Let’s face it. There isn’t a whole lot to look forward to with the Mets this year. After you get past the first five or so players, it starts looking pretty ugly. For all the work Sandy Alderson has done in building the future for the Mets, he hasn’t really done a whole lot to build much of a present. Granted, he’s hamstrung to a degree by bad contracts and a low payroll, but you look at some of the players on this year’s team and wonder if there has to be somebody better out there. Nevertheless, this isn’t about what could be or what should be, but about what is. It may not be pretty, but this is the roster Mets fans are going to war with, hoping to clear the 70 win plateau this year.
For this year’s BlueandOrange.net preview, we’re going to count down the players 1 to 25, just to get a feel for what we’re dealing with this season. This won’t include players on the disabled list, so Johan Santana won’t be included (spoiler alert: Santana won’t throw a single pitch all season). It also won’t include players likely to make an impact in the second half, like Travis d’Arnaud and Zack Wheeler. This is the opening day roster, 1 through 25, with #1 a guy who will be around for the next eight seasons, and #25 a guy who you probably won’t even remember was on the team come May. Let’s see what we got here.
1. David Wright
Wright is unquestionably the best player on the team, to where the only way you could argue he isn’t is if you are making a really dumb troll argument. I am not sure if we will be saying the same thing in eight years when we are entering the last year of that contract, but hey, at least he’s not going away like Reyes and Dickey. Hopefully before the end of that contract, the Mets can get David back into the playoffs.
2. Ike Davis
Blaming Valley Fever and lingering effects from the ankle injury for Davis’ poor first two months of 2012 seems perfectly reasonable to me. By all rights, he should be the second best player on this team, and I’m hoping for a breakout year out of him. At the same time, I would not be surprised if by the end of the season, he wound up lower on the list, and perhaps much lower.
3. Jonathon Niese
4. Matt Harvey
I am listing Niese ahead of Harvey for the best pitcher on the team because Niese has had a few seasons now to show what he is. He’s a guy who will strike out about seven batters per nine innings, will walk about three batters per nine, and will give up a home run every nine innings. He’s pretty remarkably consistent, actually. Last year’s breakout came because he posted his first BABIP under .300 in the major leagues. That’s really all you can hope for out of the guy. He’s not an ace, but he carries the most certainty the rotation will have this year, and there is something to be said for that.
Harvey has a much higher ceiling than Niese, but also has a much lower floor, since he is less of a known quality in the big leagues. It seems unlikely that he will be quite as good as he displayed in his 59 inning debut last season, but I still expect he will outpace the rest of the starting staff. I could easily see Harvey jumping up to the #2 position by year end, but I will be conservative and rank him lower for now. I am hoping for the best, but with young pitchers, you never know.
5. Ruben Tejada
I have a soft spot for Ruben Tejada. His will probably be the next Mets jersey I purchase, even though buying the jersey of an unheralded shortstop who could be dealt at any time is probably a foolish decision. But I can’t help it. He’s not really good at anything; he is an average defensive player, he has no pop at all, he can draw a walk or two (though his walks were down last year). At the same time, the replacement level expectation at shortstop is so low, even being average or a hair below average, at Tejada’s salary level, makes him a semi-valuable asset. How’s that for a slogan: “The 2013 Mets: Our Fifth Best Player is a Semi-Valuable Asset!”
6. Daniel Murphy
Murph is pretty similar to Tejada, actually. He is below average with the glove, but a little bit more pop with the bat thanks to some doubles power. He too is a semi-valuable asset if only because he plays second base, a position with only a slightly higher replacement level expectation than shortstop. I can’t imagine he will be the second baseman on the next good Mets team, but as a stopgap to play the position for now, Murphy is adequate.
7. Dillon Gee
Gee was actually enjoying a pretty nice season until he got hurt last year, in a “mid-rotation starter making the league minimum” way. I would probably rank him ahead of Tejada and Murphy if there were not concerns about how Gee will bounce back after shoulder artery surgery, plus if there weren’t all sorts of questions with young starters in general.
