2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Gregor Blanco

The Mets signed Gregor Blanco back on 12/21 and it was a clear sign that the Mets were not going to hobble a major league roster together but they were going to methodically build a minor league system with depth to pull from when the team needs it. There have a been a several moments over the last couple of years where the Mets have needed an outfielder, but had no one to turn too, so any option was pulled out of Las Vegas to fill in.

Gregor Blanco is a fine option for the Mets to use if injuries rapt the major league squad. Before we go through his last couple of seasons, let’s take a look at his journey.

He was signed by the Braves in 2000 by the Braves and made his debut with the team. This is probably why his name is familiar with Mets fans, we have faced Blanco a lot. He was traded to the Royals in 2010 for Rick Ankiel and Farnsworth. The next season he was traded to the Nationals and was granted free agency. He was an early signing in the 2011 off-season and signed a long term deal with the Giants and stayed in SF for 2016. This is the mental image most of us now have of Blanco. He has bounced between the Diamondbacks and Giants since then.

His best two seasons were between 2014 and 2015 where he hit .265/.341/.350 followed by .260/.333/.374 posting a 98 DRC+ followed by a 103 DRC+. These are his two best seasons for Blanco, who has averaged a DRC+ of 85. (For comparison, this would make him a major league starter for the Baltimore Orioles right now, but he he’s here on a minor league deal).

2018: 203 PA, 2 HR, .217/.262/.317, 60 DRC+
Career: .255/.338/.348, 85 DRC+

A lot is going to have to happen for Blanco to break into the roster and to Queens by the end of camp. His main competition from NRI’s will be Rajai Davis who was a similar signing for the Mets. We should get a long look at Blanco this spring.

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2019 Mets Conglomerate Projections: Travis d’Arnaud

It’s that time of the year again! Conglomerate Projections! In years past we have used up 10 different projections, averaged them together (no matter how mathematically dubious of an idea that was) to make a single projection line for each player on the Mets. We slimmed it down for the second straight year for the projections that worked the best.

There’s a slight order to how we will proceed. We’re going to start alphabetically with catchers on the 40-man, followed by infielders, outfielders and players with NRI’s who have a high chance of making the team at some point this season. Then we repeat the same process with pitchers.

Baseball Prospectus (BP) projections are from the Baseball Prospectus annual which can you can get here. It’s highly recommended. ESPN projections can be found here. ZiPS can be found here. Steamer can be found here. Baseball Reference projections (BR) can found on the players BR page which linked elsewhere on this article.

So let’s start with Travis d’Arnaud! It was unclear what the Mets were going to do with Travis and Kevin Plawecki going into the off-season. They ended up tendering Travis a contract and trading away Plawecki. The Wilson Ramos signing makes Travis second on the depth chart and the Devin Mesoraco signing means that they could still potentially trade Travis. Here’s what the computers thought Travis would do this year:

Each program is correctly guessing that d’Arnaud will see a decrease in playing time (from both Wilson Ramos and his own injury history).

For comparison:
2018: 16 PA, 15 AB, 1 HR, .200/.250/.400, -0.1 WAR, 80 DRC+
Career: .245/.306/.406, 99 DRC+

Baseball Prospectus see’s him as basically being the exact same hitter that he has always has been. Everyone else has remarkable agreement on his batting average with not much different for his OBP. Projections are split on if he’ll hit for power worse or better than his career (but the spread is super low).

Ideally, Travis finds his power again and can be used as a source of pop late in games in a switch. The Mets are will probably like to use d’Arnaud max twice a week. While the projections are eerily close for him in 2019 and close to his career, he needs to survive spring first from Mesoraco and BWV who can still easily trade him.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Dilson Herrera

The Mets welcome back an old friend, a former future second-basemen in Dilson Herrera to spring. The Mets famously didn’t pursue Daniel Murphy after the National League Champions 2015 Mets also had Dilson Herrera on the roster, but then traded Herrera away the next season.

Ultimately Dilson Herrera is wrapped up with a lot of interesting Mets stories. He was signed by the Pirates as a free agent in 2010. In 2013 he was traded with Vic Black for John Buck and Marlon Byrd. Expectations were high for him from the start and his best season in the majors was with the 2015 Mets.

But then Herrera wasn’t able to crack out of the minors with the 2016 Mets, and he was traded with Max Wotell to the Reds to Jay Bruce thus starting the Jay Bruce era. So Herrera is the scapegoat for the end of the Murphy era and kicks off a very confusing time with Jay Bruce.

