clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Mets Offseason Position Player Preview: Shortstop

New, 17 comments

For the first time since 2011, the Mets have a locked-in starting shortstop heading into the offseason and it looks like that will continue into the future...

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

In a twist that Alanis Morrisette might even find ironic, the only position on the Mets that’s clearly settled heading into this offseason is shortstop. The irony here, of course, is in just how long shortstop was a major question mark for the organization in the post-Jose Reyes days. Starting with Ruben Tejada, somehow transitioning to Omar Quintanilla (YIKES!) for way too long, and then settling for Past A Diving (Wilmer) Flores, shortstop was a mess and one of the most obvious places for the Mets to find some stability if they wanted to build a playoff contender.

They found that stability and then some in 2016 with Asdrubal Cabrera. After somewhat surprisingly signing a two-year contract with the Mets last December, Cabrera went on to have his best season since his breakout 2011 in Cleveland. It wasn’t just a strong offensive season either, as even given his somewhat suspect range, Cabrera provided an improvement defensively thanks to his incredibly sure hands, routinely accurate throws, and the all-around baseball smarts of a cagey veteran.

Season G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2014 146 616 14 74 61 10 8.0 % 17.5 % .146 .272 .241 .307 .387 .308 94
2015 143 551 15 66 58 6 6.5 % 19.4 % .164 .306 .265 .315 .430 .319 104
2016 141 568 23 65 62 5 6.7 % 18.1 % .194 .310 .280 .336 .474 .345 119

The first half of Cabrera’s season was perfectly fine, if unspectacular, but it was his outstanding second half that really moved the needle for the Mets. After re-aggravating a year-long knee injury on July 31, Cabrera went on the disabled list and wouldn’t return until August 19 in San Francisco, coincidentally the same day Yoenis Cespedes returned from his own injury. What would follow was a blistering hot streak that ultimately helped propel the Mets to the Wild Card game.

Dates PA H 2B 3B HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
4/3 - 7/31 403 95 19 - 13 42 33 1 1 5.5 % 19.9 % .155 .292 .255 .308 .410 .308 94
8/21 - 10-2 165 51 11 1 10 23 29 4 - 9.7 % 13.9 % .291 .353 .345 .406 .635 .436 179

So what exactly happened here? There are a few theories. One floated around was as simple as the knee injury kept him over swinging. Another was that upon his return, Cabrera was placed in the two hole, behind Jose Reyes and in front of Cespedes in the batting order, which allowed him to feast on more hittable pitches. Yet another theory, one that probably is worth the most weight given the history, is that Kevin Long finally got to him and taught him the pull-heavy ways of Daniel Murphy, and that at some point it all clicked and a monster was unleashed. Given Cabrera’s already fly ball-heavy and pull-happy profile, this seems to make the most logical sense.

Whatever the cause of Cabrera’s offensive explosion is, the Mets finally have a locked-in starting shortstop option for the first time since 2011. And even though Cabrera is only signed through 2017, the Mets shortstop position appears to be in good hands going forward because of the looming presence of...

Amed Rosario

Talk about going from rags to riches. After five years of borderline ineptitude at shortstop, the Mets not only have a fine incumbent at the position but are also graced with one of the top 15 prospects in all of baseball right behind him. After merely holding his own as one of the youngest players in High-A ball in 2015, the Mets decided to let him repeat the level to open this season and wow, were the results incredible.

Season Level G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2014 A- 68 290 1 39 23 7 5.9 % 16.2 % .090 .345 .289 .337 .380 .334 111
2015 A+ 103 417 - 41 25 12 5.5 % 17.5 % .078 .316 .257 .307 .335 .307 97
2016 A+ 66 290 3 27 40 13 7.2 % 12.4 % .132 .345 .309 .359 .442 .368 132
2016 AA 54 237 2 38 31 6 8.0 % 21.5 % .140 .433 .341 .392 .481 .389 142

After we watched his defensive reputation morph from suspect to sterling over the past three seasons, Rosario put up the monster offensive season prospect watchers had been waiting for, exhibiting all of the offensive tools that were supposedly in his toolbox. What’s more impressive is the fact that a promotion to Double-A Binghamton didn’t slow him down but in fact saw him get even better. Rosario hit .410 through his first 78 plate appearances at the higher level before tailing off a bit and only ending the season at .341 with Binghamton (insert sarcasm font there).

