Jul 19

Opening Day II For Mets Lays 2014 Foundation

Welcome to Opening Day II of the New York Mets.

This is the time last year when the great collapse began.  In early June in 2012 the Mets were eight games over .500, and seven games over heading into the last game of the first half, but were routed, 7-0, by the Cubs at home. They went on to lose 10 of 11 coming out of the break. The chance to upgrade was lost and the season spun out of control.

HARVEY: What's in store for second half? (AP)

HARVEY: What’s in store for second half? (AP)

That would be a valuable reminder for Terry Collins to tell his players. Nobody is thinking playoffs, but .500 is a reasonable and realistic goal. GM Sandy Alderson seems inclined to keep a pat hand to see if the Mets can sustain their recent play. Adding a bat would be helpful, if for no other reason, to demonstrate his confidence.

The Mets have had four straight losing seasons in which they finished in fourth place. The Mets open the second half 4.5 games behind third place Philadelphia and five behind second place Washington. Both are within reach.

If Matt Harvey can sustain and Zack Wheeler gains command of his fastball, improvement is possible. Yesterday, I asked several questions the Mets must answer in the positive if they are to lay the foundation for 2014.

“I don’t think there is any question about it,’’ manager Terry Collins said after the team won in Pittsburgh to close the first half. “We’ve been preaching, ‘Hey, it’s coming.’ We have to fix our minor leagues, we have to find some players, and they’ve done that.’’

The Mets have been surprised by Dillon Gee, Jeremy Hefner, Eric Young, Josh Satin and Omar Quintanilla. If these players have strong second halves, it could shorten GM Sandy Alderson’s shopping list.

We probably won’t see Rafael Montero in the second half, but maybe Jenrry Mejia can show he’s healthy and become a viable member of the bullpen. That would help that need.

Daniel Murphy has played well enough to warrant eliminating the need for a second baseman. Once and for all, they will not make a run at Robinson Cano. Not happening.

We’re not going to see Noah Syndergaard, but perhaps he can show he’s worthy of Triple-A next year.

The forecast wasn’t positive after the R.A. Dickey trade and coming out of spring training, but the Mets broke the gate at 7-4, then went on a long slide that had them bottom out at 15 games under .500. They are nine games under now, but it’s not totally gloomy.

“You have a star at third,’’ Collins said of David Wright “You have a star on the mound in Harvey and you have another one coming in Zack Wheeler. I plan on seeing a lot more games like the one [Wheeler] pitched the other night in San Francisco. The more confidence he gets, the better he is going to be.

“We’re not by any means happy where we are,’’ Collins said. “We know we have to get better.’’

Ironically, they have gotten better despite three major disappointments in what was to be their core. Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda have not come close to producing as expected. Davis is now in a platoon with Satin, Tejada is in Triple-A, and Duda is on the disabled list and they shouldn’t even be thinking about cutting into Young’s playing time.

Answers to those three players, and the center field platoon of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, are something Alderson wants to get. Plus, there’s the question of Jon Niese’s shoulder, whether the bullpen will continue to improve and if Marlon Byrd is worthy of an extension.

Not all of things will be answered in the positive. It rarely happens that way. But, if enough are getting out of fourth and a winning season are possibly, and that’s something few of us could have predicted.

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

Jul 03

A No-Hitter Watch Always On With Matt Harvey

ESPN’s Mark Simon wrote an interesting piece on what it would take for Matt Harvey to throw a no-hitter tonight for the New York Mets. I can narrow it down for you: Be on his game and be lucky.

Nobody can predict a no-hitter, but Simon is on the right track in that Harvey is one of those pitchers you can’t help but watch because of the possibility. If you want to turn away from a Harvey start – and why would you? – just wait until the first hit because you never know.

Harvey has already had three no-hit bids through six innings this season, and lost a fourth into the fifth inning.

You can’t help but think it will happen eventually, but then again there have been plenty of overpowering pitchers who never threw a no-hitter, and some non-descript arms that made history. It is such a fickle achievement, and to think Johnny Vander Meer did it in consecutive starts.

One thing to consider when Harvey starts is his pitch count. He regularly tops 100 because he’s a high-strikeout pitcher, and after Johan Santana’s 134-pitch no-hitter last year Terry Collins won’t let him get close to that number.

METS MUSINGS: While Harvey remains a workhorse, Shaun Marcum’s durability is again an issue. Marcum opened the season on the disabled list and his start Saturday in Milwaukee is in doubt because of pain and/or stiffness in his upper back. Marcum underwent a MRI Tuesday. Carlos Torres could get the ball if the 1-9 Marcum can’t go. … Jon Niese will be re-examined this week and it could be determined then if he will need season-ending surgery on his shoulder to repair a rotator cuff tear. … It has taken him until July, but Collins is finally hinting Anthony Recker might get more playing time now that John Buck is in a dreadful slump. … LaTroy Hawkins hasn’t given up an earned run in 13 appearances. … Ike Davis is hitting .268 with six homers for Triple-A Las Vegas. He was 0-for-5 Monday night. Collins said the reports he’s getting on Davis are encouraging in that his hitch isn’t as pronounced and he’s going more to the opposite field. However, Collins gave no timetable for his return. With Josh Satin doing so well and the All-Star break approaching, it might be a prudent idea to keep him in the minors until the second half. … Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero are expected to start against each other in the Futures Game.

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

Jul 01

What Will Mets Look Like At The End Of The Month?

Welcome to July 1, which for followers of the New York Mets is the month we find out just how much they want to blow this team apart. The New York Post already reported the Mets won’t add a significant piece, such as Carlos Gonzalez, at the trade deadline.

But, you already knew that, right?

A step forward would be trying to make a run at finishing .500, but we’re not likely to see that commitment. As of now Sandy Alderson hasn’t shown us he’s will to take that leap.

PARNELL: Key trade piece.

PARNELL: Key trade piece.

The names are out there of whom the Mets might deal for draft picks and prospects: Bobby Parnell, Marlon Byrd, Daniel Murphy, Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee. They would undoubtedly draw interest from a contender as each fills a need.

Trouble is, as the Mets move forward which they claim is the direction they heading, they are the kind of players they will eventually need, also. They aren’t core players, but essential in the building process. Trade them now, and you’ll need to get similar players later.

Of course, that takes more time. Dealing them tells you the Mets are blowing up what they have now and are taking a step back. It basically tells you there will be another two or three years of wasted Matt Harvey starts.

Then, there are the key prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, the kind of young talent that could procure a Gonzalez. If the Mets deal them, they are telling us they are ready to contend now. However, if they do that they’ll  need guys such as Hefner and Parnell and Byrd.

Trouble is, the Mets are in no-man’s land. They aren’t good enough to contend now, and we really don’t know just how long it will take until they are able to contend on any level. We have no idea of what this team will look like at the end of the month.

What we do know in the building of a franchise, as they are in Pittsburgh, is go with young pitching and a young star like Andrew McCutchen. The Mets appear to have the young pitching, despite their inclination to force-feed Zack Wheeler, but their young star, David Wright, is no longer a young star.

They need a centerpiece bat like a McCutchen or a Gonzalez, but their chips are Syndergaard and Montero. Alderson has to determine if they add Gonzalez, then what other pieces do they need?

The Mets have failed miserably in their development of young hitters. There’s Wilmer Flores, but the Mets don’t have any idea where they want to play him, or the inclination of seeing if he can hit on this level. It is puzzling as to why the Mets haven’t determined where Flores fits best and just play him at that position. Have they even considered trying him at first base and seeing what they could get for Ike Davis? With Davis possibly not being tendered this winter, he’s the one guy to deal.

The player with the most upside to trade is Parnell, but if they trade for a centerpiece bat and enter contender status, won’t they need a closer?

No, they aren’t a dime a dozen. It has taken Parnell several years to become a closer, and he’s still learning. Trade him and you’d be wasting even more Harvey starts.

