Tag: Jacob DeGrom

You Gotta Believe!… In Another Mets’ Rebuild

You Gotta Believe!… In Another Mets’ Rebuild

The New York Mets entered 2017 poised to make a return to the postseason and maybe even another World Series run.  Their starting pitching was healthy and led by Noah Syndergaard, who was coming into his own as the baseball’s newest superstar pitcher.  Yoenis Cespedes was back in Flushing on a four-year deal, ensuring his Mets’ tenure would continue through 2020.  The Washington Nationals had some questions entering the season, making a division championship a real possibility for the Mets in 2017.

After a hot start, the Mets have since faltered beyond expectations.   Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Seth Lugo all have missed serious time with injuries, while most of the pitchers who have been healthy have struggled.  Matt Harvey looks like he will never return to his old form, and Robert Gsellman and Zack Wheeler have looked terrible at times.  Yoenis Cespedes missed over a month with a bad hamstring.  Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera haven’t been nearly as productive as they were last season.  Outside of Jerry Blevins, the bullpen has been an atrocity and a liability late in games.  Off the field, Sandy Alderson and the front office seem reluctant to call up top prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, both of whom have been dominating the Pacific Coast League at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2017.

With the season seemingly a lost cause, the Mets would probably be better off if they turn their attention to improving for next season with the intention of competing.  They even announced that they are actively trying to sell off players in walk-years like Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jerry Blevins, Jay Bruce, and Curtis Granderson.  With a still-young pitching staff as well as some high-upside position players, New York could potentially make some noise in 2018.  But when one takes a deeper look at their future roster, hopes for contention in 2018 seem dim, especially considering none of the aforementioned players are going to bring back special prospects that have the potential to become stars.

Quite frankly, Asdrubal Cabrera, Lucas Duda, and Curtis Granderson are relatively worthless on the trade market.  Cabrera has told his agents that he wants to be traded now that the Mets are moving him to second base.  He’s right to be mad that Jose Reyes is manning shortstop over him, even though the best shortstop in the organization plays in Las Vegas.  But if Cabrera expects to play shortstop on a contending team, he’s out of his mind.  His defense has deteriorated to well below-average levels, and he hasn’t hit nearly as well as he did last year.  Lucas Duda may have some value as a buy-low option for contenders, but if Eric Hosmer, Yonder Alonso, and Logan Morrison are available, clubs will turn their attention to the first basemen who carry a higher price and greater ability.  Granderson’s salary will drive teams away, and the Mets making him a reserve didn’t do his trade value any favors.

Bruce has had a really nice year thus far, hitting 19 home runs and batting .268, which is well above his career average.  Bruce can also play either corner outfield position as well as some first base, increasing his value even more.  However, Bruce was virtually free in the offseason when the Mets tried to dump him.  His value now has gone up for sure, but it’s not as high as the Mets may think.  Neil Walker could be a nice offensive upgrade at second base for a contender, but his back surgery last season could cause concerns.  Jerry Blevins may be the most valuable trade chip the Mets have.  Blevins has 36 strikeouts in 24.1 innings while keeping his ERA at 2.22.  He carries a $7,000,000 team option for 2018, which could make him more attractive to other teams since he could be retained.  Relievers are always in high demand come July, so Blevins could bring back a worthwhile prospect.

The problem is that with just Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Travis d’Arnaud, and Juan Lagares as the only position players under contract for next season, the Mets have so many holes to fill with only so many players.  Amed Rosario will take over at shortstop, and Dominic Smith will do the same at first.  With any prospect, though, there is no guarantee of success at the Major League level.  As highly touted as Rosario is, his numbers in Triple-A are inflated due to the offense-friendly nature of the Pacific Coast League.  If the Mets are lucky, one of the two will reach their full potential.  Unforeseen injuries could also cause the Mets to change their plans.

Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom may be reliable.  But can the Mets really trust Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, or Robert Gsellman?  Will the bullpen be dependable next year, or will it fail at every chance as it has in 2017?

Right now, the Mets have more questions towards 2018 than answers.  Trading the likes of Bruce, Blevins, Cabrera, Duda, Walker, and Granderson is a good start to bolster the farm system and prepare to contend in the future.  The truth is, however, that a makeover isn’t going to be enough.  The Mets are in need of a full rebuild.

There is some sort of foundation in Queens, but just how strong is it?  Yoenis Cespedes is a still a big bat, but he constantly lands on the DL.  Michael Conforto surged through the first two months of 2017, seemingly assuring the Mets that his dreadful 2016 campaign was a fluke.  But now he’s starting to struggle offensively, losing plate discipline and chasing offspeed pitches down in the zone exactly like he did last year.  Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares are both injury-prone, and they don’t exactly light it up offensively when they’re healthy.

