D’Arnaud’s Injury Opens the Door for Kevin Plawecki

On Tuesday, the New York Mets placed starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud on the 15-day disabled list. D’Arnaud has a right rotator cuff strain, an injury he obtained on Monday night in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. Although the injury is unfortunate, it gives Kevin Plawecki a chance to show everyone what he can do.

Plawecki, 25, was considered the backup catcher going into this season. A former first-round draft pick, he made his Major League debut on April 21, 2015, just over a year ago. Ironically, the reason he was called up then was because d’Arnaud was placed on the disabled list after suffering a broken hand. The Mets were not planning on promoting Plawecki until later on in the year, but they needed an everyday catcher.

He did an adequate job serving as the Mets starting catcher until d’Arnaud returned on June 10. D’Arnaud’s return was short-lived however, as he suffered another injury ten days later. He was placed on the disabled list again, this time with a sprained left elbow. He did not return until July 30. Because of all of these injuries to d’Arnaud, Plawecki got a chance to start 66 games in 2015. In 233 at-bats, he collected 51 hits while batting .219 with three home runs and 21 RBIs. Defensively, he only committed one error and threw out 11 baserunners attempting to steal. He allowed 32 stolen bases while behind the plate.

From what we’ve seen so far, it seems as though Plawecki is a better defensive catcher than d’Arnaud. Last season, d’Arnaud started 64 games, two less than Plawecki. He allowed 29 stolen bases and committed three errors, while throwing out 14 baserunners trying to steal. Before landing on the disabled list this year, he had already allowed 14 stolen bases. Plawecki has only allowed four. Runners clearly do not hesitate to run on Travis d’Arnaud.

We’ve seen a lot more of d’Arnaud than Plawecki. That being said, the former has put up better offensive numbers than the latter. D’Arnaud batted .268 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs last season. He also did well in the postseason, starting every game the Mets played. Plawecki just hasn’t gotten the opportunity to really prove himself however. While it’s true that he got plenty of starts in 2015, he was basically just acting as the placeholder for d’Arnaud. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

If Plawecki can put up decent offensive numbers over the next couple of weeks, he has a chance to overtake d’Arnaud as the Mets starting catcher. Especially considering that he was struggling before being placed on the disabled list, d’Arnaud’s job could be in serious jeopardy. He was only batting .196 with no homers and just one RBI. There are certain players who are guaranteed their job back after spending time on the disabled list. However, d’Arnaud just hasn’t hit enough to earn that status. He hasn’t been consistent enough. Additionally, he isn’t the best defensive catcher in the world.

Kevin Plawecki has a real chance to prove himself. Opportunities like this don’t come around all the time. We’ll see if he can capitalize on this situation.

The Understated Value of Travis d’Arnaud

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

It’s September and the New York Mets are playing important baseball.

One of the less appreciated reasons why is starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud. Acquired in the trade sending Cy Young Award winner RA Dickey to the Blue Jays (alongside current starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard and quality prospect Wuilmer Becerra) , d’Arnaud seemed to be the answer to the long-standing question of who will replace Mets legend Mike Piazza behind the plate for the Mets. His rookie campaign was something of a disappointment; after coming off missing a lot of time in the minors in 2013 from a broken foot, he debuted in 2014 to the tune of a .242 batting average, with 13 homeruns and 48 RBIs in 105 games (he missed some time with a concussion). These numbers are not exactly All-Star material.

This season, he has really turned it around. He is hitting .290, with a .306 BABIP, 9 homeruns, 31 RBIs, a 10.3% BB%, and a 16.2% K%. He also sports a .392 wOBA, a 155 wRC+, a 10.5 wRAA (how many runs he gives an offense as opposed to an average player, 0 being completely average), a 1.59 WPA (win probability added) and a 2.0 WAR. He’s been excellent, and is one of the batters that is integral to this lineup; hitting him in the six spot makes this lineup legitimately good. His backups are hitting .227 (highly touted prospect Kevin Plawecki) and .137 (Anthony Recker). Even without the advanced stats, it’s obvious they are not contributing anything close to Travis d’Arnaud. However, d’Arnaud has only played 43 games for the Mets this season.

