Remember back in June, when the Mets didn’t have enough capable hitters to field a regular lineup? Can you recall when the likes of Eric Campbell and Kirk Nieuwenhuis were hitting the middle of the order, instead of only starting when the regulars are too tired from popping champagne bottles? I know that seems like a distant memory or a bad dream, but it was real and, thankfully, very much behind us.
What we have now is a different type of problem, however, and that is the question of how to construct the Mets’ playoff roster. On Sunday, Adam Reiter tried to put together what would be the Mets’ bullpen in the playoffs, and while the bench doesn’t look quite as crowded, it does offer its own set of interesting dilemmas.
Depending on if the Mets carry 11 or 12 pitchers this postseason, they will have five or six spots on the bench to fill. For this exercise, let’s presume that the starting eight will look like this:
1B - Lucas Duda
2B - Daniel Murphy
SS - Wilmer Flores
3B - David Wright
LF - Michael Conforto
CF - Yoenis Cespedes
RF - Curtis Granderson
C - Travis d'Arnaud
Michael Cuddyer is a lock to make the roster due to his contract, his veteran status, and his ability to mash left-handed pitching. He will start over Conforto in games against lefties and will come off the bench and pinch hit in games he’s not starting. He’s not exactly a defensive whiz, so his role will probably just be hitting against lefties throughout the postseason, as it should be.
Kelly Johnson, simply for his versatility, will also be on the roster. If an injury were to strike the Mets, having a guy like Johnson on the bench makes everything a little easier. This year, he has seen innings at first, second, third, shortstop, left field, and right field, even if he is the least desirable substitute at two or more of those positions. Plus, he’s a left-handed bat off the bench with some pop, a combination with plenty of value in the playoffs.
The team is going to need to carry a second catcher on the roster, even if that catcher will probably not see much, if any, playing time. Right now, the Mets have four catchers on their roster: d'Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki, Johnny Monell, and Anthony Recker. It seems obvious that Plawecki is the guy for the job; he’s the best defensive catcher of the bunch, and has a more consistent bat than either of the other options.
Ruben Tejada is, in many ways, the only real shortstop on the Mets this year, and will be on their bench as a defensive replacement late in games and/or a last option for a pinch hitter. He probably has the least obvious upside of anyone on the bench, but his glove in a late-and-close game could be a huge difference maker. That said, if Flores and Murphy keep doing this, Tejada might not be needed at all.
Now, depending on the size of the bullpen, the Mets are down to their last one or two spots on the bench. For now, let’s assume that they are carrying 11 pitchers, meaning that there are two more spots on the bench.
If he weren’t injured, Juan Uribe would more than likely claim one of these spots, but his chest injury leaves him in doubt for at least the first round of the playoffs. If he is healthy, he claims this spot. If he isn’t, then the final two spots on the bench most likely go to Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr.
Young is on this team for one reason: speed. He’s only had seven plate appearances since coming to the Mets in late August, and that is likely seven more than he will get in the postseason if he makes the roster. Young is your classic pinch runner late in a game, when a run is needed badly. In a pinch, he can play a corner outfield spot or second base, but let’s sincerely hope that it never comes to that. This team should be deep enough to not need for Young to do anything but run.
Lagares is, even with his balky elbow, the best defensive outfielder the Mets have. Late in a game, bringing in Lagares and moving Cespedes to a corner outfield improves the outfield defense and also gives the fly-ball-heavy staff a little more breathing room. He has a little speed, too—he’s not quite Young, but he is certainly an improvement over Cuddyer or Duda in that regard.
If Uribe comes back, it seems that either Lagares or Young will miss the roster. And while I think that Young’s speed is unmatched on the team, Lagares simply provides more value than Young does. If the Mets carry 12 pitchers and Uribe is healthy, then the Mets have a tough decision on their hands—do they opt for the pop and versatility of Kelly Johnson, or the sure-handed defense of Juan Lagares?
What do you think? Better yet, go fill out a postseason roster of your own.