Jul 29

Could Juan Lagares And Eric Young Be A Viable One-Two?

As the enthusiasm for a strong finish by the New York Mets might have fizzled in Washington, a bright spot continues to be Juan Lagares, raising the possibility of a speedy tandem at the top of the order with Eric Young.

Of course, he needs to show more offensively, but that part of his game is improving and the power might develop as he gets stronger and learns the pitchers better. It must be remembered development also includes adjusting to the pitching when it adjusts to him.

LAGARES: Catch of the year?

LAGARES: Catch of the year?

Lagares’ opportunity came from the collective ineptness of the Mets’ outfield. Currently, he and Young are the only outfielders that could be considered starters heading into spring training.

Lucas Duda might end up at first if he’s still on the team; Marlon Byrd might not be re-signed; Kirk Nieuwenhuis has his moments, but they are sparse.

Lagares is outstanding defensively, and his diving catch where he lost the ball and re-caught it might be one of the best of the season by an outfielder.

The objectives over the next two months for Lagares and Young are to show GM Sandy Alderson his outfield needs aren’t so severe.

Lagares’ average is slowly rising, but his 47-to-7 strikeouts-to-walks ratio must close, and if it does his .299 on-base percentage and .699 OPS would rise. His number projected over 162 games would be 121 strikeouts, 18 walks and 39 doubles.

The number that stands out most with Lagares are 15 doubles in 175 at-bats. Give him 600 at-bats and he would be pushing 45 doubles. If his strikeouts and walk numbers improved, the Mets would have themselves a solid center fielder.

Meanwhile, despite cooling since his hot debut, Young is still a catalyst at the top of the order with a .275 average and .357 on-base percentage in 138 at-bats.

Since the rest of the season is for finding answers, I would like to see if Young and Lagares can complement each other at the top of the order. What is currently preventing that is Daniel Murphy’s ability to work the count and protect Young as a base stealer.

Should Lagares develop in that area, it might be intriguing, and could allow for Murphy to be lowered in the order to give him more favorable RBI opportunities.

That would be important to know if the Mets don’t bring back Byrd, which I see as unlikely. I figure, as with Scott Hairston after last season, the Mets won’t give the player two years.

Jul 14

Mets To End First Half Standing Pat

The first half of the season for the New York Mets, despite losing their last two games in Pittsburgh, ends today on the plus side with comments from GM Sandy Alderson his intent to keep Bobby Parnell and Marlon Byrd.

Alderson said not to expect a second-half makeover. It would easy to trade either, but doing so would create further holes. Doing so would be taking a step in reverse.

BYRD: Looks like he's staying.

BYRD: Looks like he’s staying.

Regarding Byrd, Alderson told Newsday: “We’re not looking to move Marlon. Obviously, we have our eye on the future, but we want to be as good as we can be this year as well. Now, if what we can get for the future exceeds the value of the present, we’d have to look at that. But we’re not anxious to do it.’’

The Mets entered spring training needing an outfielder, and Byrd has produced 15 homers while playing strong defense. Nobody would be saying anything if he were ten years younger, but production is production, and they are getting it from Byrd. They are also getting a sense of professionalism.

Maybe Byrd will ask for two years in the offseason as Scott Hairston did and the Mets will let him walk. But for now, they aren’t going to do much better.

As far as Parnell, if the Mets are to compete next season as they anticipate, they will need a closer who is an economic bargain. That would be Parnell, who after several stumbles, is finally grasping the brass ring.

“We’ve been looking for a closer for two years. Looks like we’ve found one,’’ Alderson said. “Why would we want to give him away immediately? This is not a guy we’re looking to move, either.’’

If the Mets are blown away with offers for either, they should look at them. But, they shouldn’t trade just because somebody called their phone.

The statement the Mets are making is to see how good they can be this season, so they’ll have a clearer picture of their off-season decisions. Trading what commodities they already have will be taking a step back. And, the Mets have made enough of those in recent seasons.

