August 25, 2011 3 Comments
Around this time of year, I was very much aware that the Mets have no chance at a post-season appearance. The Philadelphia Phillies have ran away with the National League East and it appears that no other team in the league will be able to keep pace with the young and extremely talented Atlanta Braves.
However, the Mets have again transformed from competitive and exciting to injured and frustrating. It has been a common theme since the team moved from Shea Stadium to Citi Field in 2009. The only difference between the first two years of the new stadium in Flushing Meadows and this season: Sandy Alderson’s front office.
And for that, there is optimism brewing in Queens. While this team has been rather enjoyable to watch, most fans have to be careful with how to view this team.
The goal of this post is to try and map out what the 2012 New York Mets will look like. All 25 of the potential players that will fill out the active roster will be included.
A Brief Explanation
For starters, we will assume that the Mets will stay with their theme over the last couple of season of carrying 12 pitchers on roster.
That leaves 5 spots on their bench and 7 relievers.
On their Mets bench, they tend to carry 1 catcher, 2 outfielders (1 of which needs to be able to play center), 1 utility infielder and 1 corner infielder
The bullpen is a mixed bag of everything, so I won’t go out of the way trying to break down what they normally carry.
All statistics provided are current as of August 23rd, 2011. Ages are as of Opening Day 2012. Minor League numbers will be included with an asterisk. The triple-slash of the statistics are Average-On Base Percentage-Slugging Percentage.
2012 Starting Infield
–A lot of people forget just how great of a sophomore season that Ike Davis was having before his injury. 16 of Ike’s 39 hits in those 36 games went for extra bases. He seemed to drive in a run a game, and all of that came before the Mets had any production out of half their line-up and before Jose Reyes caught fire at the end of May.
Ike is simply the Mets future at first. He is the best defensive first basemen the Mets have had since John Olerud in the late 90′s and may prove to be the second greatest defensive first basemen in team history behind only Keith Hernandez. He is a true masher with real power (he was on pace for 32 home runs had he played a full season) and a formative left-handed bat in the middle of the Mets line-up. Even with the proposed changes to the outfield wall at Citi Field (finally), there wasn’t a portion of the ballpark Ike can’t crush it out of.
When he does come back fully healthy, which will be in plenty of time for Spring Training 2012, Mets fans will quickly remember the all-around talent that Ike Davis provides.
–Even more Mets fans tend to forget that Reese Havens was the Mets second first-round selection in 2008, behind Davis. Injuries have been the name of the game for Havens ever since he got drafted. Be it a bad back, a rib discomfort or a strained oblique, there has always been some form of malady to keep Havens on the sideline.
However, when he has been healthy, he has always performed. He has plus-power out of the second base position (he was a shortstop in college) and has always been credited with great plate discipline and gap-to-gap ability, both huge qualities Sandy Alderson looks for. As Toby Hyde of MetsMinorLeagueBlog has pointed out, the only reason why Havens may not get a September audition is because the Mets are likely to send him to the Arizona Fall League to get more at-bats.
I’m sure many Mets fans, myself included, have loved the play of Justin Turner at second base this season. But, what you see is what you’re going to get from Turner. There is little room left for him to improve. He is most certainly a valuable player to have on your 25-man roster, and I see him getting the corner infield slot on the Mets bench, especially with his ability to play shortstop in a pinch.
Other Mets fans are wondering why I haven’t mentioned Ruben Tejada as a possible second base candidate. Alderson has always stated his desire to get offense out of second base while also not sacrificing defense. Tejada is probably the best defensive middle infielder the Mets have, and he, too, will have a spot on the Mets bench in the utility infield position.
What may surprise people is that the true competition for the 2012 starting spot will come down to Havens and fast-rising prospect Jordany Valdespin (24, .289/.331/.469, 16HR 59RBI, 34 stolen bases). Valdespin has spent five season in the Mets farm system, entering as a 19-year in 2007. In his previous four seasons, Valdespin hit 14 home runs. This year, he has exploded to 16. The huge knock on Valdespin comes down to his defense (a converted shortstop that has committed 33 errors this season) and his poor baserunning decisions. The 34 stolen bases show case his speed for sure, but he’s also been caught 16 times (68% success rate, in other words: terrible).
The Mets have invested a lot into both players. The competition come Spring Training will be Reese Haven’s to lose. But, would it surprise anyone to see Valdespin become the Mets second basemen of the future? Absolutely not. Expect Valdespin to get a look in September when Havens goes to the Fall League.
