Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2012 NY Mets Season Preview

As most fans of baseball can attest to, you are what your record says you are. For the Mets, finishing up the 2011 season fourth in the NL East at 77-85, 8 games under .500, one could comfortably surmise that there’s plenty of room for improvement. Although, considering that the organization was undergoing a cultural shift by implementing a new front office and a new manager last year, one could view the Mets current situation as a positive instead of as a negative. I guess what I’m getting at is; despite the mediocre showing last season the Mets are headed in the right direction. We hope, right?

If shedding payroll and showcasing young talent are construed as positives then hope springs eternal. However, if the reason behind reducing that payroll by more than $50M from 2011 to 2012 was due to lost revenues of $70M then I guess one could see the glass as half-empty. Whichever the case may be, the 2011 season has concluded and what is done is done. The Mets and their fans can only hope that things can only get better and not worse. Let’s take a look at what the Mets have to offer for 2012, shall we?

The Rotation

Aside from the uncertainty surrounding the health of their projected Opening Day starter, Johan Santana, the Mets starting rotation is pretty much set. If all goes well, Santana will be joined by knuckleballer RA Dickey, left-hander Jon Niese, and right-handers, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee. Due to the luxury of having four of those starters make most of their starts last season, the Mets front office decided to forgo depth in their rotation and concentrate more on shoring up their bullpen.

Johan Santana LHP – Best Pitch: changeup
Santana last pitched in Sept 2010. He underwent major shoulder surgery that year and according to team officials, his regimen of batting practice sessions to this point, whether live or simulated, has been going very well. Santana is owed almost $50M for the next two seasons.

RA Dickey RHP – Best Pitch: knuckleball
Since being called up from AAA as a 35-year-old knuckleballer in 2010, Dickey has maintained a 3.08 earned run average in 58 starts. Considered one of the more popular players on the team, Dickey’s eccentric interests off the field, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, blend well with his steady and competitive demeanor on the mound.

Dillon Gee RHP – Best Pitch: off-speed pitch
Gee was one of the few bright spots that came out of last season for the Mets. He managed to win his first seven decisions right from the get-go and finished 2011 with a 13-6 record and 114 strikeouts. Manager Terry Collins praised his young right-hander recently for his ability to keep hitters off-balance by changing speeds and working both sides of the plate. Now, in his second major league season, Gee is looking to replicate that great start from last year and carry his strong performance into the second half.

Jon Niese LHP – Best Pitch: looping curveball
In addition to coming into camp with a better-working nose, Niese shed about 20 pounds in the off-season, which should help strengthen his stamina for the long haul. Unable to complete a full season due to injury, this year could be a make-or-break year in terms of health for the young left-hander. Niese has electric stuff which is backed-up by his above-average strikeout numbers the last two seasons, 148 in 2010 and 138 in 2011, giving him about 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Mike Pelfrey RHP – Best Pitch: hard sinker
If there was anybody who needed a bounce-back season in the worst way, it would definitely be Pelfrey. Upon completing one of his worst seasons as a starter, Pelfrey finished 2011 with a 7-13 record and a 4.74 ERA. To his credit, he did pitch 193 innings, but he allowed 220 hits in those innings, the most ever for his career. Thankfully though, his manager, Terry Collins, remains optimistic. Collins gave him a vote of confidence by saying that Pelfrey has “the stuff to be an ace.” Mets fans will just have to wait-and-see.

Starting Pitching in the organization

Matt Harvey RHP - backed up by a nasty curveball and a mean two-seam sinker ball, the soon-to-be 23-year-old is poised to make the biggest impact this year of any young prospect in the Mets organization. Terry Collins noted that Harvey is “a pretty impressive young pitcher.” However, Mets fans should be patient. Even though Harvey was well-received in Single-A, he did have a difficult time transitioning into AA Binghamton. If Harvey can prove himself consistent on the mound, he may be able to move up the ranks sooner than expected. But that’s only if one of the Mets current starters is placed on the shelf for a significant amount of time.

