Beyond the Mets ‘Core Four’

mets spring training 2015

Despite Winter Storm Watches in the Northeast and the gloomy fog and cold that has encapsulated my Atlanta home for the past 3 months, it is finally time to play ball in South Florida, and I am abuzz with excitement!

Yes, every Spring I reach for what are usually unrealistic expectations regarding our Mets, and think “if this happens and that happens and we make a deal at the deadline…blah blah blah”. But this year just feels different. Don’t get me wrong, they still need some things to break their way, but It just doesn’t feel l need to try so hard to convince myself they could actually be very good this time around.

Another great thing about the Spring Training games starting is that we as fans will have something else to evaluate our team other than quotes from our GM, Manager and Players. To be honest, I really don’t care what any of them have to say. It doesn’t mean squat on March 4. What matters is how well they play and the caliber of their performance. Once they’re talking about the game or their performances,  then I’ll listen.

That said, there was something a player recently said that was very interesting. After his first bullpen session facing live batters, Matt Harvey referred to the teammates he faced – David Wright, Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Michael Cuddyer – as the Mets ‘Core Four’. I get what he is trying to say here, as these four position players also represent a huge chunk of the team’s overall financial investment, as well as them being the longest tenured players. And while it may be true that a lot is riding on this Mets version of Core Four, there is just as much riding on the offensive production from a few other Mets players he didn’t mention.

Lucas Duda – Coming off a breakout 2014 when he was finally given the 1B job outright, Duda provided the Mets with the power threat from the clean-up position they had been desperately searching for. But it wasn’t all roses for Duda. He struggled mightily against LHP,  hitting just .180 against southpaws. And now, he is dealing with an oblique strain that will sideline him for at least the start of Spring Training, if not longer.

Juan Lagares – As long as Lagares is penciled into the starting lineup in CF, all is good in Metsville. The problem is that didn’t happen enough last year. Lagares hit the DL three different times in 2014 and played in only 116 games. Hamstings and Intercostals and Elbows, oh my! Lagares will have two challenges in 2015: 1) stay on the field, and 2) provide more production as the winner-by-default Leadoff Hitter. That means improving on a very modest .321 OBP.

Travis d’Arnaud – It used to be that for most teams, any offense you got out of the catching position was gravy. That is no longer the case. The NL is stacked with good offensive catchers and one has to wonder about the ceiling for d’Arnaud. Even if you assume the d’Arnaud from his post-Vegas demotion is the real deal (and not the clunker from April), he is a mid-pack threat at best. Still, that may be enough to deepen the order if everyone else lives up to their own expectations and potential.

Wilmer Flores – Okay, I’m going out on a (pretty sturdy) limb that Flores will be our everyday SS. While this post is more about offensive production, it will be Flores’ defense that will dictate whether we see it or not. Because if Flores gets benched due to poor defense, there will be no offense from our SS. Sandy’s posturing all winter was that he couldn’t find a better alternative than Flores. What he is counting on is that Flores is at least comparable to what he passed on. However, he could have certainly found a better backup plan than Tejada just in case.

I’m looking forward to seeing how these storylines play out on the field vs. on paper. In some cases, we may be pleasantly surprised. In some, we may be bitterly disappointed. But the time to sort it out on the field begins today. Thank God. Play Ball and Let’s Go Mets!

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