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The King's Insider Report - Meet the Mets' Buy Low Candidates

Last week at Citi Field, a member of the press overheard me mentioning that I was assigned a story about who to “buy low” in fantasy baseball from the New York Mets roster. Since he was a colleague of the person I was speaking with, he easily jumped in and told me to advise that you avoid all Mets in fantasy. He emphasized he was seeing the team play every day and was convinced they were all plagued in some way or another. None of them would live up to expectations, he said, and he was clearly not joking. When I offered that Noah Syndergaard had some recent impressive outings, he dismissed them as products of poor opposition.

Even though the Mets won six of seven games on their recent homestand, they were one game under .500 entering play on Tuesday and are dealing with several significant injuries. In fact, between the time I was assigned this piece and when I went out to the ballpark to gather info for it, three prominent Mets went on the IL. Robinson Cano and Brandon Nimmo, two planned featured subjects of this article, were officially zapped off my list. There is still a lot of pessimism in Queens, even though some unlikely heroes such as Adeiny Hechavarria and Tomas Nido stepped forward to boost the team to recent victories.

So the fantasy perspectives on the Mets have shifted. Among their most notable players, are there not only buy low candidates but also players worth waiting for once they return from the IL?

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Pitching Kinks to be Worked out in Queens

We can start with Syndergaard again, who I profiled recently before a mini-turnaround. He had three of four strong starts to open May, and when he allowed four runs in two starts in the middle of the month, it seemed he was turning the corner back to regaining his better form. But then he allowed six runs in 5.1 IP to the Tigers on May 24, and now the frequent questions about his ups and downs have resurfaced. Anthony DiComo, the veteran Mets beat reporter for, remains optimistic about Syndergaard even though he admitted he has been somewhat surprised by his inconsistency.

“Noah has been puzzling,” DiComo said. “All of the underlying numbers say he should be better, but frankly he hasn’t been. Three of his last four (before the Detroit game) were very good. There’s just way too much talent there for him to be putting up the numbers he did in April and May.”

As I previously chronicled, Syndergaard has been frequently struggling with the feel of his pitches, especially his slider. He has decreased his slider usage from 20,9 to 13 percent from last season and has gone through extensive stretches in a game without throwing it. Meanwhile, his fastball usage has increased from 53.6 to 59.6 percent, and throwing the secondary pitch less may not help things.

But as DiComo pointed out, some advanced statistics weigh in Syndergaard’s favor. His 4.91 ERA gives way to a 3.61 xFIP, and his LOB percentage is 64.5 percent. Add in a .330 BABIP and the numbers and level of potential Fantasy production ahead say you can and should still buy low on Syndergaard.

You should also do the same on Steven Matz, who never seems to get the proper level of respect from the Fantasy community. Sure, he has often dealt with injuries, but he has been pretty darn good when available this year. Matz allowed eight runs (six earned) very quickly in a mid-April start and suddenly the Fantasy community was trying to push him out of relevance again. But the reality is Matz has allowed three earned runs or less in eight of nine starts this year and two or less in seven. He has struck out five or more in five starts. He also allowed three earned runs or less in his final eight starts of 2018. Matz has been seriously underrated since late August of last year. It may not take much to swing a Fantasy deal for Matz, and I would certainly explore it as an option if you need starting pitching help,

“Some issues with injuries have sidelined him for parts of a season, but Matz has really matured,” said Mets SNY broadcaster and former infielder Todd Zeile. “He now has the ability to shake off a bad inning or a bad start.”

DiComo noted that while Matz is prone to the occasional bad outing, he is certainly improving and on the way to gaining more respect.

“Steven is prone to that one bad start, and it's happened to him four or five times over the course of his career,” DiComo said.  “Those blow up your ERA and make it look worse than it is.  Take those out of the equation and he's been a pretty productive pitcher.  He's been healthier the last two years than he was previously in his career.  As long as he can keep that going there's optimism that he could be productive.  As for the blowup starts, if they continue to happen, so far they are part of who he is. But the sum product of him going out there 30 times a year has been pretty good.”

With a 4-3 record and a 4.63 ERA, the surface numbers indicate that Zack Wheeler has been an overall disappointment and another potential buy-low target. He was a hot Fantasy name in the preseason after a very strong second half in 2018, and was drafted as a SP3 with upside. A further look at the game log, though, indicates Wheeler has allowed 17 of his 36 earned runs against Washington while allowing three or less earned runs in all but one start against every other team.