Shortstop: Jose Reyes (28)- .336/.377/.507, 5HR 37RBI, 80 runs, 34 stolen bases (98 games, on DL for second time this season with strained hamstring)
–The Jose Reyes saga has been an incredible story to follow this season. He went from gone at the trade deadline, to too valuable to move, to league MVP and back to high injury risk. While I can guarantee you that Reyes will not get Carl Crawford money (7-year, $142 million), he will get somewhere in the neighborhood of five-years and $95 million from the Mets (and unless you’re Latrell Sprewell, that’ll feed the family).
His value to the Mets can not be described in such a short space, so I won’t even try. The fans would throw a revolution if Reyes were to move. He’s here for the long haul. He plays a near Gold Glove defense, is arguably the most dynamic lead-off hitter in baseball and he’s an absolute joy to watch.
Not to mention, he leads the National League with his .336 average and leads the majors with his 16 triples (on pace for 26 in a healthy season). The most surprising number most fans don’t realize about Reyes, he has 47 extra base hits. Currently, Justin Upton leads the NL in extra base hits with 65. He is on pace for roughly 81 this season. Had Reyes been healthy all year, he would’ve finished around the 77 mark. And of those extra base hits, less than 10 would’ve been home runs. That’s incredible.
Third Base: David Wright (29)- .259/.341/.425, 11HR 42RBI (69 games, missed time with a stress fracture in his back)
–All of Wright’s numbers for 2011 are much lower than they should be because the man played a month with a broken back. Think about that. It is safe to say that 2009 was an outlier for David Wright. Since he came off the DL, Wright has been the player that became a star from 2005-08.
He looks a lot slimmer since his trip to the DL, has altered his stance, is striking out a whole lot less and has gotten back to using the entire field (as evident from his opposite field home run in Philadelphia). Go ahead and pencil David in for his 162-game average (2009 included) of .301/.381/.510, 27HR 106RBI and Gold Glove defense. He’s arguably the best home-grown Mets player since the hey-days of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry in the 1980s.
–For Thole, it will be about how he works on his defensive game in the off-season. Offensively, the Mets will take that triple-slash line any day from Thole. He will never hit for power (17 total extra-base hits), but will constantly find his way on base.
No matter what, there will be a right-handed hitting compliment to Thole on the roster. With the way Ronny Paulino (31, .289/.325/.366) has worked with the pitching staff, it probably will be him again. Paulino is the superior defender, but doesn’t do nearly as well against righties as he does lefties.
Down on the farm, the best option the Mets currently have is Alberto Cordero (22, .280/.311/.383, 6HR 39RBI). Problem is, Cordero is currently in Low-A Savannah. While he is ready for the majors defensively right now with a plus-arm and awesome mechanics, he is not refined enough offensively to make a difference. There is a chance that Cordero could skip A+ St. Lucie next year and go right to AA, but odds are he’ll split the year between the two, meaning he is at least two full seasons away from sniffing the big club.
2012 Starting Outfield
Left Field: PLATOON– Absolutely, we are at this point.
–As I said, we are absolutely to this point. It is getting to a point where the optimism when Jason Bay goes 1 for 4 with a hard hit out is sad. For whatever reason, Bay has been a huge failure in Queens. A phenomenal failure.
Sandy Alderson showed last spring that he isn’t afraid of eating contracts in the case of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. But, Bay has two years left on his deal and $32 million total. It makes sense to give him another year before the organization gets to that point. However, he can not be an everyday starter anymore. He is a black hole in this line-up.
As for Murph, we’ve been down this road before. And as annoying as it is to point out Bay’s inability to hit, it is equally annoying to point to the fact that Daniel Murphy does not have a natural defensive position. The position he looks most comfortable at is first, but he will not replace Ike Davis.
Regardless, the man can flat-out hit. He was in the top 5 of the batting title race before he blew out his knee. He has such a smooth stroke and drives the ball to all fields. He hits well enough that the Mets will either find him a place to play, or trade him to get the highest value possible from an American League team.
Murphy looked fine in 2008 when he debuted in left field. But in 2009, he suffered from a serious case of the yips out there. It got to a point where it was so bad, the Mets (who only won 70 games that year) decided he couldn’t play out there anymore. Terry Collins has stated if Murphy wants to play on this team, he will need to learn the outfield. Well, this is the only scenario Murphy can get into the line-up: Learn left field, or we’ll trade you.
Hopefully, he learns left field. If he can do that successfully, he may completely bump Bay out of playing time and continue to add to the incredible depth in this line-up.
–I will admit that a portion of this idea came from a very lengthy conversation I had with Brian May, my college housemate and fellow Mets fanatic.
The worst kept secret in all of baseball is that the Rays will either trade Upton this off-season or non-tender him at the arbitration deadline, making him a free agent. Upton is almost as frustrating to Rays fans as the man he would be replacing in New York, Angel Pagan.
