I Rest My Case

March 18, 2010

As predicted, David Lennon of Newsday tweeted that Alex Cora will fill in for Reyes while he sits on the DL.  I suppose the Mets did not want to catch anyone off guard when they made this decision.

I suppose that I need to look at the bright side here.  Now I can go grab a brew from the fridge whenever Cora steps to the plate.  We can all use a timeout, can’t we?

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Moving On…

March 12, 2010

Now that Jose Reyes is out of the picture for the time being, we can now focus on who will likely be playing shortstop for the Mets on a regular basis to start the season.

I am hoping that the Mets actually surprise me here, but I do not have such lofty expectations.  I want to see Ruben Tejada out there on opening day, but I am quite sure that Alex Cora (yawn) will be there instead.

Alex Cora will not kill your team in any way.  He makes decent contact and fields adequately.  That sounds alright doesn’t it?  The problem is this…been there, done that.  Cora is what he is, and that is a utility player.  He is not going to excel at any one area that warrants every day play.

As I previously mentioned, Ruben Tejada has that X-Factor called the unknown.  He is a young player on the rise through the Met farm system.  He is someone that you could hitch that enthusiastic star to this
April.  Sure, we have no idea how this will translate against major league pitching.  This is especially true once teams get video on his swing and begin to make adjustments on how to pitch him.  Yes, he is also just twenty years of age.  However, he is currently enjoying his second spring invite with the big club this March.  He is at that stage of development where everyday at bats are needed.    He is also needed on the opening day roster to serve as Cora’s backup.  Why not give those important at bats to him here?  If he struggles initially, you can spell him with Cora here and there.  If he continues to struggle, you can send him down and play Cora everyday from that point forward until Reyes returns (whenever that is).  I am not sure what the Mets have to lose with this type of plan.

Ultimately aside from a token start here and there, I am quite sure that we will be watching Alex Cora get his four at bats per game while Tejada wastes away on the bench.  Then again, I may be shocked instead.

Bring On the Youth

March 7, 2010

That’s right, I said it.  I am practically excreting optimism right now.  I would love nothing better than to see some new blood come in here and shock the world.  That sort of energy has not been felt in these parts since Jose Reyes and David Wright first hit the scene.  Sure, there have been other flashes.  Mike Jacobs in 2005 to name one.  However as we all know, that was short-lived. 

Wouldn’t it be something to see a couple of the young prospects stick with the team and create some buzz.  Come on.  Is anyone really interested in seeing Rod Barajas or Daniel Murphy?  Murph has some upside perhaps.  However, does that possible upside get anyone fired up?  I’ll tell you what might.  The Mets currently have four prospects in camp that have at least a measure of upside.  Along with that upside lies the possibility of a spark for fan excitement.  The four are obvious to most.  They are Ike Davis, Fernando Martinez, Josh Thole, and Ruben Tejada. 

Now I realize that all of them are ticketed for the minors this season.  I believe this to be true regardless of how they produce this spring.  My thought is, why not throw some prospect logs on the fire and chat it up?  There is nothing wrong with conversation now is there?

Ike Davis has already turned the spotlight on himself with his power and production in the first week.  His monster grand slam the other day was a thing of beauty, and only further validates his ability.  Fernando Martinez hit a pair of home runs yesterday, and has carried over his Carribean League MVP run into spring training.  Josh Thole clearly has ability as a hitter behind the dish.  Ruben Tejada’s minor league stats also show that he has a promising future ahead.  It certainly will be nice to see this kid play in Jose Reyes’ absence this week.  I do not need to see Alex Cora.  He too lulls me to sleep.  Perhaps we might see Tejada as the opening day second baseman next year. 

Could Ruben Tejada be the opening day escond baseman in 2011?

The point is that the Mets have some position players that are actually exciting to follow this spring.  These future players certainly look more promising than some of what we have on the major league roster right now.  I for one will be pulling for them all to show their stuff this spring, even though they inevitably will all be in AAA come April.  That is alright.  It is nice to dream, isn’t it?  Here is to the 2011 New York Mets!

Around the Horn – Bench

February 19, 2010

Predicting who will fill out a team’s roster at the beginning of spring training is like predicting which player will get hurt next for the Mets.  You know someone will, you just do not know who it will be.

For the sake of conversation, let me include the likes of Alex Cora, Gary Matthews, Jr. and Fernando Tatis, as we know they are shoe-ins to make the team because they were signed to major-league contracts.  These guys are shoo-ins?  Yuck!  Let me also place the catcher competition to the side, as I have previously discussed this battle earlier (sans Rod Barajas).  We know that there will be two on the opening day roster, although as of now I would be shocked if it is not Omir Santos and Henry Blanco.  With fourteen spots available for position players (and 11 spots given to the pitching staff minimally) to complete the twenty-five man roster, that leaves us with only two spots remaining after the starting eight and the aforementioned inclusions.  This also involves excluding Carlos Beltran, who will open (and perhaps close) the 2010 season on his personalized DL.  Let us give a review of who will be competing for those two spots.

