When the plan in constructing a team is to search for bargains and hope for the best, the an awful lot is being left to chance.  That is just what was ordered by Mr. Wilpon this past winter.  “Find some cheap alternatives, and they better pan out…or else!”

Be Gone With Wilpon, Bargain Shopping

The Mets followed orders and looked for bargains this winter. It has worked out thus far.

The Met hierarchy, doing as they were told, searched on the bottom shelf for a group of players that would hopefully pan out for them and be somewhat productive in 2010.  This bargain-basement process led them to the signing of Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Hisanori Takahashi,  R.A. Dickey, and Elmer Dessens.  These names owe us Met fans absolutely nothing to date, wouldn’t you say?

Now there were others that gave us absolutely nothing, such as the departed Mike Jacobs, Gary Matthews, Jr., and Kelvim Escobar.  I think anyone would take a 50% or better success rate when searching for quality on the scrap heap.  That is just what the Mets have gotten through June 15th.  Mission accomplished Jeff.

Let us give credit where credit is due.  Jerry Manuel deserves plenty, as he is certainly getting the most out of all the players on his team, stars and unknowns alike.  Let’s give a shout out to the players themselves, as they are buying into Jerry’s mantra and have found some clubhouse balance.  This is something that has not existed in these parts in quite some time.

The problem now, however,  is two-fold.  The idea of any baseball team is to truly compete for a championship.  In order to be in the conversation, these no-name guys will have to continue their success.  Secondly, the Mets will surely need to add a starter, just as they needed to in November 2009.  Yes, this is true even though the Mets currently are among the league leaders in starting ERA.  They need a solid number three starter (Lackey would have looked great here, wouldn’t he?) to stick behind Pelfrey and Santana, therefore allowing Niese to slot in as the fourth starter.  The unfortunate fact is that this will now cost the Mets prospects as well as the dollars Mr. Wilpon seemingly will not relinquish his grasp upon.

In summary, the Mets have succeeded thus far in spite of Mr. Wilpon and his penny-pinching approach.  It better continue, or someone will have to pay.  Unfortunately, we know it won’t be Jeff Wilpon.

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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!

The Makeshift Lineup

February 28, 2010

I have already written about my displeasure in the Mets’ decision to not move Carlos Beltran this off-season.  It is for this reason that we are discussing lineup options geared towards filling holes rather than writing something in that is strong and steady.  This was the Met brain trust at work once again.  I suppose you might call it the opposite of strong and steady.

Regardless of how you feel about this, we must now deal with what Jerry Manuel will have to pencil in on a day-to-day basis, even if it is far less than optimal.  I break this down into ideal versus inevitable lineups.  The ideal lineup lists where each player would most likely fall in a traditional batting order.  The ideal lineup will also be an incomplete one, as the Mets do not currently have players to fill all of the traditional holes that a batting order constitutes.  The inevitable lineup is the best case scenario for the Mets in order to actually plug all the holes needed to complete the batting order.  Let us begin with what is inevitable.  In parenthasis you will see the batting order slot that the player truly belongs in.

Inevitable Lineup:

1) Angel Pagan (bench/fourth outfielder)

2) Luis Castillo (8)

3) Jose Reyes (1)

4) David Wright (5)

5) Jason Bay (5)

6) Daniel Murphy (2)

7) Jeff Francoeur (7)

8) Rod Barajas (8)

9) Pitcher (9)

As you can plainly see, the Mets have players batting out of their ideal positions.  This is particularly true for Jose Reyes, whose capabilities project very well as a leadoff hitter because of his speed and the intangibles he brings to the game.  He does not fit the profile of a third place hitter very well, as that slot is defined as a team’s most patient, intelligent, and fundamentally sound hitter.  It usually is held down by someone who has a great eye for pitch recognition, and that with this selectivity, can fight off tough two-strike pitches before he eventually capitalizes on a mistake pitch.  I think that it is safe to say that Jose Reyes is not this type of hitter.  Would anyone argue with me?

The problem is that we do not actually have a hitter of this ilk on the roster, and that poses a large problem.  Who is the one guy that pitchers dread to face in a big spot?  Still thinking?  Believe me, you will be sitting there for a while until you eventually settle on someone who you know is not worthy.

If you sum it up, the Mets have one leadoff hitter, one potential 2nd place hitter, two fifth place hitters, one seventh place hitter, and two eighth place hitters.  Look below to see what the ideal lineup would entail.

1) Jose Reyes

2) Daniel Murphy

3) Player not on team

4) Player not on team

5) David Wright/Jason Bay

6) Player not on team

7) Jeff Francoeur

8) Rod Barajas/Luis Castillo

9) Pitcher

You can see my point.  Yes, I understand that not every team is the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox (even though we exceed one of the two in payroll…rapping head against the table).  I also realize that I have excluded Carlos Beltran, but that is what I do to players that are often injured….I pretend that they do not exist.  What other responsible thing can I do?

Jerry Manuel will have a tough time filling in his daily lineup card with the troops he has in his dugout.

The main point is this.  Not having a true number three or number four hitter on the Met roster makes it utterly impossible for me to have much confidence in the 2010 perspective lineup.

According to Buster Olney on the Brandon Tierney show yesterday, Ike Davis may have a legitimate shot of starting at first base this year for the Mets.  This is interesting news to say the least.  Apparently, the Mets hold Davis in such high regard, that if he hits well this spring, it will make it “very difficult” for the decision makers in the organization to send him down. 

The one real positive point going in for Davis is his defensive capabilities at first, which already “far exceed” those of Daniel Murphy.  The downside is that Davis does strike out quite a bit, and this could lead to stretches of non-production during slumps.

Could Ike Davis actually be the starting first baseman for the Mets in 2010?

Brandon Tierney goes on to say that he is down on the Mets’ chances because he does not like the Mets starting pitching.  Pitching wins, and I whole-heartedly agree.  I really respect what Brandon Tierney has to say, and I often listen to his show for his opinions.  I recommend anyone who has not heard his show to give it a listen when you can.  Brandon picks the Mets to finish 4th, while Olney picks the Mets to finish a shocking second.  I would love to take a puff of what he is smoking.

Olney also feels that Rod Barajas will be the starter and is also not convinced that Jason Bay’s knees are healthy.  Olney compared the Bay signing to the Pedro signing by the Mets, where the Red Sox did not feel that Martinez would show long-term health, but the Mets took the gamble.  “Ooff”, to quote Mr. Tierney.

The podcast can be heard here.  Scan to 7:40 of the podcast to hear this portion of the show, but also give the rest of his show a listen if you have the time.  Good stuff.

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?