Given the overwhelming success Rosario had in Binghamton and how much the Mets organization loves his maturity (and really everything about him), it wouldn’t be shocking to see him open the year at Triple-A Las Vegas. From there, it’s just a matter of time before he makes his major league debut and eventually takes over at shortstop. Get used to that name, Mets fans. You should be hearing it for a long time.

Jose Reyes, Matt Reynolds, Gavin Cecchini

We’ll go over these options here merely because they should be hanging around the roster all year, barring a trade or some other unforeseen circumstance. If something were to happen to Cabrera and the Mets deemed Rosario to not be ready for big league duty just yet (say, for instance, it’s not past the service time cutoff that would push his free agency back a year and buy an extra year of control), it seems likely the Mets would shift Reyes to shortstop to cover. Reyes’ skills at shortstop have deteriorated over the years but if necessary, he can still play there and is likely the best non-Rosario option should Cabrera go down.

Season G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2014 143 655 9 94 51 30 5.8 % 11.1 % .111 .312 .287 .328 .398 .321 104
2015 116 519 7 57 53 24 5.0 % 11.9 % .104 .301 .274 .310 .378 .300 80
2016 60 279 8 45 24 9 8.2 % 17.6 % .176 .302 .267 .326 .443 .329 108

Mets fans are familiar with Reynolds, who made his big league debut this season. He showed a surprisingly solid glove at shortstop for a guy who was primarily a third baseman in college, in a way validating the Mets’ insistence on moving him back to shortstop as a prospect.

Season Level G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2014 AA 58 242 1 33 21 6 12.0 % 16.9 % .066 .433 .355 .430 .422 .391 144
2014 AAA 68 301 5 54 40 14 7.0 % 19.9 % .146 .404 .333 .385 .479 .379 124
2015 AAA 115 490 6 70 65 13 6.5 % 18.8 % .135 .319 .267 .319 .402 .322 90
2016 AAA 71 299 2 43 24 9 8.7 % 21.4 % .093 .340 .264 .336 .357 .317 89
2016 Mets 47 96 3 11 13 - 4.2 % 35.4 % .191 .327 .225 .266 .416 .291 82

The question with Reynolds, as it has always been, falls onto the bat. He didn’t hit a lick in Triple-A this season but in his brief big league exposure, Reynolds showed a little more pop than expected and a knack for getting hits with runners in scoring position. Unfortunately, the overall package was short-circuited by a gigantic 35.4% strikeout rate, a number that would make his long term success in the majors something of an uphill battle. At the absolute least, Reynolds looks the part of a replacement level utility infielder who plays a quality shortstop, has room to grow at the plate, and has options, and there’s certainly value in that for the 2017 Mets.

Finally, there’s Cecchini, the former 2012 first round pick. After being hailed as a glove-first, bat-second draft pick out of high school, Cecchini has done quite the 180 over the past few seasons. In a bit more of the irony mentioned earlier, it’s been his bat that has come on strong, while his defense has taken a steep downturn. In particular, his scattershot arm at short led to him making 28 errors at Double-A in 2015 and 33 more in Vegas this past season.

Season Level G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2014 A+ 68 271 5 36 31 3 11.8 % 14.8 % .116 .259 .236 .325 .352 .318 96
2015 AA 109 485 7 64 51 3 8.7 % 11.3 % .125 .348 .317 .377 .442 .375 139
2016 AAA 117 499 8 71 55 4 9.6 % 11.0 % .123 .357 .325 .390 .448 .377 128
2016 Mets 4 7 - 2 2 - 0.0 % 28.6 % .333 .500 .333 .429 .667 .458 194

Playing in the Arizona Fall League these past few weeks, Cecchini was supposed to receive a lot of time at second base but he’s played the majority of his time at shortstop, where he’s continued his error prone ways. He also missed a few games with an injury, though he’s returned to the field in the past few days. It looks more and more like second base will be Cecchini’s long term home and if that’s the case, his bat will have to continue to improve as it has the past two seasons given that the offensive bar at the position was raised quite a bit this past season.