What’s right and wrong with the Mets roster

While the projection models all have the Mets having a mediocre season, somewhere around 79-84 wins, most fans are either bullish or bearish on this team’s chances in 2018. There’s a lot to like about this team, but a close look at the roster makeup also illuminates some reasons for concern.

What’s right – playoffs here we come!

  1. A powerful 1-2 rotation punch of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom.
  2. A strong middle of the order of Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, and Jay Bruce.
  3. Four experienced, proven back-end bullpen arms.
  4. A balanced lineup with a good mix of lefties, righties and switch hitters.
  5. A strong bench with quality, experienced players who can step in and step up when called upon.
  6. A positive clubhouse vibe courtesy of a new skipper and coaches with fresh ideas and approaches to winning.
  7. A good mix of kids and veterans.
  8. A depth of arms that will allow for a reasonable amount of injuries and struggles from the rotation and bullpen.
  9. An abundance of infield depth at AAA.
  10. A weak division that includes one terrible team and two others that are not ready to contend. Our schedule includes 57 games against the weak Braves and Phillies and the really weak Marlins.

What’s wrong – oh boy, another long season

  1. No true leadoff hitter to set the table.
  2. Average at best defense.
  3. Closer concerns. Is Jeurys Familia back to his old self and is AJ Ramos capable of stepping in if needed?
  4. No team speed and too many 100+ strikeout hitters could lead to station-to-station play and some collective slumps.
  5. The Matt Harvey conundrum. If he stinks we have to replace him, if he’s good we have to trade him, and if he’s inconsistent we have to ride or die with him.
  6. Who’s on first – the declining veteran, the never-ready rookie, or someone playing out-of-position?
  7. The Nationals are stacked with stars and should win the division handily. We also have to play them 19 times.
  8. We are one injury away from an outfield problem.
  9. We have no high-level prospects to trade for reinforcements.
  10. At least five other teams will be fighting for the two wild cards.

Reading the first list makes you think this is a 90-plus win team ready to battle in October, while the second list makes the Mets look more like a sub .500 team that will struggle to stay competitive.  The truth, as it so often does, probably lies in the middle, which is why PECOTA projects an 82-80 season for the Mets. Have spring training games given us any reason to think otherwise? Again, there are plusses (a lot of healthy, live arms) and minuses (a lot of dead bats). As fans, all we can do is think positively and root for our team. Let’s go Mets!

15 comments for “What’s right and wrong with the Mets roster

  1. MetsGuy
    March 23, 2018 at 9:37 am

    “No true leadoff hitter to set the table.”

    What’s a true lead-off hitter? We have Nimmo. Nimmo is an OBP machine.

    “Average at best defense.”

    Cespedes is a gold glove LF. Lagares is a gold glove CF. He will be out there when it matters (close and late). Frazier is a huge upgrade over Flores/Reyes/Cabrera. Rosario is a huge upgrade over Cabrera at SS, and Cabrera is probably a decent 2B.

    “We are one injury away from an outfield problem.”

    What? The Mets have five guys to play OF, who could play everyday for a lot of teams. Cespedes, Conforto, Nimmo, Lagares, Bruce. Sure Conforto is hurt right now, but he’s ahead of schedule.

    “We have no high-level prospects to trade for reinforcements.”

    Well, we do. But where exactly are we going to put these reinforcements? The only place I could see someone coming in is at SP, but even then theres already 7 guys competing for 5 spots. The Mets issue with prospects is all their best guys are hurt. Szapucki is hurt, Molina was hurt, Lindsay has been hurt, etc. Alonso is extremely underrated, he is going to rocket up to top 100 lists. David Peterson too. He was a first round pick last year (20th) and gets no love on top prospect lists, but Seth Romero who was taken 25th and Nate Pearson (28th) do? Luis Guillorme could be the next Jean Segura.

    “Closer concerns. Is Jeurys Familia back to his old self and is AJ Ramos capable of stepping in if needed?”

    AJ Ramos is awful. Just awful. He walks waaay too many guys. He’s lucky he has played home games in a huge park.

    “No team speed and too many 100+ strikeout hitters could lead to station-to-station play and some collective slumps.”

    Speed is overrated. You have to get on base for speed to matter and the guys who get on base and have speed are few and far between. Billy Hamilton can’t get on base, Dee Gordon can’t hit the ball out of the infield (and has a career 93 wRC+).

    Also, once you get on base it’s about being a good base runner. But you have to get on base first. Some of the best baserunners over the past 3 years are not speed guys. Kris Bryant is 5th. Brian Dozier is 12th. Goldschmidt is 13th. Josh Reddick is 30th. None of those guys I would say are speed guys. The Mets as a whole are just a bad base running team.

