Mets Merized Online » Connor O’Brien http://metsmerizedonline.com Tue, 21 Apr 2015 14:16:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.5 2015 Mets Season Preview: Infield http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/2015-mets-season-preview-infield.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/2015-mets-season-preview-infield.html/#comments Sat, 04 Apr 2015 20:58:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=177484 Here at MMO, we’ve been previewing specific areas of the 2015 Mets. So far, we’ve covered the starting rotation, the bullpen, and the catcher position. Today, we continue with part four: the infield.

Lucas Duda

lucas dudaLucas Duda thrust himself into the conversation of being one of the National League’s best power hitters last year. His 30 home runs were third in the NL and his .228 ISO was fourth. All of this came after a six week battle with Ike Davis for the starting first base job. Now, for the first time in his career, Duda’s job is locked up going into the season.

The 29 year-old Duda did everything the Mets needed on offense last year. His .253/.349/.481 slash line more than exceeded expectations, as did his 136 wRC+ and 3.2 fWAR. His 2014 season now has him considered for sure one of the top ten first basemen in baseball and possible one of the top five offensively.

All of this is great. However, some will look at the overall numbers Duda put up last year and argue that he should play 155 games per year. As I’ve argued repeatedly, falling in love with the idea of having a 155 game per year first baseman will cause the Mets to lose out on a lot of productivity at the position. Despite Duda’s fantastic overall numbers, he still slashed .180/.265/.252 against left-handed pitching. For his career, his numbers are only slightly better. He simply can’t hit left-handed pitching.

Terry Collins seems determined to ignore this and play Duda against lefties this season. For that reason, I just don’t see his numbers going up significantly from last season. Unless Collins wises up, 25 percent of games at first base might as well be played by Omar Quintanilla.

Daniel Murphy

daniel murphyIf there is one player on the Mets who is a sure thing for this season, it’s Daniel Murphy. For the past three seasons, Murphy’s numbers have been basically the same. .290/.330/.410 is more than solid for a second baseman. Last season, the average second baseman hit .250/.307/.364 (88 wRC+), so Murphy is significantly above average with the bat.

Interestingly, the past three years have seen Murphy’s offensive and defensive numbers tick up a bit. Three years ago, his wRC+ was at 103, and has since climbed to 110. His UZR three years ago was -10.2 runs at second base. Last year, it was -5.6 in about the same sample size.

Murphy is definitely a top ten second baseman and there is no reason to believe he’s going anywhere on that list. In fact, since it’s a walk year, there is only more motivation for Murphy to exceed expectations.

Wilmer Flores

wilmer floresAfter so much speculation in the offseason, the Mets didn’t end up making a change at shortstop, so it will be Wilmer Flores playing the position to start the season.

Despite the disappointment over not acquiring Troy Tulowitzki (yet), the Mets still have a very solid option at short. Flores struggled for the first part of 2014, with a batting average hovering around .220, but was then able to turn it on the last two months of the season, slashing .266/.306/.426  with five home runs, ten doubles, and a triple in 49 games, 46 of which he started. Compare that to the .251/.306/.363 line that all MLB shortstops had last year and you’ve got a very good hitter for the position.

If Flores can continue this production, shortstop is set, and considering he is only 23 years old, it might get even better.

Two of the readily-available projection systems — ZiPS and Steamer — are showing mixed results for Flores this season. Steamer has him at .248/.286/.398 (94 wRC+) while ZiPS (usually the more pessimistic system) has him at .266/.300/.428 (106 wRC+) with 17 home runs, which would be more than enough for Flores to lock his spot down permanently.

David Wright

david wrightThere is no one more important to the Mets’ 2015 hopes than David Wright. The 32 year-old had, by his standards, a terrible season last year, hitting around league average and getting hurt. This came after two years of being among the best ten (arguable among the best five) position players in baseball. However, last year, hampered by a shoulder injury and just not being himself, it was a vastly different story.

Wright posted a 100 wRC+ last season, 16 points lower than even his disappointing 2011 season. His eight home runs were the fewest of his career, despite playing in 134 games. His eight stolen bases were also the fewest since his rookie year. All in all, it was no doubt the worst season of Wright’s 11-year career.

Will he bounce back? His shoulder injury and his overall body of work, which has him on pace to make the Hall of Fame, lead me to think he will. There are, of course, those who will ignore the shoulder injury to make Wright’s contract extension (and thus the front office) look bad, but you have to consider it. The truth is, Wright played for three months with a shoulder injury, and admitted that it forced him to overcompensate by altering his swing.

Wright’s spring training numbers aren’t spectacular but they have something that he really lacked last season: power, Wright is slugging .500 with four home runs and a double. Wright has also shown he can drive the ball to right field, which has been an indicator of where he is throughout his career. I’m predicting a big bounce-back year for him.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @connor_obrien97. And make sure to keep checking back here for more previews of the 2015 Mets season.

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2015 Mets Season Preview: Catcher http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/2015-mets-season-preview-catcher.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/2015-mets-season-preview-catcher.html/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:00:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=177474 Last week, we began our season previews for this year’s Mets squad as they gear up for Opening Day a week from now. So far, we’ve covered the starting rotation and the bullpen. This week, we’ll cover the catching position, the infield, the outfield, and the bench. Enjoy!

Travis d’Arnaud

New York Mets v Minnesota Twins2014 was a tale of two seasons for the young Travis d’Arnaud. The first, which lasted from Opening Day until June 6, when d’Arnaud was sent down to Triple-A, had some Mets fans ready to give up on the top prospect. However, about two and a half seemingly magical weeks in the minor leagues turned d’Arnaud’s season around completely.

Through June 6, d’Arnaud hit .180/.271/.273 with just three home runs in 145 plate appearances. After two weeks in Las Vegas, in which he hit six home runs in 15 games, d’Arnaud returned to the Mets, and it got nothing but better for the young catcher. After returning, he hit .272/.319/.486 with ten home runs in 276 plate appearances. If he had put up those numbers all season, his OPS (.805) would have been sixth among catchers with 300 or more plate appearances. These 69 games were what scouts dreamed about d’Arnaud doing for years.

In Las Vegas, d’Arnaud and hitting coach George Greer moved his back foot closer to the plate with the hopes of it helping him hit the outside pitch. Looking at his zone profiles, courtesy of Brooks Baseball, the difference was clear.

Before Demotion to Las Vegas

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 3.14.02 PM

After Return to Mets

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 3.13.19 PM

As you can see, d’Arnaud’s ability to hit the outside pitch before the work in Triple-A was basically nonexistent. After returning, he became a far more balanced hitter. If he can keep this issue at bay, he has a chance to have an outstanding season offensively. He has proven that he can be among the best hitting catchers in baseball, he just has to sustain it.

Defensively, d’Arnaud was a mixed bag. He was a great pitch framer, but occasionally had some trouble blocking pitches behind the plate. He finished the year with a -15 Defensive Runs Saved and an RPP (Catcher blocked pitches in runs above average) of -3.1. If d’Arnaud can continue to hit like he did from mid-June on, however, it really doesn’t matter how bad his defense it.

As for projecting this season, Steamer and ZiPS both project d’Arnaud to have a good season, although I think even those projections are a little conservative. I can definitely see d’Arnaud repeat his .800+ OPS over a full season, and thrust himself into the category of elite catcher.

Anthony Recker

anthony reckerIt seemed for a moment like Johnny Monell could actually make a run at the job of backup catcher, as he has had an incredible spring training so far. However, the job will most likely go to the more known quantity, 31 year-old Anthony Recker.

Recker had a down season last year after a 2013 campaign that had Mets fans optimistic about his future. In 2013, he posted a wRC+ of 95, not terrible for a backup catcher. However, Recker struggled significantly more last season, seeing his wRC+ drop 15 points to 75.

Recker provides some power off the bench, but at times has provided only that. His line last year was carried by his seven home runs. Otherwise, he didn’t do much over his 189 trips to the plate. He’s no Ramon Castro.

On defense, Recker threw out a well above average 37 percent of runner trying to steal while on the other hand, according to Baseball Prospectus, he was terrible at framing pitches, something d’Arnaud is notorious for.

Steamer and ZiPS both have Recker around .207/.270/.360, which amounts to around an 80 wRC+, not quite what you are looking for in a backup catcher. He will have to do better than that to keep his job.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @connor_obrien97. And make sure to check back later this week for more previews of the 2015 Mets season.

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2015 Mets Season Preview: Bullpen http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/2015-mets-season-preview-bullpen.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/2015-mets-season-preview-bullpen.html/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:00:10 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=177006 Here is the second of a six-part MMO Special Feature, our 2015 Mets Season Preview. I previewed the starting rotation yesterday and over the next two weeks, I’ll be previewing our Bullpen, Catching, Infield, Outfield and Bench. I hope you enjoy my research, analysis, and insights. Let’s continue with Part 2, our bullpen.

Jenrry Mejia

jenrry mejiaAfter making eleven starts at four levels in the Mets organization last year, Jenrry Mejia finally made the permanent transition to the bullpen, filling in for the injured Bobby Parnell. Mejia made seven starts at the beginning of the season before gradually converting to the closer role, where he saw major success.

The 24 year-old, in his second major stint with the big league club, earned himself the closer role that so many scouts had envisioned him filling. After converting to the bullpen, Mejia posted a 2.72 ERA in 56.1 innings, striking out 60 batters (9.56 K/9) and walking 21 (3.36 BB/9). His WHIP dropped from 1.58 to 1.42, which still isn’t great, but is much better than we saw when Mejia was with the Mets in 2010 as a 20 year-old.

If you look at Mejia now versus back in 2010 when Omar Minaya rushed him to the big leagues, he is just a completely different pitcher. In 2010, he was raw, not ready, and clearly outmatched by his big league opponents. Last year, he was, at times, just too nasty for anyone to hit. Steamer projects 22 saves and a 3.43 ERA for Mejia this season. Based on the sheer dominance he showed at times, and the growing comfort Mejia showed with the role throughout the season, he could certainly do better than that.

Jeurys Familia

jeurys familiaOf all the Mets pitchers who broke out last season, none was more dominant than Jeurys Familia. After allowing 13 runs in 23 innings between 2012 and 2013, Familia posted a 2.21 ERA in 77.1 innings.

