In the first quarter of the 2015 season, Mets pitching has provided reason for excitement. Phenoms Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard have anchored an enviable rotation, and the bullpen has also exceeded expectations. While the team’s pitching has been a considerable strength, the offense has been a source of concern. The Mets currently rank near the bottom in many offensive categories, including runs scored and OPS.
General manager Sandy Alderson has promoted several players from Triple-A to improve the club’s offensive output, with Kevin Plawecki, Dilson Herrera, and Darrell Ceciliani among the most notable call-ups. If the Mets’ offense remains lackluster, Alderson may continue to rely on his farm system for reinforcement. The organization has several players in Vegas who could improve the team’s lineup, with three particularly intriguing options.
Reynolds was one of spring training’s most pleasant surprises, as the 24-year-old infielder hit .375 with a .987 OPS over 48 at-bats in the Grapefruit League. Though never considered a top prospect, the righty-hitting Reynolds enjoyed a breakout season in 2014: in 126 games spent with Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Vegas, he hit .343 with an .859 OPS. Reynolds’s emergence put him into consideration for the starting shortstop job, a role that eventually went to Wilmer Flores.
Flores’s early defensive struggles made it easy to second-guess the team’s decision, despite Reynolds’s lack of major league experience. Thus far in 2015, Reynolds has posted solid, if unspectacular, numbers for the Las Vegas 51s. Given Vegas’s notoriously hitter-friendly environment, Reynolds’s 2015 performance is not overly impressive. While his .722 OPS is not terrible for a middle infielder, he has done little to prove he is better than scouting reports suggest.
Vegas manager Wally Backman describes the shortstop as a "grinder," and Terry Collins has praised his poised demeanor. Likewise, Mets Vice President of Player Development and Scouting Paul DePodesta views Reynolds as a dependable player similar to Mark Loretta and Mark Ellis. These evaluations indicate that although he could be a reliable utility man at the big league level, Reynolds’s upside is limited. The Mets’ offense might temporarily benefit from promoting him to the majors, but he is unlikely to have a long-term impact.
A right-handed-hitting outfielder, Taijeron has continually posted strong power numbers. During his time in the Mets’ system, the 26-year-old has slugged at least 15 homers in three different seasons. Perhaps more impressively, he has exhibited above-average plate discipline at each level: Taijeron has never posted an on-base percentage lower than .356, a testament to his mature approach at the plate.
However, despite his solid power numbers, relatively advanced knowledge of the strike zone, and ability to play all three outfield positions, Taijeron is not without faults. Perhaps the most glaring flaw in the outfielder’s game is his difficulty making contact. Taijeron has struck out in nearly a third of his at-bats as a professional, a trend that has continued in 2015. His current .311/.416/.519 batting line is outstanding, but his struggles to put the ball in play is still cause for concern.
Moreover, because Vegas is so hitter-friendly, Taijeron’s numbers are likely somewhat inflated. As the disappointing performances of call-ups like Johnny Monell and Danny Muno show, great Vegas stats don’t always translate to big league success. For Taijeron to warrant a promotion, he will need to prove that he can be a legitimate power threat off the bench.
Like Taijeron, Castellanos is enjoying a stellar season in Vegas. The 28-year-old Castellanos, who previously played in parts of two seasons with the Dodgers, leads the 51s with 10 homers and 33 RBI. A versatile ballplayer, Castellanos has spent time playing both the infield and outfield. While he failed to impress during his brief stints in the majors, his minor league resume includes three seasons of 17 or more home runs.
The Miami native is error-prone, which may explain why the Mets have yet to call him up to the majors. Another reason the team may be reluctant to take a chance on Castellanos is the dreadful slump he is experiencing, which has seen his average dip from .301 to .260 since May 22. However, despite his recent struggles, his performance bears watching. Like Vegas teammate Brandon Allen, Castellanos has demonstrated glimpses of enticing power at multiple levels. His age means that he can no longer be considered a prospect, but the journeyman might still provide value as a pinch hitter and utility player.
Ultimately, the Mets may need to rely on internal options to strengthen their offense. To stay in the hunt for a playoff spot, the team will likely need better hitting to compliment its outstanding rotation. Matt Reynolds, Travis Taijeron, and Alex Castellanos are not necessarily ideal choices for promotions, but there is little risk in giving them opportunities at the big league level. While the current Vegas standouts are unlikely to fully remedy the Mets’ offensive woes, they are potential upgrades for a weak-hitting ball club.