Enough trivia and 6 degrees of separation, lets get into the numbers. Dilson Herrera finally got back to the majors last year:

2018: 97 PA, 87 AB, 5 HR, .184/.268/.414, 74 DRC+
2015 Mets: 103 PA, 3 HR, .211/.311/.367, 95 DRC+
Career: .203/.293/.394, 86 DRC+

Dilson is not with the Mets right now to solve any major issues. The Mets have so many infielders in camp. Dilson provides much needed depth for a team that seems to lose half of it’s roster every year. It’s easy to forget that the injury bug last year didn’t just effect the major league squad but also Las Vegas. The Mets need options to not rush position player prospects, many who will playing at low A ball this year.

We wish the best for Herrera and we’re glad he’s back. With the signing of Hechavarria recently we find it extremely unlikely that Herrera will make it on the roster after spring. We are also relieved that the roster has be built in such a way that if we need to reach deep for depth, there are players with major league experience to lean on, like Dilson Herrera.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Danny Espinosa

The Mets this year are really filling out their depth, which is a great thing, and that’s what Danny Espinosa represents. He’s trying to get back to the majors since bouncing around the minors last year and a 2017 that saw him put up a 51 DRC+ with the Angels over 77 games, 52 with the Mariners over 8 game sand 48 over 8 games with the Rays.

Since 2010, the long time National who seemingly routinely played great against the Mets has the following DRC+ over time:

He’s a lifetime .221/.297/.378 hitter (.227/.309/.353 against the Mets, so not really a better player against the Mets) brings some stability to the Mets infield. Last year he hit .195/.239/.312 across the Phillies/Dodgers/Blue Jays systems.

The main thing working against Danny for breaking into the roster and printing a ticket to Queens is the sheer amount of players the Mets have in the infield now. Danny will need to have a better spring than Gavin Cecchini, TJ Rivera, JD Davis and newly signed Hechavarria who probably has the inside track to a roster.

I have memories of Danny Espionsa from years ago, back when it looked like he and Ian Desmond would become a dynamic duo for the Nationals. That’s faded for both of them in a lot of ways but it was hard to not yearn for that when I heard the Mets signed Danny. I want Danny to do well as a Met, it’s just going to be a difficult path to get there.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Gavin Cecchini

This is one of the stranger NRI preview articles to write, you already know Gavin! You’ve followed the team, you know their rosters for the last few seasons, you know the Gavin vs TJ Rivera race from a couple of years ago and now both players are on the outside looking in. But here we are, let’s preview him!

Earlier this season the Mets DFA’d Gavin Cecchini and he slipped back to the minors without being claimed by another team. This was a major step back for the Mets former first round pick who has been on the Mets roster for the last few seasons.

Gavin saw time with the big league club in 2016 and 2017, seasons that were filled with injuries and last year should have been another opportunity except Gavin couldn’t escape the injury bug himself and never made it up to Queens.

In his first season at 22 over 4 games and 7 PA’s Gavin was able to get two doubles. In 2017 he got a lot more playing time getting into 32 games and 82 PA’s slashing a .208/.256/.273 with a 68 DRC+. (Not Great).

Before his injury last year in 31 games and 123 PA’s he hit .301/.347/.469, which was pretty good (in 2017 in the minors he hit .267/.329/.380). The problem for Gavin is even if he was on the 40-man, the Mets are so crowded in the infield. He’s going to have to really impress this spring to fight his way back onto the roster.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Peter Alonso

Peter Alonso is the major household name of all of the NRI’s in camp this year. Like Amed Rosario, before him, his NRI comes with the excitement of eventually seeing him in the majors this season.

By now you probably know a bit about Alonso. He’s a first basemen with an above average bat and a below average glove who saw his stock in the Mets system rise incredibly fast last year as he put together a ridiculous year:

2018 Las Vegas: .285/.395/.579 36 HR
2018 AFL: .255/.339/.510 6 HR

We actually wrote about Alonso recently, less than two months ago, while we were wrapping up our series on the Top Mets Prospects from Baseball America 2018. So if you want to know more about his journey and his other minor league stats, go there.

But also a lot has changed with the Mets since December. Our original preview article for Alonso was published two weeks after the Cano/Diaz trade. Acquiring Cano pushed McNeil off 2B and back then the thought was McNeil would split time at 3rd with Frazier and maybe at the start of the season McNeil would be at 3rd, Frazier at first and the Mets wouldn’t keep Alonso in the minors until the Super 2 deadline passed (ultimately the reason why he wasn’t brought at all last year despite the environment being right in Queens).

Then January happened. The Mets acquired Broxton, JD Davis and Jed Lowrie. Not only does this mess with McNeils playing time, it really puts a question mark for Alonso. At the start of the season the Mets could have Frazier and Lowrie at the corners with Davis as a back up. This creates quite the jam for Alonso.

Ultimately it’s not going to hold Alonso back. Once the Mets call him up, they’ll play him every day. Too much depth in the majors tends to work itself out in the end. Ultimately there will be a lot of competition in Spring.

Peter Alonso showed last year that he can hit. If he has a strong defensive showing in camp this year he will cut through the infield noise.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Ali Sanchez

At the beginning of last season Ali Sanchez was the #27 prospect in the Mets system according to Baseball America. He ended the season playing in the Arizona Fall League, a major step for a #27 prospect.

We wrote about Ali Sanchez for the first time at 213 back at the start of October. Main point in that article:

Baseball America points out, “hit just .223 outside of the complex Rookie leagues, but his defensive tools are so tantalizing – and catchers develop later than other position players – that he remains a prospect of interest.”

Ali made his debut in the Mets organization at the age of 17 in 2014 and spent the season in the DOSL. He did well (.303/.406/.394) so at 18 the Mets moved him state side where he started the year in the Gulf Coast league where he did well again (.272/.330/.306) so in the same year he was transferred to Kinsport. That’s where he hit his first rough patch, hitting .182/.182/.182 over 3 games. He also was 2.6 years younger than the average player in that league.

The Mets continued to push him at an accelerated rate to Brooklyn in 2016 where at age 19 he was still 2.1 years younger than average and he struggled hitting .216/.260/.275. This is where the BA quote starts to come in. Brooklyn is a tough place for some prospects to hit and catchers do develop more slowly. Plus he was still only 19.

Anyway, the Mets continued to push Ali through the system. In 2017 he opened in Columbia where he was 1.5 years younger than the average player and hit only .231/.288/.264. It’s at this point that the Mets start to slow down Sanchez and he opens 2018 in Columbia. Starting two years in a row at low A ball probably leads to his low prospect ranking at the start of 2018. Sanchez responds positively to this and hits .259/.293/.389, his best line since Kingsport so the Mets move him up mid season to St Lucie (where he’s young for the league again) and hits .274/.296/.385. So now it looks like the prospect has found his bat and is becoming intriguing. The Mets brass thought so too and sent him to the fall league where he hit a disappointing .120/.241/.160 over 29 PA’s but probably got a lot of great experience being in a league with so much talent.

This brings us to this year. Ali Sanchez is one of 7 catchers in Mets camp. He’s the only one though with a prospect billing where the Mets don’t expect to sniff the majors at all, rather this is all for him seeing major league pitching as a catcher and as a hitter. Last October we speculated that he would open the season in St Lucie and probably move to Binghamton at some point. With the amount of catchers the Mets now have, we still feel this is the most likely scenario unless he can secure enough playing time to be the starter in Binghamton.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Colton Plaia

If you hear Mets coaches, players, sportscasters etc talking about Colton this spring, they aren’t talking about the current season of the Bachelor, their talking about Colton Plaia, one of seven catchers in Mets camp.

Colton was drafted by the 33rd round of the 2012 draft but went back for another year at Loyola Marymount and was drafted by the Mets in the 15th round the following year. He’s been in the Mets system since then and has never been younger than the average age at any playing level.

His best season was in 2015 with St Lucie where he had 311 PA’s slashing a .285/.342/.347. He then played in Binghamton for two years before getting to Vegas last year. With Vegas last year he had 222 PA’s slashing .255/.332/.474, showing more pop than he ever had in the minors (9 of 17 career homers). He’ll be fighting this spring to maintain his spot with the Triple A club where we’ll see if his jump in power was due to playing in Vegas or his approach at the plate.

It feels like he has an NRI because he’s at a crossroad age wise. He has played moderately well for a catcher at every level from Brooklyn up in the Mets system, with the last spot being Queens. The problem for Colton: Ramos, d’Arnaud, Mesoraco, and Nido are all in front of him. Mazeika is right behind him for a back up catcher role and the Mets also have Ali Sanchez as catching prospect who should get the bulk of the time wherever he ends up.

