Mets notify 6 veterans that they will not make club

Jerry Blevins, Jerad Eickhoff, Caleb Joseph, José Peraza, Mallex Smith and Arodys Vizcaíno have each been notified that they will not be making the Major League roster.

Left-hander Jerry Blevins has announced through Twitter that he’ll be reporting to Brooklyn.

Unfortunately due to some injuries, Vizcaino only made two appearances however hasn’t given up a run.

In addition, Stephen Tarpley will be optioned to Syracuse.

MetsJunkies Game Recap: Cardinals 3 – Mets 5

While it got really close towards the ninth, the Mets were able to pull off an impressive victory over the Cardinals. Sam McWilliams would come on to walk three in the ninth, however would find a way to get out of the jam to secure the victory.

Starter Taijuan Walker pitched two inning and gave up two runs while also walking and striking out two. It could’ve been worse, with runners on the corners Albert Almora jr would make a diving grab in right field. While the second run of the game did tag up and score, it could’ve been worse if the ball got by Almora.

While the Mets had seven hits on the day, their first run didn’t come till the seventh inning. In fact, all of their runs ended up coming in the seventh.

Highly touted prospect Ronny Mauricio went 1-1 with 2 RBI’s in the contest with a two-out single. Mallex Smith, who is fighting for a fifth outfield spot, was able to draw a walk as well as steal his first bag of the spring.

The bullpen did it’s thing today. Edwin Diaz, Juerys Familia, Miguel Castro, Tommy Hunter as well as Drew Smith all pitched a scoreless inning along with Sam McWilliams.

Players I Look Forward to this Spring (MILB Deals)

The last of my segment for Players I look Forward to is the MILB Deals. Which are players that I see as a good part of the Mets minor league depth.

Mallex Smith:

The Mets have added some outfield depth on major league deals in Almora and Pillar. The current bench is now fairly set and Mallex Smith isn’t on the projected bench. Still, it’s a good player to have if there is a need. The speedy outfielder is a very good center fielder and provides a lot of speed. His bat is light, but that’s also the case with Almora Jr. If the Mets need an outfielder who can play CF, Smith is the most likely candidate, especially with the Mets DFAing Guillermo Herredia.

Aroldys Vizcaino:

Yes, the former Braves closer is with the Mets this Spring. An under the radar pickup in the beginning of the offseason. Main issue is his health over the last couple of years. He has pitched just 4 innings since 2019. When healthy Vizcaino has been very good. In 2018, he pitched to a 2.11 ERA over 39.1 innings with a 1.17 WHIP. It’s obvious what to look for this spring in the 30 year old righty: Is he healthy?

Tommy Hunter:

A sneaky pickup as Hunter signed a MILB deal not long ago. Hunter had some solid numbers with the Phillies, pitching to a 4.01 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He struck out 25 over 24.2 innings. There is no doubt that Hunter could be part of the Mets pen at some point this season.

Mike Montgomery:

One of my favorite minor league signings is Mike Montgomery. The lefty solidifies the Mets depth for not only a starters role, but also in the pen. He is a perfect example of an all type role pitchers and that gives the Mets some options if there is a need. He wasn’t great with limited innings in 2020 and his 2019 wasn’t great as well (4.95 ERA), but before that he was great in a swing role, which is exactly the role I like the signing for.

Photo by Anthony Dicomo via MLB.com

What the Pillar signing may mean

The Mets just recently signed CF’er Kevin Pillar to a Major League deal. The Mets also recently signed CF’er Albert Almora jr and that’s after signing CF’er Mallex Smith with Heredia still on the Mets 40-man roster.

The Mets will need to clear a spot from the 40 to make room for the newly acquired Kevin Pillar. The first option would have to be Jacob Barnes, with no options remaining left, he’s always been one of these players with his back to the wall.

Guillermo Heredia might be one of those odd men out. While he has options remaining, Heredia might be a victim of circumstance and catch a pink slip. It’s unfortunate because he’s a great defender that’s fun to watch at the dish, as well.

Of course with the news with Lugo not being able to toss a ball for six weeks, the Mets could very well place the reliever on the 60-day IL to clear a spot.

But what does this all mean with the 26-man roster? Well, players like Albert Almora jr and Jose Martinez each have options remaining, so we’ll likely see the pair in Syracuse. However, once the Mets need a RH stick to fill in, the Mets have viable options with the two.

That’s not all! That’s right! There’s more!

I think we can all finally put the nail in the coffin with JBJ potentially landing in Queens. Bradley is not only asking for quite a bit of money, but he seems to be shooting for a four-year contract at 31 years old.

While I haven’t seen any rumblings from any reporters, it seems that fans are thinking this may be a precursor to something bigger. Could the Mets be looking to trading Nimmo, Davis, or Smith?

Photo from MLB.com

Mets Announce Non-Roster Invites

The Mets announced their non-roster invites today. Included on the invite are their 5 top prospects.