While Mejia got all the attention for taking over the role as closer, Familia was significantly better, and proved he could be a solid closer in his own right. The hard-throwing righty proved himself especially useful both in the eighth inning as a setup man and as a fill-in closer when Mejia was unavailable. As tempting as it is to have a single relief ace, I like what Terry Collins did with Mejia and Familia last year, not afraid to use either one at the end of the game. Having two dominant pitchers comfortable in the closer role can be extremely helpful down the stretch or in the playoffs.

Familia stuck with his fastball and slider last year, his bread and butter. No longer does he have to keep the starting pitcher mentality that he had for years in the minor league system. And with the eighth-fastest fastball in the major leagues last year (96.2 miles per hour), he can get away with simplicity. He has seen his walk rate gradually drop throughout his minor league career and last year, it hit a reasonable (for a reliever) 3.72 BB/9. Considering how few hits he is allowing, that is more than reasonable.

With Famlia still at 25 years old and finally having some job security, I can absolutely see him having a dominant season once again, although perhaps not as dominant as much as last season. His opponents’ BABIP points towards a less successful 2015, but I don’t envision his ERA climbing far above 3.00, if it does at all.

Vic Black

vic blackWill the line of young, hard-throwing relievers ever end?

The Marlon Byrd and John Buck trade is looking better and better with each passing month as both Dilson Herrera and Vic Black establish themselves as valuable pieces. Black, of course, is further along than Herrera, having had a terrific season with the big league club last year. The righty had a 2.60 ERA in 34.2 innings with the Mets last season, and has a roster spot locked up going into this year.

Black started off last season in the minor leagues despite a decent end to the 2013 season because of major control issues he showed in spring training. As last year’s numbers showed, these issues are still present. Black finished the year with a 4.93 BB/9 rate. For the 26 year-old righty, this has to be a concern going into this year because that kind of walk rate is just not sustainable. Black’s xFIP was 4.16 last year. That’s more the direction Black’s ERA will go if he continues to walk batters at such a high rate.

Seeing as this isn’t a new problem for Black, I don’t see it suddenly getting better this year. Until he gets this fundamental issue worked out, Black likely won’t be able to replicate last year’s results.

Buddy Carlyle

buddy carlyleBuddy Carlyle is proof of the wonders a small sample size, limited exposure, and a low opponent BABIP can do for a pitcher.

At 36, Carlyle had by far the best season of his career, locking up a spot in the 2015 bullpen. His 1.45 ERA in 31 innings could not be touched by any other Met. Ironically, however, he is probably the relief pitcher I trust the least for the Mets this season (which can be taken as somewhat of a compliment for the bullpen I suppose). While Carlyle did pitch well in both Triple-A and the majors last season, he is also a 37 year-old career minor leaguer. With Black, Familia, and Mejia, there is a track record of being a promising prospect not too long ago. With Carlyle, there isn’t.

I also haven’t mentioned the fact that opponents had a .250 BABIP against Carlyle this season, which cannot be sustained. Frankly, he probably just had a lot of luck last season, which is certainly feasible in a small 31 inning sample. This isn’t to say he won’t be effective, only that he won’t be dominant. Steamer and ZiPS are split on him this season. Steamer has him pitching a grand total of one inning all season (which we can safely say will be wrong if Carlyle makes the team as expected) while ZiPS projects him to put up a 4.42 ERA in 55 innings. Given his track record, that is in the ballpark of what I would project.

Carlos Torres

carlos torresCarlos Torres has probably been the most versatile pitcher for the Mets over the last two seasons. During that time, he has made ten starts, 96 relief appearances, and tossed 183.1 innings. Oh, and he’s actually pitched well, too.

In 2013, Torres had a 3.44/4.30/3.50 ERA/FIP/xFIP line, pitching most of those innings as a starter. Last year, mostly in relief, he improved to 3.06/3.86/3.59. What is so great about having Torres in the bullpen is that he can act as both a middle reliever and a long man, and be effective at both. He could split longman duties with Rafael Montero or take on the duties himself. Either way, the Mets have a pretty dependable arm.

The projection systems have Torres hovering between league average and his 2013 numbers, which is perfectly reasonable. His xFIP suggests that his ERA will rise a bit from last year.

Rafael Montero

rafael monteroRafael Montero is a very interesting choice for the bullpen to open up the season. It seems too early to give up on a 24 year-old as a starter, especially one who has had so much success starting, but the move was obviously out of necessity. Having Noah Syndergaard and Steve Matz sitting in Triple-A likely gives the Mets some comfort moving Montero to the bullpen, although I think it is premature, even if many scouts pegged it as his eventual destination.

That being said, Montero is an interesting bullpen arm because he has shown (although not recently) the pinpoint control of a starter. In Savannah, St. Lucie, and Binghamton, he averaged under two walks per nine innings and didn’t go much higher than two in Las Vegas. He also strikes out a decent amount of hitters, and is projected to punch out between eight and nine per nine innings this season.

The computer projections are strange for Montero. ZiPS has Montero making 29 starts with a 3.61 ERA and 3.63 FIP while Steamer has him making 10 starts, 25 relief appearances, and posting a 3.63 ERA and 3.73 FIP. They are both essentially saying Montero will be a tick above MLB average. Having read the scouting reports and having seen Montero conquer just about every level of the minor leagues, not only do I see no reason for him to not be on the big league roster, but I also see Montero meeting his projections if given an opportunity.

Dario Alvarez / Sean Gilmartin

sean gilmartinI can definitely see why the Mets organization is looking externally for a lefty reliever. Dario Alvarez is a somewhat interesting name. He struck out 95 batters in 61.1 innings last year for Savannah and had similar success in extremely small sample sizes in St. Lucie and Binghamton, but that doesn’t really warrant a spot on a major league team. Keeping in mind his age (26), he isn’t exactly a prospect either.

As for Gilmartin, I don’t see him lasting more than a few weeks either. He didn’t pitch extremely well in Triple-A, and Rule V players rarely work out over a full season anyway. Also, he has never been a relief pitcher, let along a LOOGY. Going from a starter to a pitcher who will routinely face only one batter in a game is a big transition.

I’m not even going to project how either of these players pitch because I don’t see either making the big league roster out of camp. Over the next two weeks, Sandy Alderson will find someone to fill that role.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @connor_obrien97. And make sure to check back later this week for more previews of the 2015 Mets season.

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2015 Mets Season Preview: Starting Rotation http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/2015-mets-season-preview-starting-rotation.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/2015-mets-season-preview-starting-rotation.html/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:00:43 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=176958 Here is the first of a six-part MMO Special Feature, our 2015 Mets Season Preview. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be previewing our Starting Pitching, Bullpen, Catching, Infield, Outfield and Bench. I hope you enjoy my research, analysis, and insights. Let’s begin with Part 1, our Starting Pitching.

Matt Harvey

matt harvey dark knightMatt Harvey is back, and has looked absolutely incredible in spring training. The 25 year-old looks like he hasn’t missed a beat and if his recent outing against the Yankees – in which he pitched 5.2 innings of dominant shutout baseball – is any indication of his readiness, it’s going to be an exciting season.

The Mets may have lost a big piece with Zack Wheeler tearing his UCL this spring, but they gained someone who was a top five pitcher in 2013. In 178.1 innings, Harvey struck out an unbelievable 191 batters while walking only 31 before going under the knife. His park and league adjusted ERA was fourth in all of baseball while his Fielding Independent Pitching was first. He was also in the top ten in baseball in K/9, BB/9, and HR/9. Had he pitched a full season, a case could have been made for him to win the Cy Young Award over Clayton Kershaw.

Now, it’s always difficult to project pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery because there is no typical response to the surgery. Some pitchers appear to be rehabbing well only to tear their UCL again. The Mets were about as conservative as an organization could possibly be with a Tommy John patient, however, so it’s much easier to be optimistic with Harvey coming into this season.

Just based off four spring starts, Harvey looks as good as ever. Last year, we definitely saw him get a little heavier than we would have liked, but he also knew he wasn’t likely to pitch all year. This spring, he looks even bigger and stronger than he was before, and he has shown he can still crank up the fastball when he needs to.

Steamer projections have him at a 3.02 ERA and a 3.3 fWAR in 177 innings pitched while ZiPS has him at 3.12 with a 2.3 fWAR in 153 innings pitched. However, projection systems tend to be weird with injuries, especially those with lengthy rehab times. Given Harvey’s outstanding spring performances and his 2.63 xFIP in 2013 – a sign that his outrageous ERA wasn’t just a fluke – I don’t see why Harvey can’t far exceed his computer projections.

Bartolo Colon

bartolo colonBartolo Colon was probably the most under-appreciated Mets last season, and it’s pretty easy to see why he got so little respect from fans. His overall numbers are nothing special. He owned a very pedestrian 4.09 ERA in 202.1 innings pitched.

However, you have to look deeper than those overall numbers to see Colon’s true value last year. Every once in a while, Colon would blow up and have a terrible start. For someone who doesn’t have amazing stuff anymore, this can be expected. Colon has pinpoint control but when that is off – and every pitcher has an off night every few starts – he has very little left to work with. On the other nights, however, he was arguable the Mets’ best pitcher. He went seven or more innings in 18 of his 31 starts, six more than the next closest on the team. He allowed six or more runs in six of his starts, but allowed one or fewer in eight.

It’s tough for people to see how good Colon still is, and that makes sense. But when he was on last year, he was as good as Jacob deGrom, and it was exciting to watch. Colon’s peripherals will never be fantastic because he strikes out so few, but his walk numbers show no sign of slowing down. He’s still got it, it’s just a matter of staying healthy.

In terms of hard numbers for this season, Steamer and ZiPS both have Colon putting up basically the same numbers as last season except in four or five fewer starts. It’s difficult to see Colon pitching over 200 innings again at almost 42 years of age, but I can certainly see his rate stats being exactly where they were last year. For Colon, the projections seem dead on.

Jon Niese

jon niese

Jon Niese is one of the more intriguing pitchers to try to project for this year. He had an awesome year last year, pitching very consistently and posting a very solid 3.40 ERA (102 ERA+. He only allowed more than three earned runs three times and only went fewer than six innings six times.

There were, however, injury concerns that never manifested themselves last season. His four-seam fastball averaged 89.50 miles per hour after averaging 91.47 miles per hour in 2013. He did have some elbow and shoulder issues in spring training and missed his Opening Day start, but he didn’t miss significant time.

