New York Mets: Looking at the Designated Hitter Candidates

New York Mets, Yeonis Cespedes

The designated hitter is here to stay during the 2020 shortened season, and the New York Mets are full of options. From injury-prone stars to bench players who do not have a role, the candidates are endless for the Mets.

Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes is the front runner to be the designated hitter. Reports say he will be fully healthy for Opening Day, and putting him at DH would preserve his legs for the entire season. Over 81 career games as a DH, he is hitting .287/.328/.524 with 18 home runs and 60 runs batted in. Cespedes has the highest potential to carry the team when healthy, and Mets fans would love to see him contribute every day. Despite the injuries, he still possesses a lethal arm in the outfield and is a former Gold Glove winner.

Dominic Smith

Dominic Smith also dealt with injuries during 2019. He lost playing time at first base due to Pete Alonso earning the job for himself. Smith only has one previous game as a DH and but is a potent left-handed hitter. He is coming off his best year in the big leagues, and he is a better option than Cespedes. Considering that Smith will be with the team in 2021, they should be getting him ready for the DH role going forward.

J.D. Davis

It seems J.D. Davis days at third base are limited and is mainly a left fielder. The most likely situation for Davis to end up at DH is if the Mets opt to put Cespedes in left to keep a strong lineup. They could also put Jake Marisnick in center field and put Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto in the corner positions. The main reason Davis could be a DH is due to his defense in the outfield.

Robinson Cano

A healthy Robinson Cano is someone the Mets would like to play all 60 games of the season. At 37-years old, it is unlikely for him to play all of them at second base. To keep him fresh/healthy moving Jeff McNeil to second and Davis to third base would allow the Mets to DH Cano and keep his bat in the lineup. He is still a solid defensive second baseman, so do not expect him to be the everyday DH.

Wilson Ramos

Much like Cano, Wilson Ramos is someone who needs to play in all 60 games. He will not be able to do that at catcher, but the Mets hope to keep their best hitter with runners in scoring position in the lineup. Instead of giving Ramos an entire day off from catching, moving him to DH and putting Tomas Nido/Rene Rivera behind the plate would balance the drop in production from the catching position. Despite the hitting loss, the catching defense would upgrade during Ramos’ turn at DH.

Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie has no fit on the roster and is only an option because he has nowhere to play in the field. The last time Lowrie played every day, he was an All-Star, but he has gone a year and a half since the last time he made a starting lineup. The most significant trait for Lowrie as a DH is his switch-hitting ability.

The Mets DH options are abundant, and it would be no surprise if they had the most players swap in at DH throughout the season. Everything is analytics driving in modern baseball, and combining that with keeping players fresh is going to be a major challenge for Luis Rojas in year one.

Who is the most underrated hitter in the New York Mets?

Yesterday, we reviewed candidates in the New York Yankees’ roster to identify the most underrated hitter in their team. Today, we will do the same with the New York Mets, a team with sneaky-good depth in the offensive side of things.

We already know that Pete Alonso is a star, and he gained that status with a jaw-dropping rookie season that saw him mash 53 home runs to lead the league and set a new record for first-year players. The Mets know they have a keeper in him, so he’s not exactly underrated.

While you could say Jeff McNeil (143 wRC+ in 2019) and Michael Conforto (126 wRC+) don’t quite get the “press” they deserve, players and fans know that they are comfortably above-average hitters that will help the New York Mets for the next few years, most notably McNeil. Conforto’s free agency is approaching, though.

Robinson Cano and Wilson Ramos are aging veterans who still have something left in the tank. They have the name and recognition, so they are out of the question. Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith, especially the former, are excellent hitters that still have their best years ahead of them.

The Mets’ offensive asset

However, when it comes to sheer offensive talent, there isn’t a more underrated offensive asset in the Mets than J.D. Davis. The Astros’ castoff finally received the opportunity he deserved in Queens, and boy, did he not disappoint.
In 140 games and 453 plate appearances, Davis slashed .307/.369/.527 with 22 homers and an impressive 136 wRC+.

If it weren’t for his bad defensive numbers (-9.0 rating per Fangraphs) we would probably be talking about an all-around star, but the Mets will gladly take his 2.4 2019 fWAR and hope for similar offensive production in 2020 and beyond.

Davis can take a walk, doesn’t strike out a lot, and hits the ball hard consistently. He figures to be an asset in the heart of the lineup for the New York Mets. If he can rake at a similar rate than last year, manager Luis Rojas will surely find consistent, semi-regular playing time for him.

