Tag: New York Mets

20/20 Vision: National League East Edition

20/20 Vision: National League East Edition

It’s hard to predict the future, especially in baseball.  Top prospects often become busts, unknown minor leaguers break out and become quality everyday players, and injuries can derail even the brightest of stars.  Changes in management can lead a team to take on a new direction.  Free agents can prove to be boom or bust for their new clubs, either guiding them into October or wallowing away in irrelevance.  To the best of my ability, I try to predict every MLB organization’s lineup for 2020.  In this particular article of the series, I’ll focus on the National League East.

National League East

Atlanta Braves: 88-74

  1. Ozzie Albies, 2B
  2. Ronald Acuna, CF
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  4. Adam Jones, LF
  5. Austin Riley, 3B
  6. Ender Inciarte, RF
  7. Alex Jackson, C
  8. Dansby Swanson, SS

Starting Five: Kolby Allard, Mike Foltynewicz, Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Sean Newcomb

The Braves don’t have too many players currently on their roster that figure into their future plans.  Freddie Freeman is the big exception to that statement, as is Ender Inciarte, who has a very team-friendly contract.  I expect Atlanta to trade Julio Teheran by 2019 to add another solid prospect or two.  Adam Jones is my prediction for their big signing prior to the 2020 season.  He will be in the tail-end of his career but still has potential to produce offensively.

Obviously, the Braves’ future will be put on the backs on their loaded farm system.  Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna are both consensus top 25 prospects, and they should head the Braves lineup for years to come.  Austin Riley has big power potential, as does former sixth overall pick Alex Jackson.  Dansby Swanson may have been demoted back to Triple-A, but he should still develop into a reliable shortstop with a decent bat.

The Braves major strength in the future should be their starting pitching.  Between Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, and Kyle Wright, Atlanta has some serious upside to look forward to.  Allard and Soroka both look like they could be potential aces.  Mike Foltynewicz has flashed signs that he can be dominant as well.

Miami Marlins: 72-90

  1. Dee Gordon, 2B
  2. J.T. Realmuto, C
  3. Christian Yelich, CF
  4. Justin Bour, 1B
  5. Carlos Gonzalez, RF
  6. Brian Miller, LF
  7. Brian Anderson, 3B
  8. J.T. Riddle, SS

Starting Five: Alex Wood, Jose Urena, Adam Conley, Dillon Peters, Braxton Garrett

The Marlins may have some talented young players in Miami right now, but their future is very grey considering the bleakness of their farm system.  Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto, Adam Conley, Jose Urena and Justin Bour should all figure into their future plans.  They’re all cheap and controllable for now, and they can help the club compete.  Once the sale of the team takes place, I expect the new ownership to make a few splashes in free agency, namely by signing Carlos Gonzalez and Alex Wood.  Gonzalez is on the decline, but his bat could still be productive down the line.  Alex Wood is putting together a magnificent season.  The Marlins would be wise to sign him and make him their future ace.

Brian Miller and Brain Anderson should both receive a chance to compete for roster spots next spring.  Miller is a solid athlete with some hitting ability.  Anderson was selected to play in the Futures Game a few weeks ago, and his bat could be average as a third baseman.  Dillon Peters and Braxton Garrett are two of the Marlins top pitching prospects.  Garrett has number two starter upside, but he just underwent Tommy John Surgery.

The most notable omission from the Marlins in 2020 is slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  His 13-year, $325 million pact with Miami could hamstring them financially, and new ownership will want to rid the club of it despite his talent.

New York Mets: 77-85

  1. Amed Rosario, SS
  2. Dominic Smith, 1B
  3. Michael Conforto, CF
  4. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  5. Wilmer Flores, 2B
  6. Pete Alonso, RF
  7. David Thompson, 3B
  8. Thomas Nido, C

Starting Five: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, David Peterson

This Mets roster looks relatively similar to the one it has now, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Michael Conforto looks like he’ll be a star, and Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard can both carry the team when healthy.  But Yoenis Cespedes’ injury issues continue to nag his power and production, and his older age won’t help him return to 2015 form.  Wilmer Flores has had a nice year, and I think the Mets will give him a team-friendly extension in the next year or two.  Matz and Lugo can also be effective if they can stay healthy, but I wouldn’t be hopeful of that.