What has me optimistic about Niese this season is his velocity is up this spring. He told the New York Post in February that his arm hasn’t felt this good since 2008 and that he pushed it too hard too early last year. While that may sound a lot like “best shape of his life” talk we hear each year, his pitch f/x numbers and the fact that he said he felt like he had knives in his shoulder last year point to an even better season for Niese in 2015.

The computer projections say the opposite for Niese. Steamer has him posting a 4.05 ERA, returning more to the Niese of 2009-2011. ZiPS has him a little better at 3.77. However, neither of these systems are complex enough to take into account Niese’s comments on his injury history. Niese is 28, coming off his best season yet, and is finally healthy. I see no reason why he cannot at least equal his 2014 statistics.

Jacob deGrom

jacob degromThere was certainly no bigger surprise for the 2014 Mets than Jacob deGrom last season. Who would have thought that a mid-level prospect who put up a 4.52 ERA in Triple-A the year before would suddenly become the Rookie of the Year and one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League? And it only seemed like he got better throughout the season. From July 1 on, deGrom had a 2.10 ERA and a 10.4 K/9 rate while also going six innings or more in his last 12 starts.

deGrom has added another top-flight arm to an already good rotation. At the end of last season, he looked like a future ace. Considering his background as a shortstop and his limited experience as a pitcher, it’s difficult not to be giddy when thinking about how good he can be going forward.

As one of the hardest throwing, most electric young pitchers in the National League, deGrom has a bright future ahead of him.

In 2015, it’s hard to imagine deGrom getting putting up better numbers than in 2014 because he was just so darn good. Being a mid-level prospect with little hype surrounding him, he went into the season a complete unknown, a big advantage that he will be without this season. He was able to get away with some rookie mistakes, such as using his weakest pitch (his slider) in high leverage situations too often. His peripherals were solid. There are no red flags in his xFIP, BABIP, or HR/FB rate. In fact, he is even adding a curveball to his repertoire. However, I just don’t see him getting even better just yet. I think ZiPS, which projects a 3.30 ERA, is a somewhat good projection for deGrom.

Dillon Gee

dillon geeHere is where, thanks to the Zack Wheeler injury, we get away from the aces and number two starters and on to what is, for most teams, a number four. Mets fans have loved Dillon Gee for the four years he has been with the team. He has been consistently decent and is a likeable guy, but is overrated in my opinion.

The talk of trading Gee for Jurickson Profar really shows how much Mets fans have grown to overvalue Gee. Gee was, according to fWAR, slightly below replacement level last year, nowhere near good enough to be the central piece in any significant trade.

Gee is an ideal back-end starter, but nothing more. Last season, he posted a 4.00/4.52/4.22 ERA/FIP/xFIP line in 137.1 innings with the Mets, missing about two months with a lat injury. After coming back, Gee had a mediocre 4.78 ERA, after posting a 2.72 mark before going to the disabled list.

Gee’s peripherals were below-average last season and his BABIP suggests he was lucky to even post the numbers that he did. However, Gee probably won’t be too far away from average, above or below, and that’s exactly what the Mets need. The number of teams who get anywhere close to league average from their fifth starter is small. Gee could be even higher up in the rotation on many teams. So while he isn’t going to do anything special this season, he shows just how strong the Mets rotation is, Wheeler or no Wheeler.

Waiting in the wings

The depth of this rotation is spectacular, even with Dillon Gee now in it. Waiting in the wings are three exciting young arms: Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and Steven Matz, all three of whom have the potential to be top-of-the-rotation pitchers. If (more like when, since no rotation ever stays completely healthy) one of the above five get hurt, it will be an opportunity to give one of these exciting prospects a shot. And who knows… maybe we could have a repeat of Jacob deGrom and watch one of them steal a spot from a regular starter. That’s not a bad problem to have.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @connor_obrien97. And make sure to check back later this week for more previews of the 2015 Mets season.

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Featured Post: How Terry Collins Can Maximize Offensive Production http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/featured-post-how-terry-collins-can-maximize-offensive-production.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/featured-post-how-terry-collins-can-maximize-offensive-production.html/#comments Sat, 21 Feb 2015 02:04:29 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=174851 lucas duda

Does playing Duda every single day actually make sense?

The Mets offseason can only be described in one word: decent. The millions in payroll that was supposedly freed up appears to be just a mirage, and Sandy Alderson was unable to secure the big star fans think the team so desperately needs. The offseason that was supposed to be about getting that last big piece or two to prop up the offense didn’t happen. However, that doesn’t mean the offense can’t put up sufficient numbers for a playoff run. It will just take a little more creativity on the part of Terry Collins and his staff.

Every Met fan knows the offense is the team’s weak point. Every ounce of production needs to be squeezed out of the roster — at least for the position players — in order to be a top-notch team. Last year, Terry Collins did the exact opposite. He stuck with “his guys” through thick and thin. This meant playing certain players during slumps, while hurt, or the worst offense: routinely putting players in position to fail. Collins really needs to reverse this if the Mets want an above-average offense. The odds of that happening? Slim, but its worth going through what the optimal offense might look like. Let’s take a peak at the trouble areas.

First Base

Collins will most likely look at Lucas Duda‘s 30 home run season in 2014 and see no reason for him to not play every single night. While Duda certainly did have a fantastic season — the best of his career — the production from the first base position was not maximized. Duda his .273/.372/.543 with 28 home runs in 471 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. However, against left-handers, he batted just .180/.264/.252. This is somewhat in line with his .212/.292/.317 career line against lefties. So why play him against pitchers he obviously is unable to hit against? Does he get a free pass because he hits right-handers so well?

This is what separates the truly smart teams from those stuck on pre-conceived, outdated notions about playing time and production. Take a look at the Oakland Athletics, for example. They obviously can’t afford to buy big-name players at every position. What they do is tell their players to accept roles in platoons. The result is maximum production out of every position, putting players in position to succeed and allowing the A’s to compete with high-payroll teams.

The point is, Collins needs to get rid of the mindset of “Duda has earned it.” Otherwise, it’s just not going to work.

Left and Right Field

This situation is much less clear-cut than that at first base. Not only does Collins have to deal with various platoon splits and streaky sluggers, but he also has defense to keep in mind, far more than at first base.

In right field, Michael Cuddyer could easily post a 120 to 130 wRC+. That’s awesome production, and Cuddyer’s offensive potential this season is quite underrated. However, that big boost Cuddyer brings with the bat could be severely diminished by his work (or lack thereof) with the glove. Collins has to both get his bat in the lineup while also minimizing his exposure on defense. This should mean playing time at first base, at which Cuddyer has logged over 2000 innings in his career. Cuddyer’s platoon splits don’t merit a platoon, but his -28 Defensive Runs Saved in the outfield over the last three seasons are too much to ignore. In this way, the problems at first and in the outfield are very connected. Think about that for a minute and then take a look at Cuddyer and Duda’s career platoon splits side by side, and you should see an obvious solution.

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Collins must also be willing to do the same for Curtis Granderson who, while he reversed his platoon splits last season, has an OPS 149 points higher against righties than lefties for his career.

Luckily for Collins, the Mets seem to have a solid bench that can fill these voids. Eric Campbell tore up lefties in the minor leagues and has shown outstanding versatility in the field. If there is one non-starter who absolutely needs to break camp with the Mets, it’s Campbell. The Mets also added John Mayberry Jr. to provide some power off the bench. He has a career .857 OPS against left-handed pitching, certainly good enough for a fourth or fifth outfielder slot.

How it all comes together

If put together correctly, these pieces could create an above-average offense. Here is what that might look like against both lefties and righties.

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While this is clearly not going to happen, or at least not to this extent, it’s interesting to think about how many runs the team would save by doing this. My best guess would be somewhere between 20 and 30, although that’s if no one has an unexpected (good or bad) season. That is quite an impressive improvement without actual changes being made to the roster.

Sandy Alderson has quietly put together a roster that fits very well together on paper. Of course, that hasn’t stopped Terry Collins before.

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Even In Defeat, A-Rod’s Still A Winner http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/even-in-defeat-a-rods-still-a-winner.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/even-in-defeat-a-rods-still-a-winner.html/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 14:00:22 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=174800 (Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray, USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray, USA TODAY Sports)

Alex Rodriguez‘s handwritten apology letter released to the media yesterday was a joke. It was authentic A-Rod: cold, unforgiving, and insincere. In a letter that should be the most humble apology we’ve ever heard, he didn’t explain himself. He didn’t even say what he did. He called his steroid use “the mistakes that led to my suspension.” However, it doesn’t matter at this point what A-Rod says (or writes). He realizes he doesn’t need to beg for forgiveness. He’s already won.

Sure, A-Rod’s reputation took a big hit years back when he admitted to using PEDs with the Texas Rangers between 2001 and 2003. But he was already hated. He had already alienated baseball fans everywhere with his stuck-up attitude. If you weren’t a Yankee fan, odds are you didn’t like him anyway.

Since then, Rodriguez has had nothing to lose. He’s played fast and loose with the media in the years since. He hasn’t cared what anyone thinks, nor has he needed to.

Yesterday, we saw two men in very similar yet vastly different situations. A-Rod apologized in what on the surface appeared to be a desperate move while Anthony Bosch, the former Florida clinic owner who sold steroids to A-Rod and others, cried in court before receiving a four-year prison sentence. While what Bosch did was far more despicable (selling steroids to minors), his punishment fits his crimes. A-Rod’s crimes against baseball will go practically unpunished.

No matter what happens with Alex Rodriguez this year, he wins. If he goes into spring training in terrible shape and can’t even beat out the likes of Chris Young and Chase Headley for playing time over the next two years, he still goes home $61 million richer, and that’s the worst case.

Even in a piece for ESPN New York scolding A-Rod and calling him “a serial liar and cheat who thought he needed underground pharmacology to become one of the all-time greats,” Ian O’Connor opened the door for redemption. “Alex Rodriguez has only one genuine way of connecting with fans who want to win a whole lot more than they want to read his handwritten B.S,” wrote O’Connor, “See the ball. Hit the ball. Hit the ball over the wall.”

Say Rodriguez returns with a 30 home run season and leads the Yankees to a surprise playoff run. In a country that craves redemption stories, he will suddenly be a hero, or at least, his reputation will be partially repaired. And that’s the problem.