The question about Plaia has been his pop, which he found last year. He’s so far down the Mets depth chart he’s not even competing for a roster spot but a spot on Syracuse’s roster depending on how things shape up. But if the Mets decide to trade d’Arnaud (thus moving Mesoraco to back up backstop) then Plaia and Mazeika will be directly competing to back up Nido in Syracuse.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Devin Mesoraco

At 213 we did not think at the end of 2018 that we would be writing a Devin Mesoraco NRI preview in the same week that pitchers and catchers report to camp. Knowing the Mets propensity to resign players who were with the team, it seemed plausible if not likely that Mesoraco found his way to the 2019 club however not in an NRI position. We thought the Mets catcher situation would end up in one of the following ways:

  1. Plawecki and d’Arnaud
  2. FA signing and Mesoraco
  3. FA signing and one of Plawecki/d’Arnaud
  4. Mesoraco and one of Plawecki/d’Arnaud

So when the Mets signed Wilson, after tendering a contract to d’Arnaud we thought that was the end of the Mesoraco era in Queens. But baseball FA is weird and ignored Mesoraco’s marginal improvements in Queens last year post trade so here we are.

Career: .232/.309/.406/100 DRC+
2018 Mets: .222/.306/.409/99 DRC+

With the Mets last year, Mesoraco was almost exactly his career line, which sitting at 100 DRC+ means he’s exactly average. It was an uptick for him by DRC+, he had one astounding year in 2014 where he posted a 135 and then has touched anything about 89 any other year except last year.

Since he’s not consistently an average player, generally slightly below average, he’s here on an NRI. Out of all the catchers in camp though (there are 7) he stands the best chance to upset d’Arnaud. He also stands the best chance to leave camp as a free agent if he isn’t given a spot on the roster.

On the other hand, Brodie likes to trade and having Mesoraco in camp will allow the Mets to entertain serious offers on d’Arnaud, if he produces.

If anything Mesoraco makes an interesting sub plot for Mets this spring. What if he tears it up and makes the team? What if Wilson and d’Arnaud tear it up enough to be starters and d’Arnaud is traded? What if Mesoraco is better than d’Arnaud? We’ll get our answers in about 2 weeks when the games start! Until then there is no shortage of backstops for pitchers to throw to.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Patrick Mazeika

New week, new position for our 2019 NRI preview series! Yesterday we finished profiling every pitcher the Mets have offered an NRI too (unless they sign more, which we’ll get on the back end) and now we start catchers.

The Mets catching situation has been complicated all off-season and it just got more complicated. At the start of the off-season, the Mets decided to non-tender Kevin Plawecki and tender Travis d’Arnaud for aprx 4 million. This signaled both an end of the Plawecki era and that the Mets would probably have to acquire another pitcher. There was a flirting with the Marlins for Realmuto, a massive contract offered and turned down by Grandal and ultimately an out of no-where signing of Wilson Ramos.

Then the Mets gave Devin Mesoraco an NRI, who will probably directly compete with d’Arnaud. Plus there is Ali Sanchez who is the up and coming catching prospect. In short, there’s a lot going on.

Then there is Patrick Mazeika. We wrote a profile about him back in October as part of our 2018 Baseball America Top 30 review. Where we started his review talking about his early success:

The Mets drafted Patrick in the 8th round of the 2015 draft after he hit .348 for three years at Stetson University. He started his minor league career at Kingsport and he dominated hitting .354/.451/.540 – eyepopping numbers really spreading the ball all over the place. The next season, he was 22 at this point, he continued, hitting .305/.414/.402 in Columbia. Two years in a row like this you start to turn heads (except for the defense stuff). In 2017 he mostly played in St Lucie but had a week or so in Binghamton. He combined for a .290/.389/.416 line.

But then noted how unlucky he was last year:

Patrick came into 2018 needing to continue his production at Binghamton. Over 87 games that just didn’t happen the same way. He hit .231/.328/.363. Not bad for a catcher, but a large drop off from previous years. These numbers could be a combination of a couple of things. First off, he’s getting better defensively. Second, as John Sheridan at MMO found, he had a .216 BABIP, so super unlucky and in August for a period of time he was hitting .381/.480/.524. The article also talked about his decrease in playing time.

It’s still unclear where Mazeika plays next year, which is why his NRI will be so important. In the profile in October we talked how Nido may dictate which level Mazeika ends up in. That’s even more complicated right now. Most likely Wilson and d’Arnaud are at the major league level, then Nido at Syracuse. If Mesoraco is still around (and not on the ML roster due to a d’Arnaud trade), then he is at Syracuse as well. Ali Sanchez is probably going to start in Binghamton.

A good spring can go a long way for Mazeika. Let’s see what happens! And how the Mets juggle 6 catchers in major league camp.

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