After Saturday’s loss, the Mets optioned Jordany Valdespin, who was on a 2-for-36 slide, to the minor leagues. With Kirk Nieuwenhuis playing well, and before him, Juan Lagares, plus Byrd and the acquisition of Eric Young, there was less playing time for Valdespin after his failed audition at second base.

The Mets were never enamored with Valdespin to begin with, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we never saw him again. I would suggest trading him, but Valdespin’s value is clearly diminished.

The Mets end the first half excited about Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, and before long could have two other young pitchers in their short-term plans as prospects Rafael Montero (World Team) and Noah Syndergaard (Team USA) will start in today’s Futures Game at Citi Field. We could see Montero before the season is over.

In addition, 2011 first-round pick infielder Brandon Nimmo is on the Team USA roster.

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

Jun 20

Mets Should Trade Shaun Marcum; Others Also Available

Seriously now, these are the New York Mets. Did anybody really expect the euphoria of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler to include Shaun Marcum?

Marcum is now 0-9 after Wednesday night and it seems ludicrous to keep him in the rotation, especially when Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner have pitched well.

MARCUM: After giving up homer last night. (AP)

MARCUM: After giving up homer last night. (AP)

Two strong relief outings suggest he could survive in that role, but is that the best option for the Mets? Marcum is giving the Mets around five innings a start and his strikeout totals have been decent. Most importantly, his neck and back issues seem to be over.

Marcum’s value to the Mets isn’t as a fifth, or sixth, starter, but as a trade chip to a contender. Much of his record can be passed off as from a lack of support, and with a reasonable $4 million salary – to any contender – the time is right to try to move him now.

He has some value in the trade market, but it won’t be any higher than it is now. Maybe they can get a mid-level prospect for him, which is better than the alternative of getting nothing when he leaves after the season.

Perhaps they can get more if they package him in a trade with others. Let’s see, whom else can the Mets trade?

John Buck:  Initially, he could have been had if Travis d’Arnaud hadn’t been injured. Buck has a connection with the young pitchers that is valuable and nobody can say with any certainty when d’Arnaud will be healthy, and how well he could play when he does. KEEP HIM.

Ike Davis: Is having a miserable year, but there’s always a team that believes he can be fixed with a change of scenery. The Mets are paying him over $3 million to strike out. As with Mike Pelfrey, they can opt to non-tender him and he’d walk and they’d get nothing. DEAL HIM.

Daniel Murphy: One of the few Mets who is hitting. I have this feeling the Mets believe they could do better. Prospect Wilmer Flores will have to play eventually. Murphy would have value to a contender as a second baseman, DH and first baseman. DEAL HIM.

Omar Quintanilla: Trouble is, if they deal him who would play shortstop with Ruben Tejada injured? Does it matter? They’ll find somebody, and if nothing else, could give time to a younger player. Question: Where does he fit into their future plans? Right. DEAL HIM.

Lucas Duda: Playing first now, where he’s more comfortable than left field. If they can move Davis, Duda could move over for the long haul. Isn’t the real decision here, Duda or Davis? KEEP HIM.

Marlon Byrd: One of the few Mets who is hitting, and is showing power. He’s like Scott Hairston was last year. Mets held onto Hairston and got nothing. Will they give Byrd more than a year this winter? Not likely. They can get something for him. DEAL HIM.

Jordany Valdespin: Didn’t grasp opportunity to be a starter at second base. Mets aren’t crazy about him and hard to envision him in their future. DEAL HIM.

LaTroy Hawkins: Veteran relievers are always in demand by contenders. He’s not coming back. DEAL HIM.

Justin Turner: On DL now but is a versatile infielder that does not give away at-bats. Could fill a need. DEAL HIM.

Some of the above, I’d like to keep, but you have to be realistic. If they can’t be projected to be in the organization beyond this season, why not see what they can get? The Mets aren’t going anywhere, so they might as well start preparing for 2014.

