Maggie Wiggin

Maggie Wiggin writes about the Mets for SNY.tv.

Apr 11, 2018; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets pinch hitter Adrian Gonzalez (23) connects for a two run RBI single in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins during a MLB game at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports (Steve Mitchell)
Apr 11, 2018; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets pinch hitter Adrian Gonzalez (23) connects for a two run RBI single in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins during a MLB game at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports (Steve Mitchell)

The Mets picked up Adrian Gonzalez in order to buy Dominic Smith more development time in the minors -- a prescient move as Smith missed most of Spring Training due to injury. But Gonzalez has struggled so far. And though the team has a good record, it's questionable how long they can carry this kind of a hole at first base.

There are a few silver linings to Gonzalez's start. His .345 OBP is solid and he has more walks than strikeouts. His batting average is under .240, but he has timed his few hits well, knocking in multiple key runs. He has clearly improved over his injury-filled 2017, where he amassed just a .642 OPS.

Compared to last year, his .737 OPS is quite serviceable, but he is missing a key aspect of his game -- the power hitting. He has two home runs and one double on the year and that's a hard level of production to carry at first base, which is still an offense-first position around the league. Carrying a low-power first baseman, something Smith may turn out to be, is possible, but only if he brings value in a high average and solid defense -- two things we are not seeing from Gonzalez so far.

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Mar 29, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (1) scores a run on New York Mets left Fielder Yoenis Cespedes (not pictured) rbi single during the 5th inning of the game on opening day at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)
Mar 29, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (1) scores a run on New York Mets left Fielder Yoenis Cespedes (not pictured) rbi single during the 5th inning of the game on opening day at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)

The debut of top prospect Amed Rosario was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary 2017 for the Mets, but his performance at the plate had some red flags. This year, he's showing some real promise in addressing his biggest concerns. And while he isn't yet tearing the cover off the ball, he's already showing the growth the Mets need from him.

Rosario's patience at the plate last season was almost impossibly poor. In 46 games, he drew just three walks, with a walk rate under 2 percent that ranked him dead last in the majors among players with at least 100 plate appearances. In just 18 games so far this year, he's already matched his walk total from last year. He has dropped his swing percentage significantly -- particularly on pitches outside the zone -- and lowered his swinging strike rate from a lofty 18 percent to a more manageable 13 percent.

While the walks are steadily improving, Rosario has made only a small dent in his strikeout rate, which is still well above average. He wasn't always a strikeout machine in the minors, so as he continues to train his eye against major league pitching, he may refine his game further. At 22 years old, he is still very raw in this regard, but the increase in contact he has shown is a good sign...

Tags: Amed Rosario, Maggie Wiggin
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New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler winds up during the first inning of against the Washington Nationals. (AP)
New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler winds up during the first inning of against the Washington Nationals. (AP)

Jason Vargas's progressing recovery from hand surgery this spring had already raised the question of how the team will manage a crowded rotation, but Matt Harvey's struggles as a starter this season have further complicated matters. It seems inevitable that someone will find themselves pitching out of the bullpen by the end of the month, so who is the best fit?

Two weeks ago, the answer would assuredly have been Zack Wheeler. Since the early days of his major league career, many have seen a future reliever in him, perhaps even a closer. Despite strong tools, he's lacked the ability to go deep into games, and to put away batters consistently. He has also battled injuries throughout his career, including an exceptionally long recovery from Tommy John surgery, leading to conjecture that his arm may not be able to handle the work load of a full-time starter.

Even the Mets seemed to have their doubts about Wheeler's future in the rotation, as a shaky spring led to his starting the season in the minor leagues. But his two quality starts since his recall earlier this month have bought him some renewed confidence and certainly another shot to show he can hold up to the trials of a starting pitcher...

Tags: Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Maggie Wiggin
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New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the first inning of baseball game, at Nationals Park, Sunday, April 8, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)  (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the first inning of baseball game, at Nationals Park, Sunday, April 8, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

As Matt Harvey prepares to take the mound Thursday night in Atlanta, he is a very different pitcher than he was just a few years ago -- one who finds himself fighting for a rotation spot. What has changed in how Harvey pitches and what can he do -- if anything -- to succeed in this new incarnation?

Thoracic outlet syndrome, a career-ender for many, first and foremost has drained Harvey's once-formidable velocity. His average fastball came in at or near 97 mph in 2013 and 2015 and is below 93 in his three starts thus far in 2018. The cold weather may be a factor, though, and it's not much of a stretch to see him reaching the 94 he averaged in 2017. His other pitches have slowed as well -- slider, changeup, and curveball have all dropped two or more miles per hour since 2015.

Many pitchers survive and even thrive with a velocity along the lines of what Harvey is currently throwing, but his performance is still a long ways off from his days as an ace. He's struggling to fool batters, with swing rates well below his peak and contact rates well above. His swinging strike rate has dropped almost 3 percent from his 2015 mark, though it is up slightly from last year...

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 (Andy Marlin)
(Andy Marlin)

Brandon Nimmo had an incredible game on Sunday in his first start since being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas, smashing three hits including a triple and a home run. His season OPS is up to an eye-popping 1.371 and the Mets are in a real bind as they simply have to find a way to keep his bat in a crowded outfield.

In only 21 plate appearances so far, Nimmo has gotten on base an incredible 12 times while striking out only twice. This is certainly a small sample, and while he won't produce like a peak Barry Bonds all season, Nimmo is on track for the best walk and strikeout rates of his career -- as well as his best hard-hit rate and line drive rate.

Always a patient hitter, Nimmo is swinging less than ever, but pummeling the ball when he does hit. He is the consummate leadoff hitter the team has been lacking for so long and if the team is waiting for him to cool off, it might be a long wait...

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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Mar 29, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera (13) at bat against the St. Louis Cardinals during the 5th inning of the game on opening day at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)
Mar 29, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera (13) at bat against the St. Louis Cardinals during the 5th inning of the game on opening day at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)

The Mets' hot start has featured standout performances up and down the roster, but the unsung hero so far is Asdrubal Cabrera. He is impressing in every aspect of his game while providing consistency and stability in the middle infield.

