Feb 16

Five Mets On The Hot Seat

We’re still a long way from Jonathon Niese’s first pitch of the 2014 season against Washington, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t already some New York Mets on the hot seat, broiling under the glare of expectations.

Every spring in every camp there are several players on a short-patience rope and the Mets are no exception. In my mind, there are five facing a make-or-break season, beginning with Niese:

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

Jonathon Niese: Will it ever happen for him? He was signed to a multi-year extension because he was young, left-handed and could throw hard. However, he’s never won more than 13 games in a season and has sustained a myriad of injuries, including shoulder problems last season. At 29, there’s still time, but could one of the young prospects prompt the Mets to shop him?

Ike Davis: No Mets “question list,’’ doesn’t have his name. It is last-chance time for the former hot prospect. After 32 homers in 2012, that’s the plateau the club is seeking. The Mets would take less, say 25, if his RBI production and on-base percentage were high and his strikeouts substantially cut. He either hits this year or he’s gone.

Ruben Tejada: The Mets toyed with signing Stephen Drew, but were sold on the potential of the younger and cheaper Tejada after his commitment at a Michigan fitness camp. The Mets are pointing to 2015 and Matt Harvey’s return to when they can realistically contend, and they won’t be able to do that with a hole at shortstop.

Curtis Granderson: Signed a four-year deal for big money in the hope of providing power in the outfield. I have two words: Jason Bay. Fans are smart enough to realize he won’t hit for the power he did at Yankee Stadium, but they won’t accept Bay-like numbers. Granderson represents the Mets’ promise  to improve and needs to live up to those expectations.

Chris Young: He’s probably gone after this season, but he’ll start the year with a bulls-eye on his back. With his recent numbers it is incomprehensible for him to get a $7.25 million contract. He must produce for his own peace of mind in shutting up the boos.

May 20

Mets Must Develop Consistency In Batting Order

Constructing a major league batting order is a tricky enough task for a manager in the best of times, let alone with the limited and non-productive options in front of Terry Collins.

It was good to see Daniel Murphy back at leadoff Monday against Cincinnati, but somewhat surprised at first to see Rick Ankiel at second. Then again, Murphy won’t be doing a lot of stealing, so there’s not much of a need for him to work the count.

Then again, working the count might not be such a bad idea if it helps Ankiel get a better pitch and cuts down on his strikeouts. You also have to wonder if having a hot David Wright behind him will have pitchers challenge him by throwing more fastballs inside the zone, which theoretically is the theory of hitters protecting each other in the batting order.

Murphy is on a 14-for-28 tear over his last seven games and Ankiel has two homers since the Mets picked him up last week, so there’s life at the top of the order. Wright has also been swinging a hot bat.

Moving Lucas Duda to cleanup and dropping Ike Davis to sixth seems the best option, although I would drop Davis lower – to Triple-A Las Vegas. But, if he stays, let him stick at seventh. Sixth can be a RBI spot in the order, so why keep Davis there when he’s not producing? Until Davis shows he can produce, and he erroneously has said he needs to hit on this level and not in the minor leagues.

What Davis doesn’t get is this isn’t about the majors vs. the minors, but for him addressing his mechanics and approach. Staying in the majors won’t shake him of his bad habits and approach. That will take diligent work in the minors.

Assuming a full season for Ankiel, from him at second, and including Wright, Duda, Marlon Byrd, Davis and John Buck, the Mets have six straight hitters on pace for over 100 strikeouts. Five Mets who normally start are hitting lower than .240. Overall, the Mets have scored three or fewer runs in 10 of their last 13 games and 15 of their last 22.

In spring training Collins said he wanted consistency in the batting order, but realistically hasn’t had many options. One thing he could do is keep Ruben Tejada eighth, which is prudent considering his .219 average.

Collins has waffled before, but if there’s no replacement for Davis – and general manager Sandy Alderson said that is not imminent – here’s hoping he sticks with this indefinitely.There might be minor tweaking depending on specific match-ups and working others into the lineup, but overall hopefully nothing dramatic.

Look at it this way, there’s nothing working with all the juggling. The Mets have used seven different hitters batting leadoff, fifth and eighth; eight number six hitters; and 11 at seventh.

There’s nothing stable there, and that must change.

As usual, your comments are always welcome and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos