If you are like me, you look forward to a time when the major rebuilding is done and the Mets can (hopefully) embark on an extended period of high level competitiveness and play meaningful games (to borrow a phrase) each fall. Assuming that time is near (2014? 2015?), what will the team’s roster look like? I offer a speculative peek from one fan’s perspective that will focus on internal options:
FIRST BASE: This should be easy. Assuming no blockbuster deal or career derailment, Ike Davis looks to be a lock to hold this position for years to come. In a year Ike will be entering his prime seasons (ages 27-32) and should provide steady defense and left-handed thump on a regular basis. Expect a move by management to sign him to a long-term deal fairly soon.
SECOND BASE: This is not an easy call. We have a convergence of players that can fit here including Daniel Murphy, Jordany Valdespin, Wilmer Flores, and Reese Havens. Most of this crew are somewhat challenged defensively, and Havens’ ability to stay healthy is a major concern. Murph has the hustle we all love and flashes the potential of a high-average hitter. Consistency is the key here. Valdespin (if he doesn’t ultimately wind up in the outfield) has the most speed of the group to go with surprising pop. The leather may remain an issue as well as what can charitably be described as a somewhat mercurial personality. Flores is a bat in search of a position. Third would likely have been his best bet, but we know what the deal is with that. I like his potential but my instincts tell me “trade bait.” Havens inability to stay on the field makes him an enigma, and at age 26 he’s getting a bit long in the tooth for prospect status. Still, he could certainly surprise. The verdict: Murphy, whose drive will improve his defense to “acceptable” and whose bat should produce enough line drives to offset his relatively low walk totals.
SHORTSTOP: Well, if the organization keeps drafting guys at this position, I guess they’ll find somebody they like. Really, the guy we ought to have is up in Toronto now but that’s a story for another day. Ruben Tejada has been steady, if not spectacular, and at 23 is young enough to take a few steps forward in his game. Speed is not part of the package, but he has a good eye at the plate and could develop a bit more power in time. Still, he’s likely to remain more of a “pesky” hitter than anything else. If he can bring his OBP up another 10% or so, he’d be more of an offensive component. The glove is fine. So, should we look for Gavin Cecchini, T.J. Rivera, German Rosario, Phillip Evans, or Wilfredo Tovar to supplant Tejada in the next two years? Doubtful, but ya never know. From what I read, Cecchini, Rosario, and Evans have potential, but they are years away (read 3-4), Tovar projects as a utility guy and Rivera, despite an eye-catching batting line at two levels of A ball last year, is a bit older for his level of competition and generally not rated as a top prospect by those rating the organization’s farm system. The verdict: Tejada, who will hopefully raise his offensive game a notch or two.
THIRD BASE: David Wright. ‘Nuff said.
CATCHER: If I put anyone here but Travis D’Arnaud, I’d be called anything you could imagine including late for dinner. Still, Kevin Plawecki has some intriguing skills (good eye, low strikeout rate, some evidence of mid-line power), so perhaps he’ll be in the picture as a backup. Francisco Pena has good bloodlines but hasn’t hit. So Travis it is.
OUTFIELD: I was reading today that the Mets haven’t sent a left fielder to the All-Star Game since Cleon Jones went 43 years ago. I also remember reading about the Red Sox having only three left fielders over a 50 year time frame (Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice). All of which makes me wonder when we will find the slugging stalwart we’ve been waiting for. I find Lucas Duda to be a likable type, and would love to see him blossom into…I don’t know, the next Greg Luzinski?
Barring a trade or (gasp) a Free Agent Signing, the outfield remains either a semi-barren rock garden or a fertile field, waiting for planting depending on your viewpoint. There isn’t a whole lot to work with here as far as players close to the majors, made worse with the injury to Matt den Dekker. The consensus is that his glove is great but his bat requires a season of adjustment per level to catch up to the advanced pitchers he has faced. Like Havens, age is an issue as he’ll be 26 in August. Essentially, he projects as Kirk Nieuwenhuis with more spectacular fielding chops and I don’t know if either of them will hit enough to break out of role player/4th outfielder status.
As for the best of the rest, Brandon Nimmo may be the real deal but is unlikely to figure in the picture before 2016 at the earliest, Juan Lagares and Cesar Puello (he of the looming PED suspension) show tools but doesn’t appear to be close to major league ready, and the intriguing names from the low minors such as Alonzo Harris, Travis Taijeron, Cory Vaughn, and the near-legendary Vicente Lupo are simply not in the picture at this time.
So…we gotta hope that Duda develops and that we catch lightning in a bottle with someone in the current group.The wild card is Valdespin who can force his way in through sheer production. I’m looking for the Wilpons to step up and maybe import Jacoby Ellsbury, Adam Jones, or Shin-Soo Choo to hold down a position in 2014. And maybe management parlays some spare parts with value (e.g. Flores, Murph, etc.) into a legitimate outfield bat.
ROTATION: At last, something to regard as a strength. There are arms up and down the system and everyone already has visions of a potential starting five that will include Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jonathon Niese, Noah Syndergaard and Dillon Gee, with a plethora of promising choices to fill in if needed. Me too.
In the next few years, I expect that Jenrry Mejia, Luis Mateo, Rafael Montero, Michael Fulmer, Domingo Tapia, Hansel Robles, Jacob deGrom, Cory Mazzoni, et al. will feed the 25 man roster either as fresh arms or as trade fodder to maybe help shore up that pesky outfield. I have my doubts about Mejia from a durability standpoint, but the little I’ve seen of Mazzoni and Montero this spring looks quite promising. I think we can actually count on primarily in-house options here.
BULLPEN: Will Bobby Parnell emerge as the closer we’ve been waiting for? If he does it will represent a change in trend for a team that has imported players for this position consistently for decades. I think he can do the job now that he’s demonstrated an approach that relies more heavily on changing speeds and locations and less on sheer velocity. If Jeurys Familia can harness his control (where have I heard that before) then another home-grown option may loom. From the port side, Robert Carson and Josh Edgin look to have potential, and farther down the line Jack Leathersich seems to be one to watch along with Adam Kolarek. The bullpen is one area that the team seems to re-make almost entirely each off-season without a ton of success, so maybe the current crop of up-and-comers can lend some stability in the near future.
So there you have it. Do the Mets project as a possible dynasty team in the next few years? I think it is possible, but whether it will be a team that resembles the ’69-’73 Seaver/Koosman/McGraw and “enough” offense Mets, the mid-80’s Doc/Darling/Keith/Straw powerhouse, the late ‘90’s Bobby V/Piazza/Leiter/Ventura outfit, or the Pedro/Beltran/Delgado/Reyes/Wright group of a few years back is dependent on a host of factors.
When I look at this organization as currently comprised, I remind myself that the SF Giants have won consistently with gaping holes in their offense and a dominant rotation. I could see a similar evolution here, but I sure wouldn’t mind a bit more offense. Here’s hoping.
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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader, Gerry Silverman.
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