Feb 13

Wheeler Must-See Watch In 2015

Of all the Mets, Zack Wheeler is the one I am most curious to watch this summer. Wheeler made a strong first impression in 2013 and improved last season to 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA while working 185.1 innings in 32 starts.

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

His durability last year indicates 200-plus innings is within reach. We don’t know Wheeler’s ceiling, but our expectations are realistically high.

Wheeler averages over nine strikeouts per nine innings, but also just over four walks which is  red-flag worthy.

There’s no doubting his stuff, but his command must improve. It’s not just the walks, but consistently running deep into the count. Consequently, he only worked into the seventh just 13 times. By comparison, 41-year-old Bartolo Colon pitched into the seventh or longer 18 times.

When looking at the development of a young pitcher, innings pitched might be most important as it indicates an ability to work out of trouble to give his team a chance to win.That’s why 200 innings was important to Colon last year and to Dillon Gee the previous season.

If Wheeler can cut the four walks he gave up in half and convert them into outs, that could have pushed him into the seventh nine more times last year if not longer because it would have reduced his pitch count. As it was, he threw over 100 pitches 24 times and at least 110 in 13 games.

This is the step Wheeler must take this summer. If he can, a lot of good things can happen.

 

Feb 09

Niese Faces Pivotal Season

Every spring there is that singular player whose career might hang in the balance as is Jonathon Niese’s with the New York Mets.

NIESE: Will it ever happen for him?

NIESE: Will it ever happen for him?

It was in 2012 when the Mets signed him to a long-term contract through 2016. They signed him for all the right reasons. He threw hard; is left-handed; the contract provided cost certainty; he had some degree of major league success; and at the time was relatively healthy.

In the three years since, he’s won just 30 games, hadn’t pitched 200 innings in any season, and sustained one form of injury or another every year.

With Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard and left-hander Steven Matz waiting in the wings – and let’s not forget Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee remain on the 40-man roster – it doesn’t take much to figure Niese’s value to the Mets is rapidly diminishing, especially since they put him on the block over the winter.

All the reasons why the Mets signed Niese, and why he was coveted by other teams in trade talks, aren’t as prevalent. If 2015 is anything like the last three seasons, next year at this time we might not even be talking about him in the rotation as Matz could supplant him.

Of all the Mets who need a big and healthy season, Niese ranks at the top of my list.

 

Jan 27

Mets Rotation: A Difference Between Depth And Potential

There’s a distinct difference between depth and potential when it comes to the Mets’ rotation. There’s a lot to like about their potential, but you should be careful not to equate the names with depth.

Matt Harvey, Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz give you nine names, but also nine questions.

Harvey: How will he respond from elbow surgery?

Colon: He’s 41 and the Mets are trying to trade him. If they do, will anybody give them the 200 innings he gave the Mets last year?

Wheeler: Will he improve his command and thereby increase his innings?

deGrom: Can he encore his Rookie of the Year season?

Gee: Will he be gone by Opening Day?

Niese: Will he live up to his expectations and stay healthy?

Montero: Can he improve what has been keeping him back, which is his control?

Syndergaard: Can you count on anybody who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues?

Matz: Can you count on anybody who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues?

Sure, the best-case scenario is to have all these answered in the positive, but that rarely happens. Hopefully, these issues can be resolved and the Mets can count on these guys to be moved in the depth category.

I asked nine questions about potential Mets’ starters for 2015. Let me ask one more: Who among you haven’t wondered the same?

Jan 22

Mets Who Could Be Gone After This Year

As a team trying to reach the next level, the New York Mets have several players entering make-or-break seasons. If they don’t produce in 2015 they could find themselves gone next year.

The reasons for their potential departure range from age, to finances, to performance. Here’s who I am thinking needs to put up or shut up:

Bartolo Colon: At 41, Colon is entering the second season of a two-year contract. Despite working 200 innings last season, the Mets are trying to trade him. They certainly won’t bring him back for another $10 million. The best scenario is to find a taker at the trade deadline.

Jon Niese: All the reasons why Niese was attractive in the past – age, left-handed, reasonable contract – don’t matter much anymore because of his recent injury history and poor performance. Their best bet is for him to pitch well in the first half and draw trade interest.

Bobby Parnell: He’s coming off an injury and has never pitched to expectations. With Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia showing promise, it could be time to cut the cord and move on. This guy had a million-dollar arm, but only recently showed an understanding about pitching. If he’s a bust this year, why would they bring him back?

Curtis Granderson: He has two more years after 2015, which could make him easier to trade. But, if he doesn’t show glimpses of substantial power who would take him? This much we know about the Mets – they will try to get something and won’t eat his contract.

Travis d’Arnaud: He showed some promise in 2014, but the Mets want more offensive production. I can see them moving on if he doesn’t hit this summer.

Daniel Murphy: Like I said when Murphy agreed to a 2015 contract, this year will be his last. Had the Mets wanted to keep him they would have signed him a while ago. Ideally, they’d like to get something in return, but if they don’t, they will let him walk.

Wilmer Flores: This is his chance. The Mets have been looking for a shortstop for a few years, but Flores goes in as the starter by default. They considered a few names this winter, but none seriously. If Flores doesn’t pan out, but their young pitching does, the Mets might be forced to pay up next winter.

 

Jan 12

Mets Right For Balking On Syndergaard-Desmond Trade

Word is the Mets had a shot at Washington shortstop Ian Desmond, but balked at the trade because it would have cost them Noah Syndergaard.

SYNDERGAARD: Just a start. (MLB.com)

SYNDERGAARD: Don’t deal him. (MLB.com)

Good move on their part. Eventually, the Mets might trade Syndergaard, but now isn’t the time.

Before trading Syndergaard for Desmond, or anybody else for that matter, the Mets must ask themselves this question: Would they be better off?

Desmond does not put the Mets over the top. I’m not saying Wilmer Flores does either, but he deserves the chance to show what he can do with a legitimate opportunity, something he has not been given.

There’s another reason to hold onto Syndergaard, and that’s the current make-up of the rotation. Bartolo Colon is gone after this season. Matt Harvey is coming back from surgery and we don’t know about his status until he gets back on the mound. Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom are still in their developmental stages and are largely unproven, despite a high potential upside.

The potential for Syndergaard is also high and I want to see what he really is. If Syndergaard pitches to he projections, he has far more value than Desmond, or Ben Zobrist for that matter.

Sandy Alderson gets ripped here, and elsewhere, for moves he doesn’t make. This isn’t one of them.