Over the past month and a half, the list of New York Mets injuries has spiraled out of control. It began with hand injuries to hitters Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Davis in April. This was followed by key contributors Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil being stricken by twin hamstring injuries in the same series in Tampa. These losses seemingly opened the floodgates as the next weeks would see their replacements and their replacements’ replacements fall to injury as Albert Almora Jr., Kevin Pillar, Pete Alonso, and Johneshwy Fargas all wound up on the IL.
With Jacob deGrom and Taijuan Walker missing starts, Luis Guillorme and Jose Martinez already on the injured list, and setbacks for Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco, it seemed like the sky was falling before the season even got off the ground. Incredibly, the Mets are currently 16-9 since that series against the Rays, largely due to contributions from unheralded players from all corners of the league.
The rapid succession of injuries has led the Mets to use 46 different players in just 59 games this year, as they dug deep into their minor league reserves. By my count, the Mets used 15 guys that were either not present on the opening day roster or took on a significantly greater role than was expected. Currently, it seems that the ReplaceMets era may finally be coming to an end as multiple players have returned and several more are expected back within the week. So, who stepped up the most to keep the team afloat? I’ve ranked all 15, worst to best.
Honorable Mention: Tomas Nido
While the recent emergence of Tomas Nido was not directly due to any of the injuries the Mets suffered, he still deserves credit along with the rest of this group for stepping up when the Mets could barely field a full lineup every day. There was a stretch of several weeks during which Nido was the sole Mets hitter with an OPS north of 800.
New York Mets Injuries: Ranking the ReplaceMets
15. Cameron Maybin
The Mets famously sent the Chicago Cubs exactly one dollar in exchange for Maybin in mid-May, and well, they more or less got what they paid for. Maybin went 1-33 in a Mets uniform, before being replaced by a returning Kevin Pillar. That being said, Maybin did seem to run into some bad luck with hard-hit balls and provided the Mets with solid center field defense at a time when their top four center fielders were injured.
14. Jake Hager
It seems like just about every player on this list had a signature moment in their time with the Mets. Hager got his first career hit with the team, and it would prove crucial in the Mets’ 6-5, 12-inning win over Miami on May 21. On the whole, Hager went just 1-for-8 as a Met before being designated for assignment.
13. Wilfredo Tovar
Similar to Hager, Tovar didn’t get an extended opportunity with the team and went just 2-11 before being sent back to Triple-A. His defense gives him a slight edge over Hager.
12. Jordan Yamamoto
One of just two pitchers on this list, Yamamoto made just one start for the Mets after both deGrom and Walker missed starts due to injury. It did not go well for Yamamoto, giving up five runs to a struggling Marlins offense before landing on the IL. That being said, he still provided the Mets with pitching when they had few other options.
11. Khalil Lee
Khalil Lee was perhaps the most exciting injury replacement brought up to the major league team. The Mets acquired Lee from the Royals in a three-team trade this winter and he has garnered praise from scouts for his fielding prowess and speed. Unfortunately for Lee, his bat was not ready to face MLB pitching, as he struck out 13 times in 18 at-bats. Lee did get one shining moment during his tenure, ripping a two-run double in the aforementioned 12-inning win against the Marlins.
The newest of the ReplaceMets, Blankenhorn finds himself right in the middle of this list. He did not get the opportunity to make any real impact in his limited time in the majors, but did have one double and one walk in seven plate appearances.
On the whole, Drury has posted just a .615 OPS with the Mets, but with two home runs he has been a valuable right-handed power bat off the bench. He may have a chance to stick around until the return of JD Davis.
Now we start moving into the fondly remembered members of this list. Mazeika posted a .741 OPS, but is perhaps best remembered for not one, but two walk-off fielders’ choice plays during his limited time with the big league club.
Mason Williams seemingly came out of nowhere and started tearing it up in Triple-A this year, just in time for the Mets to lose their first four center fielder options to various injuries. Over the last two weeks, Williams has done an impressive job with great defense and a 116 OPS+. His lefty-hitting abilities may just earn him a spot on the roster in the long term, potentially beating out Albert Almora Jr. when everyone else is healthy.
6. Tommy Hunter
You’d be forgiven for completely forgetting that Tommy Hunter appeared for the Mets this year. Hunter was called up to the team when the injuries first started in early May, pitched eight scoreless innings, got a hit, scored a run, and promptly landed on the IL himself. Incredibly, those results place Hunter as the fifth-best pitcher on the team by bWAR, after only the Mets’ top three starters and Edwin Diaz.
5. Johneshwy Fargas
“Starting center fielder Johneshwy Fargas” is not something most fans had in mind for 2021. Following injuries to four of the Mets’ five opening day outfielders, Fargas took over in center for a week. He posted an .810 OPS with sparkling defense and looked like a real bright spot in a fairly empty Mets lineup. Along with Williams, he could be in the running for a longer-term roster spot depending on when he can return from injury.
4. Jose Peraza
Jose Peraza was an under-the-radar depth pickup for the Mets this offseason, and wound up becoming the primary second baseman over the last month. Peraza has been great defensively, combining with Lindor to form an excellent double-play combination. While his hitting has been limited to a .650 OPS, he has shown a flair for the dramatic, with all four of his home runs giving the Mets the lead.
For a player who wasn’t even in the organization three weeks ago, McKinney has certainly made the most of his opportunity with the Mets. He currently touts a 1.049 OPS, with 10 extra-base hits in 46 at-bats. He has very likely earned himself at least a bench role going forward this season. McKinney has the best stat line of any of these 15 by a wide margin, though he comes in it at third due to his limited time with the team.
Villar has been the Mets iron man in many ways this season. Outside of Villar and Tomas Nido, every other member of the opening day roster has either spent time on the IL, or gone through a prolonged slump in the first two and a half months of the season. Villar has been a constant fixture at the top of the lineup for over a month, posting a 113 OPS+ and scoring 25 runs. He has undoubtedly energized this team and provided a veteran presence to help keep them afloat.
1. Kevin Pillar
The other half of the veteran “-illar” pair, Pillar has not only performed well on the field but has quickly made himself a fan favorite with his gritty style of play and remarkable return from injury. On May 17, Pillar was hit square in the face by a 94 mph Jacob Webb fastball. It was the most visually frightening Mets injury in a long time and resulted in Pillar suffering multiple nasal fractures, with initial estimates expecting him to miss four to six weeks of action. The team was quickly down to their fifth-string center fielder and continued to struggle offensively.
Then on May 31, less than two weeks after his facial surgery, Pillar returned from the IL and roped a pinch-hit single to left field. Since then, Pillar had a two-homer game in Baltimore and hit a crucial two-RBI double against Jake Arrieta on Monday. He has been a clubhouse leader all season and continues to serve as a symbol of the perseverance that has propelled this team through the worst stretch of injuries in recent memory.
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