After 2009, when the entire team crapped their pants, the consensus in the Mets front office was the mental lapses of Pagan would cost him any chance of starting in the long run. Well, somehow, he seemed to have turned the corner in 2010, when he hit .290, 11HR 69RBI, stole 37 bases and played a strong enough center field that the team moved Carlos Beltran to right.
This year? Its like watching the ’09 Pagan all over again. He seems lost at times in center and on the base paths, he pulls off pitches and he doesn’t seem to play the game as crisp as he had before. Pagan, too, is arbitration elgible after this season and is in line to be awarded around $4 million.
Now, if the Mets decide to bring in Upton, they will most likely have to spend around $8-10 million per season. Upton is younger than Pagan and plays premium defense in center. With the Mets getting plenty of offense from other positions (sans Bay), they could theoretically absorb another slow offensive season from Upton as long as he continues to save runs with his glove.
Do the Mets spend the exta $4 million+ on defense and potential or do they give Pagan a reprieve on his unfortunate season? Mets fans would say the former and not the latter.
In the farm system, it appears evident that Fernando Martinez (23, .260/.329/.417, 8HR 30RBI) no longer possesses the speed to play center field.
Say Upton signs in New York on a one-year deal to showcase his talents in a bigger market (absolutely conceivable), the Mets are high on Kirk Nieuwenhuis (24, .298/.403/.505, 6HR 14RBI). In fact, had Captain Kirk not made an amazing catch in center that dislocated his non-throwing shoulder, Nieuwenhuis would have certainly got a look this year when Pagan missed time with injury.
Further down the line, the Mets also have Matt den Dekker (24, .272/.346/.472, 15HR 62RBI between A+ and AA) who is hands-down the Mets best defensive center field prospect and is in the discussion for best defensive prospect in all of baseball. He has put up huge numbers this year in the extra-base hit department (57 total: 31 doubles, 11 triples and 15 home runs), but is another full season of AAA ball away from performing on the big stage.
Best case scenario, the Mets bring in Upton on a one-or-two year deal to let den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis buy time in the minors.
–Similar to Murphy, Lucas Duda will be given every opportunity to win the right field job outright in Spring Training. It would be hard to imagine the Mets finding anyone that has the power capability that Duda has that wouldn’t come at a premium cost.
Since July, the Big Ox has hit all 7 of his home runs after hitting none in the first three months of the year. In fact, 12.6 at-bats between home runs average to just under 40 in a 500 at-bat season. Like Davis, there isn’t a spot in Citi Field that could contain Duda if he got a hold of it.
While the power is awesome, Duda possesses a true knowledge of the strike zone that has impressed the entire organization. He has shown an ability to adjust his swing to appropriate situations, and he even had the baseball smarts to lay down a sacrifice bunt that eventually led to a game-winning run.
If Duda can prove to play an average right field (another reason for a plus-defender in center like Upton), his bat will find its way into the starting line-up regularly.
As for the farm, it is much to early to talk about the likes of 2011 first-round pick Brandon Nimmo as nothing more than a pipe dream. Cory Vaughn (22, .267/.383/.397, 9HR 49RBI) is looking like a legitimate Major Leaguer down the road. But, like Cordero, he is probably a solid two years away from making an impact.
Utility Infielder: Ruben Tejada (22, .276/.365/.323 0HR 24RBI) (67 games in MLB this year)
–As I covered briefly in the second base section, Tejada will be in the running for the starting job, but most likely won’t win it. He will never provide a lot of pop at the plate. But, he has terrific baseball instincts and a great eye at the plate.
Even more, he plays probably the best defense up the middle out of anyone on the Mets not named Reyes. His glove will keep him in the Major Leagues for a long time. And it is ridiculous to think that every player out of the Minors needs to be a star. There is nothing wrong with having a sure bat and great glove off the bench. Tejada fills this role nicely.
Corner Infielder: Justin Turner (27, .258/.325/.358, 4HR 43RBI, 24 doubles) (93 games in MLB)
–Again, as covered in the second base portion, Turner absolutely provides a spark this team desperately needs. He and Daniel Murphy provide such energy in the dugout that it doesn’t make sense to fill out a 25-man roster that doesn’t have both of them on it.
And like Tejada, there is nothing wrong with Turner being on the bench. His numbers have taken a dip recently because he is apparently playing through a number of maladies, but the line he has right now is probably the line he would post year in and year out. If you could count on 300 at-bats, a .260 average with gap power on your bench, all while playing four infield positions, you take that every time, right? Right.