Cabrera's bat has been all-around solid since day one of the 2018 season. He's batting a cool .333/.405/.515. And while that will regress when his batting average on balls in play dips, it's supported by strong peripherals. His walk rate of 8 percent is just around his career norm, but notably his strikeout rate is just 13.5 percent -- well below league average. And while he has just one home run, his slugging percentage is boosted by three doubles.

He's also benefiting from an all-fields approach, hitting the ball to the opposite field at a career-high rate -- a habit that could keep his batting average higher than his prior career numbers would suggest...

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera, Maggie Wiggin
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Apr 5, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway (36) walks across the field before the start of the game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)
Apr 5, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway (36) walks across the field before the start of the game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)

Mickey Callaway, new to the Mets and new to managing altogether, arrived to expectations that he would be less inclined towards following the "old-school" guidelines than his predecessor. He is living up to those expectations in a number of ways, most notably in regards to his lineup construction, which he has varied with each of the six games so far.

The most striking way in which he has rejected traditional managerial dogma is in batting the pitcher eighth. This was something Terry Collins dabbled with briefly, but Callaway made a splash early by debuting this construction in his first game, and seems to have a clear strategy for exactly when and how to utilize it.

Callaway has a very clear goal in batting the pitcher eighth and that is to use the young Amed Rosario to his greatest potential. Rosario has the speed of a classic leadoff hitter but his low on base percentage makes him a liability high in the order. Pushing him down to ninth ensures that he sees good pitches ahead of Brandon Nimmo or whoever else is in the leadoff spot and also gives the Mets' potent top of the lineup more opportunities to drive in runs when Rosario does get on...

Tags: Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes, Kevin Plawecki, Michael Conforto, Travis d'Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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Apr 3, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) is congratulated in the dugout after scoring in the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)
Apr 3, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) is congratulated in the dugout after scoring in the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)

The Mets have a lot to be satisfied with at this early point in the season, with the second-best batting average in baseball and an overall offense in the top third of the league. But behind those numbers are some very different stories -- some good and some not so good.

While it's still early to come to any conclusions, let's take a look at the trends emerging for the 2018 Mets...

The Good

Tags: Amed Rosario, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brandon Nimmo, Jay Bruce, Jose Reyes, Juan Lagares, Maggie Wiggin
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Mar 9, 2018; Lakeland, FL, USA; New York Mets infielder Todd Frazier (21) fields a ground ball in the first inning of a spring training game against the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)
Mar 9, 2018; Lakeland, FL, USA; New York Mets infielder Todd Frazier (21) fields a ground ball in the first inning of a spring training game against the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)

The Mets have long struggled with infield defense, culminating in last year's all-around disaster. Between all four spots, they totaled an incredible -68 defensive runs saved (roughly equivalent to losing seven games more than they would have with average defense) -- a mark double that of the second worst team.

No position was better than -10 defensive runs saved, with shortstop taking the cake at -24. There was no place to go but up and thankfully, with some new faces and some positional changes, the Mets should be in line for a big step forward.

Asdrubal Cabrera was one of the worst offenders in 2017 and while he's the only starter returning, he should benefit considerably from a positional change. While he is not expected to be a defensive whiz at second base, his performance there over the course of his career has far exceeded his performance at shortstop, where he has been a major liability almost every season. In a small sample in 2017, he was still a net negative at second, but more consistent time there should help significantly...

Tags: Amed Rosario, Asdrubal Cabrera, Dominic Smith, Wilmer Flores, Maggie Wiggin
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BNNY: Conforto in Port St. Lucie 00:07:10
Mets outfielder Michael Conforto was in the lineup Friday against the Cardinals and went 1-for-4 in his first Spring Training game.

The Mets enter the 2018 regular season with projected wins ranging from 80 to 83 -- a disappointing set of expectations. But projections are always rough and it's normal to have a swing of plus or minus six-to-nine wins, which would give the Mets a shot at a playoff spot if things break right.

So what are the key breaks the Mets need to make it to the postseason?

A strong return by Michael Conforto

Tags: Kevin Plawecki, Michael Conforto, Travis d'Arnaud, Maggie Wiggin
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Feb 26, 2017; Paul Sewald (79) delivers a pitch during a spring training game. Credit: Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2017; Paul Sewald (79) delivers a pitch during a spring training game. Credit: Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As Spring Training wears on, the pieces of the Mets roster are beginning to fall into place. The bullpen -- a long time thorn in the team's side -- has a strong foundation emerging, and there are several relievers looking to snag a spot for Opening Day.

The back-end of the bullpen is set, and has the potential to be strong. Jeurys Familia is solid so far this spring, and looks to be fully recovered from last season's surgery. A.J. Ramos has also come out strong, and should bring a much-needed consistency that the Mets have often lacked. The newest acquisition, Anthony Swarzak, has seen limited action due to an early calf strain, but should be seeing action this weekend. And Jerry Blevins is looking to continue his stretch as one of the top lefty relievers in the game.

This core quartet leaves either three or four spots for a bevy of competitors to vie for, depending on how many bench players the Mets intend to carry. Paul Sewald, who pitched better last year than his final line indicated, is at the front of the pack currently, having given up only one run this spring over four appearances. He doesn't throw hard, but his sidearm delivery offers a nice complement to the other fireballers on the staff.

Tags: Hansel Robles, Jeurys Familia, Paul Sewald, Rafael Montero, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler, Maggie Wiggin
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Sep 24, 2017; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) rounds second base after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)
Sep 24, 2017; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) rounds second base after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)

Brandon Nimmo saw success for the first time in his young career in 2017, despite an unusual profile and an inconsistent role on the team. The team's outfield alignment may not have an opening for him on a regular basis but can one plus-plus tool force their hand?

Nimmo arrived in the majors with the expectation that he would get on base and he has done exactly that. Over 215 plate appearances in 2017, he put up a .379 on base percentage, which would have ranked him in the top 20 of all hitters in baseball if he qualified. A high strikeout rate held him back from a high batting average, but his 15 percent walk rate was elite and anyone getting on base that often has significant value, regardless of his other qualities.