If they Mets don’t want to surrender their young pitching, their only chance to emulate the Pirates is to overpay for a proven bat this winter. With Johan Santana’s money coming off the books, they must spend it there, and not on replacing the holes left by trading Parnell or Byrd or Gee.

You can see where this is heading. They’ll probably deal off a few parts whose contract will expire after this season, like Byrd and Davis. Then they’ll deem themselves not ready to spend, or what is out there isn’t good enough, and not add anybody.

They will continue to spin their wheels.

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

Jun 19

Mets Should Enjoy Harvey And Wheeler For Now; Let Future Take Care Of Itself

Nobody can say with any certainty how the careers of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler will unfold. We’ve been bombarded with the comparisons to Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden for both.

Hell, Gooden even tweeted late last night about their future. Imagine how Twitter might have blown up if it was around when he played?

WHEELER: Enjoy him now. (AP)

WHEELER: Enjoy him now. (AP)

Will they live up to the expectations and follow Seaver into stardom, or they flame out as Gooden did?

Harvey was dominatingly spectacular in winning for the first time in over a month to break a long string of no-decisions. Wheeler, as anticipated, had control problems, but pitched out of three significant jams in six scoreless innings.

Since the trade of Carlos Beltran for Wheeler, the Mets have promised a bright future built on pitching. Throw in Jon Niese, and with Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero in the minors, and it didn’t have the feel the Mets selling us a bill of goods.

We got that feeling by watching their inaction at the trade deadline and in the free-agent market.

The Mets gave us reason to believe things might be improving with a 7-4 start and after beating the Yankees four straight. This morning, following Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ game-winning homer Sunday with Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep and there’s that rise in optimism again.

The starting pitching, with Johan Santana gone and the back end of the rotation horrid early in the season, has been remarkably good the past month. The bullpen, defense and especially the hitting have dragged them down.

Yes, the game is about pitching, but a team still needs to score some runs. The Mets finally did that yesterday, and they did it in a place, and against a rotation, that has made their lives miserable over the years.

It would be easy to get carried away about yesterday and say the Mets have turned the corner. But, we can’t go there because they have quickly faded and disappointed before.

In the big picture, we don’t know what will happen with Harvey and Wheeler. But, let’s not even think of it.

Let’s just enjoy them now and watch their journey.

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

Apr 06

When Can We Expect To See Rafael Montero Make Mets Debut?

MiLB: JUL 12 - St. Lucie Mets at Tampa Yankees DBL Header (Game 2)

Tommy K. asks…

When do you think we’ll see Rafael Montero in Citi Field?

Joe D. replies…

Good question. The organization is very high on Montero and not too many 22-year old pitching prospects from A-Ball get invited to spring training and stick around as long as he did.

Montero needs a little work mechanically and was already working on a few things at the minor league side of camp before he was assigned to Binghamton and debuted with a dominating performance. His fastball sat at the 92-93 mph range last season, but he picked up some velocity and is now predominantly at 93-94 and can hit 95. Most likely because he’s bulked up a bit over the winter.

I would expect Montero to get bumped to Vegas once the Mets decide to promote Zack Wheeler to the majors. However, Wheeler had a rough first start on Thursday. He continues to struggle with command and his pitch count (86 pitches, 51 strikes, 3 1/3 innings) was alarming to say the least. He clearly isn’t ready just yet and needs to improve in a few areas before the Mets even consider the thought of bringing him up.

That said, Montero can still make his way to Triple-A with more performances like this past one (5.2 innings, 2 H, 0 BB, 8 K) regardless of Wheeler’s fate. I don’t think it’s out of the question to see Montero promoted to Vegas by mid-May, and he’ll certainly get a call-up in September this season if not sooner.

The domino effect to Montero getting bumped would mean a promotion to Double-A for Jake deGrom or possibly even Noah Syndergaard if he’s outperforming deGrom. One of them will be in Bingo by Memorial Day at the latest.

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