Mar 07

D’Arnaud’s Start Good Sign

One of the Mets’ spring training concerns is off to a good start. You wouldn’t be wrong saying Travis d’Arnaud is facing a make-or-break season.

The combination of not performing – at the plate or behind it – and not being able to stay on the field has kept d’Arnaud from being the impact player they envision when they acquired him from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade. Believe it or not, there were some who rated d’Arnaud higher than Noah Syndergaard in that deal.

D'ARNAUD: Good start. (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Good start. (AP)

It’s been only 20 at-bats, but d’Arnaud is hitting .450 (9-for-20) with two homers and four RBI. His discipline is better, evidenced by a .450 on-base percentage.

It’s rather simple, d’Arnaud explained to reporters: After working with hitting coach Kevin Long this winter, d’Arnaud ditched his former stance in which he wrapped his bat around his head, he’s seeing the ball better.

Translation: Seeing the ball enables him to hit it.

“My results are more swinging at strikes and hitting the ball on the barrel,” d’Arnaud said. “For me, me it’s being able to see the ball longer and not have to cheat to get to some pitches and just keeping everything slow and not try to do too much.

“We made the swing so it’s more direct and I don’t have to overcommit.”

Even a fraction of a second would give d’Arnaud enough time to recognize and turn on a pitch. It’s the difference between driving a pitch and popping it up or missing it entirely.

For d’Arnaud, it could be the difference between a productive year in the major leagues, or not being there at all.

Mar 06

Despite Encouraging Signs Mets Must Be Cautious With Wheeler

Hopefully, the other shoe won’t fall for the Mets’ Zack Wheeler, who hasn’t pitched in nearly two years because of elbow issues. He’s back to throwing batting practice, and Sunday clocked out at 93 mph. Most importantly, however, is he left the mound feeling no pain.

WHEELER: Take your time. (AP)

WHEELER: Take your time. (AP)

If he can stay setback free for the rest of the week, he’ll start Friday against the Braves. It seems like forever, when Wheeler and Matt Harvey stuffed the Braves in a doubleheader. Then came Tommy John surgery in 2015 and a myriad of setbacks that has Wheeler wondering.

“I kind of feel like I’m waiting for a setback, but everything is going good,” Wheeler told reporters. “I feel good about it. Everything was coming out of my hand nice today. It definitely felt better than last time.”

When the Mets see Wheeler, they envision their Golden Arms Rotation, that when healthy has the potential to be one of baseball’s best. But, they’ve never been healthy together, with Wheeler, Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom all coming off surgery. Noah Syndergaard pitched through a painful bone spur in his elbow, otherwise, there would have been five coming off the knife.

Although Wheeler said he feels good, he added he’s not there, yet.

“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent letting it go,” Wheeler said. “But I’m 90- to 95-percent effort, breaking off curveballs and sliders. It feels good.”

Even if he’s full strength, don’t bet on Wheeler making the Opening Day roster as the Mets are figuring a limit of 110 innings and currently have eschewed the up-and-down risk of working him out of the bullpen. So, the prudent plan would be to let him build himself up with an extended spring training, then possibly bring him up in late May or early June when the weather is warmer.

In previous seasons the Mets had Bartolo Colon to eat up innings. This year they have Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, so there’s no sense in forcing this.

Mar 05

Two Out Of Three Not Bad For Mets’ Starters

Just as the Mets can’t make a big deal out of the two strong innings from Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom in their spring training debuts, they can’t panic over Matt Harvey getting ripped Sunday by the Cardinals in his first spring outing.

Syndergaard and deGrom were solid Friday and Saturday respectfully, but Harvey gave up four runs in 1.2 innings – with three strikeouts and a homer given up – in his first start since undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

“Obviously, it’s been eight months since I’ve faced another team,” Harvey told reporters. “The biggest thing was going out there and trying to, I guess, get my mechanics back against another team and hitters. You can go out there and do all of that with your own guys and catchers, but you can’t get to where you want to be unless you’re facing hitters. …

“Overall, I’m happy with some of the pitches I made. I’m happy with the way I felt, the way the ball was coming out.”

Both Syndergaard and deGrom threw in the upper 90s in their first starts, but Harvey was in the lower 90s, something that doesn’t overly concern manager Terry Collins.

“I think Matt knows that it’s going to take some time in spring training to get him where he wants to be when he starts the season,” said Collins.

As for deGrom, he’s coming off elbow surgery. He struck out three in two perfect innings Saturday against Houston.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” deGrom told reporters. “It’s one thing to say you feel good in spring training, but then to go out and actually throw, it definitely feels good to get back out there. I feel like the ball is coming out of my hand a lot better. That goes back to mechanics.”

Mar 03

Syndergaard Impressive In Spring Debut

Another day, another 11 runs, but unquestionably today’s storyline was all about Noah Syndergaard’s first start of the spring. You don’t want to make too much of the first start of the spring, but the first impression of Syndergaard was a good one.

SYNDERGAARD: Focused. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Focused. (AP)

Syndergaard threw 20 of 29 pitches in two innings for strikes and consistently clocked in the high 90s. We all know Syndergaard throws hard, but his key pitch in today’s 11-3 mauling of Houston was a change-up that has the velocity of many pitchers’ normal fastball.