When a young player puts up an exceptional statistic like a 15 percent walk rate, it makes it difficult to project future seasons with accuracy. ZiPS, Steamer, and PECOTA all expect a big drop off, based on the assumption that his walk rate will fall back to earth and his power will regress...

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Jay Bruce, Juan Lagares, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Andy Marlin)
(Andy Marlin)

With the acquisition of Todd Frazier, the Mets' contingent of position players is largely settled. But some questions remain, including one that has plagued the team for several seasons now: who will lead off?

On Friday, new Mets hitting coach Pat Roessler mentioned Frazier, Brandon Nimmo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jose Reyes as potential leadoff candidates. And there should be even more candidates than the above. So, who should it be?

The classic "old school" leadoff man is whoever is fastest -- who will steal the most bases? Of the Mets' projected starters, clearly Amed Rosario fits that mold best. He is projected to steal anywhere from 15-to-25 bases in 2018, and his raw speed is clearly elite...

Tags: Amed Rosario, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes, Michael Conforto, Maggie Wiggin
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Sep 11, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) (Peter Aiken)
Sep 11, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) (Peter Aiken)

Lorenzo Cain just signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Brewers -- a deal mostly seen as fair overall. The Mets had largely silenced any rumors of a union with Cain with the signing of Jay Bruce earlier this month, but the reasonable terms of Cain's contract raise the question of whether he would have been the better fit.

Cain represents something the Mets haven't had on the team in some time -- a starting center fielder in his natural position. While Juan Lagares is one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, he is not viewed as a starting-caliber player, and so the team has made due with reasonably athletic corner outfielders, from Yoenis Cespedes to Michael Conforto, both of whom more than account for the defensive deficiencies with strong bats.

But the value of a true center fielder is significant. Not only does the defense in center improve, but an uptick in the run-prevention from the corners usually happens as well. Cain, the fourth-best centerfielder in baseball since 2015 by both defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating, would have undoubtedly tightened up the outfield in an era of ever-increasing fly balls.

Tags: Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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Sep 7, 2017; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) is congratulated by center fielder Juan Lagares (12) after hitting a home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the fifth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)
Sep 7, 2017; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) is congratulated by center fielder Juan Lagares (12) after hitting a home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the fifth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)

With the return of Jay Bruce and a hole remaining in the infield, much of the buzz around the Mets this week has centered on the possibility of trading Brandon Nimmo or Juan Lagares for a second baseman. But the Mets are still dangerously thin in the outfield and willingly dealing away what little depth they have would be a serious mistake.

The Mets currently have five outfielders on the 40-man roster: Bruce, Nimmo, Lagares, Michael Conforto, and Yoenis Cespedes. Conforto, as reported earlier, is expected to be out at a minimum the entire month of April. Moreover, Nimmo, Lagares, and Cespedes all have lost significant time in recent years. The safe assumption is that they will be down by at least one man for the bulk of the season.

Teams have gotten by with four outfielders on the active roster for short stretches, but rarely for long stretches. And if the Mets were to have two on the sidelines at the same time -- a fairly common occurrence -- they would have no choice but to dig into their minor league depth, and that's where things start to get scary...

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Jay Bruce, Juan Lagares, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

As Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler come off of disappointing and injury-riddled seasons, their futures with the Mets remain hazy. Though both were highly-touted and, in Harvey's case, experienced a significant run of exceptional success, there's a chance that at least one of them will be pitching out of the bullpen by the end of next season.

Rumblings about Wheeler pitching out of the bullpen started almost as soon as his major league career. As a flamethrower with difficulty pitching deep into games, it seemed to be a natural fit, though the promise of a young pitcher reaching his full potential as a starter was enough to keep him in the rotation even after his 2015 Tommy John surgery. But promise doesn't last forever, and the 27-year-old has yet to show he can overcome his deficiencies as a starter.

One of the issues that has always made Wheeler a frustrating pitcher to watch is his difficulty going deep into games. He has yet to average 6 innings per start in a season, and 2017 was his worst yet, averaging just over 5. Converting him into a reliever would instantly eliminate one of his biggest weaknesses, though it's questionable whether it would address the primary cause of that weakness -- his sky-high walk rate. It would also likely add some velocity to his fastball, which could potentially boost his strikeout numbers. And the smaller workload could preserve his arm health, which is in serious question right now...

Tags: Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Maggie Wiggin
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Aug 3, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; New York Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (1) motions before the game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports (Isaiah J. Downing)
Aug 3, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; New York Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (1) motions before the game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports (Isaiah J. Downing)

Amed Rosario's much-anticipated debut was for many Mets fans the lone highlight of an otherwise brutal 2017 season. The former top prospect arrived in Queens on August 1 to sky-high expectations, some of which he met and some of which he did not. Going into 2018, his age-22 season, it may not be fair to anticipate a superstar breakout, but there are a number of ways he can improve and grow.

As many expected prior to his debut, Rosario's bat is still very much a work in progress. His .665 OPS would have been the fourth-worst among shortstops in 2017 if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. It's hard to find a silver lining in his performance, other than the fact that he's still very young and can largely be carried by his glove. Plate discipline, power, and baserunning all need work, even for someone who brings elite defense to the table.

No one was looking for Rosario to be a walk machine at the plate, but the three bases on balls he drew over his two months with the Mets were good for a 1.8 percent walk rate, the lowest in the majors of all 435 players with at least 100 plate appearances. Paired with a strikeout rate close to 30 percent, it's crystal clear that improving his plate discipline needs to be Rosario's top priority in preparing for the new season. He's never going to be Brandon Nimmo up there, and he doesn't need to be, but a swinging strike rate nearly double the league average is a problem...

Tags: Amed Rosario, Maggie Wiggin
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Aug 17, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) (Nick Turchiaro)
Aug 17, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) (Nick Turchiaro)

As the Mets try to fill gaping infield holes from a free agent class that is mediocre at best, the team is looking to the trade market to try to piece together an outside-the-box solution for a challenging offseason. Evan Longoria may be on the trading block, and if he is, the Mets will likely check in about what the Rays are looking for.