Amed Rosario was just called-up, entrenching him in shortstop for the foreseeable future.  Rosario may have more hype, but I expect Dominic Smith to be a more productive player long-term.  He is an elite hitter with an efficient approach, whereas Rosario has been vulnerable to strikeout more.  Smith also features an elite glove at first base.  Pete Alonso is currently a first baseman in the system but won’t be ready before Smith gets the call.  The Mets would be foolish not to find a place for his bat, though, prompting a move to right field.  Alonso has Mark Trumbo-like power.

Thomas Nido could receive a call-up as early as next year if Travis d’Arnaud continues to perform so poorly.  Nido has a great work ethic, and his defense could help him stick in the big leagues.  David Thompson is probably just a placeholder at third, similar to T.J. Rivera’s role now.  David Peterson was the club’s first round draft choice this June.  He could develop into a solid mid-rotation starter.

Some may wonder, “Why won’t the Mets sign anybody in free agency?”  It’s a good question considering they don’t have many financial obligations for the future right now. At one point or another, though, the Mets will need to extend some combination of Conforto, deGrom, and Syndergaard, which will take a big chunk out of their spending money.

Philadelphia Phillies: 81-81

  1. Odubel Herrera, CF
  2. Nick Williams, RF
  3. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
  4. Dylan Cozens, LF
  5. Maikel Franco, 3B
  6. Scott Kingery, 2B
  7. Jorge Alfaro, C
  8. J.P. Crawford, SS

Starting Five: Gerrit Cole, Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jared Eickhoff, Franklyn Kilome

Like the Braves, the Phillies future will depend on their plentiful farm system.  Odubel Herrera is already under contract for 2020, and I don’t expect the Phillies to move Maikel Franco, Nick Williams, Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, or Jared Eickoff by then either.  I could see Philadelphia making a play for Gerrit Cole in free agency in a few years, making him their long-term ace.

Of the prospects in the lineup, the most notable is Rhys Hoskins.  A 2017 Futures Game selection, Hoskins has 62 home runs since the beginning of his 2016 campaign.  He is a legitimate impact bat who has patience at the plate and could become a hitter similar to Paul Goldschmidt.  He’s that good.  Dylan Cozens has some elite power as well, and he figures to hit in the middle of the order.  Scott Kingery, a former Arizona Wildcat, has broken out with a 23 home run season.  The 23 year-old reminds me of Chase Utley for his “gamer” mentality and offensive upside.  Jorge Alfaro should provide pop from the catcher’s position, giving Philadelphia yet another impact bat.

J.P. Crawford is an interesting potential shortstop.  His stock is way down as a prospect due to his lack of ability to hit upper-level pitching in the minors.  However, his defensive skills are a plus, giving him the ability to stick as a big leaguer.  Adeiny Hechavarria is a good comparison for Crawford moving forward.  Franklyn Kilome is still a year or two away, but he could be a solid back-end starter.

Washington Nationals: 94-68

  1. Victor Robles, CF
  2. Trea Turner, SS
  3. Bryce Harper, RF
  4. Daniel Murphy, 1B
  5. Wilson Ramos, C
  6. Carter Kieboom, 2B
  7. Adam Eaton, LF
  8. Drew Ward, 3B

Starting Five: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Seth Romero, Tanner Roark, Erick Fedde

Of the 2017 roster, Adam Eaton, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg are already under contract through 2020.  Trea Turner, Tanner Roark, and Erick Fedde will all still have less than six years of service time, meaning they will still be in Washington.  Victor Robles, Carter Kieboom, Drew Ward, and Seth Romero are all Nationals prospects who I expect to have graduated to the big leagues by 2020.

The most intriguing aspect of the Nationals’ future lies with Bryce Harper.  He will become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, and he is set to receive a historically large contract from whatever team he opts to sign with.  The Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers have all been talked about as possibilities, but I think Harper will wind up signing a long-term deal with the Nats.  Harper’s legacy will forever be engraved in Washington, and the Nationals have enough money to reach a deal.

