Here I am—counting down the days until the regular season begins. Then I thought about the Mets starting lineup and cringed. I’m not a big believer in looking forward to the future because I’m not Nostradamus. I’ve watched too many seasons where the Mets looked good and then had a Fukushima-like meltdown.
I don’t know what the Mets have in Noah Syndergaard, I don’t know if Johan Santana will ever be a fraction of what he was and I don’t even know if Travis d’Arnaud will ever play a game in a Mets uniform. I hope the answers to those questions are all positive, but I just look at things for what they are. If the season started today, The Mets lineup would look something like this:
- Ruben Tejada – SS
- Daniel Murphy – 2B
- David Wright – 3B
- Ike Davis – 1B
- Lucas Duda – RF
- John Buck – C
- Kirk Nieuwenhuis – CF
- Jordany Valdespin – LF
- Matt Harvey – P
No real leadoff hitter, power guys engulfed in ambiguity and a catcher that rivals Josh Thole in futility. There are glimmering beacons of hope in this lineup though. If you squint hard enough, you can see them.
But instead of writing about what the Mets could do, what the Mets should do or what the Mets have the potential to be, I’m going to write about what they are now.
Tejada is not a leadoff hitter. It frustrates me to no end, but he just doesn’t have the tools to be one. He hits the ball well enough, but he doesn’t get on base enough for a leadoff hitter. His lack of speed at the shortstop position baffles me. Granted, he’s not as unconventional as Jhonny Peralta, but he has to gain a step or two if the Mets want him to properly fill the No. 1 spot. I don’t think the Mets plan on him doing so though.
I hear people complain about Murphy’s power numbers a lot. I don’t know why though. He’s not a power hitter. He probably never will be. He’s a slap-hitter who takes the ball to left field almost as good as any other left-handed hitter. He plays a mediocre second baseman, but he’s one of the best players the Mets have—No. 2 or 3 in my opinion. That’s not good news though. Murph is a utility player. He should be a guy who anchors the bottom of a lineup.
Oh captain, my captain. I think Wright’s problem last year was that he tried to carry the team during its second-half tailspin. I guess he thought he needed to hit 50 home runs and upper cut every pitch to do so. In most cases, I believe contracts affect the way players play. I believe they try to elevate their play during contract years and I believe they become lackadaisical after they sign big contracts. With that being said, I don’t think Wright is one of those players. I really, really hope I’m right. I think Wright will pick up where he left off at last year’s All-Star break. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won a batting title this season. He’ll continue to be a stellar defensive stopper at third base and lead the Mets in almost every category—except one…
Davis is going to mash 40 this year. I can feel it in my bones. I can’t rationally sit here and think that Davis is going to be as bad against lefties and off-speed pitches as he was last season. Something’s got to give. Unfortunately, Davis is a real Jekyll and Hyde player so he’s going to have to be more consistent if he’s going to get there. He either tears the cover off the ball or looks like Charles Barkley swinging a golf club.
This might be a defining season for Duda. At 26 years old, he’s shown flashes of what he’s capable of. He’s a streaky hitter though and doesn’t have the wheels to play decent defense in the outfield. He gets a spot in this lineup by default because the Mets don’t really have anyone else. At this point, Duda is more of a platoon outfielder that would be best suited to pinch hit off the bench. I hope he changes my mind this year.
Mets fans had plenty of opportunities to see Buck on the Marlins last year. He’ll play until the Mets can get Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate. Buck batted below the Mendoza line last year and the Mets can expect more of the same this year. It’s hard to imagine, but he played just about as bad as Thole did last season.
Buck: BA – .192 / HR – 12 / RBIs – 41 / OBP – .297 / SB – 48 / CS – 18 / DWAR – 0.9
Thole: BA – .234 / HR – 1 / RBIs – 21 / OBP – .294 / SB – 57 / CS – 17 / DWAR – 1.1
I thought Nieuwenhuis had a decent first half in his rookie season (BA – .268 / HR – 7 / RBIs – 25). Then Terry Collins sent him to Buffalo in July after Mike Baxter came back from the DL and a 9-for-73 slump. I think his problem was that he hit the rookie wall and pitchers figured out he couldn’t hit anything besides a fastball. Nieuwenhuis strikes out way too much and has to improve his pitch recognition. He’s a decent center fielder who seems to be getting better. He has a fluent stride and takes good routes to ball. Sometimes I can’t tell though if I’m saying these things because Andres Torres playing center field made him look much more appealing.
Between his pinch-hit home runs and questionable hat choices, Valdespin sure has a flare for the dramatics. Many of you are not going to like what I have to say about ‘Spin, but I like the guy. I think he has a lot of character and is a poor-man’s Manny Ramirez (ensue trolling). With regular playing time, I think ‘Spin can be a 20/20 guy. It looks like he’ll get the opportunity to if the Mets continue on their current offseason track.
I included Harvey here because I think he should start Opening Day. The goal for the Mets is to get Johan to play the first half of this season like he did the first half of last season so they can get some trade value on him. If the Mets want to do that, they’ll need to be careful with him. They don’t need him getting all juiced up for Opening Day trying to throw 90 MPH fastballs all game. Harvey is fully capable of being the Mets ace this year. It just depends on how he can hold up for an entire season. I considered putting Harvey at least above Buck in the lineup due to hitting ability, but I thought that might be a little disrespectful.
What would your lineup look like if the season started today? Give me your thoughts.