The Mets Postseason roster projection for the Division Series, v4.0
The Mets have begun to solidified their roster plans for their five-game Division Series against the Dodgers, which begins on Friday, October 9 in Los Angeles at 9:45 PM ET on TBS.
Sandy Alderson said on Tuesday the club has decided to carry 14 position players and 11 pitchers, ruling out the possibility of going short or with an extra pitcher in the bullpen.
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 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 hit .297 with seven runs scored, four doubles, one home run and six RBI in 29 games in September/October, posting a .357 OBP in the process, although he did cool down over the final week of the season.
What’s more, Tejada is hitting .287 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 .624 OPS with two home runs and five RBI in his last 21 games. His defense – which had been pretty solid over the last three months – has also tailed off as well.
Collins said in late September the staff felt Flores was tiring out, so that could certainly explain the tail off in his performance. But the playoffs are about the hot hands in these cases, and right now, Tejada may be the hotter hand.
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 11 days ago on a check swing, and he is not making much progress.
Sandy Alderson said on last week 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.
As of Tuesday, Alderson said he did not believe Uribe would go to Los Angeles with the team on Wednesday afternoon.
So for now, Uribe has to be left out of the equation.
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 .558 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 to be seen 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, Young has now been dispatched to Port St. Lucie to be on standby, meaning he will not be on the initial playoff roster.
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, Kirk Nieuwenhuis seems poised to take that roster spot.
Nieuwenhuis is indeed a backup like Young, but Nieuwenhuis is a better defender and can at least come off the bench and provide some pop, whereas Young really hasn’t gotten that many at-bats since re-joining the club and isn’t much of a threat for that matter, either.
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.
Anthony Recker has left for Port St. Lucie and is on standby as an injury replacement. Johnny Monell was sent home by the team, Sandy Alderson said on Tuesday, meaning he will not be considered for a playoff roster spot.
The Mets have aligned their rotation to have Jacob deGrom open the Division Series next Friday, and Noah Syndergaard will pitch game two on Saturday.
The Mets will 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.
Either Bartolo Colon or Steven Matz will pitch in game four.
The Mets have said still weighing Colon or Matz as the fourth starter, but if Matz is healthy, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be in the rotation. Terry Collins has said many times he does not view Matz as a candidate to go to the bullpen due to his health history and lack of experience, whereas Colon has proven to be versatile even at this stage of his career.
Matz will head to Port St. Lucie this week and pitch in the Instructional League or a simulated game in an effort to get him innings and test his back. He took a big step in his recovery on Tuesday when he successfully navigated a bullpen session and joined his team in the workout at Citi Field.
But Sandy Alderson warned they need to know Matz is 100 percent healthy before committing him, and despite the significant progress over the last few days, they won’t know that until he finishes his assignment in Florida, which will take place Thursday.
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 set in stone.
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.
And Niese has outstanding numbers against Gonzalez and Utley specifically, as he’s held Utley to 3-for-36 lifetime and Gonzalez is hitless against him in 11 career at-bats.
But this iteration of the projection has Colon in the rotation and Niese in the bullpen.
Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson has hinted the club could use deGrom on short rest in game four. That could depend on his performance in game one, his workload, and the situation in the series. But that doesn’t seem likely unless the Mets are trailing 2-1 in the series at that time.
If it turns out to be the plan, however, the Mets need to manage deGrom’s workload accordingly and limit his work in between his starts.
Dario Alvarez was sent home by the team, meaning he will not be considered for a spot in the bullpen throughout the playoffs.
Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed and Hansel Robles are the staples and quality alternatives to Alvarez to get left-handed hitters out anyway. It’s unconventional and hardly ideal to go into the playoffs without a true 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 will likely make the roster now, whereas before he might have been on the bubble. 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.
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 starting role over Niese. And it seems possible the Mets could take Niese and Sean Gilmartin on the left side of the bullpen if Matz is out.
But if Matz is available, that means the Mets could presumably drop Gilmartin and take Niese instead, keeping in mind his outstanding numbers against Gonzalez and Utley and using him as their other long reliever.
Sandy Alderson has said 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.