Feb 28

Mets Matters: Collins Prefers Lagares At Leadoff

Mets manager Terry Collins stated a preference today for Juan Lagares over Curtis Granderson as the leadoff hitter.

Lagares has the speed, but strikes out too much and doesn’t have the on-base percentage – at least not yet – needed for that slot in the order. Lagares’ on-base percentage last year was .321 and Collins said he’d like it to be in the .330 to .340 range.

“You’d like it higher, but we’ve got to start with a reachable number for sure,’’ Collins told reporters today in Port St. Lucie.

mets-matters logoTODAY’S PRACTICE RAINED OUT: As they are several times every spring, rain forced the Mets into the inside today.

The Mets have batting cages and pitching mounds under cover, and there’s always a contingency plan for practice inside in case of inclement weather.

Both in good weather and bad, nearly every minute is scripted and accounted for.

HARVEY UPDATE: On the day after throwing 43 pitches to non-swinging hitters Friday, Matt Harvey reported no pain in his surgically-repaired elbow today.

Harvey is expected to throw batting practice Monday and start the March 6 exhibition game against Detroit at Tradition Field.

The Mets’ exhibition schedule begins Wednesday against Atlanta at the Disney complex in Orlando. Dillon Gee is scheduled to start, thereby starting the showcasing.

The Mets will hold an intrasquad game Tuesday.

Feb 24

Mets Matters: Alderson Jabs Flores; Parnell To Throw; Duda Ailing

If I were Wilmer Flores, I’d be hacked off at GM Sandy Alderson. I wouldn’t be happy being Ruben Tejada, either.

Several times Alderson has cracked wise about the Mets’ shortstop situation. The Wall Street Journal reported when Alderson showed up for jury duty he was asked what he did in his free time.

Reportedly, Alderson said: “Well, now I’m looking for a shortstop.’’

I still don’t understand why a general manager would continually undercut his players in public.

mets-matters logo* Today, manager Terry Collins said the Mets would miss Eric Young’s speed. Young’s absence underscores the Mets’ need for a leadoff hitter. Currently, it’s between Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson.

Earlier today, I endorsed Lagares because I believe Granderson’s greater value is as a run producer in the middle of the order.

* Hindered by his wild throwing to bases, the Mets will work hard with reliever Jeurys Familia this spring. The Mets also want Familia to throw more four-seam fastballs, which gives hitters something else to consider.

* Reliever Bobby Parnell is scheduled to throw in the bullpen and pitch to hitters this weekend. As with Matt Harvey, Parnell is coming back from Tommy John surgery. Parnell could throw to hitters on Thursday.

* Lucas Duda sustained a strained left oblique muscle and might not hit for another three days, but will participate in fielding drills.

Feb 24

Leaning Toward Lagares As Leadoff Hitter

The Mets are undecided as their leadoff hitter, with the competition coming down between Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson.

LAGARES: Should get leadoff job. (AP)

LAGARES: Should get leadoff job. (AP)

For my money, I’d rather open the season with Lagares for the simple reason this decision doesn’t only impact the No. 1 spot, but also the middle of the order.

While both players are potential strikeout machines, Granderson offers a higher upside as a run producer in the middle. He has greater power and I’d rather bunch him with Lucas Duda and Michael Cuddyer, than leaving him exposed at the top.

My thinking is Granderson could produce more runs batting sixth than Lagares can leading off.

Both have the speed needed to hit first, but neither is the classic leadoff hitter in that both strike out too much and don’t have high on-base percentages. Both can steal a base, but I’d rather see Granderson’s speed trying to stretch a double in the gap into a triple.

For a team struggling to score runs, this is the best way to go.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notes.

Feb 11

Suggested Mets’ Batting Order

Spring training is for a lot of things, but I thought I’d save Terry Collins time and suggest a batting order for him. Several slots will automatically fall into place, but where Collins will do his most head scratching will be over the leadoff position.

Juan Lagares, CF: He has the speed and at the end of last season proved he could steal a base. However, he needs to get on base to utilize that speed which is why he must cut his strikeouts and raise his on-base percentage.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Willing to take a pitch, which should help Lagares. Was the Mets’ best hitter last season and his ability to drive the ball in the gap could give the Mets an early first-inning lead.

David Wright, 3B: Theoretically, third is where the best hitter should be, which is the combination of power and average. Injuries sapped Wright’s production the past few years and the Mets are hoping for a bounce back season. If he has one it will solve a lot of problems.

Lucas Duda, 1B: Gave the Mets 30 homers last year and they aren’t expecting anything less. When he gets hot he should offer Wright protection. Still strikes out too many times, but is showing improved plate discipline.

Michael Cuddyer, RF: He should hit here to separate the left-handed hitters. How sweet would it be if he returned to the form where he lead the National League in hitting.

Curtis Granderson, LF: Even with the fences moved in, nobody expects him to hit 40 homers again. But, 30 should be reasonable along with a boatload of doubles in the gap. If Lagares falters, Granderson could get another look at leadoff, but he strikes out too much to excel there in the long haul.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: Another right-handed hitter to give the order balance. Showed glimpses of power, but if he masters things behind the plate the Mets will take what they can get from him offensively.

Wilmer Flores, SS: He’ll have enough pressure as it is, so dropping him to eighth to see what he can do is the best option. Hitting here ahead of |the pitcher should help improve his plate discipline. There’s nothing wrong with a walk to clear the pitcher’s spot.

Pitcher: Unless you’re in Tony La Russa’s world, pitchers bat ninth.

Things will vary according to injuries, days off and slumps. But, this offers a balanced order with the hitters providing the most protection for each other. That is, if they are hitting.

Feb 10

Mets Have No Significant Position Battles

For a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2008, the New York Mets are in a unique situation of not having any position battles. There will be roster decisions, but every position has a body that barring injury, won’t change from now and Opening Day.

Currently the rotation is six deep, with the lone questions being whether Matt Harvey will be ready for the start of the season, and all indications are he will.

That leaves Dillon Gee. The Mets have been trying to trade him all winter, and most recently said they would take a minor leaguer. Gee could be in the rotation if Harvey isn’t ready, and barring a trade could possibly be optioned or used in long relief. Whatever happens, there is value to Gee.

For the first time in GM Sandy Alderson’s tenure, the bullpen isn’t a mess. Manager Terry Collins said Bobby Parnell is the closer, but he’s coming off elbow surgery and could miss the first month of the season. That means last year’s closer, Jenrry Mejia, will have the job again to start the season.

However, don’t expect anybody that wasn’t in the pen last year top to bully his way into the pen.

There is no position battle behind the plate with Travis d’Arnaud starting. The infield, from third to first, is set with David Wright, Wilmer Flores, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda. So is the outfield, from left to right, of Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares and Michael Cuddyer.

Sure, there will be decisions regarding the bench, although the likely candidates are already on the 40-man roster. There will also decisions regarding the batting order, notably the leadoff slot.

Sure, the Mets have questions as spring training approaches, but for the first time in a long time the eight position players have already been determined, as is the rotation and bullpen.

That gives them a sense of stability they haven’t always had and that’s a positive.