8. Mike Baxter
Baxter…you are my little gentleman. I’ll take you to London foggy town because you’re my little gentleman.
Sorry…I can’t talk about Mike Baxter without referencing Anchorman. Anyway, Baxter might be the best returning outfielder from last year’s carbon monoxide leak of an outfield, which is not saying much. He has a good eye at the plate and showed some good pop with the bat, and while I believe in the eye more than I believe in the bat, I think he has a chance at being a solid platoon guy. Unfortunately, the Mets will be starting Lucas Duda against left-handed pitching to start the season, but I suspect he will eventually start to take at-bats away from Duda before the season is over.
9. Jeremy Hefner
If you squint hard enough, Jeremy Hefner (do his teammates call him Hef?) was actually kind of decent last year. He struck out about six per nine, and walked under two per nine, but a high BABIP results in an ERA that looks perhaps a bit worse than he actually pitched. I don’t know if there is anything in Hefner’s past that indicates he can continue to demonstrate that type of control, but if he can, he should be a pretty decent fourth or fifth starter this season. And yes, the Mets’ fourth or fifth starter is probably the ninth best player on the team. This is not going to be a good year for the Mets.
10. Bobby Parnell
Parnell was the team’s best relief pitcher last year, which is not really much of a compliment, but it makes sense that he will get the first chance to close. I suspect if he struggles early, that Terry Collins will have a quick hook and either go with Brandon Lyon as the temporary closer until Frank Francisco comes back, or go with a bullpen by committee with Parnell, Lyon, and LaTroy Hawkins all getting save opportunities. Either way, I am not expecting the bullpen to be a strength for this team, but then again, when was the last time it was?
11. Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Possibly the Mets’ second best outfielder, and much like Mike Baxter, he will be coming off the bench. I’m not sure why he’s sitting in favor of Colin Cowgill, unless Terry Collins is worried about the lineup being too left-handed, but I don’t see why they can’t platoon Nieuwenhuis and Cowgill in center. Nieuwenhuis seems like he is too young to be sitting every day, only to be used in the late innings of close games as a defensive sub.
12. Jordanny Valdespin
He has shown some good pop and decent speed. The speed has yet to translate into being good defensively, but Valdespin has shown some real skills that could one day translate into being a good ballplayer. At the very least, I think he could wind up being a good pinch hitter on the next good Mets team. And yes, I am ranking all three reserve outfielders ahead of the starters, which shows what I think of the Mets’ choices to start the season.
13. Marlon Byrd
This feels high for the Byrdman, but he is only two seasons removed from a 1.8 WAR and two seasons removed from a 4.1 WAR. On the other hand, he is one season removed from a -1 WAR and is 35 years old. So who knows? He could work out, but he probably won’t. Byrd heads the list of “Oh man, remember when the Mets started THAT GUY on Opening Day?” players, where Mets fans rattle off lousy players that have started for the team on Opening Day because things have gone terribly, terribly wrong. He is in good company with the likes of Mike Jacobs, Garry Matthews Jr., Karim Garcia, and Brad Eamus.
14. John Buck
Buck will be a fine backup for Travis d’Arnaud once he is called up to the majors in May. As a starter…eh, there are bigger problems on this team, and they are all in the outfield.
15. Collin Cowgill
I sort of get why Cowgill is getting the full-time job over Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center field, because Cowgill has shown good patience and decent power in the minors, and Nieuwenhuis had a terrible spring. But Cowgill’s minor league success has yet to translate into anything in the majors, and he has shown a pretty big platoon split in a limited time in the majors. Strangely, Nieuwenhuis will serve as Cowgill’s defensive caddy in center even though, in a tiny sample for each, Cowgill has been the slightly better defensive player.
