Sandy Alderson and his front office have spent all winter trying to address the Mets weaknesses and shortcomings in an attempt to put a much improved product on the field for the 2014 season. Or in other words, they’ve been doing exactly what 29 other MLB front offices have been doing.
However, for this particular post, let’s just stick to the five teams that comprise he National League East and take a look at how the division stacks up as we get ready to start Spring Training.
This is a simple but common method of comparing teams using rank points across each team’s position players, starting pitchers, and bullpens. The rankings take into consideration recent success/failure, history of injuries, and track record.
The lower the number of the ranking, the better the grade. At the end, we add up all the rank points and compare how each team did. My notes for each ranking follows and they include any exceptions made as well.as my thoughts and explanation.
NL EAST PROJECTIONS BY RANK POINTS
C: Wilson Ramos has been great once he got healthy; Carlos Ruiz is slowing down at 36; Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a good veteran but with a low average; Travis d’Arnaud is unproven but talented; Evan Gattis is a strong guy but a horrible defender with high strikeouts.
1B: Freddie Freeman gets the edge due to Ryan Howard‘s health issues the last couple of years; Adam LaRoche is steady; the Mets platoon of either Ike Davis or Lucas Duda and Josh Satin should prove decent; and Garrett Jones is not a very good first baseman or hitter.
2B: Chase Utley had a great year, but his knees are always on the verge of DL; Daniel Murphy is adequate offensively but needs to improve defensively; Dan Uggla is third based on past history and writing off 2013 as just a very bad year; Anthony Rendon is a talented youngster; Rafael Furcal is trying to show he is healthy.
SS: Ian Desmond is the best combination of offense and defense; Andrelton Simmons is amazing defensively, but the bat needs to improve; Jimmy Rollins is slowing down, but still a smart veteran; Ruben Tejada should offer better offense than Adeiny Hechavarria, whose bat is very under-developed.
3B: David Wright is one of the best in baseball; Chris Johnson had a great year, but hit 50 points more than his lifetime average; Ryan Zimmerman needs to stay on the field but his many injuries have diminished his fielding and have the Nats considering putting him at 1B in 2015; Casey McGehee is a veteran coming back from Japan; Cody Asche is a youngster.
LF: Bryce Harper rivals Mike Trout as the best young outfielder in baseball; Justin Upton is a very talented, but sometimes erratic young player; Christian Yelich is a young, very talented hitter and baserunner; Domonic Brown had a breakout year, but his long swing offers many strikeouts; Chris Young is trying to show health and production to get a big contract next year.
CF: Ben Revere was doing well until his injury in late-June; Marcell Ozuna is an up and coming, very talented hitter and fielder; B.J. Upton has a history of power and speed, but also low average and strikeouts; Denard Span is a steady defender and leadoff type; Juan Lagares is a wizard defensively but most prove offensive ability.
RF: Giancarlo Stanton is a premier power hitter; Jason Heyward is a very good defender and has streaks of being great offensively followed by tons of strikeouts like almost all the Atlanta hitters; Curtis Granderson (Placed in RF because of the “Eric Young factor” and Terry Collins will not want to flip-flop him) needs to show health, but should be a good run producer and base runner albeit a questionable batting average; Jayson Werth is not the run producer we remember in Philly but still a very tough out, especially against lefties; Marlon Byrd had a great year in 2013 and needs to prove that is not a fluke.
SP1: Cliff Lee is one the most consistent and dependable pitchers in baseball; Stephen Strasburg still has very good numbers, but suffered last year from run support and inconsistencies; Jose Fernandez stepped onto the scene and had a great year, but let’s see it again; Jonathon Niese returned to health in the second half and was very good the last six weeks; Mike Minor improved his control last year, and needs to maintain that control which the Braves excelled in as a staff.
SP2: Cole Hamels would be an ace of many staffs, but lacks the consistency of Lee; Gio Gonzalez showed that he was just as good as the year before in the second half; Bartolo Colon had a very good year in the AL, and now transfers over to the lighter hitting league; Kris Medlen was solid as usual, and the best bet amongst Braves pitchers to repeat 2013 numbers; Nathan Eovaldi is still only 23, but is trying to harness his stuff which leads to high pitch counts.
SP3: Jordan Zimmerman pitched last year as a co-ace to Strasburg and has been brilliant since coming back from TJ surgery in 2012; Julio Teheran had a great year, but like Minor, his great control last year was contrary to his previous years’ showings and may not repeat; Zack Wheeler is improving his command; Jacob Turner is a talented pitcher however, the Marlins may now be trying to trade him. Kyle Kendrick is a soft tosser that was able to keep runners off the bases via the walk last year because he gives up a lot of home runs in Citizens Bank Park.
SP4: Doug Fister is a dependable starter that was acquired from Detroit; Dillon Gee returned to pre-injury form by May and was very consistent the last four months; Brandon Beachy is coming back from injury, but was an ace before his injury; Roberto Hernandez is a battler type with low walks and low strikeouts; Henderson Alvarez is an inconsistent youngster.
SP5: This is where it pays to be a Mets fan! We know that Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero, and Noah Syndergaard should provide production closer to a mid rotation pitcher in the SP #5 position; Ross Detwiler is coming off injury, but was decent beforehand; Jonathan Pettibone is a talented youngster that battled injury last year; Gavin Floyd is trying to come back from injury himself; Tom Koehler is very hittable and doesn’t generate many strikeouts.
CL: Craig Kimbrel is one of the best in baseball; Rafael Soriano has had several reliable seasons as a closer; Bobby Parnell needs to show he is healthy, but last year became the dominant closer the Mets always hoped for after adding a knuckle curve to the repertoire; Jonathan Papelbon has started showing velocity loss and was touched up for some ugly blown saves last year; Steve Cishek is a side-arming finesse pitcher.
Bullpen: The Mets depth in pitching puts them ahead of the others; Washington still has a solid three when combining Soriano with Craig Stammen and Tyler Clippard; Philly has a less spectacular, albeit solid three in Antonio Bastardo, Papelbon, and Mike Adams; Atlanta’s bullpen has been ravaged by injuries but is expecting Jonny Venters back by June; Miami has a young pen with Rule 5 pickup Angel Sanchez.
The numbers show that Washington is the most talented team in the division. However, the next three are very close and while Atlanta won the division pretty handily last year, many things went perfectly for them. Although expecting a bounce back from Uggla and B.J. Upton is reasonable, it’s hard to expect a recurrence of Johnson hitting 50 points more than his career norm, pitchers all keeping a remarkable improvement in control, and the hitters slugging so many timely home runs. The hitting may still be very good overall, but the pitchers’ stability will be the key to where Atlanta finishes.
Philadelphia is third, but that is assuming: 1) all their oft-injured players will not be out for prolonged periods and that may be a stretch, and 2) there isn’t regression from a collection of players that are mostly in their mid-thirties.
The Mets are in a very good position to sneak into the number two spot if their players can achieve or even overachieve their expectations. The Marlins are rebuilding, but have a young nucleus of hitters in Stanton, Yelich, and Ozuna, with veteran leadership in Saltalamacchia and Jones, but still a very raw pitching staff.
This is quite a simple comparison and does not allow for disparities, such as how big a difference a borderline elite player like, say Justin Upton, is better than Christian Yelich, the next ranked LF. While it always plays out differently between the lines, and I didn’t know what to expect when I started this exercise, I feel we are seeing a realistic picture of where the teams stand right now.