Feb 15

Terry Collins Leaning To Jon Niese As Opening Day Starter

New York Mets manager Terry Collins reiterated his thoughts Jonathon Niese would be his Opening Day starter, as well he should according to conventional baseball wisdom.

Despite Zack Wheeler’s desire for the ball, the honor should go to Niese, last year’s starter and whom Collins called “the ace of the staff,’’ in wake of Matt Harvey’s injury. If not Niese, then it should be Dillon Gee, the Mets’ most consistent starter last year and author of 199 innings.

NIESE: Opening Day starter?

NIESE: Opening Day starter?

Barring injury, accepted baseball thinking is why Niese should start. Niese is the most experienced of the Mets’ starters – of those growing up in the organization – and having been signed to a long-term contract, the most is expected of him.

Niese’s 8-8 2013 record is mediocre, but attributable in large part because of a shoulder injury. Veterans usually get preference if for no other reason as a reward.

Bartolo Colon is obviously the staff’s most experienced starter, but has no cache within the organization to warrant the start.

As for Wheeler, he might represent the Mets’ future, but with 17 career starts and seven wins, he has a while to go.

You have to admire Wheeler’s desire to want to have that role. It shows where he wants to be in his career.

“Last year I was coming in trying to win a spot,’’ Wheeler said earlier this week. “This year I’m trying to get the Opening Day spot. … It’s nothing on those guys, on the other starters, because anybody in the starting rotation could be the Opening Day starter. But that’s just my mindset coming in – to push myself to try to get the Opening Day spot.’’

Niese probably thinks the same. At least, let’s hope he does.

ON DECK: Bartolo Colon greets media.

Feb 13

Mets Have Numbers, But Also Questions In Rotation

New York Mets pitchers and catchers will report to Port St. Lucie on Feb. 15 with the first workout the following day. Manager Terry Collins knows his first four starters, but the fifth is up in the air. However, regardless of how the rotation shakes out, there’s not a pitcher among them without a significant question attached to his name:

Jonathon Niese: The speculated Opening Day starter is coming off a shoulder injury and 8-8 record in 2013.

Signed through 2017 primarily because he’s left-handed, young at 27 and throws hard. Those types are always in demand, but with a lifetime 43-40 record and 3.99 ERA, he’s not exactly a budding Andy Pettitte.

Niese has never won more than 13 games or made more than 30 starts in a season, bringing into question his durability.

The significant question: Will he ever have a breakout season?

Bartolo Colon: Once nabbed for PEDs, Colon is coming off a strong 18-6 season with a 2.65 ERA last year with Oakland and signed a two-year, $20-million contract with the Mets on the last day of the Winter Meetings.

He was brought in to fill the void caused by Matt Harvey’s elbow injury and provide veteran support.

Colon, 40, has won a career 189 games with a 1.314 WHIP. The Mets will be his eighth team.

The significant question: How much does he have left?

Zack Wheeler: Some scouts say he has more potential than Harvey. We shall see.

The Mets took their time in bringing up Wheeler, 23, and he flashed promise expected. The Mets tinkered with his mechanics after reports he tipped his pitches, then told him to throw more breaking balls, but Wheeler didn’t show anything until they told him to just work off his fastball.

Wheeler was 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts before he was shut down in September after complaining of stiffness in his shoulder.

The significant question: How much will he progress in his second year?

Dillon Gee: A 12-strikeout, 7.1-inning outing at Yankee Stadium, May 30, kept Gee in the rotation and he went on to go 12-11, but more importantly work 199 innings.

Gee doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but when his command is on he usually gives the Mets five or more innings as a reliable back-end starter.

Gee’s reliability and reasonable contract could make him attractive to other teams in July. Should Noah Syndergaard or Rafael Montero be promoted in June, it could give the Mets a valuable trade chip.

The significant question: Will Gee have another 199-inning season?

Jenrry Mejia: Up and down has been the story of Mejia’s short career. Mejia’s role bounced from being a starter to an ill-fated trip to the bullpen under Jerry Manuel that eventually ended in a demotion and elbow injury.

Mejia still throws hard and is back competing as a starter. He’s coming off surgery, but has the inside track for the fifth starter role if he’s sound.

The significant question: How healthy is he?

John Lannan: He’s 29, left-handed and comes with a reasonable contract.

The Mets signed him as Mejia insurance, but he has shown signs of becoming a solid starter. From 2008-2011, he started 31, 33, 25 and 33 games respectively for some pretty bad Washington teams, and three times worked at least 180 innings.

There’s promise here, and because of his age, he’s worth keeping.

The significant question: Will he get a chance to show his durability?

Daisuke Matsuzaka: Brought in as a stop-gap following the injury to Harvey and innings ceiling on Wheeler, Matsuzaka won his last three starts and went at least six innings each time.

That was good enough for Alderson to say last October he could come back. However, nothing was done until after January.

Matsuzaka, 33, turned his season around when he accelerated his delivery.

The significant question: Were those last three starts a fluke?

Summation: Barring injury, Niese, Wheeler, Colon and Gee are givens in the rotation. If Mejia falters and Lannan pitches well, expect Mejia to start the season in the minor leagues.

So, the Mets have a balanced rotation with at least one question for each starter.

(Note: Montero, Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom were omitted because they aren’t expected to be promoted before June. I will discuss them later this spring in a prospects segment).

Feb 04

Mets’ Projected Opening Day Roster

With football season out of the way. Actually, it was over a little after 7 Sunday night, it is time to project the Mets’ Opening Day roster. I am going against conventional wisdom in I am leaving Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares off the team.

