Blue and Orange 2014 Mets Preview

Okay, so other than a live blog, I haven’t written anything since last year’s Mets preview. And there is no guarantee that I will write anything between this Mets preview and next year’s Mets preview. But what the heck, I still own the domain and web space here, so why not throw up this year’s version of the Mets preview? Here is one man’s look at how the 2014 New York Mets might look this year, breaking down the 25-man roster, along with a few other players along the way.

The Superstar

1. David Wright (Last Year: 1)

There is no point doing a countdown for this year’s team from worst player to best, because everybody knows who the best player is. David Wright remains awesome. He had that random dip from 2009 to 2011 where he was merely slightly above average, but whether that was due to Citi Field being way too pitcher-friendly, or because he was hiding an injury that was hindering his production, or whatever the reason, he is right back to being the perennial MVP candidate he was from 2006-2008. He may not stay at this level very much longer, but Mets fans should appreciate Wright for who he is, probably the best position player in team history.

The Superstar in Absentia

1a. Matt Harvey (Last Year: 4; whoops!)

If Harvey had been healthy, it would have been a real decision figuring out who would top this list. Alas, Harvey Day has been postponed for a year following Tommy John surgery, which is awful news for Mets fans who enjoy greatness, since past Wright and Harvey, there isn’t a whole lot of that on this year’s roster. Let’s just hope Harvey heals up and is every bit as great next year as he was last year.

The Good Players

2. Curtis Granderson (Last Year: NR)

3. Daniel Murphy (Last Year: 6)

Granderson brings something to this team that it has sorely lacked the past few years; power and outfield defense. The Mets’ power woes have been well covered, but the issues with outfield defense might be more crucial. When playing Lucas Duda in the outfield regularly, the Mets were making their pitching staff significantly worse by relying on him to get to fly balls when he is ill-suited to handle this task. Finally moving him to first base for good and inserting Juan Lagares into the lineup made a significant difference, and adding Granderson’s glove to the outfield will only make things better. I’m excited to see how the outfield plays out this year.

Murphy had his best season as a pro last year. He’s never going to be a good defender, but he’s a capable hitter more often than not. I think he’s always been a bit overrated by Mets fans, but he a solid player on a team that needs more solid players at more positions. I’m rooting for him to continue being solid. And yes, a player best described as “solid” is the third best player on the 2014 Mets. Expectations are not very high this year.

The Starting Pitchers

4. Bartolo Colon (Last Year: NR)

5. Dillon Gee (Last Year: 7)

6. Zack Wheeler (Last Year: NR)

7. Jenrry Mejia (Last Year: NR)

Colon was the Mets’ second big free agent signing of the winter, after Granderson, and while you never really want to rely on 41 year old fat pitchers, Colon has shown enough control to get by, and his ability to induce fly balls in front of a defense that is capable of catching them should make him an asset for 2014. Gee vs. Wheeler is a toss-up, with Wheeler having the potential and Gee having actually performed in the majors at a high level in the past, but I am giving the slight nod to Gee for having shown he can pitch in the majors at a competent level for longer than Wheeler. I would not be surprised if Wheeler winds up surpassing Gee before the season is out, but right here, right now, I give the edge to Gee.

And hey, look at who made the team! Welcome, Jenrry Mejia! I am so sorry that Jerry Manuel used you to try to save his job four years ago and kind of screwed you up for a few years. Hopefully you can still deal it for the Mets in 2014. Good on you for beating out Dice-K for the fifth starter job.

The Starting Pitcher Who May Not Pitch Very Much This Season

7a. Jonathon Niese (Last Year: 3)

I have to be honest, I do not think Niese is going to pitch more than 30 innings in 2014. I hope I am wrong, because if healthy, Niese has the potential to be the top guy on the starters list, but between missing time last year, and all of the MRIs he has had during spring training, this reeks of something being up, but the Mets doctors being unable to figure out what that something is. I am very pessimistic that at some point before June, the words “Jonathon Niese” and “out for the season” and “surgery” will all be used in the same sentence; it is just a matter of figuring out which surgery he is going to need.