A-Rod lied to the media, fans, his teammates, and his bosses time after time. He made us sympathize with him over the “pressures” he faced in Texas and made some understand why he did what he did. He even convinced most that he had turned over a new leaf. He has stepped on people and used the media to push people around. He doesn’t deserve a shot at redemption. Heck, he doesn’t even deserve his money. Players will look at A-Rod as someone who, while his reputation is damaged, got away with it all. He won’t get a plaque in Cooperstown or have his number retired by the Yankees, but he comes out of it all with fame, fortune, and yes, a shot at forgiveness. If he got through, so can others. How many times are we going to give clearly bad people who don’t show any true remorse second, third, and fourth chances? Until there is some sort of genuine, collaborative effort by both the players, owners, and teams to stop this from happening, can we really bet on players not repeating these mistakes? Can we really declare the so-called “Steroid Era” over?

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MMO Free Agent Profile: Andrew Miller, LHP http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/mmo-free-agent-profile-andrew-miller-lhp.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/mmo-free-agent-profile-andrew-miller-lhp.html/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 13:10:03 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=170034 andrew-miller-mlb-seattle-mariners-baltimore-orioles-590x900

Andrew Miller

Relief Pitcher

Bats: L  Throws: L

Age on Opening Day: 29

2014 Snapshot

Andrew Miller had a career year in 2014 between the Red Sox and Orioles. Through 42.1 innings in Boston, Miller held a 2.35 ERA before being dealt for minor league pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez during Boston’s massive fire sale before the trade deadline. Down the stretch for Baltimore, he was even more impressive, posting a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings. His strikeout, home run, and hit rates were all at career-bests. And at 29 years old, Miller has hit free agency at just the right time.

Pros

Miller strikes out an insane number of batters. This season, in 62.1 innings, he fanned 103 batters, equating to a 14.9 K/9 rate and a 42.6 strikeout percentage. Both of those numbers are second only to Aroldis Chapma among pitchers with 50 innings or more.

What was it? The numbers, albeit in a small sample size, point towards his slider. His slider was over 13 runs above average this season, far better than ever before. He has been able to use his low arm slot and deadly slider to his advantage, producing gems like this:

Miller-Jeter-1-091514

Yes, that’s not Miller striking out a power-hitting lefty, that’s Derek Jeter. While that may not be too impressive anymore, it highlights my point: Miller dominates righties, too. Righties hit just .145/.245/.202 against him, which was actually slightly worse than the .163/.206/.261 line lefties put up against him. Although his numbers overall favor Miller against lefties, he has actually reversed his platoon splits over the past two seasons. That doesn’t mean he will going forward, but it is something to consider.

Forget about the strikeouts for a minute and look at the number of baserunners allowed. Miller had a 0.802 WHIP this season, a career-best by far. Over the last three years, he has really improved in this manner, bringing his walks down to a (somewhat) manageable level, and limiting his hits allowed as well. He is running on all cylinders right now.

Cons

Miller’s track record of major success is relatively short. From 2006 through 2012, Miller owned a career 5.54 ERA and walked 5.4 batters per nine innings. Even as he started to turn his career around in 2012, he walked five batters per nine innings. That should be an area of concern for Sandy Alderson. He could easily regress back to his career averages.

His 4.8 hits per nine innings rate from last season is, without a doubt, unsustainable. You don’t see that very often, and you definitely don’t see is multiple years in a row.

As good as Miller is, his biggest weakness is the fact that he doesn’t really fit. Signing Miller would only muddle up the closer situation even more. Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, and Bobby Parnell can handle the late innings just fine. If the Mets are going to spend big money on a multi-year contract, it shouldn’t be for a relief pitcher. Maybe Miller would be a better fit if the team had more money.

Projected Contract

To give you a sense of what Miller is looking for, check out what Jason Mastrodonato wrote for MassLive the other day:

According to an industry source, Miller is seeking at least a four-year deal and isn’t listening to any other offers unless the average annual value is “astounding.”

I am assuming “astounding” is at least $12 to $15 million per year, which is ridiculous for Miller. Yes, he is 29, but he has also only been dominant for two seasons. That being said, he is arguably the top relief pitcher on the market, meaning there will be demand for him. He won’t get what he wants, but I see a four-year deal as almost a guarantee. I see Miller getting four years and $40 million.

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MMO Free Agent Profile: Jed Lowrie, SS http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/free-agent-profile-jed-lowrie-ss.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/free-agent-profile-jed-lowrie-ss.html/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 18:38:26 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=169080 jed lowrie

Jed Lowrie

Position: Shortstop

Bats: Both, Throws: Right

Age on Opening Day: 30

2014 Snapshot

In his second season with the Oakland Athletics, Jed Lowrie saw his offensive numbers drop across the board. After posting a .290/.344/.446 line (a great line for a shortstop) with 15 home runs, 45 doubles, and two triples, Lowrie put up a .249/.321/.355 slash with just six home runs in 136 games. His wRC+ dropped 27 points from a 120 in 2013 to a 93 this year. The only real positive from Lowrie’s 2014 season was higher defensive numbers. While his defense still wasn’t great, most metrics had him at ten to 20 runs below average last season and about ten runs better than that this year. If anything positive came out of this year, it’s that Lowrie’s 2013 defense was an anomaly.

Pros

Past Hanley Ramirez, Lowrie has the highest upside among free agent shortstops. When at the top of his game, he is a top three offensive shortstop (he was second in wRC+ in 2013). Very few shortstops are able to put up the kind of numbers that Lowrie can.

At his best, Lowrie can be a solid home run threat for his position. Over his entire career, he has a 162 game average of 15 home runs. Only five shortstops hit 15 or more homers last year and only two did it while posting a wRC+ of 120 or greater.

From the numbers, Lowrie looks like a solid bet to return to old form. His lower-than-usual BABIP points towards a higher batting average in the future and a HR/FB rate of just 3.2 percent, half his career rate, the power could come back as well.

Cons

While Lowrie has shown he can be an elite hitter, the question remains whether he can be consistently elite. This season, he had a 1.9 fWAR and a 0.8 rWAR, not the kind of numbers that warrant a starting spot on an MLB team let alone the multi-year contract Lowrie will likely receive. However, this is the type of player the Mets will be looking at if they decide to solve the shortstop issue through free agency. They don’t have the money to go after Hanley Ramirez, so unless Sandy Alderson decides to make a trade for a shortstop, Lowrie is probably the best option.

Turning to his defense, Lowrie hasn’t bee fantastic with the glove either. Even tossing out his dreadful 2013 defensive numbers, Lowrie is probably only an average defender. While that is probably not going to be a sticking point for a team starving for offense, it is still something to consider.

Projected Contract

It is always difficult to predict what players like Lowrie will get on the free agent market. Had he hit free agency after last season, he may have gotten a four or five year deal in the $60 million range. Even without a qualifying offer, Lowrie won’t get anything close to that this offseason. That being said, with the way free agency has gone the past few years, a two or three-year contract for a player coming off a down year like Lowrie is more than reasonable. I’m predicting a three year, $27 million deal.

Previous MMO Free Agent Profiles:

Yasmani Tomas, LF/RF

Nick Markakis, RF

Colby Rasmus, OF

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MMO Free Agent Profile: Yasmani Tomas, RF/LF http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-free-agent-profile-yasmani-tomas-rflf.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-free-agent-profile-yasmani-tomas-rflf.html/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:39:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168433 yasmani tomas

Yasmani Tomas

Position: Right/Left Field
Bats: Right, Throws: Right 
Age on Opening Day: 24

2014 Snapshot

Compared to his 2012 and 2013 seasons, Tomas’ 2014 season saw a big drop in production in the Serie Nacional, the main baseball league in Cuba. In 68 games last season (seasons are significantly shorter in Cuba), Tomas hit .286/.343/.444 with six home runs, 16 doubles, and two triples. That’s solid, but nothing compared to his 2013 season in which he hit .289/.364/.538 with 15 home runs, 18 doubles, and three triples in 81 games. His 2012 season was even better than that, posting an OPS 20 points higher.

Pros

The most attractive quality for Tomas is his potential. At 24, he has already proven he is a star in the Cuban league, a league that is certainly nothing to scoff at. The successes of recent Cuban players is a sign of the strength of play there, and has people more confident in Tomas’ ability to hit in the majors.

With Tomas, and international players in general, the more certainty, the higher the price is. With more players from Cuba playing well in the U.S. right now, that adds some certainty that more will succeed in the future. There is definitely more certainty with Cuban players now than a few years ago, which is both a good and a bad thing. While it probably means Tomas will at least be a decent player, it also probably takes him out of Sandy Alderson’s price range.

Putting that aside, Tomas is the equivalent of a rookie who has just had a great first season. He’s young and there is still some question as to whether he can stick, but the tools are obviously there. Some scouts have said Tomas will be a slugger, regularly competing for the league lead in home runs. If that holds true, he is a perfect fit for the Mets, who need exactly that: a middle-of-the order bat who also plays a corner outfield position.

Cons

International players are risky.

Logically, if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, you would probably want to spend it on things that have a higher degree of certainty. Otherwise, you could blow everything on one acquisition. That is what Sandy Alderson has stuck to and is what all but completely eliminates the Mets from signing Tomas.

According to Ben Badler, Tomas has also shown some swing-and-miss tendencies, struggling against good breaking pitches. That could make him a high-risk signing.

Overall, I’d say the Mets have absolutely no chance of getting Tomas, but by some chance the Wilpons finally decide to spend money like real New York owners, Tomas shouldn’t be considered an automatic, sign-at-any-cost target. There is so much uncertainty surrounding him that it could get ugly pretty quickly.

Projected Contract

Due to the fact that Tomas can be had without having to give up a draft pick or any bonus pool money, there is a big incentive for teams to bid wildly on him. So man teams expressed initial interest in him, and I think enough will have serious interest to really drive up the price. Someone is going to get really desperate, seeing this as a chance to get an immediate star for no prospects and no draft picks. Jose Abreu got $68 million last year and Rusney Castillo got $72.5 million this year. The price is only going up, which is why I am predicting 7 years, $120 million for Tomas.