Reserve Catcher: Ronny Paulino (see catcher section)
Utility Outfielder: Scott Hairston (31, .235/.303/.470, 7HR 24RBI) (79 games, 145 plate appearances)
–Hairston got off to such a slow start for the Mets this season that his batting average still hasn’t recovered. However, he has been phenomenal in a reserve role recently. The only question with Hairston: how well can he play center?
The last spot on this bench would go to whoever isn’t starting in the Jason Bay/Daniel Murphy platoon. Now, Terry Collins has said emphatically that both Hairston and Bay have the ability to play center field. However, neither have. And with September call-ups around the corner, neither probably will.
If Hairston can prove better than serviceable in center, then the Mets will certainly keep him. If they feel a better defensive back-up option is there in center field (say, Rick Ankiel), they may look down that avenue. Even money is saying Scott Hairston has a second season in Citi Field.
Corner Outfielder: Jason Bay/Daniel Murphy (see Left Field)
–With Johan, its very simple. When he has been healthy, he’s a Cy Young candidate every year. The problem for him has been staying healthy.
Santana is apparently on course to be healthy for Day 1 of Spring Training. But, he was also supposed to be on course for being in the Mets rotation by the All-Star break.
Santana could be the difference between the Mets being an over-.500 team and or a team that will repeat the course of this year. Time will tell and we will see if Johan can be the guy that pitched the Mets within one game of the playoffs in 2008.
–The RA Dickey has been the best Mets pitcher for the last two seasons, no question. There was a lot of worry coming into the 2011 season that Dickey’s 2010 success would prove to be nothing more than a flash in the pan.
The second time through the league possessing a below-average fastball and three variations of a knuckleball, many people thought the book would be out. And when Dickey got off to a slow start, there was significant fear that all of that was coming true.
Then the Dickey injured his plantar, and apparently that’s the jump start he needed. He has been a rock in this rotation. Alderson locked him up to a two-year deal last off-season, and there is no reason to believe Dickey will pitch anywhere else in 2012. He will be in the rotation, and, like Wright in the line-up, lock Dickey down for 30+ starts, a 3.50 ERA and 140 Ks. Done deal.
Let’s move on.
–When you talk about Jon Niese, everything tends to be positive even when the results aren’t. The only thing that makes me nervous about that scenario is 2008 Me was saying the same exact sentence in regards to Mike Pelfrey, who I will get to in a minute.
However, it is evident that Niese has things figured out. He needs to work his entire arsenal into his starts better, as he tends to fall in love with one pitch which eventually gets him into trouble.
What you have to remember is that Niese is only 25, though it feels like he’s been around forever. He has the potential to become a good compliment number 2 starting pitcher, like a poor man’s Tom Glavine.
Niese began to put it together this year before he tweaked his back in his last couple starts. Should Niese be able to perform up to expectations next season, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to imagine him posting 15+ wins with an ERA hovering around the 3.75 mark. Lower the WHIP and you have yourself a borderline All-Star.
–Dillon Gee got off to a powerful start, winning his first 8 decisions in his rookie season. From the get-go, Gee has looked EXACTLY like Rick Reed from the 1998-2001 stretch of Mets success. He even wears Reed’s #35.
Gee will never be a top-of-the-rotation talent that can win on his stuff alone. Instead, Gee lives by nibbling at the corners, throwing strikes, and using his devastating change-up. Whenever Gee has limited his walks and stays in the strike zone, he finds an abundance of success. Its when he loses control of his pitches or shies away from his change-up that he finds trouble.
However, you can do a whole lot worse than Dillon Gee out of your 4 or 5 spot in the rotation. He will give you innings, will keep the defense busy and will battle. Every rotation needs a Dillon Gee. He will be in New York for the foreseeable future. And I look forward to watching his development.
–Now, this is important on two fronts. The first, the only scenario I like the Mets bringing in Marquis would be on a one-year contract. A lot has to be said about a player wanting to play for your team. The Staten Island native has once again stated his desire to pitch in his hometown and compete at a high level.
Also, Marquis is a proven winner. He’s been to the playoffs on every team he’s played for with the exception of the Washington Nationals. The Diamondbacks, who are making a surprising run for the National League West crown, made a priority to acquire Marquis at the deadline to add depth to the rotation. Now granted, an Angel Pagan line drive off Marquis’ shin broke his leg and ended his season.
Marquis will eat innings for you, all while giving you team a chance to win every five games. In a transitional year like the Mets will be going through in 2012, where they want to be competitive and win while not throwing the long-term plan off its tracks, a pitcher like Jason Marquis on a reasonable one-year contract will prove invaluable.