“It has the potential to be my best swing-and-miss pitch,” Syndergaard told reporters. “|It’s got a lot more deception to it. … I love throwing it. There’s nothing better to see than throwing a real wicked change-up and getting a hitter to ‘Tasmanian Devil’ into the batter’s box. It’s a good feeling.”

It probably wasn’t a bad feeling either that he was signed to an extension of $605,500 after the game.

There are a lot of things to love about Syndergaard, but what I really like about him is how he’s doing everything to make himself better. He’s a workout fiend and eschewed the World Baseball Classic to concentrate on getting ready for the season.

“I am a Met,” boasted Syndergaard. “Nobody makes it to the Hall of Fame or won a World Series playing in the WBC.”

Damn, how can you not love that?

Mar 01

How Prepared Are Mets To Absorb Losing Wright?

Assuming the worst, just how prepared are the Mets to absorb losing David Wright, both in the short and long term?

Clearly, after playing a combined 75 games the past two seasons, GM Sandy Alderson had to anticipate the possibility of Wright going down again, as was the case Tuesday with the announcement he had been shut down because of an impingement in his right shoulder. To put it bluntly, he can’t throw the ball across the infield without pain.

WRIGHT: Mets' options without him. (ABC)

WRIGHT: Mets’ options without him. (ABC)

There are several aspects as to how to examine this issue: financially; 2017 only; from the farm system; from outside the market, and his role if he does play.

Let’s take a look:

FINANCIALLY:  The Mets are on the hook to pay Wright $67 million for the balance of his contract. However, insurance would pick up $50.25 million, which makes the payout more palatable. The issue of paying him in full in exchange for a healthy, productive player isn’t an option. Wright has been shut down for at least three weeks. He returned to New York for a second opinion on his shoulder.

Wright retiring or the Mets approaching him to take a buyout will not be an issue unless doctors tell him not to play anymore. Even then, Wright will take the time to digest the recommendation and continue to strengthen himself in the hope of being able to play.

2017 SEASON: There’s no longer the issue of finding enough at-bats for Jose Reyes, at least not in the immediate future. Reyes and Wilmer Flores are ranked one-two on today’s depth chart. The Mets brought back Reyes last year as a plug when Wright went down. For the most part, Reyes played a representative third base, but we must remember the window of opportunity to watch him was relatively small. Ditto for Flores, T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly are on the radar, but not expected to get significant playing time.

If the Mets are in contention at the trade deadline and Reyes isn’t performing as hoped, there will be the inevitable trade rumors. Presumably, if he hasn’t been dealt at the time, Todd Frazier‘s name will surface. While with Cincinnati, the 31-year-old Frazier was frequently linked to the Mets. Frazier will be a free agent after the season and with the White Sox not expected to bring him back they will undoubtedly be taking calls. Even if Wright is playing, the Mets would be remiss if they didn’t pursue Frazier.

If they get him, Frazier could be the difference in making the playoffs and sitting home. Frazier is scheduled to make $12 million this year, and the Mets should be given a window to negotiate. The While Sox are certain to ask for a lot and the Mets would be foolish to break the bank with prospects for a rental.

FROM THE FARM SYSTEM: Eight of the Mets’ top 30 prospects according to MLB.com, are shortstops, with Amed Rosario ranked first among them. Since a shortstop is theoretically considered the best athlete in the infield, it will be interesting if they contemplate moving one of their other shortstop prospects to third base, that is if they sour on their third base prospects Matt Reynolds, Jhoan Urena, David Thompson – who could have the highest upside in power – and Eudor Garcia.

Only Rosario and Reynolds are expected to see major league playing time this summer. Of the two, Reynolds is more like expected to play at third base, but barring something unforeseen happening with Reyes or Flores.

FROM THE MARKET:  Outside of Frazier, the most intriguing possibility is Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria, who at 31 and with $100 million remaining on a contract that expires after the 2023 season (assuming the club option is picked up.) Just as Wright is the face of the Mets, Longoria is the same for the Rays. However, Tampa Bay has greatly regressed since it appeared in the 2008 World Series and lost manager Joe Maddon following the 2014 season.

The Rays have always been dollar conscious. They clearly aren’t ready to compete, but it would take a lot in terms of prospects to pry him away. Then there would be the added cost in salary. It seems inconceivable they would add Longoria’s salary to that of Yoenis Cespedes‘ and Wright’s (even with the insurance payout), but it is fun to think about.

Outside of Frazier, the only potential free agent third baseman this winter that jumps out at you is Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas (will make $8.7 million this season).

IF WRIGHT STAYS AND PLAYS: The days of Wright being an All-Star presence are gone even if he’s medically cleared to play. With what is remaining on Wright’s contract and his injury history, no team will trade for him, including an American League team needing a designated hitter.

Assuming he plays out the remainder of his contract and is able to throw, he’ll always be a health question entering the season. Perhaps he’ll evolve into a singles-hitting role player.

Much has been made of the possibility of Wright playing first base, but even if that’s the case it won’t be this season and he still won’t provide the power needed at that position.