Previous MMO Free Agent Profiles

Colby Rasmus, OF

Nick Markakis, RF

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MMO Free Agent Profile: Colby Rasmus, CF http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-free-agent-profile-colby-rasmus-cf.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-free-agent-profile-colby-rasmus-cf.html/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:09:38 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168126 colby rasmus

Colby Rasmus

Position: Center Fielder 
Bats: Left, Throws: Left 
Age on Opening Day: 28

2014 Snapshot

After a very productive 2013 season, Rasmus fell off a cliff this year, seeing his numbers drop across the board. The 28 year-old posted a slash line of .225/.287/.448 with a .321 wOBA and 103 wRC+ with 18 home runs in 376 plate appearances. In almost every major fielding statistic, Rasmus went from solidly above average to solidly below average in center, compounding on an already lackluster year.

The one thing that remained through it all for Rasmus was his power. His 18 home runs in so few trips to the plate stick out, along with his .223 ISO, his second-highest mark ever. However, Rasmus watched his offensive numbers drop across the board from a fantastic .276/.338/.501 (129 wRC+) 2013 season. If we are in the game of comparisons, Rasmus is on the opposite track of Nick Markakis, who, although the rest of his numbers have gone up, his power numbers have dropped. In the middle tier of free agent outfielders, it may be a pick-your-poison scenario.

Pros

Rasmus has incredible upside. In 2013, he posted a 4.8 fWAR, the second four-win season of his career. He boasts solid and consistent power numbers, and, if healthy, is sure to hit 20 or more home runs in a Met uniform, even at Citi Field. According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, Rasmus was in the upper tier with an average 401 foot “true distance” on his 18 home runs. I don’t have any doubt that his power would transfer, no matter what kind of season he is having.

Rasmus has also proven at times to be a solid defender, posting well above average fielding metrics before 2014. However, Rasmus’ numbers have been inconsistent in these metrics, leaving some uncertainty here.

Cons

Of course, if Rasmus were always at his upside, he would be way beyond the Mets’ price range. What makes players cheap is uncertainty, and there is a whole lot of it with Rasmus. While Rasmus has had two seasons with a 4.0 fWAR or higher, he also has three with a 1.0 fWAR or worse. He is, without a doubt, an enormous risk.

Rasmus is striking out at absurd rates. Last year, he struck out in a third of his plate appearances. And those offensive numbers last year were coupled with a normal BABIP. That’s not exactly a recipe for future success.

While the added power would be a nice addition to the lineup, the possibly dreadful On-Base Percentage and batting average would greatly eat away at the added value. That may still even equate to overall league average offense, but with uncertainty about Rasmus’ defense, any significant financial commitment will mean taking a big risk. Rasmus doesn’t seem like the type of player a penny-pinching team like the Mets can afford to gamble on. Not to mention he plays center field and has never regularly played a corner position in the majors…

Projected Contract

Unlike Markakis, Rasmus is coming off a down year, so he should be cheaper. With that being said, he is also younger and less likely to have a qualifying offer attached to him. With teams considering the horrible situation with BJ Upton, a similar player to Rasmus, and the stronger center field free agent class next year, demand won’t be too high. I predict that Rasmus will get two years and $24 million.

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MMO Free Agent Profile: Nick Markakis, RF http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-free-agent-profile-nick-markakis-rf.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-free-agent-profile-nick-markakis-rf.html/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:00:44 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168121 MLB: JUL 20 Rays at Orioles

Nick Markakis

Position: Right Fielder
Bats: Left, Throws: Left
Age on Opening Day: 31

2014 Snapshot

While Nick Markakis didn’t return to his old self this year, he did bounce back significantly from a sub-replacement level season in 2013. He had solid seasons on both offense and defense, improving his wRC+ from 88 to 106 while improving most of his defensive metrics by a few runs as well.

His final line on the year was .276/.342/.386 with 14 home runs, 27 doubles, and a triple in 710 plate appearances. He ended the season with a 2.5 fWAR and a 2.1 rWAR.

Pros

As Joel Sherman of the New York Post pointed out, Markakis would make a solid leadoff hitter. Among right fielders, Markakis ranked ninth in On-Base Percentage last year with a .342 mark. Over the past few years, he has consistently walked in eight to nine percent of his trips to the plate, and owns a career 9.3 walk percentage. As a team, the Mets batted .235/.308/.333 in the leadoff spot this season, making Markakis a clear upgrade in this spot.

Assuming Curtis Granderson would move to left field, Markakis represents a clear upgrade in the outfield as well. Mets left fielders hit just .219/.306/.309, giving them an OPS 38 percent worse than league average this season. Markakis is already to be a league average hitter, and could definitely be even more productive than that. On top of all this, he’s just 30 years old.

Cons

While Markakis would definitely add to the Mets outfield, is he really the right fit? Probably not. Markakis is certainly a nice leadoff option, but the Mets already have a carbon copy of him at second base: Daniel Murphy. In fact, Daniel Murphy is slightly better than Markakis, and at a position where hitting is harder to come by The leadoff problem is more a problem of lineup management than personnel. If Terry Collins would just bat Murphy (107 OPS+ over last three year vs. Markakis’ 105), the leadoff problem would be solved. (Of course, the Mets could certainly decide to trade Murphy for a bigger bat this winter, in which case there would be a need for a leadoff hitter.)

Put lineup position aside for a minute and look at Markakis as a player. While his walk rate may make him an attractive leadoff hitter, he doesn’t have much else going for him. Over the last three years, Markakis has a mediocre 4.1 fWAR over 419 games. His fielding numbers have been dreadful almost his entire career, regularly playing ten or more runs below average. That greatly detracts from his value. Also, while he gets on base, he is doing so with less quality than he used to, with his power numbers dropping dramatically from early in his career. If the Nick Markakis of five years ago was available — the one who regularly had an ISO in the .160 to .190 range — then I would say he is a perfect fit for the Mets. However, the Mets need to add as much power as possible to their lineup, even in a leadoff hitter. So while Markakis may get on base at a decent clip (although it isn’t even that great), he is only a middle-of-the-road player that isn’t going to have a huge impact on the Mets if they were to sign him.

Projected Contract

Markakis is only 30 years old, which means he will be seeking, at absolute minimum, a three-year deal, and will be fighting like crazy to get a fourth or fifth year. As one of the younger options in a sea of mid-30s outfielders, Markakis will be helped by his age. Plus, with Yasmani Tomas and Nelson Cruz looking to sign monster contracts, Markakis and his main competition Melky Cabrera, will be vying for spots on teams with money but unable or unwilling to make a huge splash. Ironically, because only a few young, mid-range options exist this winter, teams may have to pay upwards of $50 million to ink either of them. Assuming the Orioles don’t take the big risk of giving Markakis a qualifying offer. Projection: 4 years, $44 million

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Biggest Takeaways From the 2014 Season http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/biggest-takeaways-from-the-2014-season.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/biggest-takeaways-from-the-2014-season.html/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 20:15:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=166688 With the Mets 8-3 win yesterday afternoon over the Astros, they closed out what was a rather hectic 2014 season, one filled with both surprises and disappointments, yet one that brought reasons to be optimistic for next season. They finished 79-83, solidly better than last year, but still leaving room to improve. Here are my five biggest takeaways from this year.

The Bullpen is Legit

jeurys familia

The bullpen has been a huge question mark for the Mets over the past few seasons, but they seem to have solved the problem with a strategy a number of teams are now using: put young pitching in the bullpen.

Sandy Alderson finally gave back-end bullpen jobs to Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia, who have both been nasty. After having among the league’s worst bullpens the past few years, the Mets now have a top ten ‘pen. And unlike many dominant bullpens, it is relatively young.

Instead of opting to stick pitchers like Familia and Mejia in the rotation, the Mets made the right call converting them to relievers. In order to be a starter, you really need three good pitches, with the third preferably being a changeup. Familia and Mejia just weren’t meant to be starters and it’s about time they were put in their rightful places.

Mets Made the Right Choice at First

The choice was finally made this April, when the Mets picked Lucas Duda over Ike Davis in one of the most significant decisions the front office made all season. Duda went on to post a 133 wRC+ and a 3.1 fWAR, while Davis lagged behind with a 109 wRC+ and 0.3 fWAR. Duda ended the year with 30 home runs, while Davis finished with 11. The right choice has obviously been made.

While the Mets will likely have to find a good platoon partner for Duda, they have found themselves a legitimate slugger, one who could hit 30 plus home runs for a few years (Duda is only 28).

Lagares is Baseball’s Best Defender

juan lagares catchJuan Lagares catapulted himself this year from a question mark to a cornerstone player. Lagares put up a solid .281/.321/.382 line, hovering around a league average wRC+. That’s not bad, especially for a center fielder. When you combine Lagares’ incredible defensive numbers, this season was much better than you might think.

Say what you will about defensive metrics, but they were pretty consistent with Lagares this year. Almost every defensive metric, from SABR Defensive Index to UZR, had him around 20 runs above average. That’s astounding, especially when you consider the sample size. Lagares didn’t even qualify for the batting title this year.

On a per-game basis, there is no player slicker with the glove than Lagares. He put up a 3.8 fWAR in just 116 games. If he can play a full season, he is a perennial All-Star caliber player.

Starting Rotation is Loaded

The starting rotation was expected to be a force this season, but it exceeded its expectations. Not only did Jonathon Niese, Bartolo Colon, and Zack Wheeler deliver solid seasons, but the team also saw the emergence of a future ace, Jacob deGrom.

The rotation for next year was already looked loaded, even without deGrom. With Matt Harvey back next season, the Mets could have two 130 ERA+-type pitchers to go along with three or four in the 100 range. How many teams can say that every one of their starters is near or above league average? Not many. The rotation will be, barring a plethora of unforeseen injuries, among baseball’s best.

This Team is Built Right

matt harvey

How many teams can lose their ace for the season, have their best player play injured, and still win five more games than the previous year? Without an influx of new money, it doesn’t happen very much.

As tough as the past few years have been, the Mets are clearly on a brighter path. The record has looked more or less the same over the past few years, but the composition of the roster has changed drastically. Compare the 2011 roster with this year’s.

On the position player side, the Mets are a younger team, with more youth coming. With the way the Mets roster was constructed a few years ago, they had to get younger before they could get better. They are now clearly on the upswing.