Frank Catalanotto – I went into what Frank can bring to a team here.  He brings some positive contact production from the left side of the plate, and could make an ideal pinch hitter.  The fact that the Met bench is currently comprised of mostly right-handed hitters, it is apparent that they need a left-handed batter to step up.  As long as Catalanotto proves he still possesses the bat speed to handle big league pitching this spring, I think his chances are good to make the team.

Mike Jacobs – Unless Jacobs beats out Daniel Murphy for the starting first base job this spring, and that is about as likely as Ollie Perez losing his erratic ways, he will be the primary competition for the left-handed pinch hitter job with Catalanotto.  He offers pop as we all know.  That can be valuable.  However, he is either home run or strikeout every time he steps to the plate, and in this ball park, that may not be the way to go.  Unless he is on fire this spring, I believe he will have a hard time making the club.  That might mean playing in Triple A until someone gets hurt, and we know that is going to happen anyway.  The other possibility is that he and The Cat make the team together if there are not better options otherwise.

Fernando Martinez – Who is Fernando Martinez anyway?  Well, for one thing, we know he is a Met prospect because of his history of injuries.  Every time you turn around, this guy is hurt.  Ultimately he has dropped off the radar of top prospects throughout the league because of this fact.  After a hot winter league showing in which he was named the MVP of the Caribbean Series, the spotlight once again shines on Fernando to see what he can do this spring.  Even though he has been around seemingly forever, he is still just 21 years of age.  Unless Fernando hits like an all-star this spring, he will certainly be ticketed for Triple A this year.

Ike Davis – At 6’5″, Davis is a specimen.  Having only played two season in the minor leagues for the Mets, he is already 23 years of age.  Unquestionably the future at first base for the Mets, Davis’ production improved dramatically at every level in the minors, finishing with a line of .309, 14 and 43 in 233 Binghampton (AA) at bats last season.  Scouts have rated him a very highly at this point, and I am talking about scouts that actually do not work for the Mets here.   However, I am sure the Mets will let him at least try his hand against Triple A pitching for at least a few months before they hand him the keys to the first base ignition.

Anderson Hernandez – The guy can field.  I’ll give him that.  However, he will never hit in the majors, and therefore has no place on this team.

Russ Adams – Once an everyday shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays, Adams has fallen into the land of dreaded baseball obscurity.  He has even less value than Hernandez at this point.

Jason Pridie – Pridie Was a decent prospect for the Minnesota Twins through last season.  He has some speed and extra-base hit potential, however, his plate discipline is rather poor, especially for a minor league player.  He struck out at an alarming rate his last few years in the minors, and did not offset that with the ability to draw a walk often enough.  He also appears destined to play Triple A ball and serve as organizational depth for the Mets.

Chris Carter – Here is a guy who actually hits for some power, even though he too appears to be a life-time minor league player.  With home runs of 24 and 16 the past two years in Pawtucket for the Boston Red Sox, he always seems on the cusp of a call up.  The Red Sox just never had room for him, but as we all know, the Mets might with their lack of depth.  I also like his walk to strikeout ratio, which falls just short of 1:1.  Another hitter looking to make it from the left side, Carter has the ability to make the team this spring with a good showing.

Could Chris Carter make the Met opening day roster?

Mike Hessman – About to turn 32 years of age, Hessman has always shown power, but little else in his minor league career.  Unless Tatis get hurt, forget about Hessman serving as the right-handed substitute at first base.

If you ask me, I believe that the winners will be Catalanotto and Jacobs.  I think Carter has a good shot, but I think it will come down to either him or The Cat because I can not see the Mets having six outfielders on the opening day roster.  That leaves the door wide open for Jacobs to make the team.  That is unless there are huge surprises awaiting us as the spring unfolds before us.  Either way, this is not an impressive bench for any major league roster.

Who do you see making the team from this group?

We finally arrive at a position that is crucial to the Mets’ success in 2010.  In fact, other than starting pitching, no other position carries as much importance as shortstop.  That is because this is one of the rare positions on this team that has the potential to be filled by one of the best in the game.

Jose Reyes – You know this guy, don’t you?  Well, you once did at least.  It seems like light years ago when he was a potential MVP candidate.  Let’s put on our thinking caps and try to remember what kind of player he was.

