David Wright, 3B
DOB: December 20, 1982 (33 on Opening Day)
Contract: Year four of eight-year, $138 million deal ($20 million salary)
In just two short years, David Wright has gone from being a top ten position player in all of baseball to being arguably the biggest question mark for the Mets going into the 2016 season.
Wright, who just turned 33, is battling spinal stenosis, a degenerative back condition that can be managed with treatment, but will never really go away. Last year, a DL stint that was supposed to be a few weeks off to nurse a hamstring strain turned into a months-long rehab program for his back.
Despite the condition, however, Wright was very solid once coming off the disabled list in August. He finished out the regular season starting about five out of every six days. From his return to the end of the year, Wright slashed .277/.381/.437 with four home runs and seven doubles.
The postseason was very different for Wright, however. While I normally wouldn’t comment much on it since it is a very small sample size against the game’s best teams, Wright doesn’t have much to evaluate from 2015. Over 64 plate appearances, Wright slashed .185/.313/.278 with just one homer and two doubles, leaving questions about Wright’s health going into next season.
Marcel – 346 PAs, .275/.343/.427, 9 HR
Steamer – 556 PAs, .267/.338/.410, 14 HR
Of all the players on the Mets roster right now, Wright has the most worthless projections. While I showed them above, they are very basic systems that don’t take into account the nature of Wright’s injury.
That being said, they have one thing in common for Wright: a decrease in power. With the diagnosis of spinal stenosis, this will almost certainly happen with Wright. Gone are the days where we will get a .500 slugging percentage or a .220 ISO from third base. Wright’s back will leave him less able to access the home run power in his legs. For a player like Wright, that’s where the home run power comes from.
I see Wright going from the perfect number three hitter that he’s been for most of his career to a number two hitter. His plate discipline will still be there, as will his ability to hit line drives to all fields. Even with the back injury, he could hit 15 home runs in a season.
Wright came back to the team in August ready to let it rip immediately. Whatever he was doing with his doctors and physical therapists in Los Angeles was clearly working. With a full offseason to develop a plan and Wright’s notorious devotion to pre-game exercises, therapies, and stretches to get him ready, I’m more optimistic that we will see the David Wright of the regular season rather than the postseason.
Managing Wright’s condition will be a challenge for Terry Collins, but the signing of Asdrubal Cabrera and the shift of Wilmer Floes to the bench make the job much easier. With a very capable backup, Collins and Wright should be more willing to take rest days when necessary. If it were Eric Campbell or Ruben Tejada backing up third, both Collins and Wright would likely hesitate to take days off, which can’t happen with an injury like this.
The big question for Wright (outside of how close to his old self will he be) is how much he will be able to stay on the field. The truth is I don’t know. None of us know. Not the beat writers, the doctors, or even the readers of this blog. I’m not going to sit here and declare that Wright is going to play a certain number of games because he simply hasn’t been tested with this condition over the course of a full season. He may continue to do seven hours of preparation before each game and be able to rack up 500 or 550 plate appearances. Or he might be on and off the disabled list constantly.
If he can stay reasonably healthy, a .270/.370/.430 slash line over however many games he plays would be outstanding given the circumstances. The major loss for Wright will be his power, but the rest of his approach at the plate should be more or less intact. An .800 OPS is nothing close to the Wright of 2012 and 2013, but it is still well above average even for third base. That would put him on par with the likes of Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier. Not bad for someone who we once doubted would ever play again.