New York Mets: How the New Season Plan Affects the Mets

Monday marks the first day the MLB and the Players Association will meet to discuss plans to restart the 2020 season. The meeting is the only good news about it. There is no love lost between both sides, and there is no guarantee they agree on anything.

Hopefully, the MLB proposes their plan on Tuesday after MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks to a representative from each team on Monday. New details from the plan lead with a schedule of around 80 games with the season starting in early July. Teams will play their division rivals and the other teams in their region to limit travel.

Ideally, teams will play in their home ballparks, which helps cut down travel. As reported by us last week, the designated hitter will be universal throughout baseball. The newest information comes in an extended postseason, which includes seven teams from each league.

During this week’s meetings, the biggest dealbreaker comes in the form of pay cuts and health safety for all MLB personnel. In March, the union was against any idea of reducing salaries.

How Does This Affect the Mets?

An 80-games season should push the New York Mets to make the most out of the season. Seth Lugo draws even more consideration to become a starter. Using the projections made earlier this week, he will make no more than 16 starts and using his career averages as a starter, Lugo will throw around 88 innings. Eight more than he pitched as a reliever in 2019, but less than his highest amount.

An 80 game season forces the Mets to make tough decisions with their depth. The depth the Mets have is always a good problem to have, but balancing it out is tricky. Dominic Smith, Jed Lowrie, and Yoenis Cespedes are all projected to come off the bench. If healthy, one will slide into the DH role, but all three have proven to be good bats when healthy.

Thanks to versatile players like Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, and most of their outfielders, Manager Luis Rojas can mix and match. Despite getting two weeks to get back into playing shape, most players will need the first couple weeks of the regular season to find their groove as well.

The short season increases the urgency to win quickly. Even with an extended playoff format, no team wants to play in a one-game playoff to decide their fate. The Mets also draw the most competitive division in baseball as the Pirates and Orioles seem like the only teams who are lighter competition.

The depth the Mets have is as good as any in baseball, but their unproven manager has to show he knows how to slide each piece into the perfect place. As we saw with Mickey Callaway, a good manager is a difference between a failed season and a World Series victory.

New York Mets: Young Stars Showcase Personalities Against Cardinals

Wednesday’s game between the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals featured more of the usual from Spring Training. A strong starting pitching performance and Jeff McNeil‘s continued dominance with the bat. The game was televised on ESPN and the Mets certainly had fun being mic’d up with each other.

Marcus Stroman took the mound and had a terrific outing. Over three innings, he only allowed three baserunners and struck out four Cardinals. Things started off rocky when he hit and walked the first two batters. After Rene Rivera threw out a base stealer for the first out, Stroman induced a double play to end the inning. Through the rest of his start, he showed how clever of a pitcher he is. Stroman used his incredible body control to vary his motion which threw off the hitter’s timing drastically.

Bats Waking Up

Jeff McNeil continued his red hot pace with two more hits to move to 10-for-18 (.556), the best mark in Spring Training. Brandon Nimmo chipped in another hit as the 1-2 combination of McNeil and Nimmo have proved to be deadly so far. Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, and Wilson Ramos all supplied hits as they are picking up the pace after short skids at the plate.

One of the best parts of the ESPN broadcast was their live microphones. They picked the right guys in Pete Alonso, J.D. Davis, Dom Smith, and Jeff McNeil. Alonso dropped an accidental f-bomb, Smith poked fun at Davis and could not hear anyone at one point, and all of them hyped up an Eduardo Nunez triple. It showed how close this group is and there is truly something special going on at Port St. Lucie.

Zamora Rises

Daniel Zamora has always been seen as a lefty specialist for the Mets, but his stock is rising. Through four outings so far he has only allowed one hit, walk and hit by pitch. Zamora even has five strikeouts and the most impressive part is his ability to put away hitters from both sides of the plate. Dellin Betances still is not a lock for Opening Day and Zamora is asserting himself as the top guy to replace him.

Rick Porcello takes the mound on Thursday when the Mets take on the Cardinals in Jupiter. Porcello has allowed one run over three innings so far in the Spring.

Tebow’s Homer and Davis Injury Headlines New York Mets Loss to Tigers

New York Mets, Andres Gimenez

Tim Tebow playing in New York Mets Spring Training games is already a headline in itself. When Tebow homered off Detroit Tigers reliever Alex Wilson, it is a 100 percent guarantee to throw the baseball world for a loop.

