Juan Lagares New York Mets
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

With a fair sample size behind them, are these players deserving of a Major League roster spot with the New York Mets in 2018?

When a young player finally reaches the majors, it can be a very exciting moment for a team’s fanbase. For the perennial optimist, you jump for joy as you may be witnessing the birth of your team’s next great superstar. More often than not, though, we are left with a guy simply having his 15 minutes of fame.

I will always remember how irrationally excited I was when Nick Evans joined the Mets in 2008. Coming off the heart-wrenching collapse from the year before, Mets fans were hungry to see a new young player take the stage. For a moment it seemed like our prayers would be answered when Evans debuted and smacked three doubles at Coors Field in his first game. After 177 career games, Evans’ MLB career was dead, but he’s still fighting off the baseball Grim Reaper as a member of the Doosan Bears in the KBO. Granted, it was a foolish notion to ever believe that Evans would ever be anything but a flash in the pan, but it’s within our nature to dream big.

With every young player, there comes a time where the protective cloud of prospect status is finally lifted and we can make an appropriate judgment of whether they can cut it or not. For several youngsters, it’s time to determine if we really believe they deserve to be here or if we’re just continuing to delude ourselves.

Juan Lagares

Lagares was once viewed as a potential franchise building block, a perennial Gold Glove contender in centerfield. Originally signed as a shortstop, Lagares became one of the most valuable players in the Mets organization at a time where the team was beginning to emphasize run prevention—a trend they’ve long since abandoned.

He astonished us all by accumulating a WAR of 9.1 in his first 237 games. He was terrific in 2014, grabbing his first Gold Glove Award and posting a respectable .281/.321/.382 slash line with four home runs, 47 RBI and 13 stolen bases.  His bright future prompted the club to sign him to a $23 million extension prior to the 2015 season, a no-brainer kind of move at the time.

But since that astounding breakout season in 2014, we’ve never really seen Lagares in the same light. 2015 was more of the same on the offensive end, but the Dominican centerfielder underwent a severe defensive regression that undermined his value. It certainly didn’t help that Lagares was seeing significantly less playing time thanks to the Yoenis Cespedes experiment in center.

Elbow issues, along with a laundry list of other injury concerns have limited Lagares to only 173 games over the last two seasons. 2016 was indisputably the worst year of Lagares’ career, but certain parts of 2017 signaled a potential return to the stingy defender that he once was. The fatal flaw in all of this is that we never really saw Lagares gradually become the player he should have become. He started at the top and has fallen since.

With his best days already behind him, it’s hard to believe that he will ever eclipse his 2014 campaign. Nevertheless, the promise of Lagares’ defense at a premium position will keep him deserving of a roster spot for at least a few more seasons.

Verdict: Makes the cut

Brandon Nimmo

From day one, Nimmo was always going to be a project. This isn’t something you generally say about the 13th overall pick in a draft class, but it was an undeniable truth for a high school player coming out of a region without stellar competition. The Mets chose to take a chance on the Cheyenne, Wyoming native because of his immense potential and when it comes to traditional scouting, who are we to argue otherwise?

Nimmo reached the big leagues five years after being selected in the first round and didn’t exactly stir up the hype that a first-round prospect usually does. He debuted to mixed reviews, lacking plate discipline and the ability to play centerfield, a glaring need for the team at the time. His cup of coffee with the Mets lasted only 80 plate appearances and most of us were left wondering if we had been burned again by the ineptitude of the team’s scouting and player development departments.

Thanks to the injury plague of 2017, Nimmo was granted an unhindered second chance to play every day and demonstrate what he can do. A refined, more patient approach at the plate saw his on-base percentage jump up over 40 points among other improvements at the plate and on the defensive end. Nimmo’s strong leap forward in 2017 gives the impression that he’s still improving and it’s for that reason that he deserves a roster spot as he fleshes out what kind of player he will eventually become.

Verdict: Makes the cut

Gavin Cecchini

Another first-round pick—taken 12th overall in 2012—Cecchini was once viewed as the shortstop of the future. But the rise of Amed Rosario ultimately nixed that future outcome. Frankly, there is not much to write home about regarding the Louisiana native. For a guy drafted ahead of Corey Seager, Marcus Stroman, and Michael Wacha, it’s hard to make sense of why he hasn’t been able to put it all together.

Despite strong seasons in Double-A in 2015 and Triple-A in 2016, Cecchini failed to impress anyone at any level in 2017. With the Mets, he posted an atrocious .208/.256/.273 slash line in 82 plate appearances. In the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, he mustered an underwhelming .267/.328/.380 slash line.

His subpar defense has done him no justice and while former Mets manager Terry Collins was almost certain that Cecchini could still one day become an everyday player, his opinion doesn’t exactly instill confidence in these parts anymore. The bottom line is that with limited pinch-hitting or defensive prowess, Cecchini doesn’t belong.

Verdict: Doesn’t make the cut

Matt Reynolds

If you flash back to 2013, Reynolds was on the trajectory of the kind of player that had no business ever making it to the major leagues. A former second-round pick, the Arkansas Razorback was on a direct path to becoming a bust. If it wasn’t for a resurgent 2014 season split between Double-A and Triple-A, Reynolds certainly would have been one.

Reynolds is in a similar boat as Cecchini, an infielder without a defined role, blocked by more talented players. Yet, unlike Cecchini, Reynolds has been afforded opportunity after opportunity to rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, the 26-year-old doesn’t seem marked for anything more than organizational depth after a .228/.300/.351 line through his first 115 career games, striking out in more than a third of his at-bats. Reynolds isn’t that bad defensively, but it’s simply not enough to label him deserving of a roster spot.

Verdict: Doesn’t make the cut

Kevin Plawecki

When the Mets selected Plawecki as a supplemental first-round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, they didn’t have a formidable catching prospect in the organization. Plawecki seemed like a realistic solution to that problem, at least until the Mets acquired “super prospect” Travis d’Arnaud in the trade that sent R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Fast forward to 2017 and we know three things:

When it comes to Plawecki, we actually don’t know too much at all. He’s posted some pretty bad numbers in his first two years of action, but 121 career games is a pretty unfair sample size to judge a catcher.

In limited playing time in 2017, Plawecki actually seemed competent at the plate with a .260/.364/.400 slash line, numbers that are an absolute blessing behind the plate with this team. Factor in his noticeably better defense of Plawecki, and while we may not be sitting on a superstar, we could be talking about a potential backup or platoon player.

If we only had 2015 and 2016 to consider, he probably would have been closer to dead in the water, but based on what we got to see in 2017, Kevin Plawecki is definitely deserving of a spot.

Verdict: Makes the cut

A former disciple of Stan Fischler. IBWAA member. Bylines at Baseball Prospectus Mets, Elite Sports New York, and my own creation: Baseknock MLB. Formerly Amazin' Avenue of SB Nation. Proud UAlbany Alum.