* * * * * * * *

When the Mets come back to camp next year, they will have a healthy Matt Harvey and a healthy David Wright. Assuming similar production from the rest of the roster, that immediately makes them borderline playoff contenders. Then you factor in  full years of second half-like production from Travis d’Arnaud and Jacob deGrom, and the Mets are right there. Granted that’s a very optimistic view, but it shows just how close this team is from being a contender. If the Mets can add one or two significant pieces this offseason, they will be a dangerous team next year.

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Featured Post: Looking At Mets Through SABR Defensive Index http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/featured-post-looking-at-mets-through-sabr-defensive-index.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/featured-post-looking-at-mets-through-sabr-defensive-index.html/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 20:21:19 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=163184 simpsons sabermetrics

The Society for American Baseball Research doesn’t really sponsor particular statistics, but two years ago, it formed a committee to create a newer, better defensive statistic called the SABR Defensive Index. SABR has periodically released updates of this newly-created stat, and you may find the results interesting.

Defensive Index, or SDI combines a number of already established defensive metrics. Individual metrics can be somewhat narrow in their scope and thus the results can vary from one to another. SDI combines two types of defensive metrics, batted ball and game log. 70 percent is made up of batted ball, or zone rating statistics. These stats use what may be considered hit f/x to evaluate defense based on exact locations of batted balls. The other 30 percent is composed of game log statistics. Each have their advantages and disadvantages, so SABR combined them with the hopes of making a more stable metric. Remember how experts say not to rely on UZR over sample sizes of three years or more? That’s pretty absurd and not good for short-term analysis. This new stat may be a step in the right direction in solving that problem, as well as others involving defensive statistics.

For reference, here are the statistics that make up Defensive Index:

Batted ball stats:

  • Defensive Runs Saved
  • Ultimate Zone Rating
  • Runs Effectively Defended

Game log stats:

  • Total Zone Rating
  • Defensive Regression Analysis

Now to the fun part: the league leaders. In the American League, it is Alex Gordon (it’s pronounced… never mind) with 16.8 runs saved (compared to league average). In the NL, it’s Jason Heyward with 21.3 runs saved. Fourth in the National League and tops among MLB center fielders is Juan Lagares, who has saved 11.5 runs this season. This is extremely impressive considering how few innings Lagares has played compared to some of the other leaders (SDI is a cumulative stat). Billy Hamilton, the closest center fielder to Lagares, had played 828 innings as of August 3 (the stat is as of August 3) compared to Lagares’ 594.2 innings. Given a full season, Lagares would likely be closer to Heyward and Gordon than to Hamilton.

Here is how some other notable Mets have fared as of the latest release:

This may just be another metric to some of you, but it actually plays a role in the awards process. This metric now takes up one quarter of the votes for the Gold Glove and Platinum Glove awards each winter. Every voter is sent a heaping packet of information with SDI and similar data and the statistic is given a sizable share of the voting as well. Say what you will about the statistic, but at least something is being done to fix the inaccurate, often subjective Gold Glove voting.

If you’re interested in this type of stuff, definitely look into this statistic. The fact that it incorporates the best defensive stats available (as well as one or two original SABR-created stats) will stabilize it from year to year, finally giving some more credibility to advanced defensive metrics. And hey, just about anything is better than fielding percentage.

mmo

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MMO Game Recap: Nationals 5, Mets 3 (13 Innings) http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mmo-game-recap-nationals-5-mets-3-13-innings.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mmo-game-recap-nationals-5-mets-3-13-innings.html/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 21:44:47 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=162832 MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals

The Mets (54-61) lost a 13 inning heartbreaker to the Nationals (62-51) this afternoon by a score of 5-3.

Mets starter Jacob deGrom was not himself early on, giving up three early runs before settling down in his last two innings of work. deGrom didn’t dominate like he had in his previous few starts, but he kept the Mets in the game.

After the Nats scored two in the second inning off an Ian Desmond home run, the Mets struck back with a Daniel Murphy RBI double. Murphy seemed to be involved in everything today, continuing his big hot streak. With his 3-for-6 performance today, he raised his batting line to .305/.349/.440.

After Ian Desmond brought home another run in the fourth inning, the Mets were shut down until the top of the seventh. Eric Young Jr. hit a run-scoring sacrifice fly to narrow the lead to just one run. The next batter, Curtis Granderson singled home Kirk Nieuwenhuis to tie the game up at three.

From the seventh on, it was a battle of the bullpens, as each side traded zeros until the 13th inning. During this stretch, Vic Black, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Dana Eveland, Buddy Carlyle, and Jenrry Mejia shut down the Nationals. On the other side, Craig Stammen pitched three solid innings, taking one for the team by throwing 47 pitches out of the bullpen.

With Carlos Torres pitching in the 13th, the final blow was dealt to the Mets from an unexpected source. With a runner on, Bryce Harper crushed one to left field to end the game. Harper had gone just 3-for-19 in August coming into today’s game, and hit just .228 in the month of July.

It was a disappointing loss for the Mets, who emptied their bullpen today. The games in which they use every pitcher hurt a lot more because they not only lose a game in the standings, but they handicap themselves going forward. The Mets do not have another off day until August 21, two weeks from today.

Starting Pitcher Breakdown

Jacob deGrom- 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R (3 ER), 1 BB, 4 K, 97 pitches, 63 strikes

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 5.33.59 PM

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 5.35.58 PM

Jordan Zimmerman- 6.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R (3 ER), 0 BB, 5 K, 91 pitches, 67 strikes

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 5.37.06 PM

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 5.38.03 PM

Win Probability Breakdown

chart

Top Three Plays

Up Next: The Mets begin a four-game series against the Phillies as Bartolo Colon (10-9, 4.12 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 3.68 xFIP) faces off against AJ Burnett (6-11, 4.16 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 4.06 xFIP) at 7:05.

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Harvey Will Not Pitch In The Majors This Season http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/harvey-will-not-pitch-in-the-majors-this-season.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/harvey-will-not-pitch-in-the-majors-this-season.html/#comments Sat, 02 Aug 2014 02:48:03 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=161727 matt harvey

There he was – big as life – Matt Harvey was pitching off a mound for the first time since undergoing Tommy John Surgery ten months ago. Harvey tossed 15 pitches from the bullpen mound and said he was feeling good and still pain-free.

“It was awesome,” he said. “It was definitely a big success. It felt pretty normal. It felt like I never left the mound.”

“Hopefully the guys will hold it together up here, and I’ll come see them in October,” Harvey joked afterward.

“We kept him to about 60 percent,” Terry Collins said, describing the intensity of the bullpen session. “We know he’s feeling great, but we’re keeping him at a fairly slow pace.”

He will throw about 20 pitches on Tuesday, Collins said, and, if all goes well, throw again on Aug. 9.

Sandy Alderson added that Harvey will begin a pitching program in Florida after that, but that he’ll be shutdown for the season at some point in October.

“We have a program worked out that gets him roughly through the end of September and maybe into the first week of October. Then he’ll be shut down until spring training.”

“He will not participate in winter ball nor will he pitch in the majors this season, regardless of his progress. The key is getting him up to a level where he’s comfortable going into spring training in 2015.”

(Joe D.)

July 30

Adam Rubin reports that Matt Harvey “has the go-ahead to get on a mound next week” for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery on Oct. 22, 2013.

He also adds that while Harvey will not pitch in the majors this season, it’s still possible he will pitch briefly in the fall instructional league, which spans late September and early October in Florida.

No doubt some great news on the Harvey front… The Mets’ ace righthander has had no setbacks in his rehab and continues to work his way back.

If it were up to Harvey, he would have preferred to be on a mound last month, but he continues to follow the schedule laid out for him by the organization.

July 26

Mets fans can dream about next year’s starting rotation, which will presumably include Matt Harvey, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom. All of them will be 28 or younger when the season begins and all could be well above average next season.

There is no doubt that when Matt Harvey is healthy, the Mets are a much better team. While getting him back will be like trading for an ace making the league minimum (except without giving up your entire farm system), there are still lingering questions over how the Mets should approach his return.

Obviously, Harvey isn’t going to be pitching this season, despite his determination to do so. He may pitch a few innings in the Arizona Fall League, but that’s just about it.

Everyone remembers the controversy surrounding Stephen Strasburg‘s return from Tommy John Surgery. He hit his innings limit in early September in the midst of a pennant race, and the Nationals shut him down for the season. The Mets may be facing another very similar scenario next year, in a season in which they expect to compete. Perhaps the 2012 Nationals weren’t sure they were going to compete, so they proceeded normally. However, with all the trade buzz surrounding the Mets combined with the new arrivals of top prospects, the front office expects next year to be a big year. That makes this situation a bit different from the one Strasburg was in two years ago.

As dangerous as it is, the Mets will more or less throw Harvey into the fire at some point next season. It sure is risky to do that. I’ve always said the reason Johan Santana got hurt wasn’t the no-hitter, but the fact that after not pitching for over a year, the Mets suddenly threw him out there regularly, taking very few precautions. Unfortunately, there really aren’t many more practical methods to easing a pitcher back into it. Luckily for the Mets, Harvey is quite a bit younger than Santana.

Nevertheless, the Mets will still need to be careful how they handle Harvey, knowing that their goal is to compete in September and possibly October while also keeping their ace on an innings limit somewhere between 160 and 190. How will they do this? Here are a few options.

Extreme option: Put him in the bullpen for a while

matt harveyThe Mets may want to put him in the bullpen to start the season, possibly for four to six weeks to limit his innings. They will still get use out of his arm, but without the early season wear and tear. In the often cold and raw April games, it could reduce injury risk.

There are, of course, many problems with this idea, which is why it is an “extreme option.” For one, the transition to and from the bullpen isn’t exactly easy or quick. It took Jenrry Mejia a while to transition back and forth. The Mets may have two weeks at both ends of the experiment with a somewhat wasted roster spot, two when he’s getting used to pitching on back-to-back days, and two more when he transitions back to the rotation. And don’t forget the risks of Terry Collins overusing him, which is never out of the question with any relief pitcher.

Somewhat extreme option: Start his season late

Instead of beginning workouts at the Port St. Lucie complex in early February, start Harvey out in early March. He will have an extra month to strengthen his arm and the rest of his body, and could pitch through the end of the season. It makes sense on all fronts, but there is one huge problem with it: Harvey will absolutely hate it.