Jeurys Familia RHP – being groomed as a starter, however, those that follow the ball club on a daily basis feel that with a hard fastball in the high-nineties, Familia may be better suited as a late-inning arm coming out of the bullpen. According to some, Familia’s delivery has a lot of moving parts which could lead to command issues. If the 22-year-old righty could get that aspect of his game in check, there’s a possibility he may find himself on the squad when the rosters expand in September.

The Bullpen

As previously noted, the front office felt more comfortable investing their limited dollars this season into revamping their bullpen. They are banking on a healthy Johan Santana and the remainder of their rotation to match the durability of last year.

Frank Francisco RHP – projected closer for the Mets who was signed as a free agent to a 2-year/$12M contract, unfortunately, Francisco is more associated with throwing a chair into the stands than closing out ball games

Jon Rauch RHP – capable of closing out games, Rauch will most likely be the set-up man to Francisco; he signed a one-year deal worth $3.5M and is listed at 6’10” 190 lbs, if anything the veteran right-hander will be an intimidating presence on the mound for the Mets

Ramon Ramirez RHP – acquired in a trade along with center fielder Andres Torres from the Giants for Angel Pagan, Ramirez is slated to be the right-handed specialist coming out of the bullpen

Tim Brydak LHP – stable presence in an otherwise combustible bullpen last year, Byrdak was brought back on a one-year/$1M contract and will assume the role of LOOGY for the Mets pen

Manny Acosta RHP – high on Terry Collins’ list of solid relievers, Acosta has resurrected his career as a reliever with the Mets

Others in contention – all righties, Mets may bring in another lefty from outside the organization

DJ Carrasco RHP – signed a 2-year contract worth $2.4M in 2010, appeared in just 42 games last year in which he accumulated a 6.02 ERA, Carrasco is not guaranteed a spot in the Mets bullpen

Bobby Parnell RHP – has 100 mph stuff, however, lack of secondary pitch to keep hitters off-balance has put his effectiveness in doubt

Pedro Beato RHP – capable of throwing five different pitches, could be used as a spot starter if need be

Miguel Batista RHP – turned 41 years of age this season, Batista could be used as a spot-starter or as a long man coming out of the pen

The Corners

Ike Davis 1B
Prior to experiencing an acute ankle injury on May 10th that forced him to miss the rest of the season last year, Davis was batting .302 with an on-base percentage of .382. His seven home runs and 25 RBI in just 36 games has given manager Terry Collins reason to believe that his young left-handed hitting first baseman will “do some damage” in 2012.

David Wright 3B
Even though he’s been labeled as the face of the Mets franchise, Wright has recently been the subject of trade rumors and his struggles of late at the plate could be viewed as the impetus for general manager Sandy Alderson opting to modify the outfield fences at Citi Field. This is an important season for Wright who is in the final year of his contract that includes a team option for 2013.

Up The Middle

Ruben Tejada SS
I don’t know which is worse, filling the shoes of the recently departed Jose Reyes or finding yourself in the manager’s doghouse before the official start of Spring Training. For now, Tejada will have to take both of those situations into consideration and run with it. Expected to be the Mets shortstop for years to come, the 22-year-old Panamanian has been known to have a high baseball I.Q. and the propensity to hit with the bases loaded. “Ruben, Ruben, Ruben,” I’m sorry it doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Jose, Jose, Jose.” Not yet anyway, but I do expect great things from Tejada.

Daniel Murphy 2B
Before he went down with a torn MCL in his left knee on August 7th of last year, Murphy was batting .320 (fifth in the NL in hitting) with 28 doubles and a .362 OBP. Having former Mets second baseman Tim Teufel on the coaching staff this season should help Murphy with his defense which has been an obvious liability so far in the young infielder’s MLB career. As long as Murphy is not asked to cover the outfield, he should be alright.