I also expect Daniel Murphy to resign after the 2018 season on another three year deal.  Once Wilson Ramos becomes a free agent again, I expect the Nationals to pounce on him as well.

 

The shape of the division in 2020 isn’t all that different from the way the 2017 season has gone.  The Nationals have the means to stay on top if they can retain the services of Bryce Harper.  The Braves will just be tapping into their plethora of young prospects, who could form a dynasty similar to the 1990’s Braves.  The Phillies are in the same boat as the Braves, except with less pitching and a more powerful lineup.  The Mets have some pitching, but an overall lack of offensive firepower will hold them back.  The Miami Marlins situation looks dreadful, but the inevitable selling of the franchise could help move things in a different direction.

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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.

 

 

Pump the Brakes: Getting Rid of Matt Harvey Now Would Be Foolish

Pump the Brakes: Getting Rid of Matt Harvey Now Would Be Foolish

Matt Harvey’s career path has been extremely fascinating.  From the 7th overall draft pick in 2010 out of North Carolina, to his dazzling debut in 2012 where he allowed just three hits and struck out eleven in 5.1 innings against the Diamondbacks, Harvey seemed to be destined for the spotlight.  The 2013 season saw him dominate in the first half en route to receiving the starting nod for the All-Star Game at Citi Field.  Harvey tore his ulnar collateral ligament later in 2013 and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, but he flourished upon his highly anticipated return in 2015.  Harvey finished the year with a 2.71 ERA and 188 strikeouts, reminding Major League Baseball that he was still the ace on the rise that the league saw two years earlier.  “The Dark Knight” welcomed the chance to pitch in first postseason.  He was crucial in helping the Mets reach their first World Series in sixteen years.  But the World Series did not start as Harvey and his teammates had hoped it would; they lost the first two games and faced elimination in Game 5.  Harvey embraced the chance to pitch with everything on the line and become an October hero.  It was a game that he wanted, and one that he needed.

For eight innings, Matt Harvey pitched with sheer precision and moxie that New Yorkers had come to love him for.  He was emotional and dominant, striking out nine batters and ending innings with fist-pumps that resonated with the frenetic crowd.  Harvey denied Terry Collins when his manager wanted to remove him from the game for closer Jeurys Familia.  When he ran out to the mound, Citi Field shook from the uproar of nearly 45,000 Mets fans chanting, “Harvey, Harvey!”

And then, Matt Harvey’s future seemingly ended along with the Mets’ magical postseason run.

Harvey failed to record an out in the ninth before being taken out of the game for Familia.  The Royals would tie the game mere minutes later, when Eric Hosmer made his mad dash to the plate once David Wright made a throw to first base on a grounder, and maybe more so when Lucas Duda hurled a ball to the backstop on the play that should have sent the series back to Kansas City.  Harvey may have lost this battle, but surely he would continue dominating and win the war.

Harvey hasn’t won the war, though.  Since that legendary game gone wrong in the World Series, Harvey has been a shell of his former self.  His 2016 season was marred by a 4.86 ERA and noticeably lower velocity on his fastball.  His BB/9 rose considerably.  After his poor start on July 4th, the New York Mets announced that Matt Harvey would need surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in his shoulder.  The surgery was uncommon among big leaguers, and there was uncertainty that it would solve Harvey’s struggles.

So far in 2017, Harvey has not found that great pitcher that once carved up opposing lineups every fifth day.  His 5.25 ERA is by far the highest of his career, and he has nearly doubled his BB/9 since last year; it’s tripled since his stellar 2013 campaign.  His latest game saw him throw an 87 MPH fastball, something Harvey claims hasn’t happened since his freshman year of high school.  With his consistently poor on-field performances, along with his off-field issues that show his lack of maturity even at 28 years old, many Mets fans are calling for Sandy Alderson to trade the former all-star, simply to rid the team of his presence.  Sure, Harvey is a distraction, and odds are he will never return to his old form.  But trading Harvey now would be insensible, and it would be just the latest inexplicable move by the Mets’ front office.

