Jan 31

Looking At Mets’ Leadoff Hitter And Batting Order

As of now, New York Mets manager Terry Collins prefers outfielder Eric Young as his leadoff hitter, but telling ESPN nothing is etched in stone.

It never is this time of year.

ERIC YOUNG: First leadoff choice.

ERIC YOUNG: First leadoff choice.

If Young hits leadoff, and Chris Young – he of the $7.25 million contract – plays center and Granderson in right, the odd man out is Juan Lagares, arguably the Mets’ best defensive outfielder.

While Lagares prominently displayed his defensive abilities in center last season, he still has a lot to learn as a major league hitter, in particular learning the strike zone, being patient and going to the opposite field. Lagares’ 96 strikeouts with 20 at-bats and .281 on-base percentage in 421 plate appearances screams he’s not leadoff material.

Those numbers don’t fly anywhere in the order and he’s better off getting at-bats to learn those things on the minor league level rather than sitting on the bench in the majors. The Mets haven’t made that decision, but that would be the smart move.

Eric Young’s speed is a definite plus – he stole 38 bases last season – but his career .325 on-base percentage needs improvement. His 67-35 strikeouts-to-walks ratio last year is not acceptable for a leadoff hitter.

The Mets were 14th out of 15 teams in the National League in on-base percentage from the leadoff spot, so clearly improvement is needed. Young assumed the leadoff role in midseason after the Mets tried nine other options. NINE.

The non-productive nine were: Jordany Valdespin (16 games), Ruben Tejada (15), Collin Cowgill (nine), Mike Baxter (eight), Daniel Murphy and Omar Quintanilla (seven), Lagares (six), Justin Turner (three) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (one).

Valdespin, Cowgill, Baxter and Turner are out of the organization; Nieuwenhuis has fallen out of favor because of his propensity for striking out.

Tejada, Murphy and Quintanilla will make the Opening Day roster.

Collins indicated at the winter meetings if Tejada played to his potential he has the necessary skills to hit leadoff, but he’s still a project.

Assuming Eric Young hits leadoff, here’s the projected batting order for the Mets:

Eric Young: Is the Mets’ fastest player and their best base stealer.

Daniel Murphy: Has the patience and bat control to protect Young.

David Wright: The best hitter on a team, the best combination of power and average hits third. Wright has been his best hitting in front of an established power threat, whether it was Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado or Marlon Byrd.

Curtis Granderson: Theoretically, Granderson’s power potential should give Wright better pitches.

Chris Young: Will bat fifth to separate lefty hitters Granderson and Ike Davis.

Ike Davis: I am assuming Davis will make the team. Having him hit sixth should minimize the pressure on him.

Travis d’Arnaud: Showed little offensive presence last season. He’s no threat so pitchers might work around Davis, which, if nothing else, might help the struggling first baseman learn patience.

Ruben Tejada: At one time this guy hit .289. If he can reach that level again he could hit leadoff if Eric Young doesn’t pan out. Also, if he hits that clears the pitcher’s spot in the order and sets up the next inning.

But, that’s for now.

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Jan 21

Lucas Duda Back In The Outfield Not A Good Idea

Most ideas born out of desperation don’t usually pan out, such as the New York Mets’ decision to play Lucas Duda in left field last season. The year before it was right field, which was a greater disaster.

Duda in the outfield this year makes even less sense, as general manager Sandy Alderson told ESPN was possible. Alderson said a decision would be made shortly prior to spring training on if Duda would play in the outfield, and how much time he would receive.

DUDA: Outfield not a good idea.

DUDA: Outfield not a good idea.

Sending Duda back to the outfield became a possibility with the Mets’ inability to trade Ike Davis, thereby creating the potential both could be on the Opening Day roster.

While not great, the Mets’ outfield without Duda is better than they had last year with Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Eric Young and Juan Lagares.

Should Duda become the starting left fielder, Granderson would play right and Chris Young, because of his $7.25 million contract would play center.

That scenario would keep Eric Young’s speed on the bench and decrease Lagares’ playing time. Even should Duda come off the bench as a pinch-hitter, his presence limits their playing time and deprives the Mets of another roster spot.

So this leaves the Mets to choose between Duda’s powers potential, Eric Young’s speed and Lagares’ development.

What having Duda on the 25-man roster, and playing him in the outfield, does more than anything is call into question the sense of signing Chris Young as one less outfielder would make this more practical.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 17

Four Mets Settle To Avoid Arbitration

Four more Mets avoided the arbitration process and settled their contracts for the 2014 season. Daniel Murphy, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell and Eric Young all agreed to terms. Still unsigned is Lucas Duda.

Murphy, who hit .286 with 13 homers and 78 RBI, settled on a contract for $5.7 million, a substantial raise from the $2.95 million. Murphy will be arbitration eligible after this year and will become a free agent following the 2015 season.

Gee, who made just over $527-thousand last year, settled on $3.625 million after winning 13 games and working 199 innings.

Gee submitted a proposal for $4.05 million to which the Mets countered at $3.2 million.

Parnell, who is recovering from neck surgery, will earn $3.7 million this year, up from $1.7 million.

Finally, outfielder Eric Young, agreed to a $1.85 million contract.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 04

Mets Should Have Short Leash With Chris Young

One of the more interesting questions leading into spring training is how long a leash should the New York Mets give outfielder Chris Young. Of course, even more perplexing is why they signed him in the first place.

YOUNG: Strikeout machine.

YOUNG: Strikeout machine.

I’m not on board with manager Terry Collins’ proclamation he believes Young is the Met most poised for a surprise season. Considering his recent numbers, hitting .225 would be a surprise, but that’s not what Collins had in mind.

The problem is the Mets will pay this guy $7 million, which means he’ll play. However, him in the lineup is an obstacle for Juan Lagares, Matt den Dekker, Eric Young and any other outfield prospect.

After wishing – remember, wishing is not a plan – for big years from Oliver Perez, Jason Bay, Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and dozens of others, the Mets have been burned many times. Young’s track record includes 32 homers seven years ago, but also averages 148 strikeouts per 162 games throughout his career.

He also has a career .235 average with a.315 on-base percentage, which certainly gets me amped. Young clearly is a high-priced gamble, but not one I’d give a lot of patience to.

My hope is he gets off to a fast start which would enable the Mets a chance to deal him. Other than that, if he gets off to a miserable start, in a rebuilding year I wouldn’t waste a lot of time. I’d cut my losses and see what others can do.

I still don’t know what Sandy Alderson had in mind when he signed Young.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 02

Mets’ Top Questions Heading Into Spring Training

With the forecast for up to ten inches tonight and temperatures possibly getting down to five degrees, what better time to think about the New York Mets, if for no other reason, to wonder about spring training?

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

Let’s face it, neither one of New York’s basketball teams is worth thinking or talking about. Those seasons are all but over.

But, spring training? The thought of Florida, and the drive from the airport in West Palm to Port St. Lucie gets the juices flowing.

The Mets say they aren’t finished this winter, but it appears they’ve completed their heavy lifting. Here’s what I consider the top half-dozen issues facing the Mets:

1) Who will be the fifth starter?

A: As of now Jenrry Mejia seems to have the inside track after undergoing elbow surgery. Mejia pitched well at times last season, but the organization suggested his ultimate role is to be determined. Despite the presence of Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard in the minor leagues, neither promotion is imminent and the Mets will need a fifth to round out the rotation. If he’s physically ready, Mejia needs the ball. Who knows, he could even prove be a valuable trade chip.

2) Who plays first base?

A: At this rate, Ike Davis will be on the spring training roster. Milwaukee is supposedly their best trading partner, but the Brewers don’t appear in any rush to deal. Perhaps, they are waiting for the Mets’ asking price to fall. Perhaps, they are waiting for the Mets to release him outright. That might not happen as the Mets could be thinking of the July 31 trade deadline. The Mets appear to favor Lucas Duda at first base, and keeping Davis around could prove a distraction. If Davis isn’t going to play, do everybody a favor and let him go.

3) Will Bobby Parnell be the closer?

A: The Mets say they don’t know if Parnell, who is recovering neck surgery, will be ready. If not, Vic Black will get the ball in the ninth inning. Slowly, the Mets have added pieces to their bullpen. There’s always an arm or two that will emerge in spring training. The Mets recently added Ryan Reid, 28, from Pittsburgh. Reid throws in the low 90s and last year was 7-2 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.197 WHIP with Triple A Indianapolis. There could be room for him.

4) What is to become of Travis d’Arnaud?

A: He goes in as the starter, but he didn’t hit enough in his opportunity to warrant the job. Manager Terry Collins said he has faith in Anthony Recker as a reserve, but held back on expressing confidence as a starter. The Mets are more likely to grab a veteran catcher off the waiver wire in spring training rather than make a deal.

5) Who is the leadoff hitter?

A: That remains open, but Eric Young could retain his role if he starts in left field. It is apparent the Mets won’t trade Daniel Murphy and move Young to second base. This could change if Juan Lagares has a strong spring training at leadoff. The Mets have made no promises regarding Lagares, but this much should be obvious: Lagares is better off getting at-bats and playing time in the minor leagues rather than sitting the bench in the majors. To say Lagares has proven all he can in the minors is erroneous thinking. Lagares is far from a being a proven major league hitter, especially considering his propensity for striking out.

6) How much patience will the Mets give Ruben Tejada?

A: There’s nothing imminent in the trade market for shortstop and signing Stephen Drew wouldn’t be a good move. Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t close enough to contender status to warrant signing the veteran the Red Sox didn’t bring back.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos