It’s hard to truly ascertain whether or not the Mets are being cautious with the young players or, perhaps, being realistic. Sure, the Mets have had some home-grown talent achieve great success like Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden in the 80’s, and David Wright and Jose Reyes a generation later. But, the Mets have in the past heaped a little too much hype on their prospects, and there have been a hell of a lot more busts - like Roy Staiger, Lastings MIlledge, and Fernando Martinez – than prizes.
It’s easy to take a look around the field and see how each of those four players can fit in as New York Mets.
Alvarez is a proven hitter, a proven power hitter, and he does it from the catching position. And more than any other position on the field, the Mets need offense…ANY offense. We watched the tandem of James McCann and Tomas Nido for two seasons, and it was painful. Jacob deGrom was a better hitter than both of them. And even with Omar Narvaez replacing McCann, it doesn’t elevate the offense enough to stop pining for Alvarez. How bad IS Alvarez’s defense…his throwing…his footwork? He obviously has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues with his bat. Travis d’Arnaud did not throw well, and had awful footwork. Yet, they kept running him back out there because he was believed to have some pop. Alvarez has a lot MORE pop and they are holding him back to work on his defense?
Baty is another proven hitter who, apparently, also needs to work on his defense. He, too, has nothing left to prove offensively on the minor league level. And he was tearing it up this spring and playing a pretty good third base. He was just getting in the groove when he was called up to fill in for an injured Eduardo Escobar, only to get hurt himself. Although Escobar got off to a rough start last season, he had an exceptionally strong finish when he returned to the lineup. He is a proven hitter, who can play multiple infield positions, and play them well. He is a valuable commodity to any team. He could be easily utilized in multiple ways to make room for Baty. Apparently, the Mets are holding him back to work on HIS defense.
Vientos is also known for his hitting. He clubbed 25 and 24 homers the last two seasons while combining to hit 281. The big right handed hitter is listed as a third baseman, and has been taking reps in the outfield. But it appears he is more in the mold of a DH. So working on his defense is probably only going to go so far. And while he does have some pop in his bat, it isn’t clear how that will translate into Major League at bats. He had a cup of coffee last season and he went 6 for 36 with one home run. And who would he replace? He is not going to be a third baseman because if the Mets were ready to make a move then Baty is a much better fielder and more advanced at this stage. And he is just learning how to play the outfield and, for a team that is trying to focus on strong defense, a DH in the outfield is not a priority when you have three top fielders in Mark Canha, Brandon Nimmo, and Starling Marte. And exactly how valuable WOULD he be in the DH slot right now, as opposed to other right handed hitters who would slide into that position?
And then there is Mauricio. Mauricio is the interesting case because he is the one who appears to have the world of talent. Switch hitter, with power, and speed. Possible 30-30 club. Great arm and great range. But…BUT…there’s Francisco Lindor. For a very long time. So what to do with him? Lindor is now going into his third season as a Met and he is only 29 years old. You have to wonder why the Mets haven’t already shifted Mauricio away from shortstop because he isn’t going to be playing there. Jeff McNeil, no matter how you skew it, is best at second base and he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Third base? The likely alternative? But then you have Baty, and Vientos too. Oh, and Escobar for this season, anyway. Centerfield is always an option but, then, a move to the outfield is not always the answer. It worked for Juan Lagares but it didn’t work for Howard Johnson, in fact, it ruined him when he attempted it. Work on defense? Where?
So while the Braves overtook the Mets and won the NL East with young players that were promoted from the lower ranks, the Mets are attempting to hold them off this season with a crew of veterans imported from elsewhere while keeping the kids in school. The difference between 2022 and 2023 is, basically, swapping Narvaez for McCann (perhaps a SLIGHT improvement standing next to the plate, I would call it even squatting behind it), bringing in Justin Verlander to supplant deGrom (if Verlander doesn’t break down it could be a wash), and hoping for has-beens to be re-born (David Robertson) to counter the loss of Edwin Diaz.
If the sophomore jinx is a real thing…perhaps Mets fans should hope it hits Atlanta.