Jan 31

Looking At Mets’ Leadoff Hitter And Batting Order

As of now, New York Mets manager Terry Collins prefers outfielder Eric Young as his leadoff hitter, but telling ESPN nothing is etched in stone.

It never is this time of year.

ERIC YOUNG: First leadoff choice.

ERIC YOUNG: First leadoff choice.

If Young hits leadoff, and Chris Young – he of the $7.25 million contract – plays center and Granderson in right, the odd man out is Juan Lagares, arguably the Mets’ best defensive outfielder.

While Lagares prominently displayed his defensive abilities in center last season, he still has a lot to learn as a major league hitter, in particular learning the strike zone, being patient and going to the opposite field. Lagares’ 96 strikeouts with 20 at-bats and .281 on-base percentage in 421 plate appearances screams he’s not leadoff material.

Those numbers don’t fly anywhere in the order and he’s better off getting at-bats to learn those things on the minor league level rather than sitting on the bench in the majors. The Mets haven’t made that decision, but that would be the smart move.

Eric Young’s speed is a definite plus – he stole 38 bases last season – but his career .325 on-base percentage needs improvement. His 67-35 strikeouts-to-walks ratio last year is not acceptable for a leadoff hitter.

The Mets were 14th out of 15 teams in the National League in on-base percentage from the leadoff spot, so clearly improvement is needed. Young assumed the leadoff role in midseason after the Mets tried nine other options. NINE.

The non-productive nine were: Jordany Valdespin (16 games), Ruben Tejada (15), Collin Cowgill (nine), Mike Baxter (eight), Daniel Murphy and Omar Quintanilla (seven), Lagares (six), Justin Turner (three) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (one).

Valdespin, Cowgill, Baxter and Turner are out of the organization; Nieuwenhuis has fallen out of favor because of his propensity for striking out.

Tejada, Murphy and Quintanilla will make the Opening Day roster.

Collins indicated at the winter meetings if Tejada played to his potential he has the necessary skills to hit leadoff, but he’s still a project.

Assuming Eric Young hits leadoff, here’s the projected batting order for the Mets:

Eric Young: Is the Mets’ fastest player and their best base stealer.

Daniel Murphy: Has the patience and bat control to protect Young.

David Wright: The best hitter on a team, the best combination of power and average hits third. Wright has been his best hitting in front of an established power threat, whether it was Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado or Marlon Byrd.

Curtis Granderson: Theoretically, Granderson’s power potential should give Wright better pitches.

Chris Young: Will bat fifth to separate lefty hitters Granderson and Ike Davis.

Ike Davis: I am assuming Davis will make the team. Having him hit sixth should minimize the pressure on him.

Travis d’Arnaud: Showed little offensive presence last season. He’s no threat so pitchers might work around Davis, which, if nothing else, might help the struggling first baseman learn patience.

Ruben Tejada: At one time this guy hit .289. If he can reach that level again he could hit leadoff if Eric Young doesn’t pan out. Also, if he hits that clears the pitcher’s spot in the order and sets up the next inning.

But, that’s for now.

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

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.

Jan 29

Four Mets Facing Make-Or-Break Seasons

As spring training approaches so might the anxiety level of several New York Mets, all understanding this can be a make-or-break season for at least four of them.

* Let’s first start with the obvious, Ike Davis, whom the Mets had been trying to trade this winter. The Mets’ inability to trade Davis stems from their highly publicized efforts to do so, their high asking price and the glut in the first base market.

Davis struggled through two miserable first halves, and knows his high-propensity for striking out and poor overall hitting approach is wearing thin with GM Sandy Alderson. He knows he can’t produce another .205 average, nine-homer season won’t cut it and the Mets won’t offer arbitration again.

* Ruben Tejada was on the way out as the starting shortstop, but Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew wanted too much. Alderson said despite speculation Drew is out of their plans.

Tejada ended the season with a fractured leg, but recovered and worked out twice at a Michigan fitness camp. His effort in Ann Arbor impressed manager Terry Collins, but Tejada needs to show it at the plate and not let his concentration wander in the field.

* Jon Niese as last season’s Opening Day starter. He won his first two starts, but things quickly unraveled following back-to-back sub-32 degree starts in Minneapolis and Denver. Tightness in his back led to shoulder discomfort that forced him on the disabled list.

Niese made only 24 starts and finished 8-8 after winning 13 games in 2012 while pitching while throwing 190.1 innings over 30 starts.

Niese is signed through 2017, and while the Mets have an investment in him, they do get the occasional phone call inquiring.

