September is upon us. The leaves are changing, the Mets are still on the edge of the playoff race, and major league teams can recall up to 40 players to the active roster. Four call-ups have already been confirmed by Betsy Helfand of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. I brought out my Magic 8-Ball to predict the rest.
It Is Certain
Michael Conforto: Through Tuesday, Conforto has hit .493/.541/.821 over 74 plate appearances in his latest return engagement to Las Vegas. 74 plate appearances isn’t much, and the PCL is the PCL and Vegas is Vegas, but if you hit .493 with power for more than a couple weeks anywhere—Vegas, a complex league, the moon—people will notice. With Jay Bruce stumbling towards an ignominious and unexpectedly quick end to his Mets tenure (and Curtis Granderson and Alejandro de Aza both still underperforming) little should stand in the way of Conforto. But that’s been the case for most of the season, and true to form, Terry Collins has thrown cold water on the idea that he’s more than “in the mix.”
Kevin Plawecki: The most obvious September call-up is always the third catcher, especially for a manager who manages in fear of running out of catchers. Plawecki is the extra catcher on the 40-man, so he’s back. He hit .300 in Vegas, and while everyone hits .300 in Vegas, Plawecki had pointedly not actually hit .300 in his previous tenures in Vegas. Maybe that’s the sign of life in his bat. Maybe it’s a dead cat bounce in the Pacific Coast League. While BP’s catching metrics and evaluators like Keith Law love Plawecki’s defense, the Mets themselves seem enamored with Rene Rivera’s veteran-ness and arm, to the point that he’s cut heavily into Travis d’Arnaud’s playing time—he’s now the personal catcher to not only Noah Syndergaard, but also Seth Lugo. So Plawecki might not be playing much going forward, or even in 2017.
Gabriel Ynoa: Ynoa not starting the Monday tilt against Jose Fernandez and the Marlins is one of the more baffling process decisions of the season. He’s now fully stretched back out as a starter—he’s thrown consecutive eight-inning starts for Vegas—but the Mets are at least one and maybe two injuries from needing his services in that capacity again. Still, he’s a familiar presence as an arm now, and should be entrusted with long and middle relief. And the Mets are probably going to need more spot starters, of course.
Ty Kelly: Kelly’s inclusion on the initial call-up list comes as a surprise, because he was also included on Team Israel’s roster for the World Baseball Classic qualifying round starting September 22 in Brooklyn. It’s possible the Mets will let him leave for a few days. Hell, it’s possible he’s on both rosters at once, subject to traffic on the BQE.
Signs Point To Yes
Brandon Nimmo: Nimmo has quietly taken the lead in the race for the PCL batting title, hitting .351 overall on the season. The top three are all Las Vegas 51s, so again, this is as much about the park as it is anything else, but still, it’s better to hit well than to not hit well. He’s the one genuine surprise omission from Helfand’s initial list, since he already has major league service and adds defensive, speed, and pinch-hitting utility to the major league club. I suspect the Mets are content to let him finish out a season in the PCL over the weekend that may bring home some hardware before bringing him back, but we’ll see.
T.J. Rivera: Rivera was optioned after Sunday’s game to make room for Rafael Montero. He’s obviously coming back, but roster rules prevent his recall until 10 days have passed, someone goes on the DL, or his team’s minor league season ends. Vegas finishes up Monday afternoon and is functionally out of PCL playoff contention, so Rivera should be back Tuesday.
Erik Goeddel: Goeddel is in the same option purgatory as Rivera, and will also be back soon enough. Since he was sent out after last Wednesday’s game, the Mets could bring him back as early as late this weekend, or could just wait to save on bulk plane flights.
Matt Reynolds: With lingering health questions over middle infielders Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, it’s a little surprising not to see Reynolds back at the first available opportunity, although Kelly Johnson and Jose Reyes have picked up a lot of the role that Reynolds provided earlier in the season. Reynolds hasn’t hit much in the majors or minors this season, but he seems to be something of an organizational and managerial favorite. Even still, he’s probably going to be sweating the 40-man cuts this offseason.
Rafael Montero: Montero’s five shutout innings on Monday were, like much of his last few seasons, quite the high-wire act, including six walks. I don’t know precisely how he fits on this September roster, because he’s adjusted very poorly to the bullpen in the past and yet doesn’t rate to get starts, but I suspect the Monday start ensures that he’ll be around as the extra arm in case a game goes 16 innings or the Mets need an emergency spot start. He’s a day behind Rivera in option purgatory, but Binghamton isn’t making the playoffs either, so he should be back sometime around Tuesday. Given his awful performance in Las Vegas and clashes with the organization, Montero is a stealth candidate to be excised from the 40-man this offseason.