Tebow showcased his opposite-field power with a no-doubt home run to left-center field. It was his first during his Spring Training career, and it was the fourth time he reached base in eight Spring plate appearances. Expectations are meager for the 32-year old former quarterback, but we still know he has a flair for the dramatic.

Wacha’s Debut

Michael Wacha made his first Spring start. He is in a battle for the fifth starter spot and was on par with Steven Matz through their respective first starts. Wacha threw two innings, allowing two walks, a hit, and struck out two batters. The outing was not anything special but is a decent way to settle into the beginning of the Spring.

Davis Injury

The other major headline came when third baseman, J.D. Davis, left the game with a left shoulder injury. He jammed the shoulder after diving and spending a moment on the ground. Davis said, “right now it feels fine,” but also said the shoulder is weak and stiff. He will have an MRI Wednesday, but the early news is there is no damage to his rotator cuff or labrum.

This is the first injury scare of the Spring, and the MRI will give a clearer timeline on Davis. Initially, the injury seems minor, and it will likely have more of an effect on his offense over his defense.

Zamora Shines and Gimenez Struggles

Daniel Zamora is a projected minor leaguer to start the season but pitched a scoreless third inning, all against righties, where the only baserunner came from an Andres Gimenez error. Gimenez is known for his slick defense but already has two errors in the Spring.

Wednesday Preview

A couple of big names will face the villainous Houston Astros on Wednesday. Noah Syndergaard makes his first start of the Spring and has already poked at Houston’s cheating scandal during the offseason and early in camp. He is not afraid about throwing up and in, but there should be no shenanigans, especially in his first outing.

Edwin Diaz will make his long-awaited debut in his quest to regain the closer role. Justin Wilson will also throw as the combination of the three pitchers will likely be the crew to start the game.

The New York Mets are counting on J.D. Davis to play some third base

The New York Mets have several capable third basemen. Jeff McNeil played lots of innings in the position and will do it again in 2020, while Jed Lowrie, if he can ever overcome his balky knee, can also play there. But a third candidate is lurking around.

J.D. Davis is known for his potent bat. After all, he had a .307/.369/.527 line with 22 home runs in 453 plate appearances. The Mets need to find a way to have his bat in the lineup most days.

In fact, Davis started last season as a third baseman but he was overmatched there. Defending the hot corner, he had a -1.6 UZR, -6.1 UZR/150 and -9 DRS in 220 innings.

He wasn’t much better in left field but held his own. This time around, the Mets seem determined to give him reps at third base again. The idea is for him to become a capable defender to occupy the position in the days Robinson Cano needs rest.

In that scenario, Jeff McNeil, the Mets’ regular third sacker, would slide over second and Davis would be on the hot corner. That could also open up left field for Yoenis Cespedes, if he is healthy enough to play.

According to infield coach Gary DiSarcina, the plan is for Davis to practice 50 percent of the time at third in spring training.
The New York Post reported that DiSarcina traveled to Sacramento in the offseason to work in a new approach with Davis.

The Mets are trying a new approach

Davis himself explained what they worked on: “Every coach had told me to try to stay low to the ground, so we basically flipped it to more of a tennis player being on the receiving end,” Davis said Tuesday. “I’m a little more upright, and it’s helped me kind of do a small jump before the ball comes to home plate and that way my feet are more set on the ground, and that has helped me out with my reaction time of reading baseballs and reading tough hops, and it’s been working out perfect for me at least for that situation.”

Given Cano and Lowrie’s fragility, Davis could receive significant playing time at third. “He needs reps in a game, and he’s going to fail,” DiSarcina said. “His first couple of spring games he might make two or three errors because he is trying something new, trying to incorporate a new technique into his game, and he’s going to have some rough spots, and it’s up to us as an organization to kind of deal with that. I just don’t want him falling back on his old habits of getting too low.”

The New York Mets’ coach also spotted something on Davis’ throwing motion. “He would rush throws and try to show everybody how good of an arm he had. … I am so proud of him since Sacramento he’s worked on his footwork and ability to get under control instead of constantly throwing on the run and trying to throw it as hard as he can,” the coach said.

New York Mets’ J.D. Davis comes clean about sign-stealing scandal

The New York Mets currently employ two former members of the Houston Astros’ team that won it all in 2017. That same team was the one punished by MLB for using technological equipment to steal opposing squads’ signs.

Jake Marisnick already issued his apology, and in the past few hours, it was J.D. Davis’ turn. The 2019 breakout star of the Mets, who was with Houston in 2017 and 2018, opened up about what happened back then and backtracked from comments made in the offseason, where he said he wasn’t aware of what was going on.