    Just my rebuttal.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • MattyMets
      March 23, 2018 at 11:28 am

      Mets Guy – here’s my take on the defense. Strong at short and 3rd, passable to solid at catcher and RF. Yes, Cespedes won a gold glove. so has Gonzalez (4 in fact) but not last year or the year before. Cabrera doesn’t look great to me at second. Flores is not a good first baseman. Lagares is the only true center fielder and he doesn’t figure to be on the field half the time.

      Speaking of outfield, I say it’s thin because our only true center fielder can’t hit much,is injury prone and has been the subject of trade rumors. Conforto is coming off a serious injury and Cespedes has a history of leg injuries. Nimmo looks great in Spring but he’s still not proven. We have nobody in AAA for insurance and journeyman Matt Den Dekker (sorry Brian) is next in line. 5 outfielders, 2 of whom are injury prone, is not depth.

      • Name
        March 23, 2018 at 11:51 am

        Depth is a double edged sword.

        Ever since the Brewers signed Cain, people have postulated which one of their other OFers they are going to trade away because they have 4 guys (Cain, Yelich, Braun, Santana) for 3 spots. Yes, they’re in a good position if someone gets hurt because someone else could step in and you’d feel comfortable, but if no one gets hurt, then you’re wasting a resource that could be used to upgrade some other weaker position.

        It’s good to have a depth, for obvious reasons, but it’s also inefficient if you have too much depth, because you could be better allocating your resources.

        Also, fretting about who the 6th OFer (or 7th IF or 10th SP, etc…) is a kind of petty. Does anyone care who the Nats 6th OFer is? Probably not. So why should we care who our 6th OFer is?

  2. BK
    March 23, 2018 at 10:06 am

    The biggest day-to-day problem will be the expected hole at 1B. On a related note, the biggest long-term problem is the lack of high-level prospects.

  3. TexasGusCC
    March 23, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Matt:

    The Nationals will score lots of runs but give up lots of runs, and they have very little pitching depth. That may turn around a bite a team that is loaded. It’s why everyone expected them to add a big pitcher, or at least a decent starting pitcher.

    How do you trade Harvey if he’s doing well and you’re in a pennant chase?

    I agree with MetsGuy on many things but not Ramos walking the ballpark – he can lose himself but he didn’t save all those games by accident – and that speed isn’t important. Of those guys he mentioned, most of them have decent wheels but just aren’t base stealers. I’m not in love with knowing that our two catchers have better speed than the first baseman, right fielder, and the super sub Flores. That’s alot of extra hits needed to score a run, and runs win games.

    Also, our hitting prospects are marginal to average without a difference maker, but our pitching prospects are above average to awesome (awesome being Wheeler finding himself with all his talent) with at least one difference maker and stretching to two if Bashlor or Bautista or Oswalt can take the next step.

    Overall a fun read. Nice job Matt.

    • Steve S.
      March 23, 2018 at 11:38 am

      Agree that you can’t trade Harvey, if he’s doing well and we’re in contention.

      Anyway, can’t we give him a qualifying offer at the end of the season, and if an when he doesn’t accept, we get a high draft pick and international bonus money?

      • TexasGusCC
        March 23, 2018 at 3:54 pm

        He is guaranteed to accept it. After what Boras has been through, he will advise questionable free agents like Harvey to accept the $18+ MM for one year to also get it out of the way and you can’t be QO’d ever again. No way anyone offers Harvey close to $18MM per year and with draft compensation being involved.

  4. MattyMets
    March 23, 2018 at 10:32 am

    I considered titling the what’s wrong section “Chris F.” Now I see that I could have similarly titled the what’s right section “Mets Guy.”

    As any long time Mets fan can attest, it’s a struggle to look at this team objectively.

    On the topic of team speed, I think it’s undervalued right now. KC beat us in the WS by putting the ball in play and being aggressive on the bases. They exploited holes in our defense. I still contend that had we played Toronto we’d have mowed down their hitters like we did the Cubs and would have been champs.

    When I talk about team speed, I don’t necessarily mean stolen bases. It’s about not having half your lineup have to stop at third from second on a single. As Gus points out, there are too many lead footed guys on this roster who are going to clog the bases. You can get away with one or two (Hernandez and Carter) but half a lineup of slow pokes is a problem.

  5. TJ
    March 23, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Very few teams throughout the history of baseball have been perfectly constructed with no concerns entering a season. We know the Mets, as constructed, are objectively not an elite team but have a strong chance to be a competitive team. As is the case most every year, if the pros overtake the cons, it should be a good season. Given where they were back in November, I am pleased with where they are now, specifically with respect to the pitching and the health of Conforto and to a lesser degree, Cespedes. The Nats can be had, as they have their own weak spots. Hopefully, the Mets get off to a decent start and remain close to the lead in the early going, which should help with the overall vibe and avoid the pressure of having to close big ground later in the season.

  6. Pete In Iowa
    March 23, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Overall a good piece Matt, but I have one major disagreement.
    You put the lack of “a true leadoff hitter” as the number one problem on your list. If memory serves me correctly, our lead off hitter was an All-Star last year. How could that possibly be a “problem”? While one can argue about Conforto being a better “middle of the order” hitter, all I can say to that is, he thrived once put into the lead-off spot last year. He can hit, hit for power, has a very high OBP, and by the way, he’s got some speed and is a good baserunner. Where is the problem in any of that at the top of the order?
    Until he comes back, I see Nimmo as a very capable replacement at the top of the order.
    As Met fans we all know the anxiety of going into any season. However, it’s very easy to forget that just about every other team can list both good and worrisome aspects of their club at the end of Spring Training.

    • Mike Walczak
      March 23, 2018 at 6:02 pm

      Pitching health and first base will be their two biggest issues. Nobody has really talked about innings limits yet. That could really hurt when September rolls around. Maybe Smith goes on a tear and comes up and plays a good first base.

      A lot of the fun is trying to figure out how the year will go.

    • MattyMets
      March 23, 2018 at 6:23 pm

      Fair point Pete, but I just love the idea of Conforto-Cespedes-Bruce in the middle with table setters in front of them. Nimmo fits the bill but only if it’s a DH game or Bruce is playing first.

      As for the Nats, they are stocked with some really good players but they are not perfect. Back of rotation is vulnerable, bullpen is good but not great, Weiters is a bad catcher and they traded away most of their pitching depth to get Adam Eaton.

  7. Metsense
    March 24, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    The Wheeler demotion is putting the pitching staff on notice, results matter. Eiland is quoted “It’s not about the potential and their capability, it’s about the results.” Hopefully Harvey (point 5) will be successful but should be handled the same.
    Regarding the lead off man: Nimmo has made an impression on Alderson and Callaway and hints have been seeded for Bruce to get first base time. Conforto is going to be back soon. On days Nimmo doesn’t start then Cabrera and his .351 2017 OBP (career 331 OBP) will lead off. I have faith Callaway will make the adjustments to take what is wrong and make it right.

  8. Chris F
    March 24, 2018 at 11:11 pm

    I dont have an issue talking objectively. I love the Mets, but have no issue seeing the fuller picture…anyway, its easier to be bad than it is to be good, so doing poorly (say 83 Wins or less) is a default position.

    There are things to like about this team, and you’ve covered them well Matt. I will say, outside the orange and blue colored glasses of Metsland, number 10 may be worth a rethink. Ive seen projections from experienced people that have put the Mets 4th in the NL east. I saw one that ranked the Mets offense as 27th in MLB. The talk about Philly is loud, and I think there is a lot of love for the Braves, esp with Acuna coming up. I dont think either will beat the Mets in the standings, but I also dont see them as push overs, even the Marlins.

    There are concerns that are real.

    1. Say anything you want, but there are plenty of reasons to be worried about health issues.

    2. Cespedes. Id be surprised of we got more than 120 games out of him. Hes talking yoga, but looking like a weightlifter still. That quad/hammy/hip thing is coming back, bet on it.

    3. Lugo. Who isnt afraid that the partial UCL tear doesnt have a full blow out? I am.

    4. Starting pitching. After deGrom and Syndergaard its a big drop off. Really you have 2 number 1s and 4-5 back end starters.

    5. Innings Pitched. Lots a guys with very low IP last year. I dont think you can bank on more than 150 regular season IP from anyone but deGrom. Yeah, you heard that right.

    6. Relief Pitching. I like things overall…but see above. The amount of leveraging on relievers will be very hard this year. Its a lot to ask without total burn out.

    7. 1B. Its an issue, I dont care what the present plans are.

    8. Athleticism. Yikes, this is a sad looking team, just like last year.

    9. Defense. This team got marginally better from horrific. Now its horrible.

    10. Fundamentals. As we are prone to see, taking from a famous story from our past…”can’t anybody here play this game?”

    11. Situational play. see above.

    12. Overhyped. As usual, the default setting is we are a playoff contender before the season has begun. Its a long way to fall thinking about October…in March.

  9. TexasGusCC
    March 25, 2018 at 12:05 am

    On Friday, Alderson said that he has no issues with Bruce playing first base fairly regularly. So, he was asked why hasn’t he played in spring training, and Alderson’s answer was basically ‘we don’t want the media to start a Gonzalez death watch, and Bruce can be comfortable rather quickly’. It’s understandable, but more important would have to give Bruce some burn there.

    My pentulate lineup, has the Mets realizing that Cabrera doesn’t have much left in the tank and will give Flores the chance at a full-time gig at second. That’s the key to a great Mets team. Flores at first base is nice, but if he can be as good as Cabrera at second base (and he has looked good in the past there) and Bruce goes to first successfully, then the outfield is in good shape, the infield is in good shape, the pitching staff is great and the lineup is corrected; this team would be a championship team. I really feel that way.

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