Whether on October 7 or October 11, the Mets will begin their postseason with a pretty clear idea of who will be starting on the mound and in their lineup. Aside from Starling Marte’s finger and Brandon Nimmo’s quad, the Mets have very few question marks for their everyday players. But it is at the margins of the 26-man roster that some choices need to be made, especially involving the bench.
The single biggest factor, aside from health, will be if the Mets decide to carry 12 or 13 pitchers on their postseason roster. That will determine if the Mets have four or five spots on the bench, and will render some of these decisions moot.
The starting lineup, at least against righties, will likely look something like this:
- Brandon Nimmo - CF
- Starling Marte - RF
- Francisco Lindor - SS
- Pete Alonso - 1B
- Daniel Vogelbach - DH
- Eduardo Escobar - 3B
- Jeff McNeil - 2B
- Mark Canha - LF
- James McCann/Tomás Nido - C
The surest lock on the bench is a second catcher. At this point, I am not sure whether Nido or McCann is currently penciled in as the #1 catcher, but one of them will be starting, and the other will be on the bench.
Luis Guillorme seems to have the next best odds, as he is such a valuable defensive player, and the only real backup shortstop on the roster. His versatility and ‘manos de oro’ will both likely be necessary for the playoffs.
From there, things get tricky. If there are only two spots left, there should probably be a right-handed complement to Daniel Vogelbach for the designated hitter spot, but the Mets haven’t had a ton of success in that area from either Darin Ruf or Mark Vientos. There isn’t another viable right-handed option on their roster, unless you’re thinking of starting Pete Alonso at DH against lefties, but then you’re still subjecting Ruf to the lineup again as a first baseman.
Similarly, the fourth outfielder spot is a little shaky as well. In terms of the best hitter available, Tyler Naquin would fit that bill. However, Naquin is not a great outfielder, and after a hot start, has not been a super productive hitter, batting only .196 with six extra-base hits in 51 plate appearances in September.
On the other hand, Terrance Gore is both a better outfielder than Naquin and possesses the best speed on the team by a large margin. In late and close games, Gore is about as automatic as it gets to go first to third on a single or steal second base. This is especially important when you have an OBP machine like Vogelbach on the roster, who may draw a walk with the tying or go ahead run late in a game and then be a liability on the base paths.
There is also the pinch hitting aspect to consider with the last bench spot. While Vientos, Ruf, or Naquin aren’t exactly having Aaron Judge-esque seasons, Gore has never had much success at all at the plate, with a career slash line of .214/.313/.271.
In terms of pinch hitting prowess, the Mets’ best option may actually be someone currently on the Syracuse roster: Dominic Smith. Smith, who seems to have re-discovered his stroke over the last month or so, is an above average pinch hitter over his career, with a 1.32 PHlev and was an absolutely exceptional pinch hitter in 2020. Also, aside from his ghastly 2021, Smith has never been particularly bad at grounding into double plays.
The issue with Smith is that, while he’s a better first baseman than anyone not named Alonso on the roster, he’s similar to Ruf in that he’s more or less limited to that position. Yes, both have played the outfield for the Mets, but the results were pretty poor when they did.
If the Mets have four bench spots to play with, my personal preference would be for Nido, Guillorme, Gore, and Ruf. Ruf has a track record on his side over Vientos, and he’s looked less terrible at the plate as of late. He fits the bill as a platoon partner for Vogelbach, and if he’s on, his skillset isn’t matched by any other option. Naquin is a probably a better player at this point in their respective careers than Ruf or Gore, but Naquin doesn’t bring one skill as valuable as Gore’s speed or Ruf’s right-side power.
If there is a fifth bench spot, Naquin gets the nod. As much as the Dom Smith rehabilitation tour is an appealing idea, the positional flexibility and abundance of lefties hurts his chances.
The only way that Naquin makes the team over Gore, for me, is if Marte and Nimmo are still hurting at the start of the Mets’ first series. If one of these bench players needs to play in the outfield for more than an inning or two and, specifically, needs to take at-bats in a playoff game, that should be Naquin. Sure, you could put McNeil in left and Guillorme at second, but with two outfielders potentially with nagging injuries, you want an actual fourth outfielder on the roster.
The Mets’ bullpen decisions are manifold, and it so the extra bench spot might not be available. If it is, the Mets will have a viable backup for every position, a few key late-inning defensive and speed replacements, and some potential pop from both sides. If they only have four spots, some tough decisions will have to be made.
What would be your ideal 4-man bench for the Mets in the playoffs?
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Tomás Nido, Luis Guillorme, Darin Ruf, Tyler Naquin
Tomás Nido, Luis Guillorme, Darin Ruf, Terrance Gore
Tomás Nido, Luis Guillorme, Tyler Naquin, Terrance Gore
Tomás Nido, Luis Guillorme, Dominic Smith, Terrance Gore
Tomás Nido, Luis Guillorme, Dominic Smith, Tyler Naquin
Tomás Nido, Luis Guillorme, Dominic Smith, Darin Ruf