Several things to look for in today’s Mets intrasquad game in Port St. Lucie. You don’t get answers in a game like this, but you can get a first impression or something to build on.
Here’s the players I am interested in and why:
Kirk Nieuwenhuis: Leading off for Team 1. Nieuwenhuis is getting the first chance to win the leadoff job, which is definite hole.
Jordany Valdespin: Playing second base for Team 1 and batting second. Valdespin is ticketed to open the season in the minors, but that could change on how well he plays second base and how Daniel Murphy recovers from a ribcage injury.
Andrew Brown: Playing left field for Team 1. He has a chance to stick as a reserve in the Mets’ undermanned outfield.
Wilmer Flores: A top prospect playing second base for Team 2. Opportunities often come out of injuries and if Murphy’s injury is worse than expected Flores might become an option. Even so, he should see major league time this summer.
Several days ago I gave you my idea for the Mets’ batting order and it included Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the leadoff hitter, so I was happy to read Adam Rubin’s story he will be given first chance to win that job.
Nieuwenhuis will be the leadoff hitter for Saturday’s exhibition game against Washington.
The Mets like Nieuwenhuis’ patience – he sees over four pitches an at-bat – and he had moderate success in the role last year hitting .264 with an on-base percentage of .303.
Both numbers need to be improved, but it must be remembered he did this in his first look at major league pitching.
Before their slide Nieuwenhuis played center and hit leadoff and Terry Collins remembered: “ … when we were playing really, really well, that guy was in center field. So he deserves the right to get the first shot.’’
Nieuwenhuis can steal the occasional base, but he’s not known as a steal threat. Steals can sometimes be overrated, but fundamental base running is always in vogue. Going first-to-third, realizing when a ball will go through, and running to avoid a double play are all critical components of good base running.
Do you realize the two highest paid Mets outfielders are players no longer with the team?
That’s right; Jason Bay and Bobby Bonilla will make more this year than the Mets’ current outfield of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, Collin Cowgill and Marlon Byrd.
BONILLA: Will be cashing Mets checks for a long time.
The Mets made both decisions to get out of bad situations and maintain cost certainty, but in this case it came back to bite them. The first thing a financial advisor tells you is previous success is not a guarantee of future success. The Mets didn’t consider that advice.
Add the $3 million buyout to what the Mets owed Bay (including interest) and it comes to $21 million, paid out in a lump sum and deferred payments over the next several years. The deal also made Bay a free agent and he signed with Seattle. That gave Bay the chance to collect from two teams. Nice deal for him.
The Mets liked the arrangement because the Bay signing was a bust and this freed money for GM Sandy Alderson.
As for Bonilla, the Mets wanted to release him prior to the 2000 season, but didn’t want to eat the $5.9 million on his contract. Instead, the Mets agreed to a 25-year, $29.8 million deferred plan that pays Bonilla nearly $1.2 million annually. Including his pension, income from the Players Association and whatever investments he owns, Bonilla has a great retirement package. Oh, I forgot, there’s also social security.
Maybe the Mets will find somebody who is released at the end of spring training, but for now the Mets are looking at platoons in center and right field.
Center will feature Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill, and right field has Marlon Byrd and Mike Baxter.
Former Cardinal and Rockie Andrew Brown will also get a chance to compete.
None of these candidates, if they played fulltime, could be expected to hit the 20 home runs Scott Hairston did last season.
Any outfield power will come from Lucas Duda. Manager Terry Collins said he’s strong enough to hit 40 homers, but he can’t be projected to hit that many, or even.
Let him hit 20 first.
Maybe it is me, but I don’t think I will ever understand Jordany Valdespin. At one time I wanted him to get a chance and wonder why he wasn’t. Now, it is clear. The guy’s elevator doesn’t go to the top and he ranks low on the charm and responsibility meters.
When asked by reporters today in Port St. Lucie to explain why his Twitter account had a photo of himself wearing a Marlins cap, he lamely said it was taken by his cousin who put up the picture.
“Things happen,” Valdespin said. “My cousin put that picture over here. I don’t have any information about that. When I see that picture, everything happened, and I said, ‘What the —-?’ But I had a big problem with my family about that. So that’s not my fault.’’
Yes, it is his fault. On two counts. One, for wearing the Marlins’ cap in the first place in public, and two, for giving a relative access to your social media account. Evidently, the photo was online long enough for people to notice.