The Mets Postseason roster projection for the Division Series, v3.0
Now that the Mets have clinched the National League East, the Mets have to begin how to mold their roster for the five-game Division Series, which begins next Friday, October 9.
The Mets currently trail the Dodgers by 1/2 game for home field advantage. The Mets hold the tiebreaker, so if the Mets and Dodgers each win two out of three in their series’ this weekend, the Mets would earn home field advantage in the Division Series.
The Dodgers are playing the second game of a three-game series against the Padres on Saturday. They defeated the Padres on Friday night in Los Angeles.
As such, here’s another revised look at the initial projection of how the Mets might consider constructing their postseason roster.
This projection is subject to change.
The obvious staples on the infield are Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy and David Wright. Both Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada will likely be on the postseason roster as well, with Tejada likely seeing the bulk of the playing time at least in the Division Series.
Throughout the year, Collins has used Tejada when he’s had a groundball pitcher on the mound, shoring up the defense at the expense of some offense. He would specifically be used when Jon Niese was on the mound and lately when Noah Syndergaard has pitched thanks to his two-seamer generating a ton of ground balls on the infield.
But right now, Tejada is also producing more at the plate than Flores. He’s hitting .356 with seven runs scored, three doubles, one home run and six RBI in 22 games in September, posting a .420 OBP in the process. What’s more, Tejada is hitting .303 in the second half, so it’s not as if he’s produced a small sample to convince his manager he should be getting the bulk of the playing time.
And while Flores has become somewhat of a folk hero in Flushing, his production has tailed off recently, posting just a .610 OPS with two home runs and five RBI in his last 20 games. His defense – which had been pretty solid over the last three months – has also tailed off as well.
Collins said last week the staff felt Flores was tiring out, so he was going to sit for a few games. He will presumably start playing again in Philadelphia, and that would be a good opportunity for him to show how refreshed he is and produce if he expects to play consistently in October.
Of course, there’s always the risk Tejada will eventually be overexposed with too much playing time as well. Collins has done a tremendous job maximizing so many people on his roster by playing them selectively, including both Flores and Tejada. So, this situation might be very fluid even into the playoffs, with Collins simply going with hot hands in order to win games.
Juan Uribe’s name is noticeably absent from this roster projection, and for good reason. He re-aggravated his chest last Friday on a check swing, and he is not making much progress.
Sandy Alderson said on Friday the issue could be cartilage related near Uribe’s clavicle, and both he and Collins have said t’s entirely possible Uribe could miss the Division Series.
So for now, Uribe has to be left out of the equation. The Mets could conceivably risk going short on the pitching staff for a five-game series, which would open the door for the likes of Eric Campbell and Dilson Herrera to make the team. But they seem more likely now to play it more conservatively, especially with the possibility Steven Matz could be shelved for the first round.
If they do choose to go with the extra position player, Herrera certainly brings more to the table for the Mets in a playoff game than Campbell. Yes, Campbell makes good contact and hits a lot of line drives, but he doesn’t have much speed and his defense is very suspect, regardless of where he plays.
Herrera comes as close to duplicating Uribe in terms of his tools as the Mets have. Obviously, the intangibles are next to impossible to replace.
But while before it could be viewed as a possibility, it seems less likely either Herrera or Campbell will make the team today.
The only tossup among the Mets outfielders is how they will be used, and even that’s not much of a mystery.
Agree with it or not, but Collins has said he is unlikely to use Michael Conforto against a starting left-handed pitcher, which means Michael Cuddyer will get a lot of playing time in the Division Series with Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, and Brett Anderson in the Dodger rotation, Conforto will serve as a replacement against a right-handed reliever in those situations, and certainly start against Zack Greinke.
The main reason for this, according to people with the team is, why fix what isn’t broken now? It’s hard to argue that point, considering where the Mets have gone with this formula. And messing around with this functional formula against someone like Kershaw probably isn’t the best thing to do.
The Mets could conceivably use Juan Lagares in right field to protect Curtis Granderson from Kershaw, but Collins has hinted he’s not going to play the righty/lefty match-ups as much as he has during the regular season. In fact, in listening to Collins this week, it seems very likely Granderson and his .563 OPS against southpaws will be stacked up against Kershaw and the other left-handers in the Dodger rotation.
It’s worth mentioning while Kershaw can be impossible to hit most of the time, he actually has reverse splits (although they’re both incredible). So, it remains how Collins ultimately plays this.
But while it was originally believed Eric Young Jr. could make the playoff roster as a speed weapon off the bench, Terry Collins seemed to hint Young could be left off the roster over the last week.
For the most part, Young would be used strictly as a pinch runner off the bench late in games, similar to the role Dave Roberts filled for Boston in 2004 (and made a clear cut difference in their fate) and Jarrod Dyson did for the Royals in 2014.
But with Uribe looking more and more doubtful for the Division Series, Mike Puma of the New York Post says its likely Kirk Nieuwenhuis could take Uribe’s spot.
If the Mets carried both Young and Nieuwenhuis, that would give them seven outfielders against the Dodgers. Yes, Young can shift to the infield if needed, but it stands to reason the Mets would take a little less speed in Nieuwenhuis for his bat and glove in the outfield.