As for the pitching, Matt Harvey is a lost cause.  A change of scenery may be what he needs, or perhaps his career is essentially over no matter where he pitches.  Zack Wheeler teased the Mets with a few solid outings this year, but his overall incompetence shouldn’t make them optimistic.  Steven Matz might be made of glass with all of the injuries he has fallen victim to.  As I mentioned earlier, they’ve got Syndergaard and deGrom to lean on, but that’s it.  The relief corps will be in shambles after Blevins and Reed are gone, and Jeurys Familia may never be the elite closer he was just two years ago.

It pains me to say it, but the Mets may want to listen on more than just their players entering free agency.  If the Mets really want to win in the coming years, they ought to take calls on Jacob deGrom, Michael Conforto, and maybe even Noah Syndergaard.

deGrom would be a huge commodity on the trade market this summer should he become available.  Since debuting in 2014, deGrom has a 2.90 ERA and 605 strikeouts.  In four career postseason starts, he owns a 2.88 ERA, and the Mets won three of the four games he started.  His successful return from surgery this season should further entice teams in trade talks.  deGrom still has three years of arbitration remaining before he becomes a free agent, so he would be a long-term ace for potential suitors.  Trading deGrom wouldn’t sit well with the Mets’ fanbase, but the return for a pitcher of his caliber could seriously strengthen the farm system.  The Astros have already been linked to a potential deGrom deal.  Odds are that the Rockies, Red Sox, and Dodgers would also have interest in the 29 year-old.

Michael Conforto reestablished his value with a tremendous start to his 2017 season.  Through the first two months of the campaign, he hit .316 with 13 home runs, stealing the show in the Big Apple.  Since the calendar turned to June, though, Conforto has slumped en route to a sub-.200 average and a strikeout per game.  He’s been chasing breaking balls out of the zone, which was his biggest problem last year.  Maybe Conforto can fix the problem, but it has the look of a chronic habit that he may not be able to break.  If that’s the case, his long-term projection as a hitter may not be what it appears, and the Mets would be wise to sell high on him.  He hasn’t even hit arbitration yet, so teams would be lining up to trade for him.  Conforto would bring back at least two major prospects with high potential for stardom.  That would just be the surface of a package for the future all-star, which would be a great return on a player who is anything but a certainty.

While Noah Syndergaard is by far the least likely player who would be traded on the roster, the Mets should at least take calls on “Thor”.  Trading Syndergaard would totally shift the team into a rebuilding phase, but moving their ace could put their rebuild into hyper-drive.  Syndergaard would reel in a package greater than the one the Chicago White Sox received for Chris Sale last offseason.  Chicago’s haul included two top-thirty consensus prospects in Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada, the latter of whom ranks as the top prospect in the game.  The one team in contention that could swing the deal would be the New York Yankees, making any trade almost automatically impossible.  But if Brian Cashman was to offer Gleyber Torres, Dustin Fowler, Chance Adams, Jorge Mateo, and Tyler Wade for Syndergaard, Sandy Alderson would have to consider at the very least.  Syndergaard is the type of player who could carry a franchise, and a contender looking to win now may be willing to sacrifice the future of their franchise in order to obtain his services.

In baseball, every team has one common goal: Win the World Series.  That’s what every organization is trying to do.  The last three World Series champions were products of rebuilds that took years to payoff.  The Giants rebuilt through the draft in the late 2000’s and wound up with a dynasty.  The Royals waited for Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar to develop before winning their first World Series in thirty years.  Theo Epstein tore down the Cubs, and built them back up into the championship team the city of Chicago had been dying to see for over 108 years.  Can the Mets make the playoffs in the next few years?  Of course they can, especially with some of the young talent they have.  But this team isn’t built to win a World Series in the next three years, and the likes of Syndergaard, deGrom, and Conforto will be walking out the door around that time.  Trading stars like them is a move that turns the fan base against the organization.  But when teams win championships, the fans forget about the trades that broke their hearts.  If the Mets want to win their first World Series since 1986, they have to start from the ground floor yet again.

 

 

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Hoffman is the Ace the Rockies Spent 20 Years Searching For

Hoffman is the Ace the Rockies Spent 20 Years Searching For

Jeff Hoffman has flown under-the-radar since turning pro in 2014, but his most recent start on Sunday against the San Diego Padres solidifies his place among the best young pitchers in baseball.  The youthful starting pitching of the Colorado Rockies has warranted high praise from the baseball world thus far in 2017, but Hoffman has a higher ceiling than teammates Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, and German Marquez.  Baseball pundits often write off pitchers who call Coors Field home, simply due to the fact that their numbers will become inflated from pitching in the hitters’ heaven.  But Hoffman is different; his repertoire, poise, and pedigree give Hoffman all the makings of a future ace.

Drafted ninth overall out of East Carolina by the Blue Jays in 2014, Hoffman would sit out the remainder of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery.  If not for his injury, Hoffman was positioned to be drafted higher, possibly even first overall by the Houston Astros.  Hoffman wouldn’t make his debut until the middle of the 2015 season.  The New York native quickly put together a solid debut campaign in thirteen starts between High-A Dunedin and Double-A New Britain.  In July, though, Hoffman was one of the main prospects traded to the Rockies in the deal for Troy Tulowitzki.  Colorado obviously coveted Hoffman in order for them to trade their franchise cornerstone.

Hoffman has now been called-up on five separate occasions since 2016 to make spot-starts.  In his six starts last season, Hoffman struggled, pitching to the tune of a 4.88 ERA with an alarmingly high BB/9 rate.  The righty has always featured a plus package of pitches, but he struggled with his command upon being called-up .  He allowed seven home runs in just 31 and 1/3 innings, forcing Colorado to have him begin the 2017 season in Triple-A.

Hoffman has yet to make a permanent stay in the big leagues thus far in 2017, but he’s certainly been compiling a compelling case.  In three starts, Hoffman has a 2.33 ERA and 24 strikeouts in just over 19 innings.  The East Carolina alum’s most impressive improvement lies in his command; Hoffman has surrendered just two walks in his three starts.  Most recently, he carved up the San Diego Padres lineup over seven innings, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out nine.

Some may claim that Jeff Hoffman’s stellar outing is a fluke, or it was due to the fact that he faced a not-so dangerous Padres’ lineup in pitcher-friendly Petco Park.  But based on Hoffman’s ability and pitching prowess, this was hardly a fluke.  So far in 2017, Hoffman has been nearly unhittable when ahead in the count.  Opposing hitters who fall behind against Hoffman are hitting just .103, and they often fall victim to the devastating curveball he relies on with two strikes.  His four-seam fastball averages nearly 95 MPH while also running in on right-handed hitters.  His hook had San Diego guessing all afternoon, especially when he followed it up with fastballs up in the strike zone.  Hoffman also features a change-up and a slider, but he doesn’t use them nearly as often as his two best pitches.  Thus far in 2017, albeit a small-sample size, Hoffman has an impressive Fangraphs Soft-Contact Rate of 20.4%, similar to Max Scherzer (21%), Jacob deGrom (20.6%), and Zack Greinke (20.3%).

Hoffman is scheduled to start on Saturday against the Cubs, which will be a solid test for the 24 year-old to prove his dominance is legitimate.  After this week, Rockies’ manager Bud Black will have to decide whether or not to keep Hoffman in the rotation as Tyler Anderson will be coming off of the 10-day DL.  If Hoffman has a strong outing against the defending World Series champs, the Rockies may have no choice but to let their new ace take his rightful place in the rotation for the long haul.

The State of the Mets: May 30th, 2017

The State of the Mets: May 30th, 2017

Despite just going 4-3 since last Tuesday, things are starting to look up for the New York Mets, both offensively and from a pitching perspective.

Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, and Neil Walker all have come alive in the last week of May, giving the offense a jolt as Michael Conforto has cooled down a bit.  Granderson went 7-24 in the past week, amassing 4 RBI’s and 3 extra-base hits.  Perhaps the prospect of becoming a fourth outfielder has ignited the former all-star.  However, Lucas Duda’s recent performance will force New York to sit Granderson when Yoenis Cespedes returns.  Duda has gone 11-27 with 3 home runs and 9 RBI’s.  He has been mashing at the plate, hitting 60% of his batted balls were categorized as “hard contact” by FanGraphs.  His soft contact percentage was only 5%, explaining his red hot week.  Walker has also come alive, going 10 for his last 27 with 2 homers.  The recent offensive outburst from the Mets should scare opposing pitching staffs, especially once Yoenis Cespedes returns.

The pitching staff has also shown significant signs of improvement.  In his two starts last week, Matt Harvey finally resembled the Dark Knight of old, even if he wasn’t nearly as dominant as he has been in the past.  Harvey posted a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings en route to picking up his third and fourth wins of the 2017 season.  If Harvey can come close to his 2015 form, the Mets pitching staff will have another reliable arm that can take pressure off of the bullpen.  Jacob DeGrom had the best performance of the week, lasting 8 and 1/3 innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night at PNC Park.  The former Rookie of the Year struck out ten while allowing just one run in the 8-1 victory.  Perhaps the most important week came from Robert Gsellman.  After being moved to the bullpen following his struggles in the rotation, Gsellman made two quality starts in the past week.  While his start against the Padres was impressive, Gsellman’s seven inning gem against the first place Milwaukee Brewers on Memorial Day provides hope that the 23 year-old has a future as a starter.  Gsellman allowed just one earned run and three hits in a big win to end the month of May.  Gsellman may be in line to move back to the bullpen as Seth Lugo and Steven Matz are set to return next week, but the righthander is giving Terry Collins reason to think twice about the potential move.

As they prepare to enter June, the Mets sit five games under .500, but the upcoming schedule provides an opportunity to improve their record.  They have three more games against the Brewers, who lead the National League Central but are not viewed as serious contenders by many baseball pundits.  Then, they will face the Pittsburgh Pirates for the second straight weekend, this time at Citi Field.  With the offense clicking and the pitching staff getting on a roll, the Mets are positioned to gain ground in the National League Wild Card race.