“Back in December we had that same question, and I spoke a little bit prematurely. I spoke before the MLB or during the investigation. And so again, I was a rookie and I was going up and down the system and I was fighting for my life. MLB called and I cooperated with them. I made my statements. Again, back to the December comment and the interview — I spoke prematurely,” he said to the New York press, quoted by Danny Abriano of SNY.

When asked if he was embarrassed by his acts, Davis said: “I think not only the fans want the game to be fair. I know you guys want it to be fair as well. You want to cover a game where it’s fair to everybody. Again, to the peers as well. And of course, everybody that’s part of the 2017 Astros, they feel regrettable about that decision. Looking back, as a young guy being exposed to that in 2017 and looking back now and getting a full season under my belt, of course, it’s regrettable. You feel ashamed (to be) a part of it. I’ve learned what not to do and I’ve applied it to the 2019 season having a breakout. Again, (you have to learn) from it and get ready for the 2020 season with these guys.”

A new clubhouse

When Davis broke on the big leagues, he came into a clubhouse that already had a scheme to steal signs in place. Today, he is a New York Mets’ player and intends to leave it all behind.

“Obviously as a 24-year-old at the time I was pretty starstruck with the whole thing of being around some of the veteran guys, being in a big-league clubhouse,” Davis said. “Just growing up there through the system. And again, what I’ve applied as the years (have gone by) and I applied last year. And again, having a breakout season last year and I’m trying to learn from the failures and the success and apply it to this 2020 season. And I’m excited.”

He was, indeed, aware of the system. But the Astros’ clubhouse was the first one for him in the bigs and he explained he wasn’t sure if what they were doing was applied on other teams. The Mets are only his second organization.

“Didn’t really think much of it going up there fresh, new, being part of the major league clubhouse, among major-league guys,” Davis stated. “Maybe what they did was the norm. I have no idea. I had never been in another big-league clubhouse to compare the two. Looking back at the situation, the details of it. It’s terrible. It’s terrible for the game of baseball.”

A couple “steps backward”

He recognizes that “baseball took a couple of steps backward because of these events and the investigations that applied to it. Anybody that gets crowned World Series champion, it’s not only a big deal but it’s a big deal for the baseball world for how they’ve earned it and gone through 162 games and through the playoffs and everything. To have the incident is very unfortunate for the game of baseball.”

Davis said he wasn’t sure if the Astros would’ve won the World Series had it not been for the scheme. “That I do not now. They’re a pretty talented team. That’s a pretty big ‘if’ question. I really don’t know. Their up-and-down the lineup is pretty good and their pitching staff at that time was incredible.”

He is now fully focused on the upcoming New York Mets’ season. He is slated to earn a lot of at-bats and defend left field.

New York Mets to Give Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Davis First Base Reps

Despite having the rookie of the year in Pete Alonso and two backup first basemen, the New York Mets are looking to expand their depth there. Brodie Van Wagenen said Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Davis might see time at first base throughout Spring Training. It certainly is a questionable move, considering the situations for both players.

The Mets already have Alonso, Dominic Smith, and the recently signed Matt Adams at their disposal. Alonso spent 156 out of his 161 games at first base, and the five games he did not play there were either a DH or pinch-hitting stint. First base should be the least of concern for the Mets as pitchers and catchers officially report this week.

Focus on the Outfield

Cespedes is coming off of nearly two years on the sidelines, and Davis is trying to prove he can be a capable defender in the outfield. It would be a waste of time to take away outfield reps to have a couple of players have the ability to play multiple positions. Of the 15 position players on the current 40-man roster, nine can play multiple positions. It would be different if the two were not fighting for playing time, but both have something to prove during the Spring.

Giving both first base reps could also mean the Mets could still be shopping one of the two. The Mets already have an abundance of veteran players throughout their roster. Van Wagenen might look to make a move close to the end of Spring Training if both are playing well, and having them split time is not ideal. Cespedes seems the more likely option trade due to his age, contract, and Davis recent success compared to Cespedes’s inability to play a full season.

Projecting the New York Mets Everyday Lineup

The 2020 New York Mets starting lineup comes in with plenty of potential, but one of their biggest questions will be defense. Their lineup contains plenty of power as well, which should make up for the lack of speed it holds. Here is what it should look like come Opening Day.

