Feb 21

Three Mets Players to Watch This Spring Training

COLLINS: Issues to address.

The Mets begin their first full squad workout in St. Lucie on Saturday, February 22 and for us fans there’s nothing better than watching the news filter out of the camp, knowing the first day of the season is getting ever so closer.

Spring training usually sets the benchmark for how a team will perform in the regular season. New additions show off their talent, last year’s rookies return with confidence, old-timers find ways to hang on and those recovering from injury face the uncertainty of testing out their bodies once more.

It’s a fascinating time for baseball fans, but also for those who set the MLB odds for each team and try to predict who will be the division and wild card winners. As rosters begin to take shape in the next six weeks, every team goes into Opening Day in a tie for first place. The tough part will be staying there.

For the Mets, their 2014 journey begins tomorrow. The Mets have many issues ranging from the muddled situation at first base and the yet to be contested battles for the fifth spot in the rotation and who will be the leadoff hitter. But there are three more things to watch for in spring training:

1. Bartolo Colon needs to deliver

Ever since our ace underwent Tommy John surgery late last year – ruling him out for the entirety of 2014 – many are betting and wondering who will replace the majestic Matt Harvey. All eyes will be on Bartolo Colon who was signed to a two year deal worth $20 million and has been the front office’s solution to replacing Harvey’s loss in the rotation. While we all keep our fingers crossed and hope for improved command from Zack Wheeler and the mid-season debut of the promising Noah Syndergaard, the Mets need to hit big it with Colon – Alderson’s highest paid pitcher in four years. They’ll also need to see Dillon Gee and Jon Niese look like the pitchers we saw in the second half of last season.

2. Travis d’Arnaud must step up

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fill of articles and features on framing pitches, and I’m looking forward to articles on D’Arnaud mashing pitches. TDA didn’t get his billing at top catching prospect for getting one or two extra strike call per nine innings. The rookie catcher played 31 games in the close of last season, but often showed how pressure can get to him. Yet despite his poor form that saw him finish 2013 batting .202, d’Arnaud has the capabilities to be a solid performer in the Mets roster and must prove himself in spring training. At 25-years old it’s time to show-off the offensive package we’ve been hearing about for the last four years.

3. Chris Young against RHP

I’m not worried about Curtis Granderson, we all know what he can do. But as long as Chris Young is being handed an everyday job after a season that saw him bat .200 with a .280 OBP – both lower than Juan Lagares – he’s the man under the microscope.  What scares me more about him – aside from Billy Beane casting him away and proclaiming him a platoon player – is his horrendous .225 career batting average against right handed pitching in 2,825 plate appearances. Is that sample size big enough for you? He has declined every year since 2010 except for his strikeout rate, that continues to climb. He’s pushing a promising prospect to the bench, he better pay us back in spades.

Oct 16

2013 Season Review: Dillon Gee

dillon gee

DILLON GEE, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS

Coming off surgery, the expectations were minimal because the Mets didn’t know what they were getting. The surgery was to repair an artery in his shoulder after experiencing numbness in his hand and fingers. As a “feel’’ pitcher, this type of injury was especially serious because it prevented him from getting a grip on his breaking balls and change-up, which were essential to his success. When healthy the book on Gee was is reliability as he pitched at least five innings in 17 starts in 2012, and 12 of those starts were defined as quality. However, like a lot of Mets’ pitchers there was a problem with run support, as he finished 6-7. His 97-29 strikeouts-to-walks ratio was good. If healthy, the Mets slotted him in as the No. 3 starter behind Matt Harvey and Jon Niese.

CAREER STATS

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2013 SEASON REVIEW

Gee said he felt good, but it was clear he didn’t have it in the beginning of the season as he was 2-6 with a 5.68 ERA in late May and there talk whether he was lose his job in the rotation when Zack Wheeler was to be promoted to the majors. Then it was as a switch was turned on as he gave up a run in 7.1 innings and struck out 12 in a victory at Yankee Stadium, May 30. All of a sudden, Gee’s change-up was working and Gee went on a roll where he worked into the seventh inning or later in 10 of his next 12 starts. When Harvey went down, Niese had a shoulder issue, and Wheeler was finding his way, Gee emerged as the Mets’ most reliable pitcher. Gee finished at with a 12-11 record with an impressive 3.62 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, and a 3-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Most importantly to Gee, he started 32 games and threw a career-high 199 innings.

LOOKING AT 2014

John Delcos Says: Gee thinks, and rightfully so, that he should throw 200 innings every year. With Harvey gone for the season, he and Niese are slotted 1-2 in the rotation, followed by Wheeler and as of now two question marks. Gee said his health issues are behind him, and the numbers substantiate that claim. Gee is not a power pitcher, but his fastball looks better when his change-up and breaking balls are working. Gee has won 13 games (2011) and 12 (last year), so with a little run support and improved bullpen it is conceivable he could be a 15-game winner. If he makes all his starts and throws 200 innings, then the wins should fall into place. Gee enters the 2014 season as a given in the rotation, and with it, higher expectations than he’s ever had.

Joe D. Says: I love the Dillon Gee story… He comes back from a career threatening blood clot that required arterial surgery and delivers a solid campaign in which he led the team in wins while posting a career best 3.64 ERA and 2.1 BB/9. He got off to a rusty start in April, but got progressively better as the season wore on and posted some of the best second half numbers in the National League with a 2.74 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and an opposing .280 on-base percentage.

