March 22.10: Questions down the stretch.

When pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 18, I posted five key questions the Mets faced heading into spring training. With two weeks remaining, there are issues with four of those five concerns.

Question: What is this team’s attitude?
Assessment: By all accounts, it is good and positive. The Mets aren’t rolling through their spring schedule, but there have been no issues of lack of hustle and laziness. David Wright said the Mets need to use last year’s embarrassment as a motivator. Jason Bay is fitting in and Jeff Francoeur has been a positive influence. So far, so good, but they haven’t played any games that count yet.

Question: How healthy is this team?
Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and already two of the team’s core will open the season on the disabled list and likely won’t be ready until May. Carlos Beltran’s knee is responding well to rehab and Jose Reyes’ hamstring feels good. However, Reyes’ issue is his thyroid and one wonders how that will be with the riggers of the season. Reliever Kelvim Escobar, penciled in as a set-up man, has missed the entire spring with shoulder pain. There have been no problems physically with Francoeur, Oliver Perez, Johan Santana and John Maine, all with recent surgery on their resume.

Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?
Assessment: These three guys represent the season’s key. If they do well, then the Mets can contend. The Mets didn’t make any rotation additions this winter because they believe in the upside of these three. It has been an up-and-down spring for all three, but Perez has been refreshingly positive. However, none have performed to where the Mets can say they are in the clear. The concerns remain.

Question: Who is fifth starter?
Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi are in the mix. Takahashi has looked the best, but he hasn’t pitched enough to be stretched out. Niese has options remaining, so they could do the safe thing and send him out and protect someone else. Jerry Manuel said he’ll use a fifth starter from the start, so there will be no hiding him with the off-days in April. This is the biggest decision remaining in camp.

Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?
Assessment: The biggest sub-question is whether Jenrry Mejia goes north in the pen and what role he would have. With his stuff, he’s a closer in waiting, which makes me think eighth-inning set-up. But, will the Mets expose him to that or put him in a low-pressure role. To me, that’s defeatist thinking. If you’re afraid to use him, then why carry him? Losing Escobar went a large part in opening the door for Mejia. So has, the general ineffectiveness of the relievers. If Takahashi doesn’t make it in the rotation, it could be him. Any of the losers for the fifth-starter could also fit as the long man. Bobby Parnell is still around, but he might be a casualty if they keep Takahashi in the pen. Kiko Calero and Ryota Igarashi will make the roster. Pedro Feliciano is still the only lefty of substance.

12 thoughts on “March 22.10: Questions down the stretch.

  1. JD: Pretty solid assessment. With the last two weeks of ST here, it will be interesting to see how it shapes up. The one minor leaguer I do not want to see here under any circumstance is Mejia. Not that I think it’s a great idea, I would be o.k. with F-Mart only if he starts in CF, but according to Jerry he isn’t a good fielder, so hopefully he starts in the minors. At this point, I have no problem whatsoever with the Mets handing 1b over to Davis. Murphy has been awful so far, as has Jacobs offensively. I know ST stats shouldn’t count all that much when evaluating players, but I think you need some sort of way to evaluate hitters especially if they are not to good to begin with.

  2. JD

    Nice rundown.

    It is not a good thing where a team in trouble last year still has not answered the questions it needs to answer before the team breaks.

    Ike is the best bet to be on the roster because as Steve says Murphy has not done well. However, I don’t want Jerry near these guys.

    On day one he will say how great they are. On day three he will question whether they could make a pee wee club.

    I think Jennry needs to be in the minors working on his pitches and just learning to pitch. I get the feeling he will get exposed at some point. From what everyone says about his stuff, he needs to continue learning how to start.

    In 2 or 3 years he can replace one of the 3 pitchers you mention in this piece.

  3. SoO: The same Jerry Manuel, the very same one who called Daniel Murphy his everyday left fielder, and the same Jerry Manuel who then made Gary Sheffield his regular outfielder, that very same one says Fernando isn’t a good fielder and so won’t play him because of that!!!!
    Jerry is truly incredible. Too bad he’s not managing the Phillies…..

  4. Well ah…ha-rry..let’s uh say that uh…Torri Hunter he aint. Ah heh heh heh heh.. :-)

  5. Harry: Regarding Manuel and Murphy, Omar is as guilty as Manuel is. They both were seduced by 150 major league at bats and thought that was enough to anoint him the starting left fielder. He’s one of those guys like Endy Chavez meaning that the more he plays, the more he gets exposed. With Murphy, Francouer, Barajas, Cora, and Castillo in the lineup this team is going to be an offensive mess again without Reyes or Beltran. Defensively too though Barajas is still good.

  6. I got to tell you, this ST has made one thing crystal clear to me, Jerry has no business managing this or any other ball club and needs to go.

    I still think that Mejia, Ike and F-Mart should go back to AAA, but then again I also see this as a transitional year for the Mets so I would not be crushed to see them make the team, if of course Jerry is fired first.

  7. I will gladly give Omar equal credit for the screwup that was Murphy in left field last year. One thing going on now is interesting and clearly demonstrates how the Mets have absolutely no plan. They have bragged how they have force fed kids in the minors making them play at hoigher levels than other teams do to get them ready for the bigs quicker. So now when they have two major holes due to injury and they have two force fed kids (Martinez and Tejada) whoi very well may be ready, they don’t want to give them the chance to prove their philosophy right or wrong. They won’t even give Tejada a kid who hit in the 280s for a full year at AA at 19, a few weeks at SS. They’d rather play the cheerleader, and they bury Martinez as a lousy fielder while Pagan and Mathews will play in center instead. This team is incredible on all fronts.

  8. By the way, a lousy outing for Pelfrey today. 4 2/3 IP , 7 hits, 6 runs, FOUR HOME RUNS!!! Now is the time personally when I start to worry about spring training for pitchers. At most they have maybe 2 or 3 starts left and it’s time to start bearing down. I hope his next outing is much much better.

  9. Harry — Sometimes the situation you described suggests ineptness and sometimes it suggests maximizing value for trade bait.

    I look at someone like Carlos Gomez, who was absolutely rushed through the system. Ostensibly, they could gloss over whatever lackluster numbers he put in the minors by pointing to how he was holding his own at such a young age against older competition. Then, before his age catches up with him and he’s no longer precocious, they trade him. My question is whether this reflects a conscious effort to overhype (and conceal the flaws of) their prospects — or whether they truly believed that Carlos Gomez was going to be anything more than the modern version of Ryan Thompson.

    It seems to me that if you have doubts about the viability of your prospects, the last thing you want to do is overexpose those players and confirm those doubts for everyone else to see. As such, if they really think FMart might be more Butch Huskey than Ryan Howard, then the safest thing to do would be to send him to AAA or deal him ASAP.

  10. I don’t buy it Tiffany. I think each team uses its own scouting reports vice the PR machines of other teams. Most kids don’t pan out as projected. No matter how advanced scouting and stats become its still a human factor in there which makes it a crap shoot. Gomez had/has a lot of speed which made him intriging. The Met PR couldn’t make that up. Scouts said he was gonna develop matter. Well, maybe he still will someday.