Eno Sarris covers baseball analytics for The Athletic and appears on MLB Network. In the past, he has written for Fangraphs, ESPN, and other websites. Eno was kind enough to swing by to talk some Mets before the games start to count.
There were no big splashes, but Sandy Alderson was fairly active this winter, especially compared with the rest of the league. What was your favorite thing the Mets did this off-season?
You have not been shy in expressing your belief in the tools that Brandon Nimmo possesses. Seven years after being Sandy Alderson’s first draft pick, 2018 looks to be his big showcase to prove himself as an MLB starter. What are the parts of his game that you would like to see Nimmo improve upon to take the next step? Also, tell me what a realistic Brandon Nimmo breakout season would look like (AVG, OBP, etc.).
Brandon Nimmo is elite at taking pitches outside the zone. He’s okay at swinging at pitches down the middle. He’s shown league average power and defense. What he really needs to do, in order to tap into more power, improve the strikeout rate, and breakout as a player, is to get better at swinging at 50/50 balls on the edge of the zone. I can’t imagine that a player that is amazing at not swinging at pitches outside the zone can’t toggle his patience when it comes to balls a little closer in, so I’m optimistic about his chances of breaking out. I’d take his projections (.240/.333/.370) and add power and contact based on this belief, and say he could .270/.380/.440 without being too crazy, something that looks like last year but isn’t floated by good batted ball luck as much.
The Amed Rosario hype train was running wild the last few years. However, with two months of less than inspiring play in 2017, he went from the Mets best position player prospect in a decade to being the subject of as many 2018 Spring Training puff pieces as Zach Borenstein. It’s probably good for his development to be out of the spotlight, but should Mets fans be seriously concerned about what he showed in 2017? What does he need to do in 2018 to show he’s progressing as a young, talented shortstop should?
I think his ground ball rate in the majors — which lined up exactly with his minor league ground ball rates — means that he’s not suited for power. People have taken that to mean that I’m really down on him, but my comp for him now is simply early Elvis Andrus instead of Francisco Lindor. You know how valuable Elvis Andrus was, even before he added more power? Very. The team has needed a talented defensive shortstop for a long time, who cares if he only hits 8-10 homers.
Besides the health of deGrom, Syndergaard, and Cespedes (which is obviously not a given), what needs to happen for the Mets to compete for the NL East title?
I think they need to get a little health or luck in the bullpen. Jeurys Familia hasn’t looked great, and if he’s down, they really need A.J. Ramos and Anthony Swarzak to be great, and probably someone like Hansel Robles to step forward. Otherwise, I’d like one of Juan Lagares, Nimmo, or Smith to take another step forward. This is not the stuff of insanity. This is a decent team with lots of places were good things can happen. As humans, we tend to focus on the bad things that can happen sometimes, and those are legit with this team. But the other side, where the horses are healthy, and just a few things break right in the pen and in the lineup, is totally possible.
Majors or minors, is there someone you are hearing about or have your eye on that could turn into an unexpected contributor to the 2018 Mets?
Rafael Montero, when he’s right, has good command of at least two above-average (or better) pitches. I’m not sure he can be anything more than a spot starter, but in a league where we finally value 80-inning sixth-starter slash reliever types, he could easily be a huge part of the Mets’ resurgence.