This was written before any of these players made their 2020 Mets debut and all stats are from their former teams.
Just before the trade deadline, the Mets acquired catcher Robinson Chirinos, third baseman Todd Frazier, and pitcher Miguel Castro. The Mets got Chirinos and Frazier for a player to be named later however, they gave up left-handed pitching prospect Kevin Smith for Miguel Castro.
Miguel Castro is a 25-year-old reliever for the Baltimore Orioles who throws a high 90s fastball as well as a changeup. Castro hasn’t found a lot of success in his career however there is reason to believe that he may have turned it around this year. There is more to Castro’s 2020 season than his 4.02 ERA and 3.71 FIP. This year Castro has a 2.59 SIERRA, 3.20 xERA, 2.79 pCRA, and a 62 DRA-. Castro has excelled this season partially due to an incredible 27.2 K-BB%. Castro has struggled with walks in previous years however his BB% this year is 7.1% (league average is 8.3%) and his K% is 34.3% which is in the 91st percentile. However, Castro has given up a lot of hard contact this year. His average exit velocity against is 92.4 mph (6th percentile) and his hard-hit rate against is 47.5% (8th percentile). However, he has a low barrel rate of 5% thanks to a high ground ball rate of 57.5% which minimizes the effects of the high exit velocity. But we are looking at a very small sample size here, is Castro worth the gamble after only 15.2 innings this year when ERA estimators didn’t suggest anything like this before 2020? Well, let’s look at what has contributed to this change. The main cause has been an increase in strikeouts and a decrease in walks. While this is in a small sample size, Castro hasn’t put up a K/BB in a 15 game stretch close to what he has done this year ever before.
Castro’s lower walk rate is caused by a high first-pitch strike rate of 68.6% and a slight increase in zone%. In 2020, 56.5% of Castro’s 0-0 pitches have been in the zone compared to 44.8% last year. Castro’s chase rate also increased to 31.9% this year which is likely partially responsible for the increase in strikeouts. His greatest whiff% increase has been on his slider which has a whiff rate of 45.7% this year, compared to 37.5% last year. His slider had gained horizontal break this year going from 7.7 inches of break in 2019, to 8.2 inches of break in 2020, which is 3.2 inches more than the average pitch at a similar speed. The horizontal movement complements the horizontal movement on his sinker and changeup well. Castro’s sinker has good arm side break while his slider has good glove side break. Below are GIFs of this devastating combination.
As you can see Castro has very good stuff, and he is a reliever of a similar mold to Edwin Diaz. Like Diaz, Castro relies primarily on a good fastball and slider combo and gives up hard contact while striking out a lot of people. I think that Castro has the potential to be a very good back end reliever or closer, but whether he reaches that potential remains to be seen.
Kevin Smith was a top prospect in the Mets system, ranked 12th in the Mets system by MLB.com, Prospects Live, Baseball America, and 14th by Fangraphs. The most appealing aspect of Kevin Smith is his stats. In his minor league career, he has pitched to a 2.75 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 2.92 xFIP, 20.1 K%-BB%, and a 13.1 SwStr%. Sparkman projections give Smith a projected WAR of 2 and an FV of 45 which was tied for first in the Mets system with David Peterson. The 23 year old lefty is 6’5 and throws from a three quarter arm slot. Smith’s fastball sits at 90 mph with a high spin rate of 2450 RPM, according to Fangraphs. Smith gets good extension, so the fastball will seem slightly faster to hitters than it really is. Smith’s slider is mainly horizontal and especially effective against lefties making it his best pitch. His changeup is below average and needs some work if he wants to be effective against righties and be a starter in the major leagues. Smith has a low ceiling, however if his changeup and command improves he can be a back end of the rotation starter.
Despite the Mets’ lack of starting pitching depth they continue to trade minor league starting pitching depth. However, I actually like this trade for the Mets because I think that Miguel Castro has the potential to be an elite back end reliever. Castro is under team control through 2022 and he has closer potential. It looks like Castro has unlocked this potential this year and if that is true the Mets will likely come out as the winner of this trade.