Reply Hazy, Try Again
Zack Wheeler: Okay, so Wheeler isn’t quite a minor leaguer, but he was supposed to functionally be a September call-up, at least after July and August went out the window. Wheeler had a setback two weeks ago that was supposed to sideline him for, well, two weeks. There isn’t much of an update of when–or if—he’ll make his 2016 debut past that.
Josh Edgin: Edgin looked bad enough earlier this month that while it might not be a lock that he gets recalled instead of designated for assignment. He turns 30 this offseason, is arbitration-eligible, will be out of options next year, and has no obvious major league role moving forward. 2016 could be his Met swan song either way.
Eric Campbell: One of the most perplexing aspects of the Collins/Alderson Mets tenure is how Eric Campbell has gotten 491 plate appearances to hit an anemic .221/.310/.312 while playing almost exclusively at the corners. He may get recalled again just because he’s on the 40-man and the manager seems to love him, though Adam Rubin has suggested that he’s on the bubble. It’s implausible to believe that he’ll survive on the roster this offseason, but that was true last offseason too, and he did.
Gavin Cecchini: The next four guys are the guys off the Triple-A roster who aren’t on the 40 yet that the Mets could plausibly make room for. Of the four, Cecchini is the significant prospect of the group. He’s third in the PCL batting race behind Nimmo and Rivera, hitting .330, and he has to be added to the 40-man after the season. Helfand has reported that the Mets may send Cecchini to the Arizona Fall League after the minor league season instead of to the majors, in part to learn second base. After Dilson Herrera was traded to the Reds, Sandy Alderson mentioned Cecchini as a 2017 second base candidate depending on the status of Neil Walker, so that would make some sense.
Roger Bernadina: Bernadina represents a typical September call-up type, a speed and defense outfielder who can be an early-inning pinch-hitter or a late-inning pinch-runner and provide some veteran presence. But he’s really duplicative of Alejandro de Aza, who is himself duplicative of Curtis Granderson, who is himself somewhat duplicative of Michael Conforto … you can see the logjam forming here. There may simply just be better candidates to clear a roster spot for.
Travis Taijeron: Taijeron, a frequent concern of avid Mets fans, put up a second straight perfectly good season in Triple-A Las Vegas. As a right-handed backup corner outfielder with some pop, he would provide some utility off the bench that the Mets currently don’t have. But he’s never been up before, and the Mets tend to trend towards filling these spots with more known quantities. And the park/league conditions at Las Vegas make one skeptical that Taijeron’s game would translate at all.
Paul Sewald: In a perfect world, Paul Sewald absolutely deserves a call-up. He’s put up a 3.39 ERA and struck out 11 per nine innings in Vegas, which as I’ve noted repeatedly is a terrible, awful place to pitch. He’s pitched well at every level, a $1,000 senior sign made good. There was a very compelling story in a local Las Vegas paper earlier this year explaining his background, how far he’s come, and what a struggle the minors are like for a player in his shoes. But the Mets just don’t churn relievers at the back of the 40-man the way other clubs do—that whole familiar faces thing again—and while I’m rooting for him to come up, I’m not all that optimistic that he will.
Amed Rosario: Top prospects just generally don’t get called up to the majors anymore for the September cup-of-coffee unless they have a defined role. Keith Law wrote eloquently about this for ESPN this past week. Rosario is the type of prospect that would’ve gotten called up in the past—he’s hit .324 at Double-A and needs to go on the 40-man after the season anyways. But he wouldn’t start and probably wouldn’t play much, and promoting Rosario now would burn a month of service time. The Mets are one of the most service-conscious teams in the majors, and just won’t do it. He could be up as soon as the late-April depending on offseason moves and his showing in major league camp next year, though.
Dominic Smith: Smith is in basically the same position as Rosario, with two major caveats. With James Loney’s return to pumpkindom, Smith might actually be the best first baseman available to the Mets right now, not that it means that Terry Collins would play him. But Smith doesn’t have to go on the 40-man until after the 2017 season, which all but eliminates his chances of coming up this year. The Mets are likely to find a bridge to Smith for 2017, whether that means handing an outfielder like Conforto or Granderson a first base glove or bringing back Lucas Duda, but he also could make his major league debut sometime next year.
Photo Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports