Can Conforto and Nimmo be “the rabbits?”
So I am watching last night’s series finale against St. Louis and I am thinking that the Cardinals are really a mess right now. At that moment Ron Darling, who to my mind at least, is the realist of the three TV booth guys, makes a similar remark. Moments later a Cardinal infielder boots a grounder, opening the floodgates in what turned out to be a 10-6 Met win.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I have a hard time believing that the final Wild Card standings on October 2 will look the same as they do on August 26. I don’t really believe in either the Giants or the Cards and I think that one, if not two of the three teams bunched up behind the two staggering leaders might be able to pull a rabbit out of their hat and secure home field advantage for a one-game play-in.
For the Mets, those rabbits could be Michael Conforto and/or Brandon Nimmo, both of whom are destroying PCL pitching right now. It would be a delicious and ironic twist to a season that has had more ups and downs than a Disney rollercoaster if this maligned duo could somehow ignite the fuse that rockets the Mets back into the playoffs.
First off, I hate the fact that the Mets AAA team is located in Las Vegas. And this isn’t because I live in an International League city either (well not entirely). The hot, dry air plays havoc with pitchers and makes sluggers out of guys like Eric Campbell (363/493/593 in 2015), Johnny Monell (324/389/469) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (324/381/667). The fact that the first two are back in Vegas this year, while Kirk (I never want to type his last name again) is slashing 214/327/405 with Milwaukee ought to give you a good idea of the artificial environment and how much different it is from the big leagues. So, Nimmo is at 344/418/533 for Vegas, while Conforto, having suffered two demotions to baseball’s version of Siberia, is slashing 423/480/748. What is the difference between these two and the aforementioned trio as well as other Las Vegas superstar hitters such as Josh Satin or Zack Lutz?
Well for openers, both are former first round picks, making them “real” prospects. Big deal, so were Stan Jefferson and Shawn Abner, you might say. Well, with an exception here and there, both Nimmo and Conforto have essentially outhit these other players at the major league level already. Both may have suffered, especially in Conforto’s case, from being pushed into a major league role before they were fully ready. Their current lines at Vegas are a hopeful sign that the lessons have been learned and they can be recalled on September 1 and actually contribute.
And why not? The Cards are a shell of their former shelves, the Giants and Pirates have been rudderless since the All-Star break and the Marlins are racked with injuries. Only the Mets, it seems can count on a late infusion of talent to help them with a late push. The schedule favors the Mets down the stretch and hey, stranger things have happened.
So, the other teams:
I do think the Pirates have finally run out of Ray Searage miracles, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mets pass them.
I have no idea what to expect from the Marlins. Ramos and Fernandez and a lineup full of .300 hitters and a whole bunch of question marks and a troubled history. They could take off or implode. If the Mets play well, they certainly have a chance to pass the Fish.
The Cardinals can’t field, but they can hit, and they do have talented pitchers on their roster who might turn things around. I don’t see them taking off and leaving the competition in the dust, but there’s nothing about them that says “can’t win a wild card” to me. They’re also the Cardinals. They don’t wilt in the clutch. The Mets will have to do something pretty special to make up those 3.5 games.