Longoria is not the player he was when he peaked in his mid-20s, when he was one of the best third basemen in the game, but he has shown the ability to stay healthy despite his age. Since 2013, he has played at least 156 games every season and has the most games played of anyone in baseball in that span. For a team constantly struggling to keep players on the field, his durability would bring enormous value.

Any acquiring team will be concerned about Longoria's skill level, though. After a resurgent 2016 campaign where he racked up 36 home runs and an .840 OPS, his best since 2013, he hit just league average in 2017, with a paltry .313 on base percentage that was the lowest of his career. The good news is that his strikeout rate was a very impressive 16 percent, well below league average, and his walk rate, while not at the elite level it once was, was on a par with recent years...

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New York Mets' Dominic Smith hits a double scoring two runs in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Tami Chappell)  (Tami Chappell/AP)
New York Mets' Dominic Smith hits a double scoring two runs in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Tami Chappell) (Tami Chappell/AP)

The Mets have made no secret of their interest in bringing in a first baseman this offseason, which means one thing: they are not (yet) sold on Dominic Smith. And it's hard to make an argument that they should be.

Smith's debut was by any measure a disappointing one. Across 49 games in August and September, he hit a paltry .198 with a .658 OPS and failed to demonstrate either the smooth glove or the smooth swing that brought him to the majors in the first place. The one positive is that he showed the potential for real power for the first time in his career, hitting nine home runs with an isolated slugging close to .200. He still does not compare favorably to the average first baseman in that area, but he has shown consistent improvement year over year.

But a 22-year-old former first-round pick brings a lot of upside that a 183 plate appearance sample size doesn't necessarily encompass. So as the Mets explore their options, they'll be asking themselves what an extra year -- and, if offseason rumors are to be believed, a little less weight -- will do for Smith's numbers...

Tags: Dominic Smith, Maggie Wiggin
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Sandy's Shopping List: RHP Shaw 00:00:37
Right-handed relief pitcher Bryan Shaw is the latest name on Mets general manager Sandy Alderson's shopping list.

With the Mets turning focus towards the bullpen, as they look to turn around one of the league's worst from last season, we will hear from some familiar names (like the rest of MLB, they will be kicking the tires on Addison Reed and Brandon Morrow), but also some lesser-known relievers with established histories of success.

One right-hander they are looking at that fits this mold is Bryan Shaw, who they have reportedly made a multiyear offer to. The 30-year-old put in two solid years with the Diamondbacks before blossoming over five excellent seasons with the Indians. His pitching coach there? Mickey Callaway, who knows a good arm when he sees one.

Shaw made 378 appearances for Cleveland from 2011-2017 and hits free agency having put together a 3.11 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP for them. His strikeout rate is far from dominant for a relief arm -- just 8 batters per 9 innings -- but his strong groundball tendency has given him considerable added value in this homerun-heavy era...

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The Mets are in the market for starting pitching and perhaps one of the better bang-for-your-buck options in free agency this year will be Lance Lynn. The towering right-hander is coming off a strong run with the Cardinals and is expected to net a 3-to-4 year deal with an average annual value around $15 million.

Lynn was a big question mark going into 2017 after missing all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, but he saw great success in his return, putting up a 3.43 ERA over 186 1/3 innings with a 1.229 WHIP. Like most of baseball, he saw his home run numbers rise, but not at an alarming rate. His walks were a bit high, not unusual for a pitcher settling in after a long hiatus, but he showed he still has the ability to induce weak contact.

That said, Lynn comes with his share of concerns, as will any pitcher on the wrong side of 30 with surgery in his past. The biggest red flag is a decline in his strikeout rate. Once capable of nearing 200 strikeouts in a season, Lynn struck out a career-low 7.4 batters per 9 innings in 2017, without the corresponding improvement in his walk rate that many pitchers show as they shift from power pitching to finesse pitching as they age...

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Sep 11, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) (Peter Aiken)
Sep 11, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) (Peter Aiken)

The Royals have made qualifying offers (one-year contract offers of $17.4 million that net the team a draft pick if the player refuses) to pending free agents Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer. This move did not come as a surprise but nonetheless may play a role in the Mets' offseason as they look to retool their lineup.

This year marks the debut of a new system of qualifying offers, one designed to have a lesser impact on a player's market than in prior years. If the Mets sign a player who has received a qualifying offer, instead of losing a first round draft pick, they will lose their second-highest pick This is based on there being a big market team that didn't exceed the luxury tax last season, the rules vary for teams in other situations.

To the Mets, this is a lesser obstacle to signing a player than it would have been last year, though the league may see overall sticker prices on these players rise because they don't "cost" as much in draft pick compensation.

Tags: Dominic Smith, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Troy Taormina)
(Troy Taormina)

Though this may have been unthinkable just a year ago, it's undeniable that the Mets are in desperate need of starting pitching. Their 5.14 ERA ranked 27th in baseball and going into 2018, and only Jacob deGrom (and Noah Syndergaard, if healthy) can be reasonably counted on to be major contributors.

The Mets need to improve the rotation fast, and the best way to do that is with a big fish. This offseason, the biggest fish out there is Yu Darvish and if the Mets are serious about contending in 2018, they should have every intention of bringing him to Queens.

Darvish is coming off a solid season, his first full year since he underwent Tommy John in spring of 2015. He brought the same nearly unhittable stuff that has been his hallmark throughout his career, putting up a strikeout ratio of over 10 batters per 9 innings, a mark he has hit every year in the majors. And while control has sometimes been a challenge for him, his walk ratio was well below his career average. He did experience an uptick in home runs allowed, but it was proportionate to the MLB norm in this power-heavy year and certainly not enough to be considered a red flag...

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Shanna Lockwood)
(Shanna Lockwood)

The Mets have made some smart, unexpected moves to open the offseason -- buying a new Triple A affiliate, going with an out-of-the-box manager choice -- but the moves that will determine the future of the 2018 season are yet to come. What we've seen so far is that the team is willing to take risks, and that may be the most promising sign of all.

Under GM Sandy Alderson, perhaps the Mets' biggest flaw has been risk aversion. Right after Alderson's hiring, the team made the most uninspired manager hiring possible, who in turn managed almost pathologically to the book at every opportunity. In player acquisition, they eschewed big contracts, even after payroll began to expand, instead focusing on lower-risk, lower-return smaller deals. Even the trades, which generally involve taking chances on unproven prospects, were relatively low-risk for the Mets as the players being traded offered little value to the rebuilding team.

The Mets are in a tough spot now, with a surging Nationals team, a Braves team teeming with young talent, and more roster holes than you can shake a stick at. But despite the rotation looking as bad as it's ever been, the window isn't quite closed yet...

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The Sandy Bunch: Mickey Callaway 00:00:37
SNY.tv takes a look at Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway as a candidate to be the next Mets manager.

This post was originally publised October 9, 2017...

For a team whose pitching staff collapsed as epically as the Mets' did in 2017, it makes sense to consider bringing in a manager with pitching expertise. And after helping the Indians put together one of the best group of arms in baseball, that's one metric Mickey Callaway might very well lead the league in.

Since taking on the role of pitching coach in Cleveland in 2013, the pitching staff there made a complete 180. After posting a major league worst ERA in 2012, the Indians have led the American League in ERA every year since then and have put up MLB-best numbers in strikeouts and wins above replacement.

Under Callaway's tutelage, they have developed stars in Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, and Corey Kluber, who may be looking at his second Cy Young Award this year. In many ways, the Indians have reached the heights of pitching that the Mets were expected to, and Callaway receives a lot of the credit. It's also noteworthy that, despite throwing hard, they have generally stayed healthy...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Maggie Wiggin
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The Sandy Bunch: Joe McEwing 00:00:40
SNY.tv takes a look at White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing as a candidate to be the next Mets manager.

The parade of Mets managerial candidates has included a number of familiar faces, but perhaps none more familiar than Joe McEwing, who spent five years in Queens as a bench player.

While fans' affection for McEwing often outpaced his skill on the field, he has spent the years since his 2008 retirement in a variety of coaching roles with the White Sox organization, and his good reputation has earned him an interview with the Mets this week.

McEwing was in many ways the quintessential utility player. In his five seasons with the Mets, "Super Joe" saw time at every position except pitcher and catcher. He eked out a league average batting line in only one season, but was a solid defender and was beloved by fans and teammates alike for his scrappy play and positive attitude. Prior to his release early in 2005, he had served as something of a mentor to a young David Wright, who raved about his character and bemoaned the loss of his friend and teacher...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, David Wright, Maggie Wiggin
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The Sandy Bunch: Bob Geren 00:00:39
SNY.tv takes a look at Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren as a candidate to be the next Mets manager.

When Terry Collins's position officially opened, it was no surprise that Bob Geren's name was one of the first mentioned. With past managing experience and prior ties to the team, he is a classic Sandy Alderson managerial candidate, though whether he will be their final choice remains to be seen.

While his career lacked the longevity of Alex Cora's, Geren saw his share of playing time, spending four years catching for the Yankees, and one more for San Diego. After retiring at age 32, he took on managing roles for Red Sox minor league teams, before moving over to the Athletics organization in similar roles. It was in Oakland that he got his first shot at the major leagues, first as bullpen coach and bench coach and then as manager, beginning in 2007.

Geren's time as manager of the A's was a mixed bag. He was given mediocre teams to work with, which generally performed as expected, but the front office consistently expressed confidence in him, extending his contract and twice picking up options on him. In 2011, though, there were public complaints from current and former players about his communication and distribution of playing time. Just two weeks later, following a brutal losing streak, he was let go...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Maggie Wiggin
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Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Mallex Smith (0) is congratulated by third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) (Kim Klement)
Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Mallex Smith (0) is congratulated by third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) (Kim Klement)

While most names connected to the Mets managerial search have had some past affiliation with the team, one that might be new to Mets fans is Charlie Montoyo, current third base coach for the Rays.

On-field, Montoyo's career was short and unmemorable. He spent nine years in the minors as an infielder and saw major league action in just four games with the Expos in 1993. He retired at age 30 in 1996 before launching his career as a coach, with the brand new Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Working at every level of the Rays organization, Montoyo has built an impressive resume. Most notably, he spent eight years as their Triple-A manager, leading the Durham Bulls to six division championships and two league championships. He holds the team record for most managerial wins and has been inducted to the International League Hall of Fame in recognition of his success in that role, which exposed him to a lot of the young talent that fueled the Rays' playoff runs beginning in 2008...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Maggie Wiggin
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The Sandy Bunch: Kevin Long 00:00:36
SNY.tv takes a look at Mets hitting coach Kevin Long as a candidate to be the next Mets manager.

There's a lot of skepticism at the true impact a hitting coach can have on a swing decades in the making, but one of the few who has undeniably made his mark is Kevin Long. That talent has made him invaluable to the Mets and has pushed his name near the top of the list of managerial candidates.

Long has had a significant effect on Mets hitting since joing the team in 2015. He translated the organizational focus on plate discipline -- not necessarily with the goal of drawing walks, but with the goal of finding a pitch to drive -- in a way that clicked for many of their hitters.

Curtis Granderson, who had sung Long's praises since they worked together in the Bronx, rebounded from a rough Mets debut to put together one of the best seasons of his career. Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, and Asdrubal Cabrera both saw big spikes in on base percentage working under Long as well. And Long's intense work with Daniel Murphy certainly seems to have paid off as well, albeit not for the Mets...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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The Sandy Bunch: Alex Cora 00:00:38
SNY.tv takes a look at former Met and current Astros bench coach Alex Cora as a candidate for the Mets managerial position.

Of the many names being floated as potential future managers for the Mets, one that has garnered a lot of interest is Alex Cora. Expected to interview soon, his youth and relative lack of managerial experience may put him at a slight disadvantage, but he has a lot to offer a team in transition.