Remember, this is the pitcher who said he would pitch Opening Day this season. What are the odds he would go along with a delayed start? Probably slim to none. That being said, this option is probably the best compromise between Harvey’s long-term health and the Mets’ hopes to compete.

Realistic but ineffective option: Skip starts, be cautious

This is one of the more likely options, but it is probably the worst. As we have seen, skipping starts throws pitchers off their routines. However, what makes this a realistic option is how well Harvey has fared with more rest:

Four days rest: 19 starts, 3.07 ERA, 1.065 WHIP

Five days rest: 10 starts, 2.25 ERA, 1.029 WHIP

Six or more days rest: 7 starts, 0.77 ERA, 0.707 WHIP

Keeping that in mind, this option is less attractive for the team. Taking Harvey out early taxes the bullpen and focusing on skipping him allows you less flexibility with the rest of the starting rotation. Consider that and the fact that doing this still probably won’t be enough. IT may come down to the Mets putting Harvey on the DL for a few weeks with “elbow fatigue” to keep him from exceeding his limit.

Most likely option: Do nothing, shut him down in September

This option is fine for Harvey’s health, but it doesn’t take into consideration the needs of the team. Right when the Mets will need Harvey the most, he will be shut down. This is what the Nats did with Strasburg and what the Mets will likely do with Harvey next season.

The Mets need to sit down with Matt Harvey and his agent Scott Boras and lay out a plan that will both keep him healthy and make sense for the team. There is absolutely no excuse. There will be a media frenzy if either side is left in the dark about the other’s intentions and it could get very ugly.

 

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Yankees Acquire Stephen Drew, Martin Prado http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/yankees-acquire-stephen-drew.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/yankees-acquire-stephen-drew.html/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 20:16:18 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=162283 stephen drew

Update 4:16: The Yankees have also acquired Martin Prado from the Diamondbacks, according to Jack Curry of the YES Network. Prado is batting .270/.317/.370 with five homers this season.

Original Post: The Yankees have acquired Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew, according to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com.

Drew, 31, signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox in late May. He is really struggling, hitting .176/.255/.328 in 39 games this season. Drew had a solid season last year, batting .253/.333/.443.

This is a puzzling deal for the Yankees but a good one for Boston. They get salary relief and will get Kelly Johnson out of it. The Yankees struck out in their search for a big bat today, but they may have a second baseman for the rest of the year.

The Red Sox are tearing down everything right now. They have now dealt 4/5 of their Opening Day rotation, and have shed some more salary. However, they have recovered some other pieces that could be useful in the years to come.

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Connor’s Corner: While Tulowitzki Fits, Gonzalez Does Not http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/connors-corner-while-tulowitzki-fits-gonzalez-does-not.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/connors-corner-while-tulowitzki-fits-gonzalez-does-not.html/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:20:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=162120 Carlos+Gonzalez+Troy+Tulowitzki+San+Francisco+rUY3TpSfSyelAll the buzz surrounding the Mets this week as the trade deadline fast approaches has been about Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. I wrote extensively yesterday about why he is a good trade target for the Mets. However, reports indicate it is far more likely the Mets acquire Tulowitzki’s teammate, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.

No one is going to argue that Gonzalez is anywhere near the level of Tulowitzki, but there are varying opinions on him. On the surface, his numbers are outstanding for his career. In 2013, he hit .302/.367/.591 with 26 home runs, 21 stolen bases, and six triples in only 110 games. From 2010 through 2013, Gonzalez hit .311/.370/.556 with a 133 OPS+.

Those are outstanding numbers and make Gonzalez appear to be the perfect outfield bat for the Mets to acquire. While he will not cost quite the package that Tulowitzki would in a trade, his cost will presumably be very high. And unlike with Tulo, he is a player the Mets have to pass on.

Many reporters and fans have made a big deal about Tulowitzki’s road numbers. Yet, considering his position, his road numbers are still outstanding. For Gonzalez, they are quite concerning.

Away from home, Gonzalez has hit .260/.315/.441 in his career, compared to .333/.365/.546 at Coors Field. On the road, that’s a 102 wRC+, or just two percent better than league average. For left fielders, that is just a tick above average. Unlike Tulowitzki, who had a 118 wRC+ on the road, Gonzalez’s bat doesn’t translate away from Coors Field. Both clearly suffer on the road, but even so, Tulo is still 50 percent better than the average at his position, while Gonzalez hovers at just around his own positional average.

On the road, Gonzalez strikes out much more frequently, hits more ground balls and fewer line drives, and sees far fewer of his fly balls leave the park. In Coors Field, Gonzalez sees an astounding 21 percent of his fly balls leave the park (compared to a 9.7 percent league average). On the road, that drops to 15.6 percent.

Although he had a fantastic season last year in which his splits were reversed, the sample size on those numbers isn’t big enough to say anything definitively. Plenty of players hit against the platoon split or against their ballpark’s tendencies for an entire season, but that doesn’t mean they have necessarily overcome that obstacle. For Gonzalez, it is surely a fluke.

To make things worse, Gonzalez is having his most disappointing season to date, batting .244/.293/.437 (well below league average) with ten home runs in 63 games. On the road, he is hitting .169/.234/.346. (That’s still better than Lucas Duda against left-handed pitching, if that’s at all comforting.)

On the financial side, Gonzalez’s contract is much shorter than Tulo’s with only three years and $54 million left, but that is still a big commitment for the big question mark Gonzales is. The average annual salary ($18 million) on that deal is close to what Tulowitzki will be paid.

If the Mets are going to give up Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler, which they probably would in a Gonzalez trade, they need to get a well above average bat. The two clear positions to upgrade, at least if Daniel Murphy remains, are left field and shortstop. If you plug in an average hitter in left field, you almost have to acquire a star shortstop with the way this year’s offense has struggled. Who is out there to fit that bill? The only two obvious candidates are Ben Zobrist and Troy Tulowitzki, and not much else. You still have to give up a big package. In fact, you then have to do it twice. If the Mets are going to give up big pitching prospects, it has to be for someone who will give you consistently above average production.

Gonzalez is just not that player.

(Note: Statistics are as of 10:00 p.m., July 29) Follow me on Twitter @UpAlongFirst

mmo presented

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Connor’s Corner: Why Tulowitzki Makes Sense For Mets In Right Deal http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/connors-corner-why-tulowitzki-makes-sense-for-mets-in-right-deal.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/connors-corner-why-tulowitzki-makes-sense-for-mets-in-right-deal.html/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=161990 Tulo and the Mets -- a match made in heaven?

Tulo and the Mets — a match made in heaven?

Jeff Passan put a match to the impatience of Mets fans yesterday, reporting that the Mets are “prepared to offer” Noah Syndergaard in a deal to acquire Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Passan did not say the Mets had offered a deal involving Syndergaard, only that they would be willing to part with him in a trade for Tulo. Even that made headlines and divided the Mets fanbase.

There is a “right deal” for almost every player out there. Most trade proposals from Mets fans are “the right deal,” but they are almost always too light (except for that WFAN caller yesterday who suggested DeGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler, and Gee…). The reason for that is quite simple: fans always assign way too much value to their own prospects. In the broader picture, a deal that looks fair to the rest of the league will almost always look unfair to the team giving up its top prospects, at least according to its fans.

The Mets have roughly five big-name, tradeable pitchers in the organization right now: Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Rafael Montero, and Jon Niese. These pitchers can be broken down into categories. If the team deals Syndergaard or Wheeler, they may be able to get away with not giving up another pitcher from that group of five. Otherwise, I see two from that group being dealt.

As highly rated as he is and as highly as I think of him, Noah Syndergaard is the odd man out. DeGrom has been a beast in 14 starts, showing nasty stuff. Wheeler has shown flashes of being really good and can be, at minimum, a dependable league average pitcher. Gee and Niese have done the same, with Niese often being well above average. Montero hasn’t given me much to grasp on to, but again, if you dealt him, you would need to give up another pitcher from that group. (And of course this is all theoretical.)

Falling in love with prospects is a dangerous game. The odds are stacked against them, even those in the top of the rankings. Take a look at this study by Royals Review, which looked at the success rates of top 100 prospects (Baseball America). It categorized players as busts, successes, or stars based on their WAR. If a player was below average, he was labeled a bust, and up it went from there. Even at the top of the list, the likelihood of success, and stardom, was slim, especially for pitchers. Take a look:

Decile_Pitchers_Table (1)

Syndergaard was recently ranked number 13 overall by MLB.com. While there are no other major midseason lists out there right now, it is safe to say, considering Syndergaard’s performance through four months in Triple-A, that he falls in the 11-20 range. Should the Mets really reject a trade for a superstar in favor of a player who has less than a 40 percent chance of being above average? The percentage may be even lower for prospects who have struggled at Triple-A the way Syndergaard has. Mets fans are exposed almost exclusively to news of their own prospects, so in our own bubble, they are often almost sure stars. There isn’t anything wrong with that… until it is time to make a deal.

Every Met fan salivates over the possible rotation next year, but even without Syndergaard, it still looks incredible. Say the Mets deal Syndergaard, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Gabriel Ynoa, and Logan Verrett. Take a look at the Mets rotation next year (assuming Colon is traded) without Syndergaard.

  1. Matt Harvey – Ace
  2. Jon Niese – Above Average
  3. Jacob deGrom – Above Average
  4. Zack Wheeler – Average to Above Average
  5. Dillon Gee – Solidly Average
  6. Waiting in the wings: Rafael Montero, Steven Matz

That extra group “waiting in the wings” sure looks a lot less appealing than it otherwise would with Syndergaard, but at the end of the day, only five pitchers are going to make the rotation. It would be a tough decision to give up Syndergaard, but to get the big bat Mets fans are clamoring for, they must give up a big package.

*   *   *

There has been so much debate over whether Troy Tulowitzki is worth it, his home-road splits, his contract, and more. Let me put it simply: he is, without question, worth a hefty haul.

When healthy, Tulowitzki is a top ten position player. This season, he is second in fWAR only to mike Trout with a 5.1 mark. He leads the National League in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. He has hit 21 home runs, put up an ISO of .263, and has played tremendous defense to boot. This guy is legit.