ROTATION

Jon Niese: Manager Terry Collins already designated Niese the Opening Day starter. He’s the de facto No. 1 with Matt Harvey out, which means the Mets need more from him than 8-8.

Bartolo Colon: Veteran innings-eater signed to fill void left by Harvey’s injury.

Zack Wheeler: Big things are expected in his second year.

Dillon Gee: Threw 199 innings last year, making 200-plus the goal.

Jenrry Mejia or Daisuke Matsuzaka: Mets say Mejia progressing well from elbow surgery. If he’s not ready it will be Matsuzaka.

BULLPEN

Vic Black: Assuming Bobby Parnell is not ready, Black enters the season as the closer.

Scott Rice: After knocking on the door for 14 years he was a feel-good story last year. No doubts about him making roster this spring.

Kyle Farnsworth: Recent addition to provide veteran depth.

Carlos Torres: Can work in long relief, situational or as spot starter.

Gonzalez Germen: Very impressive last season. Throws hard.

Josh Edgin: The lefty presence.

Jeurys Familia: Has high ceiling.

CATCHER

Travis d’Arnaud: Had health issues last year, but healthy now. Goes in as the starter.

Anthony Recker: Provided power off the bench. Free-agent signing Taylor Teagarden is the veteran presence who’ll likely open the season in the minors.

INFIELD

Ike Davis: Here because the Mets couldn’t trade him. They have to keep him now to see if anything is left.

Daniel Murphy: Solid hitter but with limited power.

Ruben Tejada: Getting a second chance.

David Wright: Will he reach the .300-30-100 levels again?

Josh Satin: The right-handed platoon with Davis.

Wilmer Flores: Mets need to find him a position. I’m taking him over Lucas Duda because Duda and Davis are essentially the same player. Flores can also play first, third, second and could get a shortstop look.

Omar Quintanilla: Can play second and short.

OUTFIELD

Curtis Granderson: Mets’ biggest free-agent expenditure since Jason Bay. Hopefully, with better results.

Chris Young: Still wonder about this signing.

Eric Young: Team’s fastest player and best base stealer.

Matt den Dekker: Taking him over Juan Lagares because if the latter isn’t starting he should be in the minors getting consistent at-bats. Lagares stays if he starts.

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

Feb 01

Projecting Mets’ Rotation

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has already come out and said Jon Niese would be his Opening Day starter. No surprise there, as he was in that role last year.

Given that, here’s how I’d piece together the rest of the rotation and my reasoning.

NIESE: Opening Day starter.

NIESE: Opening Day starter.

Collins said Dillon Gee would be the alternative Opening Day starter, so logically he would go second in the rotation. However, I’d go with Bartolo Colon because of his experience and propensity for eating innings and save Gee’s innings for the back end.

Third, I’m thinking they’ll go with Zack Wheeler, but if he cracks the rotation, I’m wondering if they’ll instead slot in John Lannan to go with a left-right-left format.

Fourth would be innings eater Gee. This way I’m thinking there will be an even distribution of innings with the rotation.

Finally, the fifth starter will probably be Lannan because I don’t know how much stock Collins puts in my lefty-righty-lefty theory. If he does buy into it, then that could push Wheeler back to the fourth or fifth starter.

Probably not, but there are advantages to starting Wheeler fifth: 1) if there is an innings limit on him, fifth is where starts most get pushed back because of early-season off-days, which cuts the innings, and 2) theoretically there’s less pressure as the fifth starter.

So, if the Mets want to treat Wheeler with kid gloves, then fifth is where they have the best opportunity to do so.

Jan 30

What Would Define A Successful Season For The 2014 Mets

Some teams define a successful season by the pouring of champagne. The New York Mets are not one of them.

The Mets last tasted champagne in 2006, after beating the Dodgers in the NLCS. They last tasted the good stuff in 1986, and if a baseball hadn’t squirted between Bill Buckner’s legs, we’d have to back to 1969, the year man walked on the moon.

After five straight losing seasons, the Mets did enough adding this winter to warrant the thought this summer might be different.

It’s wishful thinking to think the Mets will play into October, but it isn’t premature to wonder what could define a successful season. After winning 74 games last year and finishing in third place, there’s room for improvement.

The Mets finished 22 games behind first-place Atlanta and 12 behind Washington, and it is unrealistic to believe they can make up those games.

However, it isn’t out of the question to think .500 can’t be reached. The additions of Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon – plus the anticipated improvement of Jon Niese, and dare I suggest, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada – should be worth at least one more victory a month.

With the baseball season six months long, that’s six more victories. If the Mets could squeeze out one more win, that puts them at 81-81.

That’s plausible.

So, what’s it going to take for that to happen?

For one thing, Niese must win more than eight games and Zack Wheeler must continue to progress. They also can’t afford a setback from Colon. The Mets also need improvement from their bullpen, which was more than spotty last year. That begins with Vic Black adequately replacing closer Bobby Parnell.

Offensively, David Wright needs to approach the .300, 30-homer and 100-RBI levels expected of him. Granderson won’t hit 40 homers in Citi Field, but at least 25 shouldn’t be out of the question.

It’s folly to predict what Davis might provide, but then again, any improvement would be welcome. As for Chris Young, considering what he’s done the past few years, he falls into the Davis category of “anything is better than nothing.’’

Of course, slumps and injuries can’t be forecast. However, if most expectations are reached, I’m thinking .500 is possible, with 85 reachable in the best-case scenario.

It could happen.