The Mets’ 20-something hitters are producing in May

Many years ago conventional wisdom in baseball claimed that a player’s peak occurred between the ages of 28-32. When researcher/author Bill James looked at the issue in his essay, “Looking for the Prime,” he concluded, “If you must assign a five-year peak period to all players regardless of description, the best shot would be 25 to 29.”

But then something happened which maybe didn’t refute either the old conventional wisdom or James’ conclusion but at least made us reconsider the premise – the Silly Ball era of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. Maybe hitters still had a prime in those years mentioned above but they were able to be productive players for a longer period of time than originally thought.

And while we appear to be in another Silly Ball era, if we look at hitters on the wrong side of 30, we see that there are fewer of them turning in star seasons now than there were back in the original era. In the year 2000, there were 24 players age 31 or over to amass an fWAR of 3.0 or greater. Compare that to 2017, when only 13 players ages 31 and up passed that mark.

Why look at age 31?

In the offseason, the Mets re-upped with or added the following players, with their baseball age in the 2018 season in parenthesis: Jay Bruce (31), Asdrubal Cabrera (32), Todd Frazier (32), Adrian Gonzalez (36), Jose Lobaton (33) and Jose Reyes (35). Now, the latter two were not expected to play much, if at all, but they fit the pattern. And we can also add mid-season acquisition Jose Bautista (37) to the mix. And while we’re focusing on hitters, on the pitching side there were Jerry Blevins (34), Anthony Swarzak (32) and Jason Vargas (35) – and there’s also AJ Ramos (31) who they traded for near the deadline of 2017 and offered arbitration to for the ’18 season.

When you look to free agency, the vast majority of time you’re dealing with players on the wrong side of 30. However, it’s not realistic to close off an avenue to acquire players. But ideally you look to free agency to supplement a homegrown core of players in their twenties. You look for complementary pieces, not the stars who are going to drive your club forward.

Many have criticized the farm system of Sandy Alderson, just like they did with his predecessor Omar Minaya. We all want to see guys like Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto – guys who come up at ridiculously early ages and experience immediate success. And while those are tremendously fun guys to root for, we don’t really need that. Instead, what a team needs is for guys in their 20s be given a chance for regular playing time and not to be pulled if they don’t have immediate success.

Injuries and the lack of other options have caused the Mets to give more playing time to guys in their twenties this month. And how have these younger guys who came up from the farm system produced with this shot? Let’s take a look:

Michael Conforto (25) – in his last 63 PA he has a .293/.349/.569 triple slash line. That’s a .918 OPS that comes with a .300 BABIP.

Wilmer Flores (26) – In his last 63 PA he has a .315/.381/.463 line.

Brandon Nimmo (25) – In his last 60 PA he has a .300/.417/.620 line.

Amed Rosario (22) – In his last 62 PA he has a .300/.306/.500 line.

Without a doubt, these are all tiny sample sizes. But the point remains that Conforto and Rosario got off to slow starts while Flores and Nimmo needed injuries to get more playing time. With the benefit of opportunity and time these 20-somethings are delivering.

As a greybeard myself, the last thing I want to do is to practice ageism. But it’s hard to look at the MLB landscape and conclude that what any team in general but the Mets in particular need are more guys in their thirties.

Looking forward to 2019, the Mets are already locked into contracts with Bruce (32), Frazier (33) and Yoenis Cespedes (33). Two of those three guys are currently on the DL and the third probably needed to be earlier in the year. Old guys get hurt and they take longer to recover, even ones who were really healthy in their 20s. One of the calling cards for Bruce and Frazier was that they were durable. Woops. We used to say the same thing about David Wright but his thirties haven’t been kind to him, either.

Next year, the Mets need to find ways to get playing time for a trio of guys who will be in their age 24 season – Peter Alonso, Luis Guillorme and Dominic Smith – at the major league level. That shouldn’t be too hard – Guillorme can take over at second base while one of the other two can man first. But people will clamor for the team to re-up with Cabrera while importing some slugger for first base. And if there’s a speedy center fielder in the Dexter Fowler/Lorenzo Cain mold – that guy will have advocates, too.

