Things couldn’t get much worse for the New York Mets. But there is light at the end of the tunnel — and that’s youth.With the way things are going for the New York Mets, it won’t be long before Queens is renamed Rock Bottom.
It’s been that bad.
After starting the 2017 campaign as one of the favorites to represent the National League in the World Series, a slew of injuries, ineffectiveness, and off-field incidents have brought the organization from a championship-caliber club to a laughing stock — something that fans are all too familiar with.
Their best pitcher and best fielder are currently on the shelf. After refusing an MRI and defying team instructions, Noah Syndergaard strained his lat, an injury that will keep him on the shelf for the next couple of months. Yoenis Cespedes has been dealing with a hamstring issue, something that’s never easy to come back from.
Closer Jeurys Familia will be out for most, if not all, of 2017. Steven Matz has yet to throw one pitch. Asdrubal Cabrera, Lucas Duda, and Travis d’Arnaud have spent extended time on the disabled list. Curtis Granderson and Jose Reyes are both hitting well below the Mendoza line. Matt Harvey prefers to sulk over a girl then show up to the ballpark and sex toys are visible in the clubhouse.
Yes, it’s been that bad.
Fortunately, however, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom.
Jacob deGrom has done his best to stabilize the rotation while Zack Wheeler is showing glimpses of his pre-Tommy John days. Jay Bruce and Neil Walker are playing well enough to be strong trade candidates as spring transitions to summer.
And then there’s Michael Conforto, also known as the brightest star of Citi Field. He may have failed to earn a starting job out of Spring Training but the 24-year-old has proved that the decision was the wrong one. Through 37 games, he leads the team in average (.327), on-base percentage (.413), and slugging percentage (.654) while chipping in nine home runs and 24 RBI. As their youngest everyday player, Conforto gives Mets fans a bit of hope for the present and a lot of it for the future.
But he’s not the only young player excelling. Unfortunately, the other two are playing 3,000 miles away.
It’s rare that two of the best prospects in the system are a step away from major league ball. The Mets have that luxury, as Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith — two youngsters who are ranked first and second, respectively, by MLB Pipeline — are currently suiting up for New York’s Triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas 51s.
And the duo is exceeding all expectations.
In 147 at-bats, Rosario has been a threat every time he’s stepped in the batter’s box, as evidenced by his .361/.401/.510 slash line, his contact skills, and eye at the plate. His speed could be noted as his best asset, as he uses it both when making contact (11 doubles, one triple) or on the base paths (eight in 10 opportunities). And if it’s not his legs, it’s Rosario’s defense, as he’s considered an elite-level shortstop due to his range and arm. If GM Sandy Alderson was to promote him, the team would get an athlete who would make all facets of the game better, as the 21-year-old a tremendous ball player in every way imaginable.
While Rosario is positioned as the top prospect in the system, Smith isn’t far behind him.
Playing in one more game than the shortstop, Smith — who is a first baseman — has hit an equally impressive .329 while sporting an OPS of .892. While power hitters have been prone to strikeouts, he’s complimented his long balls with a patient approach at the plate; not only has Smith hit five home runs and 24 RBI but he’s also struck out just 25 times in 152 at-bats.
And even though he was drafted for his bat and not his glove, Smith has worked hard on the defensive side of the game — and his progress has shown. It helps that he has soft hands but Smith has worked on the nuances at first base to develop into a plus-defender.
It’s easy to see where the young tandem fits on the major league roster. As mentioned above, Reyes has been playing well below expectations and, at this point, is expendable. Slotting Rosario into the shortstop position would give the team one of their best all-around talents as soon as he debuts.
Sure, Duda is a nice player — but he could also help a team that feels they’re one power-hitter away from a World Series. With Smith having the chance to play on an everyday basis, there won’t be a drop-off in power while the infield defense will improve.
Let’s be honest: the problem for the Mets isn’t their offense. But at this point, there’s no reason to keep underperforming veterans on the roster when you have budding stars a step away from the big leagues.
Build around Conforto, Rosario, Smith, and T.J. Rivera. Hope Harvey regains form and Matz gets healthy as soon as possible. Scour the league for bullpen help. Breathe some life back to the Amazins.
There have been too many dark clouds hanging over Citi Field.
If Alderson promotes the kids, the New York Mets will have the chance to see sunlight peak through.