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

May 06

Amazin’ Moments: Eric Valent Hits For The Cycle

Contributed by Gerry Silverman of MetsMerizedOnline.com

Hitting for the cycle has always been one of the more singular batting feats in baseball. It is a relatively rare occurrence but not one that guarantees anything in particular for the team of the player who achieves one beyond a mention on the sports page. Granted, it involves getting four hits (a good thing) with three being for extra bases (a very good thing), but from a pure baseball perspective one could propose that if a batter had four singles in a game, he might well provide a greater benefit to his team than a cycle would, provided those singles occur with runners in scoring position.

In other words, a cycle is a feat we regard with admiration primarily because it is COOL. It is so COOL that it even has a more refined version, the so-called “natural” cycle (single, double, triple, home run in order). This unique quality allows a cycle to actually transcend the game itself, remaining COOL even if your team loses the game in which it occurs, kind of like a consolation prize.

At this point in baseball history, only two teams remain cycle-less: the San Diego Padres (who also hold the distinction of being the only franchise not to have recorded a no-hitter) and the Miami Marlins whose relative youth as a franchise functions as something of an excuse. By way of contrast, the Red Sox have pulled off the feat an impressive twenty times.

eric valentSeven Mets had achieved the cycle prior to the day in July, 2004 when Eric Valent got one of his infrequent starts, spelling regular left fielder Cliff Floyd in a game against the Montreal Expos. Valent was a 27 year-old outfielder/first baseman who had been a late first round draft pick by the Phillies in 1998. After a couple of uneventful cups of coffee with the Phils, he was dealt to the Reds for catcher and future Met Kelly Stinnett in August of 2003. That winter, he was left off the Reds’ 40 man roster and was selected by the Mets in the Rule 5 Draft.

The Mets timing was fortuitous, as Valent was about to turn 27, the apparent “magic” age for certain players when whatever baseball skills they possess coalesce long enough to produce some evidence to support their place on a major league team. The 2004 season would mark Eric’s high water mark as a player as he produced a respectable .267/.337/.481 slash line in 270 AB’s spread out over 130 games. He would hit all of his big league homers that season, including one that day in Montreal.

Facing Expos starter Rocky Biddle, Valent collected a single in the second inning and a double in the third. He then homered off reliever Sunny Kim, launching a shot that clanked off one of the speakers suspended from the roof of Olympic Stadium. That left him a triple short of achieving a cycle, generally regarded as the toughie of the bunch.

When he came to the plate in the top of the seventh, the Mets had opened a substantial lead in what would end up a 10-1 win for Al Leiter. Consequently, a discussion on going for a three-bagger had preceded his next plate appearance.  Mets coach Don Baylor had told Valent to expect third base coach Matt Galante to be “waving” him on anything hit down the line or in the gap.

When his subsequent at-bat produced a liner into the right field corner, “I just kept going when I hit it” Valent would say after the game

“When I hit the ball in the corner like that, I knew I was going to third. I just wanted to hit the ball hard. It was cool. There aren’t a lot of guys that can say they hit for the cycle, no matter how long they play. It’s a lot of luck.”

By virtue of that statement to MLB.com, we can trace an awareness of the cycle’s aforementioned “coolness factor” to the players themselves.

Of the ten Mets who have hit for the cycle (the most recent being Scott Hairston on April 27th of last year), Valent could be said to tie with infielder Mike Phillips of the 1975 team for “least likely.” After a few more desultory appearances with the Mets the following season, he was out of baseball, but in the record books. That moment of his career at least, was pretty cool.

Mets Who Have Hit For The Cycle

April 27, 2012, Scott Hairston at Colorado

June 21, 2006, Jose Reyes vs. Cincinnati

July 29, 2004, Eric Valent at Montreal

Sept. 11, 1997, John Olerud vs. Montreal

July 3, 1996, Alex Ochoa at Philadelphia

Aug. 1, 1989, Kevin McReynolds at St. Louis

July 4, 1985, Keith Hernandez at Atlanta (19 innings)

June 25, 1976, Mike Phillips at Chicago

July 6, 1970, Tommie Agee vs. St. Louis

Aug. 7, 1963, Jim Hickman vs. St. Louis

Mets Country

Feb 16

Mets To Have Platoons In Center And Right

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.