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?


Around the Horn – Catcher

February 11, 2010

Oh yeah.  I have to cover catcher.  No, we did not get Bengie Molina, and I am not heartbroken over an overweight 35-year-old catcher who will begin his decline very soon.  Whoever you see playing catcher this year, they will surely bat eighth in the order, and lull you to sleep.  That much is a near certainty.

Omir Santos – It appears that Omir will receive a share of the catching at bats for the Mets in 2010.  This is based mostly on his prowess against right-handed pitching in 2009.  He struggled mightily against left-handers, however, and that is why he will sit on the bench against the majority of those pitchers.  Omir toiled in the minor leagues, mostly for the New York Yankees, for eight seasons with very mediocre numbers.  He is a bit of an enigma to Met fans as this fact, along with his age of 29 (30 in April), might surprise you.  His bat appears to have some quickness in it, and his production last year illustrated that.  I do believe that it is smart that the Mets stockpiled other players for the position, just in case adjustments are made against him by big league pitching this year.

Henry Blanco – A career .228 hitter will excite no one.  I urge anyone who is excited to check their meds.  He does however hit marginally better throughout his career against left-handers, something that could compliment Omir Santos fairly well.  This was even more exemplified last season as he hit .122 points higher against lefties over righties.  He has been around for quite some time, having been at least a part-time player for 10 of his 12 seasons.  He is known to be a fairly good defensive catcher, but at 38 years of age, it may be a reach to say that he will be a productive platoon catcher in 2010.  Also, please do not mention to me that he handles the staff well.  We heard that about Brian Schneider as well.  What a joke that was.  That is a simple way of saying that a catcher has no significant talent.

Chris Coste – Based on the uncertainty of Santos and both the age and lack of production of Blanco, the Mets signed Chris Coste to add more depth and options.  Chris had a long minor league career, much like Santos has.  In fact, his career spanned parts of 13 seasons.  He appeared to be a productive minor league hitter for the most part, rasing questions as to why he was not called up to the big leagues sooner than he was (2006).  Like Blanco, he is also more productive against right-handers, although his production is significantly higher all around.  Last season Coste seemed to drop off offensively, so perhaps the law of averages will play a role in a rebound for Coste this year.  I do believe that Blanco will have to struggle mightily for him to receive much playing time, let alone be on the active 25 man roster.

Josh Thole – We finally arrive at a player with some real measure of potential at the position, and the first left-handed hitting catcher to boot.  His minor league production improved year to year, which eventually led to his cup of coffee with the Mets last year.  It is apparent, however, that the Mets feel that they would like to see him perform in AAA for at least a portion of 2010 before anointing him their starter.  He will come to spring training, but knowing how the Mets operate, it will just be an opportunity to hang with the big boys before the inevitable minor league designation.  Let us keep in mind that he is only 23 years old after spending five seasons in the minors.

Can Josh Thole wow the Mets in spring training and make the Met catching situation less boring in 2010?

Mike Jacobs – Come on now.  This guy has about as much chance of converting back to catcher as I do of bench pressing over 200 pounds.  Trust me.  If that flew over your head, that equates to approximately zero percent.  I only mention him here because there has been some talk that he should convert back to catcher because the Mets have a need for some pop from the left side of the plate.  Why not get it from Jacobs at a position that needs an upgrade?  Wishful thinking I say.

There is nothing exciting to tell you about the Met catching situation for 2010 unless Josh Thole hits .600 in spring training.  Even then, I could see the Mets going with what they have and boring us to death once gain. I, for one, can not hold back my excitement.