Cora is not a new name to Mets fans -- his 14-year stint in the majors included a brief stop in Queens. Already near the end of a mediocre at best on-field career, his performance with the Mets was quite poor (a .597 OPS over 2 years), but even then, in 2010, he received raves for his clubhouse presence. And there was a widespread assumption he would eventually go into managing.

Since retiring from professional baseball in 2012, Cora spent some time broadcasting, but most notably joined the Astros as a bench coach for the 2017 season...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Adam Hagy)
(Adam Hagy)

Jacob deGrom carried the burden this season of being the most valuable player on his team by far, and is the closest thing the Mets have to a sure bet going into 2018. Though some of his stats took a hit in a season that was strange for pitching in general, he was out there every five days, amassing 200 innings, 15 wins, and showing the consistency that has made him the centerpiece of the team.

Despite his relatively high ERA of 3.53 (still significantly better than most of the league), deGrom did some of the best pitching of his professional career this season.

He struck out a dazzling 239 batters -- fifth-most in baseball, and did so at a rate of nearly 11 batters per 9 innings, by far a career-best and good for seventh in the league. He also put up the best swinging strike rate and the best soft contact rate of his MLB career...

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Maggie Wiggin
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New York Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud (18) hits a three run home run against the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud (18) hits a three run home run against the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

All season, the Mets had a significant problem at the catcher position. Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki were each batting under .240 with an OPS under .700 at the end of August and minimal history of success to look back on, particularly in Plawecki's case. But both have had a surge of production that may help simplify an issue for a team facing a very complicated offseason.

On September 1, d'Arnaud was sitting on a .232/.281/.394 slash line over 306 plate appearancesm -- a deeply disappointing season in which he finally seemed to be capable of staying healthy for a long stretch. Since the beginning of the month, though, he has been on fire, batting .315/.367/.741 with six home runs in 60 plate appearances, while striking out only five times.

It hasn't all been against September call-ups either -- five of his six home runs came against established major leaguers, and his OPS is seventh-best in baseball for the month. D'Arnaud's season line is still below major league average overall, but better than the average catcher, particularly in regards to power. He's not out of the woods yet, but this explosion could not have come at a better time.

Tags: Kevin Plawecki, Travis d'Arnaud, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)
(Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)

The Mets will be going into the offseason with a lot of question marks, but one thing is clear: they need more starting pitching. Sandy Alderson has said in interviews that he will be looking for someone who can be counted on for a lot of innings, which probably means they would be steering clear of high-ceiling starters with injury issues, such as Michael Pineda and Lance Lynn.

The sticker prices on Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta will probably deter the Mets, so who are some mid-level starters they should have their eye on?

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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

The Mets have two veteran infielders who are having good second halves -- Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera. With the way the roster is currently constructed, one of them will probably find himself with the team next year, possibly even with a starting role. Which one has the better case?

Asdrubal Cabrera

Cabrera followed up a stellar 2016 campaign as the Mets' starting shortstop with a rough first half of 2017. At the All-Star break, he had just a .736 OPS, and his defense was terrible. Moreover, he had made headlines by asking to be traded after the team asked him to move off shortstop. At the time, it seemed highly unlikely he would remain a Met much longer, despite a team option that would allow him to return in 2018 for just $6.5 million...

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
(Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)

In the five weeks since his Mets debut, Dominic Smith hasn't put up dominant numbers in any category, leading some to express concerns that he wasn't ready for the majors. But he is already beginning to adjust, and his .879 OPS in September shows the potential he brings.

Possibly as a function of his relative youth at each level, Smith has a history of adjusting slowly to his promotions. As a 20-year-old in High-A, he mustered just a .220 average with one extra base hit in the month of April. From May onwards, he hit .314 and finished the year with 33 doubles.

Likewise, the following year in Double-A, he put up mediocre numbers well into May, before catching fire and batting .323/.397/.495 from June through September. His start in Triple-A (an .867 OPS in April of this year) was comparatively strong, but he still showed improvement throughout the season, finishing with a career-high .905 OPS, as well as the best power numbers he has shown in professional ball...

Tags: Dominic Smith, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Brad Mills)
(Brad Mills)

The Mets bullpen has underperformed this season, pitching to a 4.56 ERA that ranks 24th in MLB, as well as walk and home run rates that place them in the bottom third of the league. Behind those numbers, though, are two very different seasons.

The first half Mets bullpen was one of the worst in the game -- 27th in ERA and dead last in WHIP. They had blown nearly half of their save opportunities and walked over 10% of the batters they faced. Since the All-Star break, though, they have largely righted the ship, with an ERA in the top 10 and a WHIP around the middle of the pack.

The Mets bullpen is still quite shallow and needs plenty of revamping over the offseason if the team hopes to compete in 2018, but a few notable names have been making the most of their opportunity. Here are some arms to watch over the rest of the season.

AJ Ramos

A big-league reliever with closer experience, Ramos was brought in with the expectation that he will be a lock for late-inning relief in 2018. Luckily for the Mets, he has lived up to expectations and his 3.00 ERA since becoming a Met has helped stabilize a bullpen reeling from the loss of Addison Reed...

Tags: Addison Reed, Josh Smoker, Maggie Wiggin
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Nimmo's second homer of night 00:00:54
Brandon Nimmo smacks a two-run home run to deep center field, his second of the game.

Batting cleanup for just the second time in his career, Brandon Nimmo looked the part last night, slugging two home runs and a double. But, while this unexpected power surge might not last forever, he is showing a steady glove and, most notably, legitimately elite plate discipline...

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)
(Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)

It's hard to imagine Matt Harvey's season going any worse. After posting a 4.86 ERA in just 17 starts in 2016, he has followed it with a 5.97 ERA in 2017, capped off by the worst start of his career last weekend in Houston. He lasted just two innings and allowed eight hits, seven runs, threw two wild pitches, and hit a batter. Mercifully, the Mets scrapped an ill-conceived plan to have him start on short rest, but at this point, it just feels like delaying the inevitable. Are we seeing the end of Matt Harvey?