There will, of course, be debate over the effects of Coors Field on his statistics. There is no doubt that the hitting environment there contributes to his incredible numbers, so let’s take those out of the equation for a minute. Before we look at his road numbers, keep in mind one thing: his numbers will likely be better than this. Hitters always do better at home than on the road, so even if Tulowitzki really is only as good as his current road numbers suggest, his statistics will be better with half of his games at Citi Field. For his career, here are Tulowitzki’s road numbers:

.274/.349/.469, 480 G, 77 HR, 94 2B, amounting to an 84 tOPS+

That looks somewhat disappointing when compared to his home splits, but in reality, those statistics are still incredible for a shortstop. Here are the shortstops who have equaled his road OPS (.818) this year:

Now here are those who have done it in any single season since 2010:

Even on the road, Tulowitzki is an incredible hitter for his position. His 118 wRC+ away from Coors Field shows he is well above average for the league (not the position) when not aided by the thin air of Colorado. Getting a league average 100 wRC+ from a shortstop is rare, but being 20 percent higher is extremely hard to come by, and Tulowitzki has done it consistently.

The next two hurdles are his health and his contract. Looking over his injury history, it is easy to say he is fragile. While I am not going to say anything either way on this, I will point out that a few of his injuries (like a cut he got on his hand) aren’t the type that reoccur frequently, and almost ll of his injuries are in different body parts. It is hard for any of us as average fans to say that Troy Tulowitzki‘s bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles are ALL physiologically more breakable and tearable than the average baseball player. Being frequently injured does not mean you are injury prone. If you are constantly injuring your legs like Jose Reyes is, then it may be safe to say you are injury prone. However, as someone who doesn’t have a medical degree and hasn’t done tests on Troy Tulowitzki, I am not going to say one way or the other.

Circling back to Tulowitzki’s numbers in relation to his contract… Tulo is owed $20 million each year through 2019, and another $14 million in 2020 with a $15 million team option ($4 million buyout) for 2021. If the option is declines, he will end his contract at 35 years old. Based off his road batting splits, he is likely a 5-6 WAR player going forward, even while playing at Citi Field. In the free agent market, the value of 1 WAR worth of production is north of $5 million. (Some have even pinned it at $7 million.) For most of the contract, which will only last until his mid-30s, he will certainly be worth the deal.

Adding Tulowitzki and another above average outfielder could push the Mets into playoff contention next season. With a full season of Jacob deGrom, a new-and-improved Travis d’Arnaud, a great platoon at first base, and a good bullpen from Day One, the Mets will likely see improvements from the players currently on the active roster. Then add in Matt Harvey. Getting him back will be equivalent to trading for an ace, but without the loss of other pieces. Add in Tulo and another piece and the Mets are suddenly a dangerous team.

It is always extremely tough to part with players you have grown to like and be hopeful for, but the Mets offense desperately needs help, and shortstop is the perfect place to upgrade. There will never be a perfect player out there and if there were, why would that player’s team trade him? There are going to be lumps and flaws with almost every player the Mets acquire. And the fewer lumps and flaws there are, the more the Mets will have to give up. Tulowitzki isn’t perfect, but he has a very favorable balance of flaws and potential rewards and most importantly, he makes the Mets substantially better.

Follow me on Twitter @UpAlongFirst

mmo

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Five Mets Featured On MLB’s Midseason Top 100 Prospects http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/five-mets-featured-on-mlbs-midseason-top-100-prospects.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/five-mets-featured-on-mlbs-midseason-top-100-prospects.html/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:00:52 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=161860 bryan green

MLB.com released its latest set of prospect rankings tonight, and the Mets have five prospects who made the cut.

Noah Syndergaard (13), Kevin Plawecki (67), Brandon Nimmo (68), Michael Conforto (86), and Dominic Smith (88) each made the overall top 100 list.

Here’s some of what the MLB.com staff had to say about each of them:

Syndergaard:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 60 | Overall: 65

Syndergaard is a classic power right-hander, and he uses his big frame to throw downhill and induce ground balls. His fastball regularly reaches 98 mph and runs inside on right-handed hitters. Syndergaard’s 12-to-6 curveball is his best secondary pitch, though his changeup has the potential to be a third plus pitch in his arsenal. He has excellent command and posted a 4.75 K-to-BB ratio in 2013.

Many expected Syndergaard to follow the path that Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler blazed and reach Queens early this summer. But some minor injuries and on-field struggles at Triple-A Las Vegas slowed down Syndergaard’s progress this season. He still profiles as a front-line starter and remains on track to make his Major League debut at a younger age than either Harvey or Wheeler.

Plawecki:

Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 35 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 5

Plawecki has impressive bat control and a knack for making contact. His swing is built more for hitting line drives than for power, but his natural strength gives him a chance for more pop in the future.

Defensively, Plawecki is a good receiver and earns praise for his leadership skills. He has an average arm and his game calling is making strides. Plawecki’s play has alleviated pre-Draft concerns about his ability to stay behind the plate, and he now looks like he’ll be more than capable of being an everyday player in the big leagues.

Nimmo:

Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 50 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55

Despite his atypical background, Nimmo has a mature approach at the plate. He lines balls from gap to gap and he knows how to work a walk. Nimmo’s swing has a little length to it, and he has been prone to high strikeout totals early in his career.

Nimmo is a center fielder now, but his average speed may eventually force him to into an outfield corner. His game still needs refining, but Nimmo’s on-base skills and quick hands give him the potential to be a solid Major Leaguer in time.

Conforto:

Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 60 | Run: 40 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55

Conforto has athletic bloodlines, as his father Mike was a Penn State linebacker and his mother Tracie (Ruiz) won two gold medals in synchronized swimming at the 1984 Olympics. Conforto picked baseball, which proved to be a wise choice as he was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2013 and was drafted 10th overall a year later.

Conforto’s signature tool is his left-handed power, which could produce 25-plus homers on an annual basis once he gets to the Major Leagues. He doesn’t get cheated at the plate, taking a big uppercut hack that produces nice loft on his drives.

Smith:

Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 50 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55

Smith has the potential to hit for both average and power. His hand-eye coordination and advanced pitch-recognition skills allow him to get on base often, while still driving balls.

Smith is a below-average runner, limiting him to first base. He has all the skills necessary to develop above-average defense at the position. Even if Smith’s defense does develop as expected, there will always be pressure on his bat. Scouts are confident he will provide enough offense to make him a solid Major Leaguer in time.

There were a few notable snubs on the Mets’ side, including Dilson Herrera, Steve Matz, and Rafael Montero. Remember, Montero pitched 20 innings for the Mets earlier this season, but did not lose his rookie eligibility, so he was still eligible for this list. Montero was ranked 85th going into the season. It’s interesting that Syndergaard’s struggles only cos him three spots on the list, but Montero’s knocked him off it completely.

Overall, however, this list includes four first-round picks by the Mets (all but one of Sandy Alderson’s first-round selections) and one trade acquisition.

If that doesn’t fire you up, perhaps this will. Along with MLB.com’s new top 100 list, they also released an updated top 20 list for each team, and it includes three new draftees or acquisitions. Glancing over the top ten, you could make a case for almost all of them to be in the overall top 100 list. Here is the list:

  1. Noah Syndergaard
  2. Kevin Plawecki
  3. Brandon Nimmo
  4. Michael Conforto
  5. Dominic Smith
  6. Rafael Montero
  7. Amed Rosario
  8. Dilson Herrera
  9. Steve Matz
  10. Gavin Cecchini
  11. Milton Ramos
  12. Gabriel Ynoa
  13. Cesar Puello
  14. Cory Mazzoni
  15. Jack Leathersich
  16. Marcos Molina
  17. Blake Taylor
  18. Michael Fulmer
  19. Matt den Dekker
  20. Logan Verrett

And there you have it.

MetsMerizedOnline will be releasing its own official top 25 Mets prospects tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for that, and tons of other minor league analysis here and at MetsMinors.net.

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Connor’s Corner: Appreciating Lucas Duda http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/appreciating-lucas-duda.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/appreciating-lucas-duda.html/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:00:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=161794 lucas duda

Lucas Duda came through once again yesterday, hitting another crucial home run that would be the difference in the game. The home run was his 18th of the season, tied for sixth best in the National League and second among National League first basemen. Going into yesterday’s game, he was tied for 16th in all of baseball in wRC+.

In roughly the same sample size as this season, Duda was a sub replacement level player in 2013. This year, he has been worth 2.2 wins above replacement, averaging out to around 3.3 if he were to keep this up over a 150 game stretch. That’s a solidly above average player, one who would fetch $10-15 million annually on the open market*. The point is, this guy has been really good.

Say what you will about Duda’s approach at the plate under Dave Hudgens versus Lamar Johnson, but the strategy has been constant the entire season. Johnson has been the one tasked with preaching the very same system Hudgens taught, except to the minor leaguers. If anything, the way that has been delivered to the players has changed drastically since Hudgens’ firing (which his writing on hitting strategy could tell you).

The Mets have put Duda in a position to succeed this season by not asking him to be more than he is. As of now, Duda is a platoon player. As much as his production against right-handers is going to tempt people to want him to face lefties as well, that shouldn’t happen. Duda has proven throughout his career that he can’t hit lefties.

I’ve said all along that Duda could make partner with someone else to make a very productive platoon at first base. As someone who hits righties, Duda will play the vast majority of games. All the Mets need is find someone who is reasonably productive against left-handed pitching. They seem to have found that player in Eric Campbell. Campbell has hit lefties well this season (.3328/.357/.449) and can obviously play a host of other positions when not at first base.

What really ate into Duda’s numbers last year was his time against lefties. He got almost twice the exposure to lefties as he has this year. When you hit well under .200 against lefties, even in a somewhat limited sample, that’s going to eat into your overall statistics pretty badly. Against right-handers last year, Duda hit a very respectable .240/.369/.462, not the numbers he has put up this season, but very solid nonetheless. Duda having job security and a fresh voice in his ear in Lamar Johnson, the Mets are setting him up for this type of season.

If there is one player who the Mets have handled perfectly this season, it’s Lucas Duda. They put their trust in the right first baseman, even if it meant having to play someone else a quarter of the time. There is no shame in a platoon, especially if it produces these kinds of results.

As a team, the Mets have a 130 wRC+ from first basemen this season. Who is that tied with? None other than the Chicago White Sox, who spent close to $70 million on Jose Abreu this offseason.

The Mets made a gamble when they traded away Ike Davis and committed to Lucas Duda once and for all, but boy has it paid off.

*1 WAR has been worth roughly $5 million in free agency.

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