Mets receive Robinson Chirinos for a player to be named later:
Robinson Chirinos isn’t a big pick up however he will now be the Mets backup catcher with Tomas Nido on the IL. Chirinos has long been an offensive-minded catcher however he has struggled mightily at the plate this year. In 2020, he has a slash line of .119/.224/.143 with a .181 wOBA and a -2 wRC+ in 49 plate appearances. As you can expect with numbers this horrendous he has experienced bad luck. However, even if we tried to correct for luck he isn’t close to being a productive hitter. He has a .256 xwOBA, a 25.8% hard hit rate, and an 85.9 exit velocity. His GB% has gone up from 36.7% in 2019 to 51.6% in 2020. Chirinos is a bad defensive catcher and has recorded negative framing runs from Baseball Prospectus every season since 2010 and recorded -10 runs extra strikes in each of the last 2 seasons. He also has a career -17.6 FRAA, -46.5 FRM, and a – 9 DRS. Chirinos is also now one of the slowest players in baseball and has a sprint speed of 23.2 ft/sec which is slower than even Wilson Ramos. Chirinos’ sprint speed was around 25 ft/s for most of his career until it steeply declined this year. As a 36 year old catcher, that is deeply concerning and there is a good chance this season is the beginning of the end for Chirinos. However, he has had a wRC+ above 100 every year from 2015-2019 so it makes sense for the Mets to see if he still has anything left in his bat.
Mets receive Todd Frazier for a player to be named later:
Mets fans are familiar with Todd Frazier as he posted a 1.9 fWAR with a 106 wRC+ last year for the Mets. Frazier has had a poor year with the Rangers so far slashing, .241/.322/.380/ with a .309 wOBA, and an 84 wRC+. However, Frazier’s expected numbers look about average. He has a .320 xwOBA with a 6.1% barrel rate. While his hard hit rate and exit velocity have gone down his line drive rate has gone up. However, if we isolate Frazier’s outcomes by batted ball types we can figure out what is going wrong this year. On batted balls that aren’t fly balls (line drives, ground balls, pop ups) Frazier has been much better than he was the last 2 years and has overperformed his xwOBA. Most of his struggles this year have been on fly balls. His xwOBA on flyballs is less than half of what it was last year, and while he overperformed his xwOBA on flyballs last year he underperformed it this year. If those numbers are confusing basically what is happening is Frazier’s fly balls are hit worse and he is getting unlucky in addition to that. The amount of home runs per fly ball has gone down a lot, however that isn’t just the result of bad luck. It is likely due to the fact that this year Frazier has started to pull less of his fly balls and hit more toward center field. In 2019, Frazier pulled about 38% of the fly balls he hit however that number has dropped to about 29% in 2020. Consequently, In 2019, Frazier hit about 37% percent of his fly balls up the middle however that number increased to about 48% in 2020. This is concerning because fly balls hit to the middle of the field are less likely to result in home runs and players who hit a lot of fly balls to center tend to underperform their xwOBA on fly balls. Also concerning is Frazier’s sudden decline in sprint speed. In 2017, Todd Frazier’s sprint speed was 26.6 ft/s however that has been slowly declining. In 2019, it was 25.3 ft/s which has dropped to 23.8 ft/s in 2020. 23.8 ft/s puts him in the fourth percentile of sprint speed and very close to Wilson Ramos’ sprint speed of 23.5 ft/s. Whether Frazier isn’t 100% healthy or his age is just catching up to him it is still very concerning. Frazier’s decline in sprint speed is similar to Chirinos’ as shown by the graph below.
The Mets decided to be buyers instead of sellers at the deadline this year because despite their poor play they are only 2 games out of a wild card spot due to the expanded playoffs. Brodie Van Wagenen has been more than willing to trade away prospects in his time with the Mets however I think that this trade might work out in the Mets favor. Robinson Chirinos and Todd Frazier were both veterans who the Mets are gambling on however they won’t get too much playing time.