* Travis d’Arnaud was supposed to get the starting job early last season, but an injury pushed his promotion back. He was one of the key pieces in the R.A. Dickey trade with Toronto.

There are issues with his ability to call a game, block pitches, and above all, his offense.

He had such a small window of opportunity in 2013 that the Mets wouldn’t pull him after a Davis-like start. At least, you wouldn’t think so.

However, if d’Arnaud has a miserable season wire-to-wire, the Mets would listen to proposals, but by that time his value would have dropped.

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

Jan 27

How Mets Answered Off-Season Questions

The New York Mets faced a myriad of questions entering the off-season. Now, with spring training staring us in the face. let’s see how have they answered them.

REBUILDING THE ROTATION

With Matt Harvey lost for the season following Tommy John surgery, the Mets needed to add two starters because they had no assurances of help from their minor league system that includes Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom.

Bartolo Colon was signed to a two-year contract, theoretically to fill the void this season and in 2015 if there was a problem in Harvey’s rehab.

Within the past two weeks they signed John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka, which should give them the promise of at least five innings from the fifth starter.

Colon is an upgrade over Aaron Harang, and if Matsuzaka pitches as he did in his final three starts last season, he will keep things in order until the prospects arrive.

Conclusion: They are better now than after the season, but not good enough to make them better than a .500 team without some help.

BOLSTERING THE BULLPEN

With Bobby Parnell recovering from neck surgery, the Mets’ Plan B is to make Vic Black the closer.

The Mets will bring back most of their 2013 bullpen, but there won’t be enough arms in camp to create widespread competition.

Conclusion: Things would be better if the Mets could depend on Parnell’s status, but the bullpen heading into spring training is no better than last year’s.

SETTLING ON A FIRST BASEMAN

Most Mets fans said the team should have done this last July and cut ties with Ike Davis. Unable to trade him – and initially showing signs of leaning toward Lucas Duda – it appears the Mets are back to square one by giving Davis another chance.

The Mets’ outward efforts to deal Davis only decreased his value. Duda doesn’t have much trade value, either. Neither does Wilmer Flores, who won’t be given a chance to compete for the first base job.

Conclusion: What was a season-long distraction lasted through the winter and will greet us in Port St. Lucie.

ADDRESSING SHORTSTOP

Acquiring a shortstop was a top priority during the winter, but the Mets were never in it for Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew is well out of their price range.

Prior to the Winter Meetings, GM Sandy Alderson suggested Ruben Tejada would get another chance. The Mets also brought back Omar Quintanilla as Tejada’s back-up.

Conclusion: Instead of upgrading, the Mets are reduced to hoping for Tejada to play better than he had ever been before.

ADDING POWER TO THE OUTFIELD

Curtis Granderson was signed to a four-year contract and Chris Young was given a one-year deal. Granderson is coming off an injury prone, non-productive year.

Granderson is young enough to give the Mets hope he can bounce back, although nobody expects him to duplicate his Yankee Stadium numbers at Citi Field.

Conversely, Young is several years removed from his best seasons. The Mets are hoping for lightning in a bottle from him.

Conclusion: A productive Granderson will upgrade the offense, improve the outfield and protect David Wright in the batting order. No guarantees, however.

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

Jan 19

Mets Sign John Lannan And Omar Quintanilla

The New York Mets made two moves to bolster their rotation and infield depth with the signings of left-hander John Lannan and shortstop Omar Quintanilla.

LANNAN: To compete for No. 5 starter role.

LANNAN: To compete for No. 5 starter role.

Lannan, 3-6 with a 5.33 ERA last season with Philadelphia, was signed to a minor league contract with the intent of competing with Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom for the fifth-starter slot.

It was important to GM Sandy Alderson to sign a veteran to a minor league contract because of the expectation of Noah Syndergaard joining the rotation by July, similar to what Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey did the previous two seasons.

We’re not talking a stud pitcher in Lannan, but an experienced arm that can provide a bridge to Syndergaard in the first three months of the 2014 season. Lannan previously pitched for the Washington Nationals.

Most veteran pitchers on the market, such as Bronson Arroyo, wanted too much money and too many years, something the Mets wanted to avoid.

In Quintanilla, the Mets know what to expect as he filled in capably when Ruben Tejada went on the disabled list, then was optioned to the minors, for much of the season. Quintanilla hit .222 with a .306 on-base percentage, two homers and 21 RBI last season for the Mets.

Also with Quintanilla, it also eliminates the possibility of the Mets bringing in free agent Stephen Drew.

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