Not many pitchers have returned to form after being treated for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, though few had his stature prior to it. Chris Carpenter, Cy Young winner with the 2005 Cardinals, was one of them, and it ended his career. That said, Carpenter was 37 years old and TOS was one of a half dozen significant arm injuries that studded his career. Josh Beckett also underwent the same rib-removal version of the procedure as Harvey (again, several years older), though notably he pitched one last exceptionally good season upon returning from it. Former Met Chris Young has also seen success upon return, though he is now beginning to show his age.

It's next to impossible to find good comparison cases for Harvey. Unlike Tommy John surgery, only a handful of major leaguers have undergone treatment for TOS. And what makes comparison even harder is the fact that they tend to have them at a much more advanced age...

Tags: Matt Harvey, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Peter Aiken)
(Peter Aiken)

Going into the 2018 season, the Mets have a lot of holes to fill. And with David Wright's absence presumed to be permanent, one of the biggest is at third base.

Unfortunately, the position player market is paper thin, and third base may be the worst spot of all. One of the few pending free agent third basemen having an above average year is Mike Moustakas, but does he make sense for the Mets?

On the positive side, Moustakas is having a strong offensive year with an .854 OPS -- 11th-best among MLB third basemen, and 35 home runs -- by far the most of his career. This marks the third consecutive year he has put up above average numbers, and though his on base percentage is mediocre, his strikeout rate is below league average and he can hit the ball hard, as evidenced by his sudden power breakout. He's on pace for over 40 home runs this season -- perhaps even doubling his previous career high of 22 set back in 2015.

Though he has never shown great speed, Moustakas has historically had a modestly good glove at third base, in the top half of the league by both traditional measures, such as fielding percentage, and modern metrics, such as defensive runs saved...

Tags: David Wright, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Bill Streicher)
(Bill Streicher)

 A strained hamstring brought Yoenis Cespedes's 2017 to a close -- a season with a lot of the highs and lows and long DL stints that have come to characterize his time with the Mets.

Despite frustrating stretches, including a .665 OPS during the month of July, Cespedes's final line of .292/.352/.540 very closely reflects his overall performance since becoming a Met, and his 17 home runs over 81 games put him on a pace for 34 over a full season -- a tick above his career pace of 32 per 162 games.

Most promisingly, Cespedes proved his .354 OBP in 2016, his best since his rookie year, was no fluke. Since coming to the Mets, he has demonstrated growth beyond the all-or-nothing slugger he seemed to be previously. The Mets invested nine figures in a player they believe is an all-around great hitter. And while there are plenty of concerns about his overall value, at the plate he has been everything the team and the fans could have hoped for...

Tags: Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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Gelbs on Nimmo's approach 00:02:06
On Citi Pre Game Live, Steve Gelbs talks about Brandon Nimmo's approach at the plate that has led to a .406 OBP over his last ten games.

There's a youth movement afoot in Queens. The mass exodus of pending free agent veterans has left holes all over the field, and young players are jumping at the chance -- for some perhaps their last -- to prove their worth to a team in transition. While none have the pedigree of Amed Rosario or Dominic Smith, some former early-round draft picks are going to become familiar faces over the next 5 weeks.

Selected in the first round of the 2011 Draft as a raw center fielder with a good eye at the plate, Brandon Nimmo had the misfortune of being yet another lefty outfielder on a team overflowing with them. The departures of Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson have left the door wide open, though, and he should get a long look as a potential fourth outfielder for 2018.

While Nimmo has shown little power in his professional career, his 13.6 percent walk rate in the minors shows he has the potential to get on base at an elite rate. Early indicators suggest this approach is translating at the major league level, though the hit tool needs to continue to develop in order to justify the lack of power and vulnerability to strikeouts...

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Gavin Cecchini, Matt Reynolds, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Charles LeClaire)
(Charles LeClaire)

Though he has been in and out of the major leagues since his 2015 debut, Kevin Plawecki has yet to prove himself capable of hitting at the major league level. But the departure of Rene Rivera has given him another opportunity to show he can adjust and provide value to the Mets.

Plawecki is now 26 years old and would be considered well past the development phase of his career at any other position. But catchers do peak late and it's possible that Plawecki will earn a spot in the majors long-term.

Contrary to scouting reports early in his professional career, Plawecki has excellent defensive tools as a catcher. He has a moderately good arm and blocks well, but he excels most in pitch-framing -- the catching skill with the biggest impact on run-prevention. He consistently ranks highly among major league catchers in runs saved via pitch-framing despite having relatively few innings...

Tags: Kevin Plawecki, Travis d'Arnaud, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Jake Roth)
(Jake Roth)

Wilmer Flores seems to have been a Met for a very long time. Since debuting in 2013, he has amassed over 1,500 plate appearances while playing no fewer than 50 games in each of the four infield spots. Along the way, he has collected 54 home runs, 192 RBI, and one dramatic last-minute reprieve from a trade to the Brewers. No wonder it's so easy to forget that he's still just 26 years old.

Despite moving through the Mets system on the strength of his bat, Flores didn't get off to a hot start in the majors, putting up a paltry .675 OPS from 2013-15. But over the past two seasons, coinciding with the end of his experimental shortstop run, he has put together a .272/.318/.478 slash line -- not a dominant offensive performance, but above league average and the kind of line that keeps a hitter in a lineup on a regular basis. It's fairly similar to the numbers Wil Myers has put up in San Diego over the same time period, although Flores has fewer plate appearances.

Flores has seen significant handedness splits over the course of his career, with an .830 OPS against lefties and a .686 OPS against righties. As a result, he has been used largely in a platoon role. But this season, he is showing something new.

Flores' OPS against lefties is almost identical to his career split, but he has made great strides against righties - a .789 OPS along with nine of his 15 home runs. While he is still a dependable hitter against left-handed pitching, he no longer appears to be a liability against right-handers, which would be a big step forward in his development...

Tags: Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Neil Walker, Wilmer Flores, Maggie Wiggin
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 (AP)
(AP)

Young slugger Aaron Judge makes his Citi Field debut Wednesday night when the Yankees play the Mets, but he will be met by fellow All-Star Michael Conforto, whose star-making 2017 is quickly climbing the list of best Mets seasons ever.

