things that have gone right. Let’s count them, David Letterman style.
10. Kevin Plawecki finally producing
This one would be much higher on the list if it had happened over more than the 47 PA it has so far. But he’s got an .897 OPS with a .297 BABIP and is doing everything you want to see a guy do. He’s hitting for average, taking walks, hitting for power and making contact. He’s even making good throws to second base. Sandy Alderson says he likes his catchers and if Plawecki produces like this, more of us will jump on the bandwagon.
9. Chasen Bradford throws himself into bullpen mix
The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been good and every impending free agent who was dealt this year brought back bullpen arms. There’s going to be lots of competition for the final four spots in the ’18 pen and Bradford has gone from a guy not on our radar in April to one demanding our attention now. He’s got a 128 ERA+ and a 1.125 WHIP. And perhaps most impressively, in a season where relievers are surrendering homers left and right, Bradford has given up 2 HR in 26.2 IP.
8. Jose Reyes makes case for a job next year
In his first 18 games of the season, Reyes was 6-63 and had a measly .313 OPS. Throw in sub-par defense at third base and he looked like a DFA candidate. In his next 418 PA, Reyes has a .776 OPS and one that’s over .800 since the All-Star break. He looks better at shortstop and second base than he did at the hot corner. Reyes said he wants to return next season and with this production there’s no reason he shouldn’t, provided that he’s willing to sign for a backup’s salary.
7. Asdrubal Cabrera’s redemption
Praised last year for being one of the club’s leaders, Cabrera’s reputation took a major hit when he publicly balked at moving to third base unless the Mets picked up his option. Since that outburst, he’s played both 2B and 3B without any outward complaints and done his best hitting of the year. So far, the Mets haven’t given any indication over what they plan to do with Cabrera. His option is in the hazy territory. It’s a good value for a starting player but too much for a reserve on a team with a middle-of-the-pack payroll. Reyes makes more sense as a reserve but Cabrera is the better fit as a starter at third, where his defense has been comparatively much better.
6. Brandon Nimmo’s OBP
Many fans view Nimmo as nothing more than a wasted draft pick and at times the Mets haven’t shown him any more love than that, either. But he’s never been given a consistent shot in the majors until now, when two outfielders were traded and two others went on the disabled list. Since July 30, Nimmo has a .404 OBP in 115 PA. Only 11 players who qualify for the FanGraphs leaderboards have a .400 OBP, a list filled with All-Stars and MVP candidates. The ability of Nimmo and others to get on base has helped the Mets’ offense to continue to be productive, even once they lost all of their power hitters.
5. Amed Rosario’s athleticism
For most of the year, the Mets’ infield defense was a disaster, in part due to the poor range of whoever they put out there at shortstop. When Rosario finally was promoted it was a breath of fresh air to see a guy with the ability to be an elite defender man the position. To be sure, he is far from a finished product defensively. But his issues are ones that can be ironed out and it’s easy to see him and think the position will be filled nicely for the next decade.
4. Seth Lugo’s step forward
Last year Lugo had great results but with peripherals that screamed he was pitching way over his head. Now this year, while pitching with a ligament tear in his elbow, Lugo is taking the ball and performing well, once we adjust for the new hitting environment. At this point, there’s little doubt that Lugo is on the staff next year. The only question is what his role will be. If the Mets deem his elbow sound, he may be best utilized as a reliever.
3. Juan Lagares’ defensive rebound
In his rookie season of 2013, Lagares was a terrific defensive player and in 2014, he won a Gold Glove Award. Then in 2015, playing his most innings in the majors yet, Lagares was just slightly above average in the field, with a 3.5 UZR and a +2 DRS. Compared to his first two seasons, he seemed fat and slow. Last year he played his fewest innings yet; however, his UZR/150 rebounded to good, not great, levels. But this year, his UZR/150 is better than what it was in his award-winning 2014 campaign. If Lagares is going to be a full-time starter, he needs to be an elite defender to carry the bat. Everyone kind of assumed that he was at this level but the truth is he wasn’t in either of the past two years. And defense peaks earlier than offense. It wasn’t a slam dunk that Lagares was going to return to his 2013-14 defensive level. But he has.
2. Rafael Montero finally pitching inside
The Mets have been more patient with Montero than with any other prospect in recent memory, perhaps even in all of team history. The running joke was that he had incriminating photos of someone. It was the only explanation why he kept getting chance after chance. And then a funny thing happened. Instead of setting up low and away on every pitch, the catcher set up on the inside part of the plate on a regular basis. And the results have been shocking. In his last six starts, Montero has a 2.75 ERA in 36 IP. He’s still allowing too many baserunners, most notably walks. But in this period where pitchers are getting beat up with home runs, Montero has allowed just one gopher ball in his last six starts. And he’s faced good offensive teams in the Yankees, Marlins, D’Backs and Reds (2X). Those teams have six 30-HR hitters on them already. If Montero can finish the season strong, he could end up as a leading contender for a rotation spot in 2018.
1. The return of Jacob deGrom
Last September, deGrom had surgery on the ulnar nerve in his right elbow. He was expected ready for the start of the season but anytime a pitcher has surgery on his arm, it’s a huge worry. He was ready for the start of the year and he’s been the only guy among the seven starters the Mets were counting on this season to avoid the disabled list. Not only that, but he’s returned to being an elite pitcher, too. Steven Matz had the same surgery the third week of August and we can only hope he rebounds like deGrom did.