The Outfield

Jason Bay LF
Since signing a 4-year/$66 M contract in 2010, Bay has been worth a fraction of that cost. In two seasons with the Mets, the veteran left-fielder has batted just .252 with only 18 HR and 104 RBI. In his defense, he did miss almost half of the 2010 season with a concussion and the remaining 21 games of 2011 he went 23-for-72, a .319 BA, with 8 doubles and 14 RBI. Perhaps 2012 will be the year that Mets fans see the real Jason Bay.

Lucas Duda RF
Labeled a tremendous player by his manager, Duda’s .292 BA and .370 OBP in 100 games last year earned him the distinction as a selective or, in other words, disciplined hitter. Along with his teammate, Ike Davis, the 26-year-old Duda is expected to “do some damage” from the left side of the plate. Look out Shea Bridge! You may need a new paint job by season’s end.

Andres Torres CF
Despite his below-average on-base percentage last year with San Francisco, Torres will more than likely be given the leadoff spot in the Mets batting order come Opening Day. Torres at the very least will give the Mets some solid defense in center and slightly above-average speed on the base paths. Or he may just be looked at as a viable stopgap until one of the Mets young outfield prospects, Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Matt Den Dekker, are ready to take that next step.


Josh Thole
Criticized recently by his manager for administering sub-par receiving skills last year, Thole’s role entering the season as the Mets starting catcher is not as certain as was once projected. Collins backed up that claim by stating that if his young catcher “plays like he did last year, he’s going to have to hit better than .268.”

With the expectations that the Mets will be able to put up legitimate offensive numbers, sacrificing Thole’s bat for a more defensive-minded catcher like Mike Nickeas or recently-acquired Rob Johnson may be the way to go. There have also been rumblings of bringing All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez in to back-up and mentor Thole.

The Bench

Scott Hairston OF – fourth outfielder who can provide some power in the later innings off the bench, Hairston was brought back and signed a one-year deal worth $1.1M, he recently strained his left oblique which is the same injury he sustained on August 23rd of last year

Ronny Cedeno INF – signed as a free agent to fill-in for Ruben Tejada on his off days, if Cedeno is able to contribute anything off the bench, it would be a great plus for the Mets

Justin Turner INF – can play any number of infield positions and is highly capable of hitting in the clutch, according to Collins, Justin Turner is a “baseball player”

Adam Loewen OF – an unproven commodity as a lefty-hitting outfielder off the bench, Loewen’s career numbers list him as a pitcher, now that the news has come out that Scott Hairston injured the same oblique that landed him on the disabled list last season, Loewen along with Mike Baxter, another lefty-hitting outfielder, will be given more playing time to prove himself worthy of a roster spot

The minors

Reese Havens 2B – 2008 first-round draft pick who hit .289 with six HR and 26 RBI with AA Binghamton last season. Havens recently has been sidelined by a sore back and has seen his progress hindered by injuries throughout his minor league career

Jenrry Mejia RHP – highly regarded by the Mets organization and is recovering from Tommy John surgery, Mejia likely won’t resume pitching in the minors until May

Others worth mentioning
Jordany Valdespin INF - Wilmer Flores INF - Danny Herrera LHP

Team MVP – Ike Davis
Team Ace - Johan Santana
Team's 2012 record – 79-83
Team's 2012 finish in division - 3rd

On paper, the Mets prospects do not jump off the page. Furthermore, the lower half of the NL East, the Miami Marlins and the Washington Nationals, have vastly improved. And to top it off, the Mets are being picked to finish last in their division by most experts. With all that against them, how could one justify them finishing third? Here’s why.

I’m a Mets fan. Did you really think that I would pick my team to finish last? Look, the Mets will definitely be able to score runs this season and if the shiny new bullpen can salvage at least half of the games that were thrown away last year, they should finish up at or close to five hundred. LGM!

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