The Surprisingly Decent Guys

8. Juan Lagares (Last Year: NR)

9. Eric Young, Jr (Last Year: NR)

Lagares’ bat is nowhere near ready for a major league role, but his glove is already All Star caliber. If Omar Minaya was still running this team, some smart major league GM probably would have stolen him via trade this winter, but fortunately, Sandy Alderson is not a complete dope. He will eventually have to show some sort of improvement with the bat to be worth putting out there every day, but the glove can play in the majors, and then some.

It would not surprise me if I wound up regretting ranking Young so high at the end of the season, since his good 2013 seems sort of flukish to me. But the speed is real, and his glove is an asset, and he wasn’t a terrible hitter last year. His biggest asset is his legs, and his legs should continue to be good enough in 2013 where I feel confident ranking him ahead of the next group of players.

The Rookie

10. Travis d’Arnaud (Last Year: NR)

In a perfect world, d’Arnaud will end the season as one of the Mets’ top five players. His minor league pedigree points to a solid receiver with a good bat. It also points to a player who can’t stay healthy, which is why I am hedging by ranking d’Arnaud lower. I’m excited for d’Arnaud’s potential and hopeful he will pan out, but the injury history has me at least a little concerned.

The Bounce Back Candidates

11. Chris Young (Last Year: NR)

12. Ike Davis (Last Year: 2)

13. Ruben Tejada (Last Year: 5)

14. Lucas Duda (Last Year: 19)

I really liked the Chris Young signing. He’s pretty much Granderson-lite; good power, good glove, although the platoon splits mean he probably can’t play every day. And if he doesn’t work out, it’s only a one year commitment. Nothing but upside here.

As far as the returning guys go…yikes. Davis and Tejada were both expected to be top 5 players by me (and probably only by me, but still) last season, and were so, so shitty. Duda continued being Adam Dunn-lite, combining power, walks, and remarkably terrible defense, only less power and fewer walks than Dunn. This year, Duda has fulfilled part of his Dunnian Prophecy by moving to first base, where his glove will be far less offensive than it was in the outfield. Nobody knows who is going to wind up with more starts at first, Davis or Duda, but I would bet on Davis. He was not good last year, but unlike Duda, he has actually hit 30 homers in a season once in the majors, and has shown flashes of ability with the glove. We have seen almost 1300 plate appearances from Duda in the majors, and we have seen what he can do; we have seen 1700 plate appearances from Davis, and we have seen him do what Duda can do, but better. I’ll bet on Ike here.

As for Tejada, I am one of his biggest fans, but even I am starting to lose faith. This might be the last time a team ever gives him a chance to win their starting shortstop job again. Last year, his glove was still good, but he did not hit at all, and he no longer shows much interest in drawing walks. By all rights, the Mets should have signed Stephen Drew to play SS this year, but didn’t, either because the Wilpons are too cheap or because Sandy didn’t want to give up a pick to sign him. They really can’t give Tejada the benefit of the doubt again next year if he fails to produce in 2014.

The Closer

15. Kyra Sedgwick Bobby Parnell (Last Year: 10)

Bobby Parnell is the first homegrown reliever to save more than 20 games in a season for the Mets since Randy Myers saved 24 games in 1989. Think of how remarkable that era of futility truly is. There are college graduates who had never seen a homegrown Mets reliever save  more than 20 games before Bobby Parnell saved 22 last season. I know saves are a largely meaningless stat and all, but I mean, that’s just remarkable. It took 24 years before the Mets developed a reliever capable of saving 20 games!*

*OK, that is technically not entirely true, since the Mets did develop Heath Bell, he just happened to save all of those games for other teams because Willie Randolph did not like him or something.

Anyway, I suspect Parnell will continue being kind of decent, as long as he is healthy. He is not as young as you might think, as he will turn 30 in September, but he should be a solid, cost-controlled closer for the next couple of seasons, something the Mets have known nothing about since the first Bush presidency. Not the first term of W’s presidency…the George Herbert Walker Bush presidency.

The Bench

16. Josh Satin (Last Year: NR)

17. Anthony Recker (Last Year: 25)

18. Andrew Brown (Last Year: NR)

19. Omar Quintanilla (Last Year: NR)

I was surprised to see just how sort-of decent Josh Satin was last year. I would say there is a non-zero chance he winds up starting at first base over Davis and Duda by the end of the season. It seems more likely that last year was a huge fluke and he crashes back down to Earth this year, but I suspect he will be at the very least a decent pinch hitter and a guy who can play against lefties instead of Davis or Duda.

