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 12

Harvey Weighs In On A-Rod. Yanks In His Future?

Future Yankees pitcher Matt Harvey, who grew up in Connecticut cheering for the team in the Bronx, weighed in on Alex Rodriguez’s return.

Harvey told the New York Post this week: “Obviously Alex wants to play, that’s good for him, good for baseball. If he is that dedicated and wants to come back then more power to him for going up to the organization like that, it shows a lot. It will be exciting to see what he can do.’’

Harvey’s affection for the Yankees is well known as is his strong desire of playing in New York. Although he said all the right things a few days ago, it can’t be forgotten about his sparring with Mets’ management about where he would do his rehab and wanting to pitch last year. And, it must remembered he won’t have to move he signed with the Yankees.

What Mets’ fan can forget Harvey being photographed at Yankee Stadium watching Derek Jeter? The Mets bit their tongue on that, but privately they weren’t happy, from the front office to the clubhouse. Perhaps they would have said something had Harvey worn a Yankees’ cap.

Harvey will be under Mets’ control through the 2018 season, but by that time could have gone through several arbitration processes, which can get be tension filled.

If the Mets continue to pinch their pennies until then, who can’t see him moving on, especially with his agent being Scott Boras?

We don’t know what the Mets’ financial landscape will look by then, or even if they’ll be a contender. However, this much we know, Boras usually takes his clients through the free-agent process looking for every last dollar. And, we also know the Yankees, unlike the Mets, aren’t afraid to spend and have the resources to live through a bad contract.

Sure, this is a few years down the road, but Boras operates with a multi-year calendar.

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’ Minor Leaguer Suspended

Mets’ minor league pitcher Tim Peterson was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for a metabolite of Trenbolone.

A 20th-round pick in 2012 from the University of Kentucky, the 23-year-old went a combined 5-2 with a 4.28 ERA in 33 games with Savannah, St. Lucie and Binghamton.

Peterson isn’t the first Mets’ minor leaguer to be suspended, which makes you wonder how much the franchise emphasizes PEDs on that level. The club says it does, but the onus is always on the player. For where he was drafted and his numbers, it isn’t inconceivable to think Peterson was in a panic over his career.

If he has to resort to cheating perhaps he doesn’t believe his chances are good.