As we close in on February and closer to the start of Spring Training, here’s my take on what our Lineup, Bench, Rotation and Bullpen should be to open the season.
Note: This is not what I think will happen, but what I would do if I were making the decisions.
1. Chris Young, RF – The best combo of speed and on-base in the starting squad. In the last five years, 2009 -2013, Young’s 11.1 BB% has been 9th best among all MLB outfielders with a minimum 2,500 plate appearances. While his .231 batting average is not what will be continuing rallies and driving in base runners in the middle of the lineup, his ability to get on base will work nicely in the top of the lineup. He also brings about 16 steals a year, so he certainly will not be clogging up the base paths.
2. Juan Lagares, CF – I would treat Lagares like Jim Leyland treated Jay Bell, that is have him bunting often to gain bat control. During the summer months of June, July, and August, Lagares had a .288/.321/.460 slash line. Although a small sample, there is promise. Plus, being a number two hitter will force Lagares to take more pitches and draw more than that “once a week” walk. At least that’s the hope.
3. Daniel Murphy, 2B – Murphy is a .343 hitter when pulling the ball. No surprise. I have long felt that he needs a good strengthening program to help him whip the bat through the zone faster and turn on pitches to create power. Murphy has said that he wants to be more selective to get pitches to drive. Here, we are holding him to it. Can you imagine how much better this team is if Murphy can have a .290/.360/.480 slash line? He was close last year at .286/.319/.415.
4. David Wright, 3B – The only player that can handle this spot. If we put Wright at #3 and Murphy at #2, the lineup will shorten. Wright is still the best hitter on the team.
5. Curtis Granderson, LF – Not a cleanup hitter, yet. While Granderson has hit home runs at a rate of 1 HR per every 20 at-bats, putting him in a position where he is expected to hit home runs will take away from his other attributes such as using his speed to get more doubles and triples as well.
6. Travis d’Arnaud, C – Hitting between two left-handed power hitters should get d’Arnaud a ton of chances and hittable strikes, and make this young hitter’s transition easier while handling his very demanding position on the field.
7. Ike Davis, 1B – Davis gets six weeks to find himself. Duda in minors to become more aggressive with men on base and if Davis falters in first six weeks. If Davis fails to impress in six weeks, the players are switched and Duda takes this spot. He will then get six weeks while Flores waits for a spot to open up.
8. Ruben Tejada, SS – No other options, but hopefully, this option will suffice.
Omar Quintanilla - There is no way this team should have only one SS on the roster ever again.
Josh Satin - Platoon with Davis, backup Wright. Even Baseball Reference lists one of his positions as “pinch hitter”. LOL!!
Eric Young - To get about 70 starts between LF (25 starts), RF (15 starts), CF (15 starts), 2B (15 starts). Keeps the other players fresh and provides a change of pace to the lineup. Players like Granderson and Young that have come off injuries and Murphy that was run into the ground last year will have more rest to stay strong all year.
1. Dillon Gee - Two reasons for putting Gee here: First, he can be marketed as such for trade purposes in late July, if he has a strong first half. Second, he was consistent last year and this team needs to start rewarding top performances of younger players.
2. Zack Wheeler – Wheeler’s speed after Gee’s guile will be a nice fluctuation to the rotation.
3. Bartolo Colon – Colon could fit into any one of the top three spots, but we will leave him here for now. He still throws 97 and has very good control.
4. Jon Niese – Niese had a tough start to the year after hurting his shoulder, but came back and fished with a respectable 3.71 ERA. As the lone lefty on the staff, putting him before the #5 starter will give whoever the #5 starter the advantage of having one turn through the lineup as an adjustment phase for the other team. A little extra assistance for your “weakest” link.
5. Jenrry Mejia – Mejia only pitched 27.1 innings last year for the Mets, but at age 24 showed that he is still a top prospect in talent striking out 27 while walking only 4 in five starts. That is only 5+ innings per start, but if this talented pitcher can be brought along and kept healthy, he needs every chance to show that he can be a strong performer while trying to build up his endurance for more dependability.