“Zack Wheeler is similar to Steven Matz in that he's had a bunch of really good starts but then some blowup ones,” DiComo said.  “He's just had one bad inning or a couple of bad innings. I think he has shown flashes of last year, when he was one of the better pitchers in baseball in the second half. He just needs to find consistency.”

Wheeler does have a 3.22 FIP and a 3.60 xFIP, which also points to improvements ahead. With his 10.03 K/9, he may be the best of the Mets buy-low starting pitcher candidates. Zeile believes better times may be ahead for all three starters.

“These are guys that would be number one or two any other staff in baseball if they got it going right. They've all been inconsistent.” He added that maybe some mechanical tweaks could give any of them more of an edge.

If your starting pitching staff is already stable, there is no need to take a chance on buying any of the three Mets starters we have mentioned here. Don’t mess with success. But if you are looking to get back in contention via the starting pitching route, all three are ideal trade targets.


Where Is Amazing Amed?

As for their hitters, the one possible buy-low target you may wonder about is Amed Rosario. Some owners are frustrated with him because they expected more steals (four). But the .256 BA is in range of expectations, along with five HRs and 27 RBI. A total of 19 runs scored is not terrible, either. But hey, we drafted him for the steals. Teammate Todd Frazier did not want to hear any criticisms of Rosario after he delivered a walk-off infield hit last week. Heck, Rosario used that speed to win the game for the Mets.

Should you go shopping and buy Amed Rosario? Photo by Scott Engel

“I’m a big guy on what you have done for me lately,” Frazier said.” The guy just got a walk-off hit the other day.”

Zeile thinks Rosario has made significant strides forward this season.

“Amed is going to continue to grow as a great Major League Baseball player.” Zeile said.  “When his defense starts to pick up you see his confidence blossom on both sides of the ball, He's been great at home plate with runners in scoring position. I expect to see a lot more of the same from him.”

Rosario, who endured some defensive struggles earlier this year, has hit .356 with 20 RBI with RISP. But Fantasy players are not satisfied. The numbers are decent, but not what he was drafted for, even with a later pick. Right now, Rosario is a better real-life player than in Fantasy. He won’t hurt you much in the middle infield spot, but if you want to take a shot he will run more soon, it likely won’t take much of an offer to acquire him.  He has certain upside to improve in his most potentially important Fantasy category very soon. He is just 23 years old and better results in the SB department should be ahead.


Stuck in the IL Groove

As for Cano and Nimmo? Frazier is very confident Cano will bring you results when he returns. Inside Injuries is citing a mid-June return window at earliest.

“That’s a guy that works tirelessly. There's not even a question for me he will be fine. People talk about he didn't run out a ball, but he knows what he's doing. He is a guy that's been good for a while expect great things out of him.”

DiComo expects Cano to regain respectability when he returns. That’s all his owners should want after a .241 start with three homers and 13 RBI.

“I do think Robinson Cano could turn it around,” DiComo said. “He's a professional hitter that has done this for a very long time. I understand obviously that skills erode. He is in his mid-30s and you can't expect him to be an All-Star caliber player forever. But a big part of why the Mets were unafraid to acquire him is they believe in that hit tool, that ability to hit .300-plus every year. It's something that traditionally ages well with players. He is not necessarily going to be a Top 10 or 20 hitter in baseball, but he'll improve and be a good middle order of the bat.”

Zeile added that Cano’s timing has been off. There have been whispers that Cano’s bat speed has slowed down as well and he needs to adjust. Maybe the time off will allow him to re-examine his approach. When Nimmo returns, Zeile will not be lowering his expectations.

“It's been a tough year for Brandon and nobody wears it on their sleeve more than him. He's such a high-energy guy, he's very positive, he just hasn't found his rhythm at home plate. Don't count him out. He's a catalyst at the top of the lineup when he's going well.”

Consistency has been the issue for Nimmo so far as a Major Leaguer. Now he is simply unavailable, and his performances so far have shown us he can be very volatile in Head-to-Head formats.  If you do not acquire Nimmo at any point, you could be saving yourself some headaches. Inside Injuries has his Optimal Recovery Time as three weeks as he deals with a neck injury.

If you do some shopping in Queens, begin in the starting pitching section. Consider Rosario if he is priced friendly. Cano may only provide adequacy later in the year, and Nimmo could make you want to return him to the store where you bought him. There is always a lot of crowds in Flushing’s retail district, but fewer customers seem to be wanting orange and blue items these days. You may get a good SP pickup where others will pass.

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