Whispers of a Matt Harvey trade have been stirring since the winter of 2015.  With the Red Sox seeking pitching, the Mets were often discussed as a potential trade partner.  Boston had a plethora of young bats and high-upside prospects to dish out as they hoped to compete in 2016.  There was talk of a trade that would have sent Mookie Betts to New York for Harvey, but the idea never seemed to take structure.  The Mets may have even told teams Harvey would not be available, ultimately robbing them of the opportunity to find a franchise cornerstone that could play everyday.

If there was ever a time to trade Harvey, that was it.  His value is essentially non-existent now, although a team may gamble on him at a low cost.  The other morning, I was listening to Evan Roberts and Joe Beningo on WFAN, the home for New York sports talk radio.  The idea of trading Matt Harvey to the Cubs for Ian Happ came up.  About thirty minutes later, someone suggested trying to trade Harvey across town to the Yankees for outfielder Aaron Hicks.

Realistically, neither of these trades will ever happen.  Hicks is an all-star, and Happ probably will play in a few midsummer classics in the future.  Throw in the fact that the Cubs and Yankees are both in position to compete now, and both trades look like complete jokes.  Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman would never make such a ludicrous deal for a starter coming off of surgery with no signs of returning to greatness.  The fact is that Matt Harvey is worthless to the baseball world right now.  Teams know that the Mets want to dump him, decreasing his potential value on the trade market even more.  But his value may not be lost forever.

Matt Harvey is probably miserable compared to a few years ago, especially considering he could have signed a lucrative extension to stay in New York years ago.  Harvey now is just under eighteen months away from becoming a free agent, where he would be lucky to find a suitor willing to pay a third of what the Mets offered him.  Harvey has one shot left to regain that value he lost, and that shot is the 2018 season.  The free agent to-be will need to put together a respectable season in his walk-year in order to have any chance at making decent money.  If Harvey can flash his old-self next year, the Mets can then turn him around for something worthwhile, rather than just trade him for a bag of balls now.

Mets Draft Spotlight: Austin Beck

Mets Draft Spotlight: Austin Beck

Two months ago, Austin Beck was projected to be a top-ten selection on June 12th, when the MLB Draft takes place in Secaucus, New Jersey.  Beck backed up his hype with a tremendous senior spring at North Davidson High School in North Carolina.  But with the draft approaching, Beck has seen his stock fall.  It’s not because of injuries or performance, but rather based on the high number of prep-outfielders and Beck’s lack of major pedigree.  Beck’s talent screams future all-star, yet teams may pass on the 18 year-old for other young prospects.  If Beck falls to the New York Mets, they should be all over him.

Beck is a 5’11”, 175-pound outfielder who displays four potential plus tools.  In his senior campaign at North Davidson, Beck batted .590 with 12 home runs and an OPS over 1.200.  His hitting ability is top-flight, as he shows the ability to drive the ball to all fields.  Beck’s power to the opposite field is especially impressive for a prep-hitter.  Beck also demonstrates the ability to punish breaking balls over the plate, turning on hanging curveballs.  His smaller frame for a player of his height also leaves plenty of room for added power once he begins to add more muscle.  In his final high school game in the North Carolina 4A State Tournament, Beck went 4 for 4 with three home runs.  The opposing pitcher was Garrett Blaylock, a Vanderbilt commit, which shows that Beck can hang with next level pitching.

Beck played centerfield in high school, and while he could stick there as a pro, he would better profile as a corner outfielder.  Beck displays great ability tracking fly balls and he often takes extremely efficient routes to the ball.  He also has a plus arm that could easily translate to right field.  As a corner outfielder, Beck could be an above-average defender at the next level.  However, the prep-star definitely has the potential to stick in center.

Beck’s speed certainly isn’t a negative, but it is his weakest tool.  Beck tore his ACL last year, but it hasn’t hampered his speed.  His 60-yard dash time is around 6.6-6.7, which would make him a slightly above-average runner in the big leagues.

Austin Beck has some serious potential, yet his draft stock is falling for reasons that he cannot control.  The talk of his slide may be just that- talk- but if the high school star falls, the New York Mets should pounce.

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.

If the Mets Are Going to Be Sellers, They Might as Well Start Now

Following their devastating loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday evening, the New York Mets currently sit at 20-27.  They are 9.5 games behind the Washington Nationals for the National League East lead, and 8.5 games back for the second wild card.  There is still time to turn things around for New York, especially considering the nearing returns of Yoenis Cespedes, Steven Matz, and Seth Lugo.  But when you look at the current Mets roster, there are more holes than returning players to plug up those holes; Steven Matz won’t be pitching in the 8th inning on a nightly basis.  If the first two months of the season have been any indication, the New York Mets will likely be sellers this summer.  If they’re smart, they will start to pounce on the market as soon as possible, maybe even in the next week or two.

In past summers, teams who have traded earlier have been the big winners more times than not.  Just look at the respective trades in July 2014 that the Oakland A’s made for Jeff Samardzija and the deal that sent David Price to Detroit.  The Chicago Cubs sparked the market by sending Samardzija to Oakland, and in doing so they received a huge haul, headlined by current all-star Addison Russell.  On the other hand, the Tampa Bays Rays patiently waited for the trade offer they felt Price warranted, and it never came.  The Tigers sent Drew Smyly to Tampa along with now top-prospect Willy Adames.  While the Rays certainly didn’t do all that bad in hindsight, one would think that David Price would have fetched a greater return.  If Tampa attacked the trade market earlier, perhaps they could have gotten more for the 2012 Cy Young Award winner.

The summer trade market has always been a sellers market in recent years, as six or seven buyers must compete with each other to acquire impact players.  This summer is shaping up to be no different, with roughly 14 clubs all looking to increase their odds of winning the World Series.  The Mets may not have any major impact players available this summer, but they have plenty of upgrades that could serve as upgrades for contenders.

Lucas Duda

Duda may not have the greatest track record of staying healthy, but the 31 year-old has been putting together his best season so far in 2017.  Duda has only racked up 86 at-bats, but he has six home runs and a .975 OPS to go along with his .267 batting average.  Duda is on pace for the best season of his career, and it couldn’t have come at a better time as the longtime Met is set to hit free agency this winter.  Duda brings lofty power to the plate that could benefit a contender such as the Minnesota Twins, who rank in the bottom third in home runs in Major League Baseball.  Despite having less at-bats than any Minnesota starter, Duda has more home runs in 2017 than all Twins except Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano.  The Twins would not need to send any major prospects back to New York in the potential trade, and minor league closer Nick Burdi would be a piece the Mets should be ecstatic to receive.  Burdi was a second-round draft pick in 2014 out of Louisville, but has dealt with some serious injury problems including Tommy John Surgery earlier this month.  Burdi was surging prior to the injury, though, giving the Mets reason to take him for Duda.  Trading Duda would also allow the Mets to give Wilmer Flores more at-bats to see if he can hit for a full season, or call up prospect Dominic Smith and let him take over first base for the foreseeable future.

Jay Bruce

Trading Bruce would signal the team has given up on 2017.  Bruce has been a revelation in 2017 after his embarrassing finish to 2016 with the Mets.  He has slugged 12 home runs in 44 games with 31 RBI’s.  The three-time all-star could’ve been had this offseason for a low cost, but now the value is surely higher after his solid start.  Bruce profiles similar to Duda, except he has a much better track record and is a more refined hitter as a whole.  He would likely command a mid-level prospect if traded now, even though he would be a rental whose contract expires after the season.  One team that may make a play for Bruce could be the St. Louis Cardinals.  St. Louis has lacked consistent offensive production from corner outfields Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty.  Neither of the aforementioned players has an OPS above .700, which could prompt St. Louis to make a move in the competitive National League Central.  St. Louis has a deep farm system filled with potential impact players, and two names that New York could target are Harrison Bader and Jack Flaherty.  Bader was a third-round selection in the 2015 draft out of the University of Florida, and he has risen rapidly through the minors.  Bader is putting together an impressive season in Triple-A Memphis, hitting .293 with 8 home runs in 47 games.  Flaherty was a first-round pick in 2014.  He has dominated the Texas League in Double-A in 2017, and has further room to improve if he can develop more speed on his fastball.  Either Bader or Flaherty could make an impact for the Mets next season, which should be their focus if 2017 continues to trouble them.

The Case For the Mets to Keep Starting Curtis Granderson

The Case For the Mets to Keep Starting Curtis Granderson

With the return of Yoenis Cespedes looming, the New York Mets are faced with a decision that would see them place either Curtis Granderson or Lucas Duda on the bench.  If Granderson was to ride the pine, Cespedes would simply slide back into left field, pushing Michael Conforto to center.  If the Mets decided to sit Lucas Duda, Jay Bruce would likely move back to first base where he saw action earlier this season, and Curtis Granderson would become the everyday rightfielder.

After last night’s disaster, where the Mets loaded the bases in the ninth inning with no outs and down just one run, it seems apparent that Curtis Granderson will become the odd man out upon Cespedes’ return.  In his at-bat, Duda laid off some tough sliders in the ninth inning en route to drawing a walk from Padres lefty Brad Hand.  Duda has been susceptible to sliders tailing away in the past, so his demonstration of patience is a positive.  On the other hand, Granderson stuck out against Hand with the bases loaded and nobody out.  A fly ball, and perhaps even a grounder that could turn into a double play would’ve tied the game and likely led the Mets to a second straight victory over San Diego.  Yet Granderson failed to come up in an important spot, giving Terry Collins further reason to remove him from the lineup.  His .168 batting average and dreadful .565 OPS are more evidence that maybe the three-time all-star has lost a step in a major way.  Numbers aside though, the Mets would be better off keeping Granderson in the lineup and instead sitting Lucas Duda.

Looking at the numbers, it’s pretty obvious that although Lucas Duda hasn’t been setting the world on fire in 2017, he has been much more productive than Curtis Granderson.  Duda has played twenty less games, yet he has hit just as many home runs as Granderson.  In terms of WAR, Granderson currently sits around -.5, meaning he has played at sub-replacement level.  However, the month of May has shown Granderson’s strong improvement from April, and also Lucas Duda’s regression.

Since the calendar flipped, Granderson has doubled his OPS from .395 in April to .791 thus far in May.  His slugging has also jumped up to .476 in May, which is right around his career average, showing that the veteran is getting back on track.  In April, his BABIP was .154, which would indicate that he was unlucky at times when squaring the ball up.  Maybe the most promising aspect of Granderson’s month of May has been his improved walk rate.  He is walking in 11% of his plate appearances this month as opposed to just 5.4% last month.  When Granderson was starring as a dynamic leadoff hitter in 2015, he was extremely patient and often got on base via the walk.  His increased discipline and refined eye have increased his performance.

As Granderson has been trending up, Duda has seen some of his numbers fall since April, but not all of them.  Duda’s walk rate and strikeout rate have both improved, resulting in a nice bump in his on-base percentage.  However, his batting average has fallen and his slugging percentage has drastically decreased from .571 in April to .313 in May.  Duda’s BABIP in May is also suspiciously high at .292.  Based on his career batting average of .246, Duda’s average is likely to continue falling once his BABIP inevitably returns to normal.  Duda has yet to hit a home run this month, albeit he has only played in 10 games.

Another aspect to consider is how Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda individually effect the overall dynamic of the team.  Granderson provides more speed than Duda and arguably better defense assuming he will be playing right field, not center.  Duda is a slightly bigger power threat at the plate, but Granderson also can provide plenty of pop at times.  In the clubhouse, Granderson is a great leader and role model who sets good examples and also keeps a positive attitude, even when the team is struggling.  That’s not to say Lucas Duda doesn’t embody a positive attitude, but when he tells the media after a tough game, “I’ve been bad at baseball for the last week.  I’ve been terrible…”, it’s hard to see how he remains positive.

The easy decision would be to remove Curtis Granderson from his everyday spot in the outfield and allow Lucas Duda to continue starting at first base.  However, the metrics show that Curtis Granderson is on the verge of getting his bat going, whereas Lucas Duda may be set for a slump.  Granderson may be having the worst year of his career to this point, but he still holds greater potential value to the New York Mets than Lucas Duda does.