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2016 Mets season preview: Eric Campbell

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Despite a brutal 2015, the corner infielder is suddenly poised to make this year's Opening Day roster.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Like it or not, Eric Campbell probably isn't going anywhere. The Mets' unexpected decision to release Ruben Tejada cleared up a bench spot ripe for Soup to slurp up. Given their lack of a corner infielder, Campbell makes sense as a cheap, uninspiring bench-filler. Yet fans dreaming up another World Series won't appreciate him making the Opening Day roster after hitting .197/.312/.295 last season. Let's take a deep breath. He won't be that bad this season.

Labeled "baseball's unluckiest hitter" by The Wall Street Journal's Michael Salfino, Campbell paired a 26.1 line-drive rate with a .230 BABIP. Albert Pujols, who has devolved into a pure pull hitter, was the only qualified hitter to record a lower BABIP.

As a result, Campbell's hitting line plummeted from 2014's decent .263/.322/.358. He also upped his walks and reduced his strikeouts to increase his contact rate from 76.9 to 80.2 percent. The regression gods punished him for a fortuitous rookie campaign, but they corrected too much in the opposite direction.

With better bounces on batted calls, Campbell is just decent enough at everything to stick around. Then again, he's a corner infielder devoid of power who will turn 29 during the season's first week. He's palatable when seldom utilized, but certainly not someone a title contender should play regularly in the event of a David Wright or Lucas Duda injury.

2016 Projections
Eric Campbell PA HR AVG OBP SLG WAR
Steamer 50 1 .240 .327 .352 0.1
ZiPS 385 7 .243 .333 .362 0.9

If he meets his ZiPS projections, his 100 wRC+ makes him the epitome of an average hitter. Greg Karam concisely summed up Campbell in his indictment of Tejada's release, calling the corner infielder "the definition of replacement level." Of course, this means the Mets could eventually replace him. Even if Soup bounces back to respectable production, he probably wouldn't dissuade the Mets from locating a bench bat at the trade deadline akin to last year's acquisition of Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.

Rostering Campbell was more acceptable for a squad chasing a .500 record than one hunting down a title. As a temporary solution, it's also not the end of the world. He's hopefully not a long-term fixture, but also not as hopeless a bench player as most fans believe. Even if he's not particularly good, he's probably not as horrible as last year's results suggest.