Catcher: Wilson Ramos

Wilson Ramos is an undervalued catcher coming into Spring Training. He came off a strong year at the plate, hitting .288/.351/.416 with 14 home runs and 73 RBIs. Ramos defense is what held him back ranking in the bottom of most defensive metrics and only throwing out 15% of base stealers. Most of it was in part of the Mets inability to hold runners on, but the Mets should expect another strong year from the Buffalo.

First Base: Pete Alonso

There is nothing to say about Pete Alonso that everyone else has not said. He is coming off one of the best rookie seasons of all time and has emerged into a fan favorite. The home runs are likely to regress, but the real growth from Alonso will come in his walk and strikeout rates.

Second Base: Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano came in full of hype in his return to New York but struggled with injuries and his performance. Despite entering his age-37 season, his solid second half should give hope that he returns to All-Star form. Cano should keep his performance strong as he ages much like fellow Dominicans Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz.

Shortstop: Amed Rosario

Amed Rosario had a huge growth year in 2019. He set career highs in offensive stats across the board and improved defensively in the second half. Rosario’s walk rates and stealing ability still need to improve, but at age-24, he is trending in the right direction.

Third Base: Jeff McNeil

Jeff McNeil emerged as an All-Star outfielder but is likely to play a majority of third base. The position itself will be a revolving door early in the season, but once he should remain there every day as Luis Rojas settles on a consistent lineup. McNeil’s power emerged in 2019, which made him a very dangerous hitter due to his high ability to put the ball in play.

Left Field: J.D. Davis

Speaking of a revolving door, that is likely what the Mets outfield will be. J.D. Davis took the job in left field and ran with it to make Brodie Van Wagenen look like a genius for acquiring him. His defense is a significant issue, and any improvement can make him a real All-Star threat in the National League. The competition between Davis and Yoenis Cespedes should be exciting, especially if Cespedes shows he is fully healthy. The prediction is that Davis comes away with the job, but if Cespedes is in the 2015-16 form, then there is a real log jam there.

Center Field: Brandon Nimmo

Despite all the trade rumors, Brandon Nimmo has survived the offseason. His ability to get on base allows his flaws as a center fielder to go overlooked. Nimmo is still a serviceable center fielder, and with Jake Marisnick as a defensive replacement, it should help the Mets late in games.

Right Fielder: Michael Conforto

Michael Conforto has been the one consistent part of the Mets offseason. No drama or publicity and it translates to his play on the field. He has hit 25+ home runs in three straight seasons and has been someone the Mets count on to anchor the middle of the order. Conforto will see time in center field, but a majority of his time will be in right field.

Mets Likely to Begin 2020 With Familiar Faces in the Outfield

The New York Mets were in the market for a dynamic outfielder this offseason and were hoping to land a centerfielder to be the glue they’ve been needing for several years now.

It didn’t materialize. There was talk of the Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts, the 2018 AL MVP, coming over in a blockbuster deal. Then a more reasonable deal involving Sterling Marte of the Pittsburgh Pirates also dissipated leaving the Mets with just one new face in the outfield mix this spring – light-hitting free agent Jake Marisnick, formerly of the Houston Astros.

So, where does that leave the Mets come April? Last year, they mixed and matched a bunch of corner outfielders with excess infielders along with Juan Lagares, who is no longer here. Marisnick basically replaces him, so there’s no real gain there.

Coming back this season are the core two, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis (who can also play third base) and backup first baseman Dominic Smith. They still don’t have that everyday centerfielder they’ve been craving though.

From Anthony DiComo:

Despite months’ worth of rumors connecting the Mets to Starling Marte, Mookie Betts and others, plus speculation that they might ship Nimmo out of town, the Mets appear likely to enter this season with a familiar outfield: Davis, Nimmo and Conforto, from left to right. The team acquired Marisnick as a defensive-minded option to spell Nimmo in center, and Smith is still around to back up in left. The wild card here is Yoenis Céspedes, whose renegotiated contract eliminated a potential barrier to playing time. Until the Mets report to Spring Training, they won’t have a great idea of how much — if anything — Céspedes can provide after losing more than a season and a half to injuries.

How much Cespedes has left is a huge question and at this point of his career can only play on the corner, pushing wither Nimmo or Conforto to center and putting either one of them, or Davis, on the bench. The defense is going to suffer no matter what. Marisnick is there to balance things out, but he doesn’t provide the offense the other can.

If the Mets do manage to pull off a trade, it doesn’t seem like they’ll get a centerfielder that could much of a differed without giving up some pitching assets, which they are reluctant to do unless it’s for the right player.