Instead, let’s embrace the guys in their twenties and give them the shots they need. Root for the young guys in the farm system who are achieving – like Andres Gimenez, a shortstop in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League with an .808 OPS at age 19. Perhaps most importantly, let’s hope the system hits a home run on its pick in the draft next month, when they have their highest selection (6) since 2004. Their two highest picks in the last 10 years were Conforto (10) and Matt Harvey (7) and both of those guys were contributing in the majors shortly afterwards. Harvey was drafted in ’10 and was wowing us down the stretch in ’12 while Conforto was picked in ’14 and playing in the World Series in ’15.

You always want to pick the best available player, regardless of position, and let the talent sort itself out. Maybe the planets align and the best guy when the Mets pick is an outfielder who will replace Cespedes in the year 2021. That way, the Mets would be replacing a guy in his thirties with a guy in his twenties. That’s the way this needs to be and the sooner the Mets embrace guys in their twenties, the better off they’ll be.

12 comments for “The Mets’ 20-something hitters are producing in May

  1. Eraff
    May 27, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Strongly agree, in principal.

    This organization is in trouble because there is not a solid base of young performing players going forward—that’s Pitching and Positional.

    • May 27, 2018 at 10:34 am

      We’ll never know if they don’t give them a shot.

      Look, nearly everyone was saying that Brandon Nimmo was a 4th OFer and that Wilmer Flores couldn’t hit righties. If you start with the premise that guys stink and shouldn’t be trusted and given opportunities – you end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      Not every young player is a star and is going to succeed. But every PA given to Jose Bautista or Adrian Gonzalez or Jose Reyes could be given to someone who could develop into something useful down the road.

      A guy from the farm system shouldn’t have to be Conforto-level good to get a legitimate shot.

  2. Chris F
    May 27, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    I agree in principle. Like anything, the question is to what purpose? If its exploratory and record is not the principal goal, then sure, I couldnt agree more. I look at a guy like Nimmo, who I have not been kind to, and think he deserves an every day position. While I have reservations about his defensive play and think he is out of position in center field and not a corner outfielder by offense, I still want him playing. But look at Flores, the more he plays the worse he looks. The errors pile up and then strongly offset any offensive productivity. Give Dom Smith time and you accept that hes on a steep learning trajectory. So sure, put them out there, but be prepared to look like the Phillies and Braves…of the past few seasons. I think we at that point.

    But then ask what you do with guys like deGrom or Syndergaard? Surely if the plan is a youth brigade experiment, why hold assets that could deliver a haul of more youth?

    If you are in win mode, then experimenting is a gamble.

    Before the season began, I used the phrase “rebuilding for it”. I personally do not think that is the smart way to win on the *hope* of WC 2 and “anything can happen” afterwards.

    • May 27, 2018 at 1:16 pm

      I told you at the time and I still like the phrase “rebuilding for it.”

      Much like with the injury situation, I don’t think there’s one easy answer and that instead we need a thorough examination of the issue of the Mets and how they handle young players.

      I like Jay Bruce and I don’t mean to single him out or pick on him. But the Mets signing Bruce to a 3-year contract when they already had Cespedes and Conforto under control at least that long has to be looked at as a rejection of the idea of either Nimmo or Juan Lagares as full-time players. And if you thought of him as a 1B – it extends to Dominic Smith and Peter Alonso, too. With the team in clear need of a leadoff guy (assuming you didn’t want to use Conforto in that role) why was Nimmo looked at as chaff? First-round pick with a great OBP in the minors and an above-average one in his brief time in the majors – and one that looked even better in 2017.

      That’s just a massive fail in my opinion.

      The Mets look for a reason to use lefty relievers. They look for a reason to use old guys. They look for a reason to remove starting pitchers. All three of those things needs to be examined inside out for the best chance to move forward in the best way possible.

      What’s going to help more in 2018 and the future — 500+ PA for Adrian Gonzalez or those same PA going to Smith, Flores and Alonso?

      The Mets could have been rebuilding for the future it in 2018 by playing Dominic Smith at 1B and Luis Guillorme at 2B and Brandon Nimmo in RF from Day 1 as full-time players. Instead they went with 31 year old Jay Bruce and 32 year old Asdrubal Cabrera and 36 year old Adrian Gonzalez. Going with it with veterans has led to a fourth-place record and a mark of 14-22 in their last 36 games.

