Last year, as the fans in Citi Field grew scarcer and scarcer, and the team closed in on their fifth consecutive losing season, the Mets reached for something to root for, promoting catcher Travis d’Arnaud as a September Call Up. Then 24, the rookie backstop had been acquired as the centerpiece in the deal that sent ace and knuckleballing fan-favorite R.A. Dickey to Toronto. Expectations were high. D’Arnaud had been named by Baseball America one of the game’s top 40 prospects for four consecutive seasons and his 2012 stats in Triple- (he was hurt for most of 2013) were practically unimpeachable (.333/.380/.595).
It took time. D’Arnaud was overmatched in his cup of coffee that year. He struggled again as New York’s starting catcher at the outset of this season, hitting .180 through 39 games. On June 7, he found himself back in Triple-A. But now, a year later, Travis has finally settled into a big league job and looks like an integral part of the Mets offense and of Sandy Alderson’s long term plan.
With the rosters expanding from 25 men to 40, the club has just announced their September Call Ups for the 2014 season. There will be no major prospects this year – sorry fans, no Noah Syndergaard – but four players who will look to carve out part-time and specialty roles with the club.
Josh Satin – This will be a familiar face for Mets fans. Satin, 29, was a major contributor to the 2013 club, helping fill in for a demoted Ike Davis and for an injured David Wright down the stretch. He posted a .279/.376/.405 with a bWAR of 1.2 over 221 rookie plate appearances, earning a job as the right-handed half of a 2014 first base platoon. However, he struggled to a .107 average and no home runs over 28 at bats in that role to start the year. Finding himself back in hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas on May 10th, he hit .289/.386/.423 the rest of the way, seeing time at first, second, and third.
Even if the Mets are not impressed by his performance this month, Satin could still be auditioning for a job elsewhere. At age 30, The career minor leaguer will finally be out of options next Spring and if the Mets don’t put him on the Opening Day 2015 roster, he could be claimed by any other team. Satin has a few marketable assets, most notably a propensity to get on base – career .350 OBP and 13% walk rate – and modest gap power – 18 doubles in 244 at bats. But his value is as limited as his glove; he’s really only a corner infielder. Given Lucas Duda‘s extreme struggles against left-handers, he could well get another shot at a first base platoon.
Juan Centeno - Particularly astute Mets fans may also remember Centeno. When the Mets had exhausted all other options, the 24 year old Puerto Rican filled in as an emergency catcher both this year and last.. His major league experience is minimal: 9 hits, all singles, in 33 career at bats, but he had been hitting .291 in Triple-A. Most players, though, hit to some degree in the thin air of Las Vegas, though. Fewer are the hitters who amass only one home run in 2012 plate appearnces and slug just .335. Centeno is a strong defensive backstop with a plus arm (career 37% caught stealing rate in the minor leagues) but his power is the lowest New York has seen since Luis Castillo, limiting his ceiling to that of a backup catcher. Management’s fondness for Anthony Recker could keep him from that role, but if Recker were to be non-tendered, Centeno would be on deck.
Erik Goeddel – A closer at UCLA, the Mets worked Goeddel as a starter for four seasons after drafting him in 2010, but shifted him back to the bullpen for 2014. The 25 year old pitched to a 5.37 ERA over 63.2 innings for Las Vegas, though that number is inflated by the PCL’s adverse effect on pitchers, and his 9.0 SO/9 shows he can miss bats and has the potential to be a quality reliever. Though he sat in the 89-92 mile per hour range as a starter, he can dial it into the mid-90’s out of the pen, backing it up with a slider, changeup and curveball, his best secondary offering.
Dario Alvarez – Possibly the most unlikely September Call-Up in all of baseball, Alvarez, 25, had never thrown a pitch above the short-season New York Penn League before this season. But even getting to that level was difficult. The lefthander pitched as a teenager and 20 year old for the Phillies in the Dominican Summer League from 2007-2009, only to be released without ever throwing a pitch in North America. He ended up pitching in a semi-pro league in Panama for two seasons, then moving to Venezuela, where he caught the eye of Chris Becerra, the Mets’ Director of International Scouting.
This season, he has pitched as well as any hurler in the Mets organization, going 10-1 with a 1.10 ERA and 114 strikeouts across 73.2 innings (14.1 K/9) across three levels from Low-A Savannah to Double-A Binghamton. His control has been sharp as well – 2.1 BB/9 – and he has not allowed a run in 12 consecutive innings. According to Metsminorleagueblog.com (an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the Pipeline to Flushing), Alvarez sits 90-91 on his fastball, while throwing an 80 MPH as his primary off-speed pitch and mixing in the occasional 84 MPH change-up.
As we mentioned earlier, 21 year old right-handed prospect Noah Syndergaard will not pitch for the Mets this season. The game’s 18th best prospect, was expected to make his major league debut at some point this summer, in a similar pattern to Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey but a handful of minor injuries and an ugly ERA in the hostile confines of Cashman Stadium kept him in Triple-A. A call-up may have been in order regardless – his peripherals and stuff are superb – but Syndergaard has already reached his innings limit for the 2014 season and doubtless the front office sees no point on starting a young prospect’s service time clock in a lost season.
Wait till next year, Flushing, where a Harvey-Wheeler-deGrom-Niese-Syndergaard rotation could be a reality.