Let us set aside the fact that he was one of the fastest players in the league.  Everyone knows that.   He was also a pretty good line drive hitter with good bat speed.  This led to three plus seasons of at least 17 triples.  He also reached a high of 72 extra base hits in 2008.  Those are pretty serious numbers.  From the time that he was called up in 2003, Jose showed immediately what he could bring to the table.  He brought that speed, combined it with above average range, and sprinkled in a top notch throwing arm.  If you tally that all up, the end result is a solid all-star player.  Now wait a second.  It doesn’t end there.  We have yet to discuss the intangible factor.  I am talking about the distraction he was when he was on the bases.  He would drive the opposing pitcher insane whenever he took a lead off any base.  This automatically made any hitter in the box for the Mets much more productive.  Jose Reyes was certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Can Jose Reyes regain his all-star form?

I wrote the previous paragraph in past tense for one important reason.  I do not think anyone has any idea whether Reyes will ever regain his all-star form.  His injury to his hamstring was rather serious.  It required surgery (well, it did based on at least one doctor’s opinion).  To simply write this off due to blind optimism or because Jose or the Mets assure you that he is healthy would be like walking through a mine field with blinders on while someone tells you that the coast is clear.

Don’t get me wrong.  I for one would like nothing better than to see Jose rebound.  There may be those of you who view me as a pessimist, and therefore might disagree with this.  “Come on, you are so negative about the Mets that you probably want Jose to get hurt just to show that you are right.”  I urge you reader to be a bit more objective about me.  As I stated in a previous post, I feel that he was one of the most exciting players I have seen as a life long Met fan.  I would love to have the opportunity to watch him again.  I do think we need to temper our enthusiasm.  That is all.

Finally, I firmly believe that the Mets’ success will depend heavily on this man’s health perhaps more than any other player on the team short of Johan Santana.

Alex Cora and Anderson Hernandez – See second base analysis.  If a combination of these two plays shortstop for more than 25 games in 2010, it will be another lost season for the Mets.  Keep your fingers crossed.  Whether you believe me or not, I have mine crossed as well.

Continuing our trip around the bases, we arrive at second base and the expectations that come from the position in 2010. 

Luis Castillo – I can not believe that I am about ot say this.  Luis Castillo was one of the few bright spots for the 2009 New York Mets.  

There.  I said it.  I know others have said the same when reflecting back at last season.  However, since I was one of his biggest critics, I feel that this speaks volumes.  

Let’s take a look at why this is true.  He finished second on the team, behind only David Wright, in runs scored.  He was fourth on the team in batting average, behind two players who only played half a season in Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan.  He was also third on the team in on-base percentage, once again trailing just Beltran and Wright.  More importantly, he led the team in walk to strikeout ratio, posting 69 walks to only 58 strikeouts in nearly 500 at bats.  This facet of his game is nothing new, as he has always shown the propensity to foul off a pitch when needed.  His speed has deteriorated due to nagging injuries, as he only swiped 20 bags while being caught 6 times.  A 77 % success rate for steals is not terrible, but nothing to write home about either.  His inability to drive the ball with any authority whatsoever (a .346 slugging percentage) is something every Met fan will point to with anger.  However, I believe that he has been a major league player for reasons other than power throughout his entire career.  The truth is that it was the lack of production behind Luis that decreased his overall productivity, mainly keeping his runs under 100 for the season.  A .387 on-base percentage with 500 at bats usually leads to nearly 100 runs scored with any semblance of productivity behind a given player.  If Luis can produce these numbers this year again, I think Met fans should take it and run to the bank. 

Now we get to the negative side of Castillo.  Defense.  His defense has taken a nose dive in recent years, unfortunately coinciding with when he became a New York Met.  The stats will not illustrate this point at all, as his fielding percentage was quite good.  I am also not talking about that Yankee game disaster either.  He was torched enough for that by everyone that there is no need to expand on the topic any further.  It is in the range that he displays, whether it be to his left or his right that is most troubling.  He has clearly lost a significant first step when breaking on a ground ball.  This is a man who was once one of the best defenders in the league for many years.  We all know it as Met fans, seeing him on the Florida Marlins for ten years.  He seemed to rob us on a nightly basis back then.  He is no longer that player, nor is he close.  What he is now is an average defender who will be portrayed as well beneath that level by Met fans for that Yankee game gaffe. 

Alex Cora – Cora is a nice utility player.  He filled in admirably before falling to the epidemic of injuries that befell the Mets last year.  If he is healthy, his defense is solid enough that you do not cringe when he is in the game.  His offense is below average however, with 2008 being a bit of an offensive aberation. 

Anderson Hernandez – This is not a player that you want to see on the field for the Mets in 2010.  If he does play, chances are someone of significamce is injured again.  He does not excel in any given area as a baseball player. 

Luis Castillo was the least of the problems for the 2009 New York Mets

If Castillo can stay healthy (something that can be said for nearly every Met player), than I believe that he will produce well enough as the number two hitter and second baseman for the Mets to compete in 2010.  I respect what he brings to field enough to say that.  It is everyone else that I am quite unsure about.

Wow, did I just say that?  I just slapped myself to see if I was thinking clearly.  What is particularly scary is that I believe I am.