      Everyone is so scared to death of giving young guys a chance because they think it eliminates them from competing. But constantly going for the older option isn’t working. And if you continue to fail doing it one way – why not try another?

      • Chris F
        May 27, 2018 at 1:27 pm

        I completely agree with all you say. The Alderson show sees the world in an antiquated way is what we have learned over his tenure. Its clear the old dog does not embrace new tricks.

        I think a balanced team is critical, and I mean balance in all ways, power, speed, average, and age.

        I would very much like to see what the kids have, but thats not in the DNA of the owners or FO. I think of you go for a vet, you pick a guy like Verlander or JD Martinez. We get over the hill and gamble older guys…which rarely pay off. Its a recipe for disaster, as we have seen.

      • Foxwell T
        May 28, 2018 at 11:02 am

        Perhaps it’s time to remove the GM would be the right move. Sometimes he just doesn’t get it. Very intelligent man but has very poor judgement. Mets need to get a life and start rebuilding now. Bring up these younger guys and give them a chance. These players must be frustrated watching old veterans who are far from producing.

        • May 28, 2018 at 11:18 am

          I don’t know if it’s fair to judge the GM who’s on his fifth catcher, has his 3rd & 5th place hitters on the DL and his top setup man has missed most of the year. As bad as things have been, they’re still not buried.

          I’d like to see a couple of weeks with Cespedes, Frazier, Conforto and Nimmo in the starting lineup and Swarzak available in the bullpen.

          Although if Conlon starts Game 2 today and throws a good game, I could be talked into having him replace Vargas in the rotation.

  3. Eraff
    May 27, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    I believe they’ve done the right thing with Nimmo. They’ve given him time to develop, and he’s kicked the door down.

    Wilmer hasn’t done that. He’s not a good enough hitter to be a guy you’ll hide or abide defensively…Alonzo might be that Guy.

    There’s a big fallout coming in the next 2-3 weeks…. guys returning from the injured list, plus another 15-20 games of results. Reyes, Gonzales, Bautista, and Ramos are definitely on the bubble. I will be surprise if at least 2 of them are not gone by the end of June.

    Gonzales at a 730 OPS is at the high mid-point of his ceiling…. they will force Jay somewhere, because you’re assuming he’s slumping and not at the end of his line.

    Ramos?…. he’s not a Major League pitcher now…anymore?

  4. Eraff
    May 27, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Jay, JBats, Gonzalez Start against a righty…Nimmo is Hot…and sitting.

    Brian..I Rest your Case!

  5. May 27, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    And the red hot Nimmo sits for Bautista you know if you wanna play Bautista either sit Bruce or play him at first and sit Gonzalez, geez.

  6. Name
    May 27, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    This is really another “You should have played Nimmo more” article in disguise

    Conforto and Rosario have been playing everyday. Everyone agrees Flores does not belong on the baseball diamond.

    Also, I can find hot stretches for the 30+ year old guys too, so looking at small stretches isn’t good justification for playing guys. You need to look at the entire body of work.

    Adrian Gonzalez is .308/.357/.477 in his last 70 PA.
    Cabrera has been hot until the last week.
    Frazier was .274/.420/.500 in his first 81 PA
    Cespedes was .345/.397/.655 in 63 PA before he went on the DL
    Mesoraco has a .789 OPS since being acquired.

    The only guy who hasn’t had a hot stretch all year is Bruce.

    • May 27, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      Wrong.

      This article is about all of the guys mentioned — Conforto, Flores, Nimmo and Rosario, as well as Guillorme, Smith and Alonso. Any other reading is one putting words in my mouth.

      I plainly said in the article that you needed to give young players time and not expect them to be great right away. What you said about Conforto and Rosario being in the lineup as soon as they were able to does not refute that in any way.

      And sure no one is arguing that what Conforto, Flores, Nimmo and Rosario have done in their last 60-something PA is unique or what we should expect going forward. Just that they are all doing it at the same time and an indication that they are capable of it. No sample size is large enough to make inferences in May — should we not write any articles about the current team citing current stats?

      This is a reaction to what we see with the club under the current administration since they came on board following the 2010 season – an overwhelming preference for old guys.

      When I ran the Mets in our GM simulation my team was younger at 1B, 3B, RF, #3 SP and top setup man while being the same age at 2B with a different player. This is the type of plan I want to see the Mets use going forward.

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