It’s easy to eliminate playing time for Eduardo Escobar and Tomas Nido because they’ve been terrible. Escobar has a few hits here recently to raise his OPS to a .530 mark while Nido takes it upon himself to try a safety squeeze because it’s better than striking out. Is it piling on to remark on his .269 OPS and 30.4 K%? They’ve been so bad that the Mets are giving playing time to rookies in April, which you know pains them beyond belief. The problem is the rookies have been just as bad.
Brett Baty has a .576 OPS while Francisco Alvarez checks in at .419, one that high only due to his homer recently. If you start out with the assumption that rookies can’t be trusted, the early performance of Baty and Alvarez is all the confirmation you need to support that idea. Which makes it harder to make future moves of the sort.
It’s early and patience is still required, whether that be for under-performing rookies or veterans.
Yet at some point, it stops being early. There’s no consensus on when that time is. We probably have a better chance reaching agreement on what level of crappiness is enough to make a move, although that’s not written in stone, either. While acknowledging that it’s still early, the Mets have several players who are on that crappiness borderline, even having already decided that Escobar and Nido needed to have their playing time reduced.
Without worrying about who would replace them, how long do you give Mark Canha, Luis Guillorme, Starling Marte and Tommy Pham to turn things around? Let’s take a look at all four players, starting with the regulars.
Both Canha and Marte come with established track records and were productive for the Mets just last season. Canha posted a 2.8 fWAR while Marte checked in with a 3.0 mark. Those are strong results, ones that demand additional time to recover from slow starts. Having said that, let’s note that Canha has a 97 OPS+ in 93 PA while Marte checks in with a 79 in 89 trips to the plate. These are corner outfielders, ones who should produce better than middle infielders and catchers.
There are 49 players who’ve logged more than half of their time in a corner outfield spot this season, with at least 70 PA. Canha ranks 25th in OPS+ while Marte sits at 38. Before running the numbers, my guess would have been lower for both players. If we check and see how corner outfielders performed last year, there were 26 players who qualified for the batting title and a 97 OPS+ would have ranked 22nd and a 79 OPS+ would have been last.
You know who did rank last in OPS+ for corner outfielders last year? Our new friend Pham.
The numbers put up by Pham so far in his fourth outfielder role have been fairly respectable, as he has an 84 OPS+. It’s a shame you have to pay free agent prices to get a fourth outfielder to put up that number, but that’s more of an indictment of the Mets than it is of Pham. Regardless, how has the 35 year old produced this year?
In his fourth appearance of the season, Pham went 3-4 with a homer and a walk. Since that time, he’s 5-41 with a .473 OPS. With neither Canha nor Marte hitting the cover off the ball, it would be easy to advocate for more playing time for Pham. That is if he wasn’t performing even worse than the players he’d replace.
The crazy thing to me is that when he does make contact, Pham hits the ball hard. He’s second on the team with a 44.1 Hard Hit% and his 93.5 average exit velocity is tops on the club. He’s hitting just .205 with a .364 SLG but his expected stats are much better. Pham has an xBA of .274 and an xSLG of .474 – the type of numbers we’d love to see.
Which brings us to Guillorme.
In the Game Chatters, Chris F has derisively called him Ground Ball Guillorme and it’s hard to think of a better nickname. His average launch angle is 2.1, the lowest on the team. FanGraphs has him with a 58.1 GB%, which would be the eighth-highest mark in MLB if he had enough PA to qualify. Guillorme’s here for his glove much more so than his bat. But last year he had a 101 OPS+ and this year it’s down to 79. It’s the type of number you wouldn’t notice if the rest of the team was hitting. But when so many guys are struggling, it’s natural to wonder if the team wouldn’t benefit more by having a bench bat over a bench glove.
Right now, the Mets have little choice but to keep writing Canha and Marte into the lineup. They were too good last year to give up on before the end of April. But while they should still get every opportunity to turn things around, all of us should have them at least on the “concerned” list of our personal worry accounts.
Canha was one of my worries coming into the season, as his numbers were pumped up by a six-week hot streak every bit as much as Escobar’s were in 2022. He’s hitting for a touch more power so far this year but it’s more than canceled out by a low BABIP. Maybe the hits start falling in for him and everything is okay. Or maybe he should be the team’s fourth outfielder.
With Marte, you wonder if he’s injured. As Mets fans, we saw how the team floundered in September last year while Marte was out. He’s an important bat in the lineup and the club needs him to be good, much more than they need Canha to be productive. Marte has just five extra-base hits this year, with his SLG down 152 points from a season ago. His .315 OBP isn’t exactly helping at the top of the lineup, either. Buck Showalter promised Marte he’d keep both his defensive position and his spot in the batting order consistent. He may have to rethink that latter one and move him down in the order.
The reserves are another matter.
While my expectations for Pham were non-existent, his troubles since April 4 are not enough for me to call for a release today. One has to imagine that with hitting the ball as hard as he does that at some point, he’ll get some hits. While it’s not accurate to say my leash for him is a long one, it does seem that he deserves more time. But if he gets 30 or so more PA and his OPS drops from its current .658 mark, my pitchfork will come out.
I like Guillorme. But he may have the misfortune of having the wrong skill set for this particular team. We’ve already talked about his lack of hitting. However, his lack of speed hurts him on the 2023 Mets, too. With the Mets needing to pinch run for Daniel Vogelbach, a speedy bench player is of more use than a defensive one. Maybe they can trade Escobar and Guillorme gets a reprieve. But when Tim Locastro returns, it’s probably time to send Guillorme to Syracuse.