Mickey Callaway’s juggling act

What has three catchers, 10 infielders, and a roster full of players in flux? The New York Mets. Depth is a nice problem to have but it comes with its own set of challenges for Mets’ second year skipper Mickey Callaway.

Last season, in his rookie year, Callaway had a bumpy ride getting used to being the dugout boss and adapting to the National League and a new franchise. The easy part of his job was playing the right guys as this was not a deep roster. This season, Callaway will have to work closely with a very hands-on General Manager and an expanded front office that includes statisticians, trainers, scouts, former players and every variety of baseball expert. Together, with Callaway as the face man, they’ll have to monitor the results and progress of at least 40 worthy players to determine who should play the most and who should play against lefties on the road in the rain at night.

There will be upstart rookies nipping at the heels of seasoned veterans. There will be slumps and injuries and hot streaks and comebacks.There might even be stretches when the team is relatively healthy and Callaway will be faced with benching proven players or even demoting or releasing them due to lack of playing opportunities. Brodie Van Waganen and his highly educated entourage will handle much of this, but it will fall on Callaway to read the players, massage the egos and have the tough conversations.

On the pitching side, things should be a little more straight forward. The Mets have a clearly established starting five with a pretty good idea of who’s next in line. The bullpen has a pretty clear pecking order from the closer to the high leverage setup men, situational guys, multi-inning middle relievers and a few lower leverage relievers who will shuttle between Syracuse and Queens all year.

On the offensive side, there’s a very different story. The roster crunch is under way with the team featuring more infielders, outfielders and catchers than there are jobs available. A few guys on the bubble will either get released or optioned to the minors over the next week. Complicating matters is that we’re likely to begin the season with at least three expected starting players on the injured list. Yoenis Cespedes, easily our best hitter and everyday player, is expected to miss at least the first half of the season, yet with all the off-season moves the front office made, accounting for this wasn’t really among them. More recent, though less serious injuries have thrown a monkey wrench into roster planning.

Third baseman Todd Frazier got bumped to first base thanks to the addition of second baseman Jed Lowrie who was signed to play third base because we traded for Robinson Cano but that pushes infielder Jeff McNeill to the outfield only Frazier and Lowrie are both injured so McNeill is back at third while two youngsters fight it out for first base and a guy who can play all four corners and pitch in a pinch might get lost in the shuffle .You follow? You have to think this is going to be a tricky situation to deal with for Mickey Callaway.

He’s also got three catchers (sorry, Tomas NIdo doesn’t count) to juggle and two center fielders who can’t hit on guaranteed contracts. Due to not just the team’s depth, but also the presence of multi-position players like Lowrie, McNeill and J.D. Davis, the roster will be fluid all year. If handled properly by the front office, Callaway will never again be faced with having to trot out hasbeens and AAAA players that don’t belong. That surely brings a smile to his face, but the season ahead will not be an easy one for the second year manager.

18 comments for “Mickey Callaway’s juggling act

  1. March 22, 2019 at 6:21 am

    Is Cespedes easily the teams best hitter? I could see Nimmo, Conforto, Cano and even Alonso outhitting him and Nimmo did last year with a wRC+ 25-30 points higher last year.

    • MattyMets
      March 22, 2019 at 7:19 am

      David, When healthy, Cespedes is a scary bat. He’s the feared hitter you don’t want to pitch to in a big spot. He hits loud home runs in the biggest spots off the best pitcher’s best pitch. He changes a lineup and when he’s hot, he carries a team. Would you describe any of those other players that way?

      • NYM6986
        March 22, 2019 at 7:27 am

        I agree. What bothers me the most going into the season is until Cespedes is back the Mets don’t have a single batter that would scare an opposing pitcher that even a good pitch could end up 30 rows deep into the stands. We have a good balanced and experienced squad. If we stay healthy we can dominate from the mound. Let’s get this party started.

        • March 22, 2019 at 10:08 am

          Disagree Conforto and Alonso have massive power.

      • Metsense
        March 22, 2019 at 8:33 am

        Matt, +1 – he put the team on his shoulders in 2015 but alas in the 2019 and I hope he gets back healthy and in hitting form.

        • March 22, 2019 at 10:09 am

          Everyone hit in the second half and Grandy was the 2015 Mets team mvp

          • Bob P
            March 22, 2019 at 2:32 pm

            I don’t agree with that. While Granderson was really good, there’s no way in my opinion that the Mets get to the playoffs without Cespedes. They both played a role, but in less than half a season, Cespedes had a bigger impact. His time with the Mets in 2015 was unbelievable with huge hit after huge hit.

            • March 22, 2019 at 2:43 pm

              When he joined the Mets on Aug. 1 until the end of the season, Cespedes had a 1.43 WPA. In the same time period, Granny had a 1.96 WPA.

          • NYM6986
            March 22, 2019 at 2:42 pm

            Without Cespedes we would not have made the playoffs. We have players with power who will simply get pitched around. Throw a mistake to Cespedes and it leaves the yard. It’s plain and simple

    • Steve S.
      March 25, 2019 at 9:58 am

      I agree. Not to knock a healthy Cespedes, but Nimmo, Conforto, and Cano (based on OPS+ stats) are at least equal to him. Alonso? Maybe so.

  2. Pete from NJ
    March 22, 2019 at 8:35 am

    I agree with everything above especially the latter two. Cespedes is not only scary for the opposition pitchers but locks in the right handed clutch bat in the middle of the lineup. But I have a feeling he might not be seen at all this season.

    As far as the talent of the position players causing redundancies throughout the lineup, things sort themselves out, hopefully. Still the manager needs to keep everyone happy and involved in their designated roles. Does Callaway have the skill to do so? We’ll see if the manager studied Met’s history especially the chapter on Gil Hodges’ manipulation of his roster for output. Big part of the season.
    And as NYM6986 says: Let’s get the party started.

  3. March 22, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    The this guy is feared garbage is what got undeserving players like Rice and Baines into the hall of fame.

    • MattyMets
      March 22, 2019 at 8:54 pm

      David Klein, Baines was never feared and as I rambled in a podcast, he has no rightful place in the Hall. Rice was an MVP and finished in the top 5 MVP vote 6 times. He didn’t get to 400 HRs because he flamed out in his 30’s but at his peak he was a guy no pitcher wanted to face. The HOF is not just for career milestones. There’s a place for guys like Koufax who were among the very best for a period. This is why Mattingly got consideration but Kranepool didn’t. Stats don’t tell the whole story.

      • March 22, 2019 at 9:21 pm

        Mattingly was an elite player in the 80’s vs Kranepool never being good.

      • Mike Walczak
        March 22, 2019 at 11:23 pm

        Jack Morris shouldn’t be in. Neither should Trammel. The Hall standards have been lowered.

        Who was better as a player, Trammel or Jeff Kent? Kent doesnt even get a blink.

        The whole thing is a mess.

  4. BK
    March 22, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    As long as I don’t see Luis Guillorme highlights it’s value added.

  5. MattyMets
    March 23, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    I know part of it is 40-man roster crunch but the catching decisions have me shaking my head. Given the injury histories of Ramos and d’Arnaud and Nido’s inability to hit big league pitching I think it would be foolish to let Mesoraco walk. deGrom also has a comfort level with the groundhog. The simple solution to me was to keep TDA in extended spring trainining whilenhe gets back to full strength and keep Mesoraco on the roster. But because Nido is on the 40 man and Mes is not it creates another complication. I hope I’m proven wrong but I questioned tendering TDA to begin with.

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