He has missed significant time with two significant injuries; one was when he was hit by a pitch and fractured his pinkie finger, way back in April , and then hyperextended his elbow on a very scary play at the plate in June against the Braves . These injuries were nearly concurrent, he only was active for about two weeks in between injuries, and losing him was a big blow to an already weak lineup.

Since returning from the hyperextended elbow on July 31st, the Mets are 22-10 (as of August 4th) and have taken a 5 game lead over the Washington Nationals in the NL East; when he went on the DL they were 36-34 and dropped down to second. While the Mets did not fall into obscurity without him, his return was a big part of jolting the lineup awake, and helping them leapfrog the Nationals in the standings, and become a very good offensive team in the month of August.

While I view him as the catcher of the future, many cite his injury history as a deterrent to his value. His injuries since joining the Mets (broken foot, concussion, fractured pinkie finger and hyperextended elbow, in that order) were all bad luck injuries. He took a foul ball off of his foot , which lead to the break. He was hit in the back of the head on an Alphonso Soriano swing . He got hit by a pitch and happened to get a fracture. With the last injury, his elbow took the brunt of a slide (and honestly, I thought he broke his arm at first glance, so a hyperextension was a blessing). All of these injures are freak injuries that can happen to anyone at any time; he’s not exactly pulling hamstrings while running around first.

The Mets need Travis d’Arnaud to be successful this year and beyond. He is an excellent all around offensive catcher, which is a rarity in the MLB. He is an adequate fielder, but he will not lose you games behind the dish. And now that he is healthy and rested, he is showing his worth in Queens.

Note: All statistics are from fangraphs.com

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Are the Mets Establishing Themselves as a Legitimate Contender?

(Photo Courtesy of New York Daily News)

Strong starting pitching leading the way

Matt Harvey made his return from Tommy John surgery in game three of this season, and has not missed a beat on his way to a 3-0 record in his first three starts.  Bartolo Colon earned the opening day start for the Mets this season, and he has been fantastic as well in his three starts for the team.  Jacob deGrom has also been great for the Mets, even though he lost a pitcher’s duel in his first start of the season against the Washington Nationals.  Jon Niese and Dillon Gee have also helped to contribute to the Mets’ winning streak, that they ran all the way to eight games with their win on Sunday over the Miami Marlins.  Star third basemen David Wright, is currently on the disabled list with a hamstring injury that he suffered during the Phillies series.  This has not stopped the Mets however, as their depth has been strong enough to cover this unfortunate early season injury to one of their best players .  Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell have done a nice job so far filling in at third base defensively for the Mets, along with contributing by adding right handed power hitting ability to the lineup.  All of this adds up to the Mets establishing themselves among the National League contenders early in 2015, and a further look at the talent they have on their roster will help to determine if they are going to remain in this conversation.

Offense key to the Mets’ success

The Mets entered the 2015 season with the expectation that they would contend for a National League playoff berth on the strength of their solid pitching staff.  The performance of the Mets’ offense will determine whether or not they are able to make a run at the National League East division title this season.  So far the Mets’ offensive performance has been good this season, behind some players who started to emerge as key contributors for the team in the second half of last season.  Top prospect Travis d’Arnaud was sent to the minor leagues late last season due to his offensive struggles at the MLB level, but after a huge offensive showing at triple-A, he was quickly promoted again to stayUnfortunately for the Mets, Travis d’Arnaud’s breakout season has been put on hold for right now after he was hit by a pitch that broke his hand in the seventh inning of Sunday’s win .  The Mets once again turn to their offensive depth by calling up Kevin Plawecki to replace d’Arnaud in the starting lineup.  Meanwhile they continue to rely on last season’s biggest breakout star for the team, in Lucas Duda.  The Mets’ starting first basemen produced a 30 homerun season in 2014 for the first time in his career, and he could be headed for his second straight 30 homerun season after getting off to a strong start in 2015.  These key contributors can work together to give the Mets pitching staff the run support needed to maintain their strong play throughout the season, but for right now others will have to step up in order to weather the storm of early injuries that hit this team.

Injuries do not have to slow down this Mets team however, as they  have their biggest free agent signings from the past two off-season’s still healthy and in the everyday lineup.  Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer are no longer young players in Major League Baseball, but they are capable contributors from the corner outfield positions for the Mets.  Defensive star Juan Lagares, plays centerfield between the two of them, and his strong start to the season has proven he can be a capable contributor for the Mets at the plate.  With David Wright only likely to miss three weeks of play, the Mets should soon have their best hitter return to the lineup.  This could allow the team the opportunity to establish themselves as a formidable offense in the National League, with hitters who can produce runs up and down the batting lineup.  With the team scoring 4.4 runs per game through the first 13 ballgames of 2015, the Mets have put themselves in great position to continue their success with veteran contributors picking up the slack in the absence of key members of their core .  The timing of these injuries have been unfortunate, as they threaten to slow the Mets’ strong early season start, but for a team that has recently focused on building their farm system, the necessary depth is there for them to play good baseball over the next few weeks.

Will the Mets finish the season with the same five in their starting rotation?

With Bartolo Colon at age 41 being one of the oldest opening day starters in recent MLB history, the possibility exists that the Mets could see some turnover in their starting rotation before the season’s end .  Twenty-six year old Matt Harvey is the team’s most talented starter currently, but another young pitcher could join the Mets’ MLB rotation midseason to make a strong starting staff even stronger.  Noah Syndergaard at 22 years old is the Mets’ top pitching prospect, and his status as a nearly MLB ready starting pitcher should open a rotation spot for him as soon as the team decides he is ready for a promotion .  Adding another big right handed power pitcher to the rotation, could be just the right addition that the team needs in order to maintain their early success throughout the summer.  With the news of Mets’ reliever Jenrry Mejia being suspended 80 games for PED use, combined with the injury to Jerry Blevins on Sunday, the Mets could bolster their bullpen by moving one of their starters into a relief role in order to make room for Noah Syndergaard after his promotion.  The current roster construction of the New York Mets suggests that they could finish the season with a different starting five in their rotation, and that would likely mean the team was headed toward clinching a playoff berth with more talent than they started with in the starting rotation.

Are the Mets a legitimate contender?

With Matt Harvey already establishing himself as one of the better pitchers in the game of baseball, the Mets’ pitching staff appears to be very strong with veteran starters mixed in to complement their young emerging stars.  By showing the ability to play good baseball against a formidable early season schedule, the Mets appear to be a contender as they are working hard to overcome multiple injuries already suffered at this point in their 2015 season.  Zack Wheeler was lost for the season in spring training with a torn UCL, as one of the Mets’ most promising young starters at the MLB level.  David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud will make their returns this season, but their absence has forced the Mets to turn to depth players early on in the 2015 campaign.  Fortunately for the Mets, they have quality depth to turn to in former first round pick Kevin Plawecki at the catcher’s position .  If the Mets are able to weather this early season test caused by injuries, moving forward they will have a deep roster that features plenty of experience in many areas for the rest of the 2015 season.  Injuries have derailed the Mets’ seasons many times in the past few years, but this Mets team is a legitimate contender because they have the depth necessary to keep playing good baseball when some of their best players spend time on the disabled list with injuries.

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New York Mets Must Rely On Youth To Win It All

CBS Sports

New York Mets fans, Opening Day is right around the corner! Fans have high hopes for their favorite team, and for one single day of the MLB regular season, every team is tied for first place. It’s been awhile since the Mets reached the promise land, but if this is their year, than they’ll need to rely on their youth to win it all.

Young teams can be very exciting to watch, but they can also make poor decisions simply because of lack of experience at the major league level. However, these guys have been playing baseball almost their entire life. If the Mets want to make a playoff run this year, mistakes must be limited and the full potential must be released by players like catcher Travis d’Arnaud, shortstop Wilmer Flores and outfielder Juan Lagares.