John Lannan / Daisuke Matsuzaka - As Mets fans, we realize that our best pitching prospects are on the cusp of arriving. While we are waiting for Super Two dates to pass and each prospect to prove their readiness, pitchers like Dice-K and Lannan are protection against Mejia’s faltering or any other injury that comes up in the first half.
Carlos Torres – First up as a long starter/swing man out of the bullpen.
The three prospects closest to being ready for the majors, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and Jake deGrom, will all likely start in AAA Las Vegas. Montero is the most ready with 159 innings pitched last year, 89 of them being in AAA. Thor pitched 117 innings in 2013 between A and AA, but may start in AAA to be challenged. He does have some developing to do. DeGrom pitched 147 innings between three levels, A+, AA, and AAA, and needs seasoning either in Las Vegas, or in the Mets bullpen as his 0.71 HR/9 innings in Las Vegas was very impressive for the environment, but his 3.00 BB% wasn’t.
Jeurys Familia – If he is as healthy as he showed in Winter Ball, this is a great place to start. High 90′s but spotty control keep him as a seventh inning reliever.
Vic Black – Did pretty well in his late season cameo as a closer, and is another 98 mph arm that can be a quality late inning reliever.
Bobby Parnell – The closer. While the Mets are toeing the waters for another option at closer, Parnell insists he is healthy. While all players are saying that this time of year, it would make sense to have another option. Unfortunately, our spending limit is fast approaching.
Josh Edgin – The first lefty in the bullpen. Edgin brings the ability to get righties out as well and save Terry from making extra moves after he gets a tough lefty batter out.
Gonzalez Germen – Germen showed promise albeit spotty consistency during his time in the Mets’ pen last year. Definitely showed he can get outs in the major leagues, and is another option in the front of the bullpen.
Carlos Torres – As noted earlier, the long man/spot starter that can pitch several innings during an appearance. He proved valuable last season.
Scott Rice – LOOGY. Lefties: 1.70 ERA, 37 innings, 35 K. 10 BB. Righties: 9.00 ERA, 14 innings, 6 K, 17 BB. Any questions?
Other options include deGrom, or Ryan Reid, who was acquired from Pittsburgh off waivers. Reid throws a heavy 93 mph fastball with a 9.0 K rate in the minors, but a 3.7 BB rate. Last year in 11 innings in Pittsburgh, his ERA was 1.64.
While the need to play Eric Young will create problems, I do understand the need for his speed. It is hoped that he can be spotted to give a break to the starters and a change of pace to the lineup.
Wilmer Flores needs to play everyday, and thus, will start in Las Vegas. Many very good prospects have stayed in the minors while awaiting an opening, so Flores isn’t the first. Den Dekker may also need to go down to play more consistently while an opening develops.
Lucas Duda will also go to Vegas to play often and work on his run production. While we all like players that get on base, what good is a slow, power hitting, leadoff type mentality? Duda needs to understand that he is taking pitches to get a better pitch to hit, not just taking the walk. He will probably decrease his strikeouts and certainly increase his production. In 2011, he had 17 RBI / 100 ABs, hit .292 with 10 HR, a 9.5% BB rate, and a 16.6% K rate. In 2012, he had 12 RBI / 100 ABs, hit .239 with more HRs (15), a 11.1% BB rate, and a 26.1% K rate. In 2013, he had 8 RBI / 100 ABs, hit .223 and again had 15 HRs, a 14.4% BB rate, and a 26.6% K rate. See a trend? Swing the bat Lucas!!!
Matt Harvey – sob :’( Missing, but not forgotten.
While I am not ecstatic about this lineup, this is the best opportunity for the Mets to be successful. There are still weaknesses in batting average overall, and there isn’t a full time lead-off speed type unless Young hits .311 again like he did in Colorado two years ago, and there should be a continuous breeze at Citi Field from the whiffs galore. But, if they play fundamentally correct, d’Arnaud hits well, and a first baseman emerges, they may be in the wildcard picture in September, and that hasn’t happened in six years.