Mets showing faith in Plummer's emergence

June 3rd, 2022

This story was excerpted from Anthony DiComo's Mets Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

For weeks, the Mets grappled with the idea of optioning Dominic Smith to the Minors. That’s not the type of decision any organization takes lightly -- certainly not with a player of Smith’s service time or stature. The Mets had been discussing it long before Nick Plummer opened their eyes with a dynamic weekend at Citi Field.

So while it may be unfair to draw a direct line between Smith’s demotion and Plummer’s emergence, the fact of the matter is that the Mets easily could have sent Plummer down instead. Politically, it would have been the easier move, considering Plummer is an untested rookie whose hot streak has spanned only 10 plate appearances. Some around the team might have grumbled, but such is the typical life of young, optionable players.

Yet the Mets wanted Plummer to remain with the big club, because they believe his emergence is no fluke.

Back in November, less than a week after signing on to become Mets general manager, Billy Eppler inked Plummer to a Major League deal. The Mets were aware that Plummer, a former first-round Draft pick of the Cardinals who had earned enough Minor League service time to become a free agent, was on the radars of several other teams. He had Minor League offers on the table. Eppler and his team believed if they instead offered Plummer a Major League deal, he would accept it.

“I sensed that if we did that and we were the first to do that and push the issue, that we could get the player,” Eppler said. “I gave the thumbs-up to get it done, and we did.”

The Mets’ interest in Plummer, Eppler said, stemmed from an offensive profile that saw him produce superior Minor League exit velocities while exhibiting above-average plate discipline in 2021. But that wasn’t always the case. Over the first five seasons of his professional career, Plummer mostly struggled, producing an OPS below .700 each year from 2017-19. He missed the entire 2020 season due to the pandemic before making what Eppler called “a material swing change” toward the end of last season. Results followed, which is why so many teams were interested in a 25-year-old who had yet to crack the Majors.

Now, Plummer is a hot item in Flushing, after cracking a game-tying homer on Sunday evening and a game-tying double the following night. It’s a miniscule sample size, but it was enough for the Mets to choose Plummer over Smith as they embark upon one of their toughest stretches of schedule -- a 10-game Southern California swing beginning Thursday.

“I would say that Nick,” Eppler said, “is the model of perseverance and resiliency.”