An early projection at the Mets Postseason roster
It’s close. Even the players can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.
For the first time since 2006, the Mets will be playing postseason baseball. Their magic number sits at just three with nine games to play – it’s going to happen.
Fans are finally embracing it. The entire city is embracing it. That whole collapse thing will not happen this time around.
So, the next step is for the Mets management and front office to put together their playoff roster.
There are the obvious slam-dunks but there are a few questions as to who will round out the next iteration of the 25-man roster for the Mets.
Here’s an early roster projection, which is subject to change:
With mult-position players in Wilmer Flores, Daniel Murphy, Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, they provide the Mets with the ultimate flexibility. It can be argued Ruben Tejada should be included, as he is their best defensive shortstop. But it’s possible the Mets will go with an offense-oriented infield and sacrifice the defense by making Flores their full-time shortstop in October. It’s a tough call to leave him out, as he’s been one of their best hitters in September. But he can’t play everyday and be effective, and with the need to carry both Johnson and Uribe, someone has to be left off.
In this case, it was Tejada.
On paper, this projection has five outfielders. But it’s really more like five since Eric Young Jr. probably won’t be anything more than a pinch runner, or maybe a late-inning defensive replacement. When the Mets will need to steal a base late in a game, Terry Collins will likely turn to Young. Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson should be the club’s outfielders, although it remains to be seen how Collins manages the lefty/righty match-ups, especially against Clayton Kershaw and other tough left-handers they may face. Michael Cuddyer will be providing a dangerous bat off the bench, but it’s possible he could start in place of Conforto or Curtis Granderson – the latter of which has struggled badly against southpaws in 2015 – against left-handed pitching.
As for Juan Lagares, he will probably serve as a defensive replacement late in games, much in the way he’s being utilized now. It’s hard to believe he will play over Conforto or Granderson, especially if Collins chooses to platoon Cuddyer with the other left-handed hitting outfielder.
Travis d’Arnaud is your everyday starting catcher. I elected to go with Kevin Plawecki over Anthony Recker simply because he is more familiar with this current group of pitchers and has had more reps at the plate this season. Neither backup catcher’s numbers are impressive but just because of his experience, Plawecki gets the backup duties.
After months of debating whether or not Steven Matz or Noah Syndergaard should pitch out of the bullpen in the postseason, it’s now a good bet both of them serve as starting pitchers in the postseason.
Regarding Matz, the Mets are indeed missing a quality left-handed reliever capable of serving as a lefty specialist in short relief. But a) there’s no evidence Matz can thrive in that roll, b) he has never pitched out of the bullpen, and c) Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson have both been very open about Matz strictly serving as a starting pitcher. It’s unlikely they will shift gears now, especially since there are no plans to give Matz a chance to prove himself in that role down the stretch of the season.
As for Syndergaard, there’s been talk internally about the possibility of putting his 100 mph in an eighth inning role. But a lot of that was before they acquired both Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed. Now that they have established figures for those roles, Syndergaard is probably more valuable as a starter in the playoffs anyway. Besides, like Matz, Syndergaard has no experience pitching in relief. Now is not the best time to experiment with him.
Where Syndergaard starts in the rotation still remains to be seen, and a lot of it will presumably depend on whether or not the Mets open the Division Series in Los Angeles or New York. If they open out west, Syndergaard would probably be either the third or fourth starter. If they open at home, he could be the second starter.
Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, the Mets co-aces, will matchup well with the one-two punch of Kershaw and Zack Greinke, assuming the series starts in Los Angeles. If it starts in New York, it’s entirely possible the Mets might push Harvey back to game three in Los Angeles.
But time will tell.
Jon Niese has been left out of this equation, and he’s been left out of the bullpen mix as well. While he has been better lately, even Collins is concerned over the “big inning,” which is a key reason why he was removed earlier than expected in his last start against the Braves. That’s not to say any one of the other four starters won’t blow up at any given point, but if Niese is particularly to susceptible to crooked numbers, the Mets can ill-afford to have that happen in a playoff game.
In addition, Bartolo Colon has been omitted from this rotation projection, although he’s projected to be in the bullpen. Interestingly enough, he’s the only starting pitcher with playoff experience and he is also the winningest pitcher on the Mets staff this season (and for the last two years as well). But like Niese, there’s also a fine line for Colon to be successful, and given how 13 of his 14 wins have come against the National League East in 2015, he’s probably a safer bet against the Dodgers (or anyone else they might face in the postseason) as a long reliever rather. He showed he can at least be flexible out of the bullpen with a scoreless inning of relief against the Red Sox back in August, so there’s hope he and his calm demeanor could thrive out of the bullpen in October.
Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, and Hansel Robles are likely all locks for the bullpen, barring injury.
Robles may be the only reliever on shaky ground given he can be erratic and easily shaken, but his bat-missing stuff can be tantalizing as part of a potential shutdown bullpen from the seventh through ninth innings.
Reed has earned his manager’s trust and has been declared the seventh inning guy. Outside of a hiccup on Wednesday, Reed has been totally spotless since joining the club in late August.
And it’s worth noting Reed, Clippard and Robles have been very effective against left-handed hitters, meaning the Mets could get away with not having that go-to guy on the left side for a big out against someone like Adrian Gonzalez or Chase Utley late in a ballgame.
With the Mets only needing four starters next month, they are afforded a chance to carry extra pitching depth into the playoffs. That means there should be space for Logan Verrett and Sean Gilmartin to co-exist with Colon as middle relievers and act as an insurance policy for Collins.
Verrett is really the wild card, and they could easily go with Tejada instead. But for now, this will assume Harvey is going to be under some kind of restriction – which would be terrible – until they state otherwise officially. This also would be prohibitive for them to carry Erik Goeddel as well.