Pitchers:

RHP Matthew Allan (Met #4 Prospect)
LHP Jerry Blevins
RHP Oscar De La Cruz
RHP Jerad Eickoff
RHP Ryley Gilliam
RHP Harol Gonzalez
RHP Trevor Hildenberger
RHP Tylor Megill
RHP Marcel Renteria
RHP Jared Robinson
RHP Arodys Vizcaino
LHP Tom Windle

Catchers:

Francisco Alvarez (Mets #2 Prospect)
Bruce Maxwell
Nick Meyer
David Rodriguez

Infielders:

Brett Baty (Mets #3 Prospect)
Brandon Drury
Jake Hager
Ronny Mauricio (Mets #1 Prospect)
Jose Peraza
Wilfredo Tovar
Mark Vientos

Outfielders:

Pete Crow-Armstrong (Mets #5)
Johneshwy Fargas
Drew Ferguson
Mallex Smith
Tim Tebow

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Taking a Look at CF Depth

The Mets added Albert Almora Jr. to their much needed depth for the center field spot. With Nimmo slated to be the Mets primary center fielder, they have added some good defensive center fielders. Let’s take a look at the Mets newest addition first: Albert Almora jr.

Albert Almora was one of the best defensive center fielders in the game in 2018. He collected 10 OAA, which was good for ninth in the majors. He followed it up with 3 OAA in 2019, which was tied for 17th. Not great but still solid. 2020 isn’t a fair assessment as he had just 35 attempts.

Almora is a master of going in on balls. In 2018 and 2019 combined, he collected a positive 15 OAA when he needed to get in to catch a fly ball. Going back, he had difficulty in 2019, which made his OAA lower than expected. You will see Almora playing a fairly deep CF, with his ability to go in.

What Almora consistently kept doing good was his outfield jump. In 2018 and 2019 combined, he was a positive 3.3 Feet above average covered. His sprint speed and jump gets his range up to elite level. He should be able to retain that, being just 26 years old. He wasn’t too bad in limited time in 2020, so that’s positive.

Baseball Savant

Almora is not the only good defensive CF’er we have. Another addition from this offseason was Mallex Smith. He didn’t play at lot in 2020, but was fairly elite in 2019. He accounted for 6 OAA in CF (10 total), which was good for 11th in the majors amongst Center Fielders.

In 2019, he improved his reaction to the batted balls, which made his jump 1.5 feet above average. He also was good with going back on balls, collecting plus 8 OAA (from the 10 total). Solid jump and route selection with great sprint speed, makes him cover ground a lot as well.

Smith and Almora aren’t the only ones the Mets have in their system. They also have Guillermo Heredia, who is a good defender. Heredia was in the 78th percentile in sprint speed, but excelled in outfielders jump in 2019 as he was in the 97th percentile, top in the league.

In just 99 attempts in 2019, he collected 4 OAA in center field, good for 16th in the majors. He was better than George Springer and Almora jr, with less attempts.

Like Almora, Heredia did well on going in. His total OAA, was all because of catches going in. His feet vs. Average covered was a stunning 2.1 above average, close to the league lead.

While Nimmo is obviously the better players as the other three have light bats, the Mets have three defensive minded CFders, that could take the spot if needed. If you need one, you have a couple to choose from, who at least play the position well, were defense is more important IMO. Some good depth there for the Mets to have.

NYM CF Mallex Smith: Candidate for The 2021 NL Comeback Player of the Year Award

Earlier in the offseason, the Mets may have made one of their biggest move in signing 11 minor league free agents that included Jose Peraza, Arodys Vizciano, and 27 year old Centerfielder Mallex Smith! Smith was originally drafted by the Padres in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, FL. Before I go into a deeper analysis as to why I think he could be a comeback player of the year, lets look at the history of Smith as he bounces around different ballclubs.

TRADED TO THE BRAVES: On December 19, 2014 the Padres traded 2B Jace Peterson, LHP Max Fried, 3B Dustin Peterson, and CF Mallex Smith to the Braves in exchange for LF Justin Upton and RHP Aason Northcraft.

2016 SEASON – ROOKIE DEBUT: Smith made his MLB debut with the Braves in 2016 where in 72 games and 215 PA, he slashed a .238/.316/.365 with 3 HR and 16 SB in 24 attempts. The then 23 year old, also had a Strike out rate (K%) of 22.3% with a Walk rate (BB%) of 9.3%, Which is not too bad for a Rookie debut.

TRADED TO THE MARINERS AND TO THE RAYS: On January 11, 2017 The Braves traded Mallex smith to the Seattle Mariners with RHP Shae Simmons for RHP Thomas Burrows and LHP Luis Gohara. A few hours after being traded from the Braves, the Mariners trade Smith to the Tampa Bay Rays along with INF Carlos Vargas and LHP Ryan Yarbrough for LHP Drew Smyly.

2017 – 2018 SEASON – THE GOOD: Mallex Smith played two seasons with Tampa, which included a break out year in 2018. During the course of his time at Tampa, Smith played 222 G with 826 Plate Appearances where he slashed a .287/.354/.389. He’s not known for his power so the youngster only hit 4HR but he did steal 56 SB in 73 attempts. His speed was the game changer as he lead the league in triples in 2018 with 10. It is also worth noting that in 2018, he only struck out 98 times (K% of 18%) and walked 47 times (BB% of 8.6%). He finished 10th place on OBP for the year.

TRADED TO THE MARINERS (AGAIN): On November 8, 2018, the Rays traded Smith to the Mariners with OF Jake Fraley for OF Guillermo Heredia (yes, same guy on the Mets in 2020) and C Mike Zunino.

2019 SEASON – THE BAD: Things started to go south for Smith in 2019. In 566 plate appearances, he slashed a horrid .227/.300/.335 with a K% of 24.9 and a BB% of 7.4%. The only good that came out of this season for Smith was that he had an MLB leading 46 SB in 52 attempts. He also hit a career high of 6 HR that season.

2020 SEASON – THE UGLY: In 2020, Smith production went further south. Smith had delayed his debut to the M’s summer camp for undisclosed reasons. He missed out a few weeks to prepare for the already shorten season due to the pandemic. He was able to make the M’s opening day line-up, but only appeared on 14 games before getting optioned back to the alternative site. He made 47 Plate appearances, slashing a pathetic .133/.170/.178 with while only stealing 2 bases striking out 13 times with while drawing only 2 walks. Meanwhile, the Mariners had some great production coming from Kyle Lewis who earn the AL Rookie of the Year award at CF. The Mariner’s have a bright future in their OF prospects that are close to MLB level in Jared Kelenic (ahem, thanks again Brodie) and Julio Rodriguez. Mariners did not tenure Smith and he opted out to Free Agency.

METS SIGNED MALLEX SMITH TO MINOR LEAGUE DEAL: As mentioned earlier, the Mets quickly signed 11 players into minor league deals on November 4th. They took the opportunity to add much needed depth at CF before other teams could sink their teeth into Smith.

DEFENSIVE UPGRADE:

In 2019, Smith ranked 8th in Outs Above Average (OOA) for any OF Position with 10 while logging in 9 Runs Prevented. In 2020, he did not play enough games to be eligible, but also see below on how horrid the Mets defensive numbers were. Spoiler alert, it sucked.

2019 OOA Rankings Baseball Savant
2019 Mets OOA Baseball Savant
Mets 2020 OOA Baseball Savant

THE OFFENSE: I took a look into Smith’s number to see if I can see any evidence of what exactly changed from his 2019 to 2020 season. Granted 2020 was a much smaller sample size, and in my opinion, Smith did not get enough time to prepare with the team as his sessions at the summer camp were delayed due to undisclosed reasons. That aside, the number one thing that popped out to me during his 2020 season was his BABIP. His BABIP was well below the league average of .300. In short, when he was putting the ball in play, he was a victim of either very bad luck or amazing defensive on the field. His BABIP was .188. This may be me speculating a bit, but I think he may have made attempts to over compensate by attempting to be more aggressive in the strike zone, and trying to sell out for power, a tool in which he lacks. The Speedster, appeared lost, while his counterpart, Lewis was scorching hot.

Fangraphs.com

The 2020 MLB season was a season where every single game was much more significant than ever. Not that a normal season is okay to lose, but in a shorten 60 game season meant that if a team lost, they had more grounds to cover in a shorter period of times. In a regular 162 game season, the club can be more patient as a player works through a slump. You also have the option to send a player down to the minors as long as they have enough available (Smith has 1 option remaining on his contract) to improve and figure out what the issues were. In a 60 game season were the playoffs were expanded, clubs were treating every game as a playoff game and if a player was slumping, there was much smaller tolerance to see if they could figure it out.

THE PROJECTIONS: Most projections have Smith seeing 200 or less AB. This make sense due to the abundance of left handed hitting OFers the Mets currently have, and how the Mets are linked towards the FA acquisition of George Springer. One thing that most of the projections indicate is that Smith will see regression on his OBP which would go back up north of .318. The most compelling projection that I seen is the one on Baseball reference where they are projecting him to see a decent amount of time in the OF and producing the following numbers.

Baseball Reference

Smith is also a left-handed hitter so the need for his bat may be limited. I expect the Mets to make some moves this winter that would shift the team around to work out the current log-jam of having too many poor defensive performers at LF and 3B. I also expect Mallex Smith having the potential to breakout of the 2021 Spring Training which will push the (much more analytical) Mets to include his bat and speed in the line up.

IN CONCLUSION: The Mets signing Mallex Smith to a minor league deal was one of the smartest things they have done in the offseason. They are taking a very low risk on giving Mallex Smith a chance. The pay off could be so significant that it could be the missing piece to the Mets defensive woes in the position and give them a push for a playoff slot or more. It is no secret that the Mets have a great offensive team. They also have a decent pitching rotation in which they are more than likely to further improve. Their bullpen, is top notch! However, if the defenders can not keep the opposing teams from scoring as they have, all that great pitching performance just goes to waste. This pitching staff needs to have the confidence to step up on the mound without questioning their teammates defensive abilities. If they need to throw a sinker to induce that double play ball, then so be it. They should also not have to worry about how much defensive ground their OF would be able to cover. If Mallex Smith gets the opportunity to play every day, he has the upside to be an impactful player that pitchers can trust to make the necessary outs.

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)