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 16

Mets Should Have No Rush To Trade Gee

Dillon Gee threw off the mound Monday, three days ahead of schedule, but how long will he remain with the Mets?

Gee is the Mets’ sixth-ranked starter, and that doesn’t include Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard, both of whom will be promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas this summer. Yes, the Mets are boast a glut of starting pitching, but exactly how deep is it?

GEE: Has value. (Getty)

GEE: Has value. (Getty)

Since I don’t believe the Mets will get immediate major-league help in exchange for Gee, the belief here is he has a higher value on the 40-man roster than as a trade chip. It’s realistic to say the Mets’ rotation isn’t without questions, beginning with health. Let’s forget for a moment the potential for any pitcher to develop arm problems at any time, and look at these issues:

Matt Harvey: He’s recovering from Tommy John and has only 12 career victories in parts of two seasons. Despite his confident statements to the contrary, nobody knows how Harvey will respond coming back from the knife.

Bartolo Colon: As they did with Gee, the Mets will listen to any and all offers for Colon. At 41, he threw 200 innings last season and would be a find for a contender. However, that’s a trade better suited for July.

Zack Wheeler: His command is an issue, and despite glimpses of being the real deal, he’s still largely unproven.

Jacob deGrom: The 2014 NL Rookie of the Year only has last year under his belt. He still has a lot to prove.

Jon Niese: His potential has always outweighed his production. The Mets were also willing to trade him over the winter.

Steven Matz: He’s unproven.

Rafael Montero: Glimpses, but nothing else.

Noah Syndergaard: He’s unproven.

The potential is great, but since there are no guarantees there could be enough chances for Gee to be slotted into the rotation. For now, the $5.3 million they’ll pay him this year represents a solid insurance policy, but for now will likely be used in long relief.

Just trading him for the sake of making a trade is foolish, especially considering the chance for something to go wrong and for him to fill a sudden void. And, if the rotation stays healthy for the first half of the season and Gee pitches well, there could be July interest in him that isn’t there now.

Gee has always been a gamer, and two years ago threw nearly 200 innings. The Mets have control over him for two more years, so there shouldn’t be any rush to trade him. Gee’s preference is to be a starter with the Mets, but that’s not happening right now. He told reporters in Port St. Lucie he’s willing to work out of the pen.

“If I’m asked to be a reliever, then I’m going to do the best I can. … I have no doubt that I can be successful,’’ he said.

And, I have no doubt if they keep Gee, he’ll be of value to the Mets.

Feb 15

Top Ten Mets’ Questions Entering Spring Training

The New York Mets open spring training this week with ten key questions that must be answered in the positive to justify the optimism surrounding this team.

Of course, several questions are pitching oriented, beginning with the obvious:

Q: How healthy is Matt Harvey?

A: This is the most important question of the season. The Mets still don’t know how they’ll break down Harvey’s innings, but we should have a good sense by the time they break camp. Harvey claims to be healthy, but there is still the matter of throwing to hitters.

LAGARES: Pegged for leadoff. (AP)

LAGARES: Pegged for leadoff. (AP)

Q: Who breaks camp as the leadoff hitter?

A: Juan Lagares has the speed, but lacks the on-base percentage. Curtis Granderson was used there last season, but has more value hitting in the middle of the order.

Q: How healthy is David Wright?

A: A bum shoulder sapped Wright of his power last season. A healthy Wright answers a lot of questions. The expectations of the Mets are dependent on their young pitching and a boost from their offense, and that’s about Wright.

Q: What will be the rotation order?

A: With Harvey reportedly not starting until the seventh game of the season, I’m thinking Bartolo Colon will be the Opening Day starter followed by Zack Wheeler, then Jon Niese and Jacob deGrom. With an off day thrown in that should leave Harvey to start the April 13 home opener against Philadelphia.

Q: Will Dillon Gee be traded?

A: They’ve been trying to trade him all winter, but probably wanted too much. That’s usually the way it is with the Mets. Gee is the sixth starter, but they won’t go with a six-man rotation. They could use him in long relief or send him to the minors.

Q: How good is Wilmer Flores?

A: The one thing I don’t want to see is Flores losing his job with an off spring. He needs a legitimate opportunity, and that includes sticking with him even if he has a poor spring training. Manager Terry Collins has to convey confidence in his shortstop.

Q: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

A: That depends on the health of Bobby Parnell. As it is, he’s not expected back until a month into the season. That means Jenrry Mejia should be the closer coming out of spring training with Jeurys Familia the likely set-up reliever. The Mets will probably carry seven relievers, but how many will be left-handed?

Q: Will there be any additions?

A: The Mets’ biggest off-season acquisition was outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who’ll start in right field, with Granderson playing left. They also picked up John Mayberry for their bench. If everybody stays healthy, there is no reason to add anybody. Of course, at the end of spring training there is always a flood of available players who have been released.

Q: Who makes an impression?

A: Does Rafael Montero steal a spot? Will Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard leave a mark for later in the summer? Will Eric Campbell win a spot on the bench? For a team with six straight losing seasons, the Mets don’t have many issues with their starting position players. The main issues are with the bench and batting order.

Q: Any injuries?

A: This is always the wild card. Something could always happen, and if it does will the Mets have the depth to overcome? What must happen is for the Mets not to push the envelope with Harvey and Wright. It’s a long season.

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.