Both Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki should be the two catchers on the roster. There isn’t much to debate here.
The Mets have aligned their rotation to have Jacob deGrom open the Division Series next Friday. Nothing is necessarily certain beyond that point, except for who is in the rotation.
But it would seem the Mets may hold Matt Harvey back to a game three, which is by no means meant as an indictment. Rather, game three is considered the most important game of any playoff series, and Collins hinted himself on Sunday Harvey would be a guy they’d want to have on the mound in such a situation.
If that’s the case, Syndergaard would likely pitch in game two, with either Bartolo Colon or Steven Matz pitching in game four.
Since Sunday, the Mets have said still weighing Colon or Matz as the fourth starter, but it’s growing more likely Matz could be left off the roster entirely thanks to his sore back.
Matz will probably head to Port St. Lucie this week and pitch in the Instructional League in an effort to get him innings and test his back, which he is slowly recovering from.
If the playoffs began today, Matz would probably be excluded from the roster. If he has a setback during the Division Series and needs to be removed from the roster, he would automatically become ineligible to return in the National League Championship Series, which is a scenario the Mets would rather avoid.
If Matz is unable to go, it would seem logical to conclude Colon would just win the job. But that’s not necessarily a certainty.
All along, Terry Collins has expressed concerns over Niese’s ability to transition into a relief role. After his relief outing on Tuesday – which was fair – Collins didn’t seem too enthralled with Niese’s performance, and clearly wants to see more under more pressing conditions.
On the other hand, Collins seemed more comfortable with Colon’s ability to come out of the bullpen. It’s nearly as small a sample with Colon as it is with Niese – Colon has only made seven relief appearances in his 18-year career – but it just seems as though he’d be more comfortable going that route instead.
There’s another hitch as well.
On paper, the matchups might be more favorable for Niese against the Dodgers considering they have a lefty-heavy lineup. If Colon is the slightest bit off with his two-seamer and it bleeds out over the plate, he’s done for, whereas at least Niese offers some deception from the left side against the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Corey Seager, and Chase Utley.
Niese will continue to work in relief this week, but Colon will also be available in the bullpen this weekend against the Nationals. And while right now, it seems Colon could win the job, there’s a chance he might not.
This iteration of the projection has Niese in the rotation.
The Mets are also reportedly considering a three-man rotation and using deGrom on short rest in game four. But that doesn’t seem likely unless the Mets are trailing 2-1 in the series at that time.
But if that’s the plan, the Mets need to manage deGrom’s workload accordingly and limit his work in between his starts.
Dario Alvarez is back with the team, but he didn’t particularly distinguish himself against the Phillies this week. He is their only hope for an answer to their on-going and now endless left-handed specialist job, and if he has a good weekend, he could have a chance to be on the roster next Friday.
But for now, he will be left off the roster projection until he shows he’s both healthy and effective.
Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed and Hansel Robles are the staples and quality alternatives to Alvarez to get left-handed hitters out as well. It’s unconventional and hardly ideal to go into the playoffs without a left-handed stopper, but the Mets simply do not have a reliable option at their disposal, which will likely force them to think outside the box this fall.
But Collins has said it’s possible the roles for Reed and Clippard could be swapped in the playoffs since Reed has been so good and Clippard has struggled for about a month.
Erik Goeddel has a pretty good shot to make the roster now, especially if the Mets look to build insurance around not having Matz available in the Division Series. He wasn’t on the first version of the projection, but he has been added to this one.
This roster projection excludes Carlos Torres. He seems healthy after straining his calf on September 7, but he has been less consistent than the other choices in the bullpen.
That’s not to say Torres can’t earn his way onto the roster, but his lack of recent work, his lack of consistency, plus the fact Colon or Niese will be in the bullpen capable of serving as long relievers could ultimately leave Torres on the outside looking in anyway.
Sure, Torres could be an extra arm, but he is best suited in long relief, and is more of a liability in short relief. There’s less of a need to carry that extra long reliever ‘just because’ in this particular situation.
The same can be said for Niese. If they can’t provide value in their roster spots, they shouldn’t be on the roster, or should be in another role to maximize their roster spot. Otherwise, the roster spot is better served for another area of the team.
Again, its a safer bet Colon will earn a relief role over Niese. But if Matz is out one of them will likely be in the rotation, with the other being in the bullpen. Ultimately, it’s logical to conclude the Mets will play this safely, and go with Niese in the rotation, especially with the matchups in mind.
As for Colon in the bullpen, it makes the most sense as, unlike Niese, Colon doesn’t seem to need to find that comfort zone. He has an idea, has a plan, and at least in a small sample, has shown this season he can at least get ready and get himself into the game and be effective.
Besides, if there are any limitations on Harvey, Colon can provide a more stabilizing force to jump into the rotation if needed than Niese.
Sandy Alderson said on Tuesday the Mets will wait for the last possible moment to draw conclusions for their postseason roster, which must be submitted the morning of October 9.
As such, many of the decisions and the internal (and external) debates might not be settled until the final hour.