Jan 31

Mets Matters: Five Intriguing Prospects; Ojeda Out; Minaya’s New Job

ESPN ranked the Mets’ farm system as the fourth best in baseball, and with it raised the possibility of which prospects we might see this summer at Citi Field.

This much seems clear, with the Mets vigilantly guarding their minor leaguers’ Super Two status, and barring an injury, the probability is we won’t be seeing these guys prior to June.

Here are five of the more intriguing prospects:

NOAH SYNDERGAARD: He’s the franchises’ top prospect, and with Matt Harvey on an innings watch, we will undoubtedly see him this year, perhaps prior to the All-Star break. Syndergaard averaged just under ten strikeouts per nine innings, but was an unimpressive 9-7.

KEVIN PLAWECKI: The catcher will open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, but how long he stays there will be dependent on Travis d’Arnaud’s offensive production and if Plawecki can increase his power.

STEVEN MATZ: He split time last season between Single and Double-A, and will likely open the year at Triple-A, meaning Citi Field is possible in September. Being left-handed enhances his chances, especially if the Mets can move Jon Niese.

DILSON HERRERA: He made a positive impression last season and we will see him this year. How soon could depend on how well the Mets do, with a poor first half increasing the possibility of them moving second baseman Daniel Murphy.

BRANDON NIMMO: Because the Mets added Michael Cuddyer this offseason, there’s no rush to elevate Nimmo, their No. 1 pick in 2011. The Mets hoped to have him up by now, and his stock could plummet if he doesn’t show something this season. He hit a combined ten homers last year between St. Lucie and Binghamton, and similar production won’t cut it.

OJEDA OUT AT SNY: Say what you will about the Mets not having enough talent on the field, but they’ve always had top-drawer play-by-play announcers and analysts, both on radio and television. This year they will be short by one with the announcement studio analyst Bobby Ojeda will not return to SNY.

Reportedly, the network is in negotiations with former major league pitcher Nelson Figueroa.

MINAYA TO WORK FOR MLBPA: Former Mets general manager Omar Minaya left his position as a vice president of the San Diego Padres to become a special adviser with the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Minaya’s focus will be on international affairs and game development in the United States.

 

Jan 30

The Playoffs Aren’t Out Of The Question

The latest issue of Baseball Prospectus projects the Mets to finish in second place in the NL East behind Washington with an 82-80 record, which would be their first winning season since 2008.

That would be good enough to be tied with Chicago for sixth place in the National League, but not make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Here how the publication projects the National League:

Los Angeles 97-65

Washington 91-71

St. Louis 89-73

San Francisco 84-78

San Diego 83-79

METS 82-80

Chicago 82-80

Miami 81-81

Pittsburgh 80-82

Cincinnati 79-83

Milwaukee 79-83

Atlanta 74-88

Arizona 74-88

Colorado 72-90

Philadelphia 69-93

 

Last year the Mets were tied for second with Atlanta in the division at 79-83. If the publication were correct, we would be talking of an improvement of three games with a minimum of additions with offseason.

Using the publication’s figures, the Mets need to win at least 84 games to be a wild card. To do that they must improve by five games, and are banking on that happening with the healthy returns of Matt Harvey and David Wright.

When you look at it, that’s an extra five victories a month, which isn’t unrealistic.

 

Jan 29

Why I Am Pulling For Flores

I don’t know Wilmer Flores well, but pulling for him to have a breakout season. And, I wanted this before Sandy Alderson foolishly cracked wise on him last weekend.

There are several reasons why, beginning with my penchant for rooting for the underdog. All those signings and trades people have advocated the Mets should make probably have made him uncomfortable, despite his well-grounded response to the rumors.

FLORES: Hope he does well.

FLORES: Hope he does well.

“You hear people talking all the time: ‘Is this guy going to be a shortstop? Can he play shortstop? Can he not?’ ’’ Flores told Newsday. “You know what? I can’t listen to that. I want to play the way I’ve been playing. … I’m not going to say I don’t hear things. But I try not to because I know what I can do, man. Honestly, I know what I can do.’’

That’s a great approach for somebody entering a season the first time as the frontrunner.

Playing Major League Baseball is hard enough without your boss dissing you. And, Alderson isn’t the only one. The Internet is loaded with comments endorsing just about anybody over Flores.

I like Flores because he works hard to succeed despite the criticism. He wants to do well and how can you not like that?

There’s criticism he can’t hit on the Major League level, but seriously, how do we know because he’s never been given a chance?

There’s also criticism his defense is suspect, but often over-looked is the aspect of positioning and pitchers working to hitters in such a way where the ball will be hit toward Flores.

Over the past few years Flores wasn’t given a real chance by the Mets. It appears that has changed, and for one, I hope he does well.

 

Jan 28

Mets, Mejia Avoid Arbitration

As expected, the Mets avoided arbitration with reliever Jenrry Mejia, who agreed to a one-year, $2.595 million contract this evening.

Mejia, whose role has bounced from the rotation and bullpen during his Mets’ tenure, assumed the closer job after Bobby Parnell was injured.

Manager Terry Collins, despite not knowing Parnell’s physical status, already anointed him as the closer in mid-December even though Mejia saved 28 games with a 2.72 ERA last year.

It was a premature announcement that thwarts the concept of competition. Playing the good soldier, Mejia said he doesn’t care, but how could he not?

 

Jan 28

Manfred Must Shift From This Issue

That Rob Manfred is even thinking of it should give pause to any baseball fan, or at least one who considers themselves traditionalists.

MANFRED: Shift not an issue.

MANFRED: Shift not an issue.

There’s no such thing as perfection, and certainly baseball is not without flaws. However, use of a defensive shift isn’t one of them. Manfred, who succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner, in an effort to increase scoring is contemplating outlawing defensive shifts.

Baseball defenses have implemented shifts for years, dating back to Ted Williams if not before. Williams was good enough, and smart enough, to beat the shift.

Many of today’s players are not. Many frustrated by the shift have complained and privately lobbied to outlaw it. If Manfred manages to do this he would be rewarding players for incompetence and not being able to do their job.

Run production has gradually declined in recent years and a knee-jerk reaction has it being attributable to an increase in shifts. Funny, but did anybody connected with Major League Baseball ever think that might be because of a decline in steroid usage?

Of course, this logic would be an admission of the steroid era, one of the black marks of Selig’s tenure.

How many runs do shifts take away is debatable, but I’m willing to bet offenses are more stagnant because too many hitters simply don’t know how to hit. They are too preoccupied with pulling the ball and not using the entire field; they aren’t interested in working the count and drawing walks to increase their on-base percentage; and perhaps above all, they are enamored with the home run and don’t care about strikeouts.

So, what’s next if shifts are outlawed? Could baseball legislate what pitches must be thrown on specific counts? Or, how about telling outfielders how deep they can play, or ban corner infielders from guarding the lines late in the game? What about giving a hitter four strikes instead of three?

There are so many things Major League Baseball could do if it wants to improve the product on the field, but banning shifts is not one of them.

All too often, the stewards of the sport remind me of a man who can’t resist poking the coals of a barbeque to fan the flames. It’s really a great sport, with its biggest problem all those trying to needlessly trying to “improve’’ it.