Along with Marquis, it is possible the Mets will consider bringing back Chris Capuano (33, 9-11, 4.71ERA, 123 Ks) on another one-year contract or even injured starter Chris Young (32, 1-0, 1.88ERA) on another performance-laden contract. But, I feel the Mets will lean in the direction of Marquis this time around.
The second thing the signing of Marquis signals is the end of the Mike Pelfrey (28, 6-10, 4.61ERA). Look, he’s been a Met for 6 years now. When he won 13 games in 2008 and posted a 3.72ERA, everybody thought that Big Pelf had finally turned the corner. Only he took two steps backwards in 2009 with a bloated ERA of 5.03. Then, 2010 happened and Pelfrey looked like a bona fide number 2 pitcher behind Johan Sanatana. But now, the jury is hung on Pelfrey.
No player on the Mets this season has proven to be as frustrating as Pelf. Even when he does well, fans are irritated that he can’t duplicate his success in consecutive starts. Furthermore, Pelfrey has proven time and time again that he is dreadful against National League East opponents.
Like Pagan, Pelfrey will be up for arbitration again after this season. Reports say that it is likely Pelfrey will earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million out of the process.
One way to look at the situation is this:
If you kept Pagan and Pelfrey, you would be committing roughly $10 million to the two players. Would you swap the contracts of Pagan and Pelfrey for B.J. Upton, who would command that salary on his contract? I would guess many Mets fans would say yes.
Listen, as much crap as the Mets farm system has taken throughout the last couple of years, there is one clear truth to their minor leagues: they have a ton of upside potential starting pitchers.
Matt Harvey (23, 12-5, 3.17ERA, 151 Ks in 127.2 innings) is the best of the talent. He will absolutely start 2012 in AAA and will be the first in line if a pitcher is lost to injury. Right behind him, the Mets have Jeurys Familia (22, 5-4, 2.81ERA, 120 Ks in 109 innings) who will also open 2012 in AAA, phenom Jenrry Mejia who will be 22 and coming off Tommy John surgery, but should be ready by May and will start in AAA. That three-headed monster in AAA with the likes of Marquis and Dickey working off essentially one year contracts is promising. Plus, newly acquired Zack Wheeler and suprising 2011 success story lefty Darin Gorski will be in AA.
Pelfrey is expendable because of this talent and the fact that his $6 million can be better spent elsewhere.
The Bullpen is a little hard to predict. There are a couple of givens, however.
Pedro Beato (25)
–Beato came out of the gates fast and furious, posting an impressive scoreless inning streak. Recently, his performances have been up and down. But, the Mets took a Rule 5 flier on him and he has proven to be a Major League arm with some nasty stuff. A year under his belt in the bigs should prove to be worth while and he will be in next year’s bullpen.
Manny Acosta (30)
–Acosta has flashes of pure briliance, then can look absolutely lost in a matter of minutes. Being a cheap, under contract option, the Mets will give Acosta every chance to make the team out of Spring Training
Josh Stinson (24)
–The Mets gave Stinson every opportunity to work his way into a potential rotation spot. After struggling in that role in AAA, Stinson was moved to the bullpen and has proven dominant. He hits 94-95 constantly and Terry Collins absolutely loves his ability. Stinson will get a September audition, and he will most likely stick in the team’s long-term plans.
The lefty out of the bullpen and the long reliever is hard to predict. Odds are, D.J. Carrasco will serve as the team’s longman since he is under contract for another season. Tim Byrdak could come back, but there are an abundance of lefties that will come on the cheap that the Mets will wait to commit to anyone.
–Parnell has been the prodigy child for two years now. This is the job the team has been grooming him for. Personally, I never understood why any team would want to pay big money for a closer, a position that only needs to get three outs in a game his team is already winning.
If the team doesn’t hand the reigns over to Parnell next year, the team may never make the transition. He has the triple-digit fastball, the disgusting hard slider and the make-up to shut the door. The question is, can Parnell make the transition from flamethrower to power pitcher?
Its a transition that will prove to be one of the biggest stories in Spring Training. Odds are, Parnell will be given the job and the team will hope that he accepts the role head on.
So. After all that, here’s how I imagine your 2012 New York Mets starting line-up:
1. Jose Reyes, SS
2. B.J. Upton, CF
3. David Wright, 3B
4. Ike Davis, 1B
5. Lucas Duda, RF
6. Jason Bay/Daniel Murphy, LF
7. Reese Havens, 2B
8. Josh Thole, C
Starting Rotation would look something like this:
Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, Jason Marquis
Closing: Bobby Parnell
Is this going to happen according to plan? I don’t know. This is how I would imagine the Mets continue their transformation.