Still just 24 years old, Conforto began his third MLB season looking to put aside the memory of his disappointing sophomore effort -- and he has succeeded in a big way. His .957 OPS is 10th-best in baseball and is the seventh-best season mark in Mets history, alongside such names as Mike Piazza, David Wright, and Darryl Strawberry. He trails Judge's 1.029 mark for 2017, but is rapidly closing the gap -- and hasn't had the luxury of playing in cozy Yankee Stadium, nor the luxury of playing at his natural position.

Once scouted as a 15-to-20 home run bat, Conforto has found his power stroke in a way few Mets his age ever have. With six weeks of baseball left, he has knocked 26 home runs, tying David Wright's 2006 total for fifth-most among Mets under 25. He should easily smash the record of 30, also held by Wright. And Conforto is only getting better as the season heats up, with 12 home runs in the second half...

Tags: Aaron Judge, Michael Conforto, Maggie Wiggin
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New York Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen has a mound conference with catcher Travis d'Arnaud and pitcher Steven Matz in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field. (Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen has a mound conference with catcher Travis d'Arnaud and pitcher Steven Matz in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field. (Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports)

Steven Matz's midseason return to the Mets began with much promise, as he posted a 2.12 ERA over his first five starts. Even with impressive results, though, he was showing many red flag, and unfortunately it has all come crumbling down since. 

In 23 2/3 innings since July 9, he has allowed 29 runs, ballooning his season ERA to 5.77. He has allowed a career-high home run rate, and his hard-contact rate, formerly one of his strengths, has skyrocketed.

These are things that he also faced earlier in the season, but survived with a combination of an exceptionally high strand rate and a low batting average on balls in play. Both of these were expected to regress to league norms and they have indeed come plummeting back to earth. 

Tags: Steven Matz, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Steve Mitchell)
(Steve Mitchell)

Former top-100 prospect Travis d'Arnaud has been an enigma for the Mets, showing flashes of offensive prowess while struggling to stay on the field. As the Mets look ahead to an offseason of question marks, he is working diligently to prove he isn't one of them.

D'Arnaud's biggest strike against him has been an inability to stay healthy. And while he has not avoided the disabled list completely, his three-week stint in May is a minor blip compared to the long stretches of missed time in prior years. While many of his injuries have been considered "freak," he still shows a tendency towards bone injuries beyond what would be expected of someone at his position.

The persistence of his lost time has suggested there's something more than bad luck in play, but this season has arguably been a step in the right direction...

Tags: Travis d'Arnaud, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

The departures of Addison Reed and Lucas Duda, and the arrival of Amed Rosario, signaled the end of the 2017 Mets. The team is now playing for next year -- preparing for a significant team turnover and hopefully beginning to answer some important questions. 

What will the infield look like in 2018?

Part of that has been settled. Rosario is, deservedly, beginning his tenure as the Mets' starting shortstop, and Dominic Smith's inauguration as first baseman is only a matter of time. Duda's trade indicated that any doubt as to Smith's readiness is gone and even slow starts to their respective MLB careers will not take him or Rosario out of the 2018 Opening Day lineup.

As settled as shortstop and first base look at this point, second base and third base are anything but. Compounding the uncertainty is a truly dreadful collection of pending free agents at these positions, so the Mets will be closely monitoring internal options as the season wears on...

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 (Colin E. Brale/AP)
(Colin E. Brale/AP)

According to ESPN.com's Buster Olney, Sandy Alderson and his staff deserve a B- grade for their work prior to Monday's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

While the Mets were able deal Lucas Duda and Addison Reed for four pitching prospects, they did not trade away Neil WalkerAsdrubal CabreraJay Bruce, or Curtis Granderson, all of whom are eligible to be free agents at the end of this season.

Bruce, 30, and Walker, 31, are both owed roughly $6 million for the remainder of 2017. Granderson, 36, is due around $5 million, and Cabrera, 31, who has an $8.5 million team option or $2 million buyout for next season, is owed roughly $2.5 million.

While July 31 is considered the "trade deadline," trades can and do happen through August via waivers, and the Mets will be looking to take advantage of this process...

Tags: Addison Reed, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Dilson Herrera, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Wilmer Flores, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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To call Jacob deGrom's last six weeks "dominant" would be an understatement. Over his last eight starts, he has faced 230 batters and allowed just 13 of them to cross the plate. He has failed to finish the seventh inning only once (coming just one out shy) and completed the eighth inning five times.

In decisions, he is approaching rarified territory for the Mets. His active streak of eight is tied for the 10th most consecutive wins among Mets starters, and most of his peers in this regard date back to an era when pitchers were allowed to go deeper into games, increasing the chance of a win. 

Of starters over the past 10 years, deGrom's eight wins are third, behind an 11-win streak for R.A. Dickey in 2012 and a 10-win streak for Johan Santana between 2008 and 2009.

In all of MLB this year, only three starters have longer winning streaks -- Dallas Keuchel, backed up by an unstoppable Astros offense, and Alex Wood and Clayton Kershaw, playing for a team on pace for 112 wins. For deGrom to achieve a streak like this for such a poorly performing team overall is truly unusual and a testament to his endurance and skill (and a little bit of luck)...

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

To fill the latest hole in the rapidly dwindling Mets rotation, the Mets made an unexpected call in promoting right-hander Chris Flexen from Double-A Binghamton.

This came as a surprise for a team that has rigorously stuck with a patient approach with its prospects, giving them extended exposure to Triple-A to further develop them. 

The last Mets prospect to skip Triple-A entirely was Michael Conforto in July 2015. The last pitcher to do so was fringe reliever Akeel Morris, who arrived from High-A, got shelled, and is now with the Braves organization. Noah SyndergaardJacob deGrom, and Seth Lugo all spent most of a full season in Las Vegas, if not more, regardless of results.

A big reason for this deviation is that the Mets simply lack pitchers at the higher levels with anything approaching MLB-quality stuff. Half of the Vegas rotation is already here, with Tyler Pill the most recent arrival. The other half is bad, old, or both, and, perhaps more importantly, not on the increasingly crowded 40-man roster...

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