We can agree the Mets have an exciting pitching rotation, but their loss to Zack Wheeler due to Tommy John Surgery according to ESPN will have him out until some point in 2016. A big blow for the Mets, but their pitching should still be fine as Matt Harvey is back and a young Noah Syndergaard should make it to the majors at some point this year.

On February 24, 2015 The New York Daily News spoke with outfielder Curtis Granderson who is entering his second season as a Met and he had some exciting words to share with the Mets universe:

- as reported by Kristie Ackert of The New York Daily News

“I think we are primed and ready for it,” Granderson said when asked if the Mets can take over the city. “There are a lot of guys here to do it. Obviously the captain has been there, been the face of the organization and known not only in New York but in general. You’ve got a guy coming back in Matt Harvey and new emerging faces such as Juan Lagares, who got a Gold Glove, and (Lucas) Duda, who hit 30 home runs last year.”

The main concern is the offense because they don’t have a dominant bat, but they do have some veteran players. Before we analyze their younger players, let us take a look at the veteran players who are supposed to carry the team towards success.

Third Baseman David Wright

David Wright looks to lead a young Mets team alongside some veterans into the playoffs. (photo credentials go to www.Nj.com)

With The King of New York (Derek Jeter) gone, their is no debate over which New York baseball player is the new King of New York. There is no heavy debate for New Yorks baseball icon like Jay-Z vs Nas’ battle for the top spot in New York after The Notorious B.I.G. was sadly murdered. The crown clearly belongs to David Wright. He has paid his dues being the top guy for the Mets for years, but he’s always been playing in New York behind the shadow of Derek Jeter who was playing for the New York Yankees. It’s time for Wright to shine as the top guy in New York, but how much does he have left in the tank?

He is not the 30 homerun 100 runs batted in hitter that he used to be and he uncharacteristically batted .269 last year according to Baseball-Reference.com . The last time he came close to 30 HR’s was back in 2010 when he hit 29 dingers.

Realistic offensive expectations for Wright is a .290-.310 average (AVG), 15-20 homeruns (HR’s) and 60-80 runs batted in (RBI’s). These numbers are good, but they are not dominating for a number three hitter.

Second Baseman Daniel Murphy

Can Daniel Murphy make it to the All Star Game for the second time in his career in 2015? (Photo credentials go to www.Today.com)

He was a first time NL All-Star last year with a .289 AVG, 9 HR’s, 57 RBI’s and even 13 stolen bases and patrolled second base and spent a little time at third base last year according to Baseball-Reference.com . Overall, he is a good player you want to have batting in the top of the order.

It’s been reported that Daniel Murphy should be good to go on Opening Day despite his recent hamstring injury.

Realistic expectations for Murphy this year include 6-12 HR’s, 50-70 RBI’s and a .275-.295 AVG. Good numbers for a lead-off guy or number 2 hitter.

Outfielder Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson looks to regain form after a disappointing season in his first year as a New York Met. (photo credentials to The NY Post)

A former 40 HR Yankee who’s better years are behind him. He struggles at the plate with a batting average below .250 and a slugging percentage below .400. He did not have a first good year with the Mets as he batted a career low .227, hit 20 HR’s (his least amount in a season with 500 plate appearances since 2006 where he hit 19 HR’s with the Detroit Tigers) and he had 66 RBI’s according to Baseball-Reference.com .

Granderson was thought to be the big homerun bat the Mets needed to add some power behind David Wright. Instead, Granderson should be out of the heart of the order because of his inability to knock runs in.

Realistic expectations for a 34-year old  Granderson include a .225-245 average, 20-25 HR’s, 65-85 RBI’s.

First Baseman Lucas Duda

Duda was the top offensive producer for the Mets in 2014, and he looks to hit even better in 2015. (photo credentials go to NBC Sports)

In his age 28 season, Duda finally broke out of his shell as a power bat. Playing in a career high 153 games last year, Duda became the Mets top offensive producer with 30 HR’s 92 RBI’s and a .253 AVG according to Baseball-Reference.com

Mets fans should hope last year was not just a superseason for Duda. They need him to be that 30 HR power bat they thought Granderson would be. However, if Granderson can regain form which is not impossible and Duda stays at his 2014 form, The Mets could have two 30 HR bats in their lineup. That would be a perfect situation for the Mets once you add David Wright to the mix and a newly acquired Michael Cuddyer. The Mets may be on to something.

It’s hard to say Duda is expected to hit 30 HR’s since he only did it once. But I think he is a lock for at least 20 HR’s, so let’s say the realistic expectations for Lucas Duda are 20-30 HR’s, 75-95 RBI’s and a .235-.255 AVG.

Outfielder Michael Cuddyer

Michael Cuddyer was the big offseason signing for the Mets. His bat should increase the Mets offense. (photo credentials go to MLB.com(

Cuddyer has become a very good hitter over the last few years. Although he only played in 49 games last year for Colorado due to injury, he still hit .332 after a 2013 season where he led the National League in hitting batting .331 and he even finished 20th in the NL MVP voting that year according to Baseball-Reference.com . He also hit 10 HR’s and drove in 31 RBI’s in 2014.

The injury shouldn’t be that much of a concern for Cuddyer as he seems to be ready for another .330 season, but what should be a red flag is his age at 36. Most players start to go downhill, Cuddyer has been going up hill and now he is on the other side of 35. It should be expected that Cuddyer’s numbers will go down, but for Mets fans, keep the confidence that he will be a .300+ AVG bat.

The confidence and ability of Cuddyer’s bat has actually been compared to Derek Jeter according to New York Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long in a New York Daily News article . He’s a very confident hitter that should only decline a little bit due to age if he declines at all in performance.

Realistic expectations for Cuddyer in 2015 should be a .310-.330 AVG, 15-20 HR’s and  65-85 RBI’s.

The Youth of the Mets Offense: SS Wilmer Flores, C Travis d’Arnaud and OF Juan Lagares

These three young guys are going to be the key for the Mets as they will need them to limit mistakes and perform at a a high level if they want to not only win the NL East, but also win in the postseason.

Since the veteran players have a lot of experience at the pro level and the young players we are going to analyze now do not have a lot of experience, I’ll be using FanGraphs.com to identify their performance in the minor leagues. This will help me properly make a realistic expectation for them in the 2015 season at the pro level assuming they will play a full season in the Major Leagues.

Outfielder Juan Lagares

Juan Lagares has already proven himself to be one of the best fielders in the NL as he won a Gold Glove last year. (photo credentials go to The NY Post)

After 6 long seasons as a minor leaguer in the Mets system, Lagares finally broke out in 2013 as a Major Leaguer and a year later won a Golden Glove for his excellent fielding ability at center field. Great fielding is a necessity for any team at the center field position as that fielder patrols the most amount of land, arguably.

At age 26, Lagares still has plenty of years ahead of him. He has never been considered a big homerun threat, his speed is above average as he stole 25 bags in 2010 at the Single-A and Single-A+ level, but he’s never stole more than 25 bags in a season according to Fangraphs .

The Mets would love to see Lagares develop into a lead-off hitter as he has had success with on base percentage in the past like in 2012 when he had .334 OBP at the Double-A level in 547 plate appearances. His 2012 season in the minors primed him for a run at the Major Leagues.

In hist first year in the majors in 2013, Lagares batted .242 with an OBP of .281, 4 HR’s and 34 RBI’s in 421 plate appearances. Heading into 2014, the Mets coaching staff and fans wanted to see Lagares improve in offense and he did just that. In 2014, Juan Lagares batted .281 with an OBP of .321, 4 HR’s and 46 RBI’s in 452 plate appearances.