Gee symbolizes what the Mets have been trying to do over the last several seasons and that is to throw strikes and command the zone. He shows that you don’t necessarily need a 98 mph fastball to succeed as long as you can spot your pitches and change speeds the way he does.

The Matt Harvey injury means his job is safe, although I wouldn’t be shocked to read a plethora of posts suggesting the Mets trade him. Gee is as close to a keeper as one could get, and with all the fireballers expected to pack this rotation by 2015, the Mets are going to need a pitcher like Gee who offers a different look that would only enhance his rotation-mates’ performances and confound opposing teams. Expect an even better season from Gee in 2014 who has lifted himself from number five starter to somewhere in the top three spots.

May 08

Mets-White Sox Lineups

Overcast at Citi Field. The grounds crew is raking the infield and a few pitchers are heading to the bullpen.    Terry Collins should be speaking in about a half hour. He’s already posted his batting order for tonight’s game against the White Sox.

Jordany Valdespin, CF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck,  C

Mike Baxter, RF

Ike Davis, 1B

Ruben Tejada, SS

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

 

Nov 01

2012 Mets Player Review: Toronto Imports Jon Rauch And Frank Francisco

FRANK FRANCISCO, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS:  The Mets thought they plugged two serious bullpen holes with the signings of Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, both of whom pitched effectively at times for Toronto in 2011. The two combined for 107 appearances, so the Mets knew they were getting some reliability. However, obviously overlooked by the Mets were the reasons why they weren’t brought back by the Blue Jays in the first place. Francisco walked 18 and gave up seven homers in 50.2 innings. And, he did it for $4 million. Rauch gave up 11 homers in 52 innings. In Rauch, the Mets had to deal with a pitcher who didn’t pitch after Sept. 2, 2011, with a knee injury. And, he did so at the bargain rate of $3.5 million. The Blue Jays decided they could get mediocre production for less. Meanwhile, the Mets decided to give Francisco and Rauch $5.5 million and $3.5 million, respectively.  For that kind of money, the Mets had a right to expect holes would be filled. With the Mets no longer sold on Bobby Parnell at the time, they envisioned Rauch in the set-up role and Francisco as the closer.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: It was hit and miss all season for both. Rauch got off to a good start going 3-0 with three holds and a 2.53 ERA in April, but was 0-4 with a 5.56 ERA in May. Rauch was strong in July and August, but was hammered in September, giving up four homers in nine innings. For the season, Rauch had a decent 1.22 WHIP, but also blew four saves and gave up seven homers. Francisco was strong at the start of the season when the Mets’ bullpen was decent, but struggled in the second half, went on the disabled list and ended the season with a strained side muscle watching Parnell close for much of September. Francisco saved 23 games, which any closer should get by accident. Francisco averaged 14.5 base runners per nine innings (10 hits and 4.5 walks), so he was always in trouble. A 5.53 ERA says the same thing.

LOOKING AT 2013: Francisco will be back simply because he is signed for $6.5 million. His is a contract the Mets would love to scuttle, but he’ll be back in the closer role. Rauch was erratic to the point where the Mets won’t be inclined to bring him back as they know they can get similar production for less money on the free-agent market.

NEXT: Josh Thole

Oct 31

2012 Mets Player Review: Bobby Parnell

BOBBY PARNELL, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Actually, considering his new role entering spring training, the expectations of Bobby Parnell – he of the fastball of 100 mph. – were minimal. Parnell could not seize the closer, set-up and even starter roles when given the opportunity in previous seasons, so the Mets dropped him to the seventh inning in the wake of signing Jon Rauch (set-up) and Frank Francisco (closer) from Toronto in the offseason. Parnell has exceptional stuff capable of three figures on his fastball, but hasn’t consistently commanded his secondary pitches or been able to challenge hitters with his location and pitch selection. In addition, that overpowering fastball often didn’t have movement and looked like it was on a tee. Anybody’s fastball can be hit if there’s no lateral or dip movement. So, knowing his inconsistencies, despite his potential, the Mets penciled Parnell in for the seventh inning role.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Parnell struggled early as five of eight inherited runners scored against him in April. However, Parnell righted himself and only four more out of 20 scored the rest of the season. When Rauch hit the skids and Francisco was injured and erratic, Parnell inherited their roles and was exceptional. Parnell was 1-1 with two holds and three saves (no blown saves) in September, and went 2-1 with a save in August. Parnell still had his fastball, but his sinker and command was much better as the season progressed. Parnell finished at 5-4 with a 2.49 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Parnell had streaks of wildness in the past, but last season walked only 20 in 68.2 innings pitched. He also struck out 61 and batters hit .249 off him with a .303 on-base percentage. The batting and on-base averages were career bests.

LOOKING AT 2013: Parnell made $504,000 last season, and should be offered arbitration for 2013. With Rauch not expected back and Francisco another year remaining on his contract to close, expect Parnell to be slotted into the eighth-inning set-up role, or close if Francisco isn’t physically able. The Mets have given up on Parnell as a potential starter and now figure him as their closer-of-the-future – again. It takes some pitchers longer than others to reach their potential and Parnell had been erratic since 2008 until the end of last season. The Mets’ bullpen unraveled late last year with the exception of Parnell and Manny Acosta late. I don’t know if Parnell will ever fulfill his long-range expectations, but for the first time in several years the Mets aren’t pulling their hair out over him. That has to be a plus, right?