The Mets are coming off their first series win and they have a number of meaningful injuries that are going to send them scrambling for backups in this shortened season. When Yoenis Cespedes walked away the Mets were given an opportunity to play some of their younger players more. This has led to more playing time for Dominic Smith and Andres Gimenez and, perhaps not coincidentally, more wins.
In a fairly young season, with a deep roster of offense and quality young players, the New York Mets still somehow found a way to put Brian Dozier into the lineup five (5) times. Dozier had once had himself two excellent seasons in 2016 and 2017. Those numbers came screaming down in 2018 as he was traded from Minnesota to Los Angeles before, in 2019, he played a role in the Nationals World Series.
The 33 year old second baseman was brought in by the Mets as insurance against Robinson Cano’s age and Gimenez’s development. In fact, the Mets currently have six (6) players on their forty man roster who are capable of playing second base. While Brian Dozier would be a great asset for a team in a full season, his role on the 2020 Mets is more like a symbol of the longstanding Met tradition of not trusting in their own prospects.
Remember in 2019 when the Mets traded for Cano and Edwin Diaz? This was a decision back when the team didn’t have faith that Jeff McNeil would be able to repeat his 2018. The Mets lost their top prospect Jarred Kelenic and were saddled with a heavy contract and a closer who cracked under the New York pressure because they would not trust in their own prospects.
Now, with Michael Wacha getting injured and Marcus Stroman still not back on the squad, the Mets are left with another decision. How do they fill the hole left by their pitcher’s injury? Do they plug in a former prospect who hasn’t quite cut it in the majors, like Corey Oswalt? Maybe a journeyman AAA player like Walker Lockett, who boasts an MLB ERA over 8.00 for his brief career? Will they give the slot to a player that was traded for a “player to be named” and give the fans Ariel Jurado? Or maybe, they could give the ball to a prospect who might actually have the stuff to be a star for them?
I’ve been singing the praises of Thomas Szapucki pretty hard for a fairly long time. With the Mets hanging on to a viable season by their fingertips, I am practically pleading with the front office to give a chance to the prospects who could help them in 2021 and beyond because the other option is relying on players who are past their prime or were never really successful in the majors. Maybe if we stopped giving playing time to players like Dozier and Jurado the Mets might surprise themselves by having some success.
Perhaps the excellent play, thus far, of Gimenez is a false sign of success, but as his numbers match his scouting and there is reason to believe that the Mets have a surplus of viable options for their shortstop position. Now they have a second opportunity to see one of their top prospects in action and a unique season to ease him into the role.
The knock against Szapucki has always been his health and his lack of innings would make it a longshot to ramp any pitcher up into a starting role but the Miami Marlins may have given the Mets a roadmap to success. Bringing up their lefty pitcher for a few games of pitching by the bullpen would allow the Mets to stretch him out and, with the expanded bullpens, not hurt the team too badly.
If the only thing that the 2020 season gives the Mets is a glimpse into Gimenez, David Peterson and Szapucki’s future, it’s still making the most of what might have been a lost season. That way, when Stroman and Noah Syndergaard leave the team, the Mets know just how many free agent starters they need. In my mind, it’s both the best way for the Mets to try to win now and the best way for them to plan for the future.