Lagares is not going to be the big bat for the Mets, but he can be a consistent scrappy player like Brett Gardner for the Yankees for several years before he broke out. Lagares also had 13 stolen bases in 2014 and the Mets would like to see him steal more bags, and maybe he will in 2015. Maybe Lagares will just continue to get better.

Realistic expectations for Lagares in 2015 include an average of .265-.285, 4-6 HR’s, 40-60 RBI’s and a .285-.325 OBP. He’ll probably bat eighth in the everyday lineup when he is not leading off.

Shortstop Wilmer Flores 

Wilmer Flores will be the starting shortstop for the Mets in the 2015. (photo credentials go to www.Nj.com

Like Lagares, Wilmer Flores spent roughly six seasons before he was promoted to the Major League level in 2013 for 27 games according to Fangraphs .

Flores’ breakout season in the minors was in 2013 at the Triple-A level. In 107 games and 463 plate appearances, Flores hit .321 with 15 HR’s and 86 RBI’s and an OBP of .357. These impressive numbers got him promoted to the majors during that same season where in 27 games and 101 plate appearances he batted a low .211, hit only 1 HR and drove in 13 RBI’s.

Flores saw more time at Triple-A in 2014 where he batted .323 with 13 HR’s and 47 RBI’s in 55 games and 241 plate appearances. It’s clear that his offensive production increased, so Flores spent more time in the majors than in the minors for the first time in his career. At the Major League level in 2014, Flores batted .251, hit 6 HR’s and drove in 29 RBI’s in 78 games and 574 plate appearances.

Flores is now a Major League player and he is expected to one day be sitting comfortably at the heart of the Mets everyday lineup. As far as him breaking out and becoming that hitter for the Mets, they sure would love for him to become the .300 AVG 25 HR 100 RBI guy that he can be, but that’s unrealistic as he as yet to play a full season in the majors.

However, realistic expectations for Flores for the 2015 should be a . 245-.265 AVG, 12-1 7HR’s, 50-70 RBI’s.

Catcher Travis d’Arnaud

Travis d’Arnaud looks to break out as one of the NL’s top catchers in 2015. (photo credentials go to ESPN)

Catcher Travis d’Arnaud is more of a household name compared to Lagares and Flores because he was the top prospect exchanged with Toronto Blue for pitcher R.A. Dickey on December 17, 2012.

d’Arnaud’s breakout season in the minors was in 2011 for the Toronto Blue Jays Double-A Team. In that season he batted .311 with 21 HR’s, 78 RBI’s and a .371 OBP in 114 games and 466 plate appearances according to Fangraphs . In 2012 at the Triple-A level for the Blue Jays he batted .330 with 16 HR’s, 52 RBI’s and an OBP of .380 in only 67 games and 303 plate appearances due to an injury.

His first shot at the bigs came in 2013 with the Mets when he played 31 games and had 112 appearances. His performance was not that great as he batted .202 with only 1 HR, 5 RBI’s and a .286 OBP.

In 2014 d’Arnaud had significantly more playing time at the major league level, playing in 108 games and getting 421 plate appearances. d’Arnaud’s offensive production increased as he batted .242 with 13 HR’s, 41 RBI’s and an OBP of .302.

Travis d’Arnaud has been one of the more interesting prospects to watch as he has spent time in the Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets farm systems. The Mets hope one day he will become a .300 hitter in the major leagues like he was in the minors, and maybe he can even be a 20 homerun hitting catcher.

Realistic expectations for Travis d’Arnaud in 2015 should be an average of .240-.260, 10-20 HR’s, 40-60 RBI’s and an OBP of .300-.320.

Realistic Expectation for the New York Mets

Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares and Travis d’Arnaud all have the potential to become even better ballplayers than they have become thus far. This is exciting news for the Mets as they have some young guys that may develop into All-Stars someday.

I can’t see the Mets getting past the Washington Nationals this year to win the NL East, but they can contend for a Wild Card spot if all goes well.

This should be a team Mets fans look back on 5-10 years from now to see how many future All-Stars played on this team.

 

 

 

 

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