16. Scott Atchison
Color me intrigued by Atchison. I’m not sure why the Red Sox let him get away unless it was due to injury concerns, as he pitched quite well last year. Even after he came off the disabled list, he made five scoreless outings in a couple of meaningless games for the Sox. I’m not sure what it says when a non-tendered pitcher from the Red Sox is the Mets’ second best reliever, but I actually am quite optimistic about Atchison, as long as he stays healthy.
17. Brandon Lyon
Lyon is somehow the Mets’ third-best reliever. I think Lyon is the team’s best bet to get dumped at the trade deadline this year, although the Mets’ bullpen looks bad enough on paper to where they may not be able to deal him.
18. Justin Turner
Turner inexplicably made the team over Omar Quintanilla. Not that Quintanilla is any great shakes, but he can play shortstop capably, which is one more skill than Turner has. Turner is not a good hitter and is not a good fielder. He has a reputation as being a good pinch hitter, but only hit .250/.327/.313/.650 in that role last year. Honestly, I am not sure what Turner brings to the table, other than the fact that his teammates apparently love the guy.
19. Lucas Duda
Can somebody explain to me why Lucas Duda is starting and Kirk Nieuwenhuis is not? Duda has one real skill, which is patience; he can draw a walk or two. He can hit the ball a long way from time to time, but not often enough to where you could call power an actual skill he possesses. And Duda might actually be a worse defensive outfielder than Adam Dunn. This is a big year for Duda, where if he doesn’t show he can hit, he will be riding buses in the International League for the rest of his playing career. I hope he finally put together a good season, but needless to say, I’m skeptical.
20. Jeurys Familia
Let’s start the reliever run, shall we? I am ranking Familia ahead of the rest mostly out of hope, in that he is young and has been a fairly regarded prospect for a number of years. Unfortunately, he walked a lot of players last year in both the minors and the majors, and if he is ever going to amount to anything in the major leagues, he has to show better control.
21. Josh Edgin
Like Familia, I am ranking Edgin higher than the other guys mostly because he’s young and has some promise, whereas the other options lack those things. Edgin’s ceiling is lower than Familia’s, in that Familia could wind up a good power closer at some point, whereas Edgin’s ceiling is that of a left-handed specialist, but there are worse ways to earn a living playing baseball.
22. LaTroy Hawkins
Hawkins was not very good for the Angels last year but has carved out a nice living being an average-ish reliever for a number of years, so it would not surprise me to see him revert to form. I could also see him getting released in June and never pitching in the majors again.
23. Greg Burke
Burke last pitched in the majors in 2009, and walked way too many guys to be any good. His command was a bit better last year, but that could have been a one year blip. I can’t imagine a scenario where Burke stays with the major league team all season long.
24. Scott Rice
It’s a nice story that Rice made the major league team for the first time in 14 attempts, but he seems like a sure bet to be this year’s random reliever who made the major league roster who nobody remembers was on the team come September. Call him this year’s Blaine Boyer or Matt Wise, or Carlos Muniz if you prefer. Greg Burke has a very good chance of stealing this title for him, though, since at least Scott Rice will be remembered as “That guy who made his first major league team after 14 years,” whereas Burke may only be remembered as “That guy who wasn’t very good.”
25. Anthony Recker
Recker is the backup catcher until Travis d’Arnaud is promoted. You will have no recollection that he ever existed after the month of May.
And, because 2,400 words is not enough, a special bonus player:
NR: Shaun Marcum
Allegedly, Marcum’s injury that will put him on the disabled list to start the season is not serious and he will make his scheduled start on April 7th. Given Marcum’s injury history and the Mets’ own history dealing with injuries, I am extremely skeptical that he will actually make that start. If he does make that start, and if he does pitch an entire season for the Mets, rank him 5th, behind Niese and Matt Harvey, but ahead of everybody else. When he has pitched the past three years, he has certainly been quite god, the problem is, he is coming off an injury serious enough that he had no other options but to sign with the Mets. That would not appear to bode well for his future.