Postseason teams are typically stacked with talent from the man getting paid the most to the 25th man. These great teams have a knack for being able to pick out the best players to ride on the bench. While this may be a waste of talent at times, a well-rounded and talented bench can make the different between 85 and 90 wins. Over the past few seasons, the Mets have had pretty solid luck with the players on the bench. From the consistent heroics of Mike Baxter and Justin Turner, to the arrogant but talented Jordany Valdespin, to Kirk Niewenhuis this season there has been an steady flow of talent on the bench. While three of the four players mentioned above are gone, there is still a wealth of talent in the wings ready to make an impact. A typical bench in the National League will consist of five players: fourth and fifth outfielders, a utility player who plays mostly infield, a defensive replacement for multiple positions, and a back-up catcher.
Fourth Outfielder: Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Over the past few seasons, Niewenhuis has been a symbol of failure in Flushing due to his stereotypical strikeout rate and splits against lefties. That being said, no one ever doubted his raw talent or his ability to play the outfield. He still doesn’t hit well enough against left-handers to start every day, but hitting for 18 extra-base hits in only 29 hits all season is impressive. Nieuwenhuis has dealt with being bounced around between AAA and the majors, however this time he deserves to stay and start maybe twice a week and be a defensive replacement.
Fifth Outfielder: Eric Young Jr.
In recent days, there has been discussion of taking Young off the 25-man roster and making him a free agent. This is absolutely ridiculous. Finances aside, Young has been a huge part of this team on many levels. We all know that Young’s bat has more holes than Swiss cheese and waiting for power is like waiting for the Wilpons to sell. That being said, he has two other tools that are a plus and another that is average. Young Jr. can run – every Mets fan knows that. After winning the stolen base title in his first season with New York, he followed it up another 30-steal season. Additionally, Young knows how to use his glove. While his defensive metrics are not all that impressive, Young will give his heart out in left-field to ensure that runs do not score and no-hitters stay intact. He grew up a Mets fan, has made countless diving catches, and is the fastest runner in the entire Mets organization. What’s not to love!
In 2013, a man with fantastic eyebrows burst on to the scene with a 1.085 OPS over his first 19 games. Slated to be part of a crazy platoon at first base, he disappointed many fans with a batting average hovering around .100 at this demotion. Then came a man named Eric Campbell who posted a less-impressive but still solid .830 OPS over his first 37 games. Both can play multiple positions in the infield and outfield, and both know how to swing the bat. At this point, it could come down to who is not put on the 40-man roster or a spring training battle.
Late-Inning Defensive Replacement: Wilfredo Tovar
The Mets have endured a late-inning defensive replacement playing every single day – Ruben Tejada. With defensive wizardry coming from a different source now, there seems to be no reason to hold on to Tejada. In addition, Tovar can handle the bat fairly well posting a solid .288/.360/.363 slash line this season. This job is one of the most overlooked, but one of the most important, and the right man for the job is clearly Tovar.
Backup Catcher: Anthony Recker
At this point, almost every Mets fan will know this guy’s name. Recker is the one who has single-handedly won about 5-6 games a season for the Mets. He hits huge home runs in big spots of a ballgame. In 2013, he hit a home run that gave Zack Wheeler his first MLB win. In addition, nine of his thirteen home runs for the Mets have either tied the game or given the Mets the lead. His strikeout rate may be astronomical, but many are willing to take three strikeouts and a go-ahead bomb in the eighth from a back-up catcher. Pitchers don’t mind throwing to him. He posted a ridiculous 37% caught stealing rate (league average is 28%), and he had a solid .8 WAR for the season. He is perfect for the job.