The rest of the bench isn’t much. Last year, I said of Recker, “You will have no recollection that he ever existed after the month of May,” which turned out to be false, partly because d’Arnaud wound up getting hurt and staying in the minors longer than anticipated, but partly because he was not a completely awful backup catcher. Brown did not impress in a 165 plate appearance audition last year, but he has shown an ability to hit lefties in the minors, giving the Mets two lefty killers for late innings if teams try to go bring in LOOGYs to attack Davis or Duda. Quintanilla is a lousy backup infielder, but good bench infielders are a luxury these days, and this is a team that can’t afford luxury, so as far as a discount middle infielder goes, Quintanilla is what he is, and he is the Goodwill of middle infield reserves.

As a quick aside, I’ll use the bench area to point out just how flabbergasted I am that Justin Turner wound up as the starting second baseman for the Dodgers. How did this happen? Has anybody on the Dodgers actually seen Turner play? How is a guy who couldn’t even make it as a bench guy on THIS bench somehow the starting second baseman on a team that has playoff aspirations in 2014? The Dodgers have all of that money, and they couldn’t find somebody better than Turner? Is Jeff Kent that unwilling to come out of retirement, or is he filming another season of Survivor?

The Bullpen

20. Jose Valverde (Last Year: NR)

21. Jeurys Familia (Last Year: 20)

22. John Lannan (Last Year: NR)

23. Scott Rice (Last Year: 24)

24. Carlos Torres (Last Year: NR)

25. Gonzalez Germen (Last Year: NR)

Meh. Meh meh meh. Mehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. So much meh. This is probably not a good bullpen, although bullpens tend to be highly variable, so who knows, maybe I’m wrong and this is the second coming of the 2006 pen.

Valverde wasn’t very good at all last year, but also suffered from a pretty awful home run rate that would be near impossible to repeat. I can see him with a wide range of outcomes varying from “takes the closer job from Bobby Parnell by the end of the season” to “released in mid-May,” with neither outcome really being preferable. Let’s hope for somewhere in the middle.

I was bullish on Familia last year, and unfortunately we never really got to see what he was capable of doing because of injury; I remain hopeful because he is still young, but remain skeptical of the walks. With some luck, maybe Familia will be the second homegrown reliever to save 20+ games for the Mets since Randy Myers.

Lannan is a perfectly serviceable long reliever, who is far enough down the depth chart to where we hopefully won’t have to watch him start a single game in 2014.

Last year, I said of Rice, “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.” Well, he turned out to be better than those guys (Brandon Lyon wound up winning the title of “Random Reliever Who Made the Major League Roster Who Nobody Remembers Was on the Team Come September,” surprising because he had Proven Closer status) but it’s also not hard to imagine a scenario where he gets sent down around mid-June and is never seen again.

Hey, it’s last year’s long guy, Carlos Torres! Only now he’s not the long guy anymore. And he sort of gives up a lot of home runs. That can’t possibly bode well for his future.

Gonzalez German has two last names, a solid strikeout rate, and way too high of a walk rate to remain effective as a major league reliever. He is a solid candidate for the RRWMMLRWNRWTCS Award in 2014, especially since he inexplicably won a bullpen job over Vic Black. Seriously, I understand why Edgin was sent down since he has not really shown much ability in the majors, but Black was pretty good last year. He was just having a bad spring. I would have ranked Black ahead of all of these guys easily.

Overall

This feels like a team that could be the last of a string of boring, lousy Mets teams. There are pieces to hope for in the future on the major league team in Harvey, Wheeler, and d’Arnaud, and guys in the minors waiting to make an impact in the next 3-5 years in Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Cesar Puello, and Brandon Nimmo. This feels like a team that was actually built to play in this particular ballpark, and might surprise some folks by not being as hopeless as they have been in the past few years, but more than likely will finish around 79-82 wins.

Really, as a Mets fan in the year 2014, all I can hope for from this team is the continued excellence at third base by David Wright, a full year of rehab from Matt Harvey so he is ready to go in 2015, continued progress from the young kids, and some sort of resolution one way or another out of Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, and Ruben Tejada at first base and shortstop, so we know if we can move forward with those guys or not. If this team happens to fall into a playoff race into August and September? Bonus.

Final Prediction

79-83, 3rd place NL East (Suck it, Phillies!)

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