Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Predicting the Mets: Bullpen

Ok, so the next group of Mets to look at is the bullpen. This group could be a real strength for the Mets this year, but it could just as easily become a liability. Either way, there are a lot of questions that remain to be answered.

The one player with the best guarantee of a spot is the closer, Francisco Rodriguez. Frankie is coming off a 2010 year that ended premature with his tearing a ligament in his thumb during a scuffle with his girlfriend's father. While the legal fallout from that incident hasn't yet resolved (and hopefully won't be a distraction during the year), his thumb is reported to be fully healed, and shouldn't affect him too much. While Rodriguez is technically in the last year of his contract, he has a vesting option for 2012. The vesting option, which would result in him being paid $17.5 million for 2012 (more than Mariano Rivera ever earned in one season), come into effect if Rodriguez finishes (not saves) 55 games. Games Finished is an MLB statistic that is awarded to the relief pitcher who is last to pitch for a team in a given game. If used as the closer all year, Rodriguez is likely to hit the 55 games number, as the only year in the past six that he hasn't was his injury-shortened 2010. Either way, Rodriguez will be the closer at the beginning of the year, and, he still is one of the best closers in baseball.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Predicting the Mets: Starting Pitchers

Update 3/22 - Added SP spring training statistics at the end of the post.

So, maybe the easiest group of Mets to predict, at least when it comes to who's going to be on the opening day roster, is the starting pitchers. With Johan Santana sidelined for much if not most of the year (if he returns at all), the burden falls to Mike Pelfrey to be the ace of the staff. Pelfrey showed flashes of dominance last year, but what remains to be seen is whether or not he can maintain the level of excellence necessary to be a number one starter throughout the whole year. That being said, if the Mets can get another year like last year's 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA, they'd be happy, especially if Big Pelf can improve his strikeout to walk ratio, and work with fewer men on base.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I'm Back! Predicting the Mets Opening-day Roster.

Well, given the time that's elapsed since my last post, I figured there wasn't really a need to go back and finish out my "State of the Team" series. Instead, I'm going to look forward to opening day and predict the Mets roster as it will look on opening day. I'll start with giving an overview of who I think, and then give some analysis of each group of positions.

So here goes:
C - Josh Thole
1B - Ike Davis
2B - Luis Castillo
SS - Jose Reyes
3B - David Wright
LF - Jason Bay
CF - Angel Pagan
RF - Carlos Beltran
C - Mike Nickeas
IF - Daniel Murphy
IF - Chin-lung Hu
OF - Scott Hairston
OF - Willie Harris

SP - Mike Pelfrey
SP - R.A. Dickey
SP - Jon Niese
SP - Chris Young
SP - Chris Capuano
RP - Francisco Rodriguez
RP - Bobby Parnell
RP - D.J. Carrasco
RP - Jason Isringhausen
RP - Taylor Buchholz
RP - Tim Byrdak
RP - Pedro Beato

Note - Nickeas makes the team due to the 8-game suspension remaining for C Ronny Paulino.

Also in the mix - 2B Brad Emaus, IF/OF Nick Evans, OF Lucas Duda, RP Manny Acosta, RP Pat Misch, RP Oliver Perez, RP Boof Bonser, SP Dillon Gee, RP Blaine Boyer, RP Michael O'Connor.

As I noted, more analysis to follow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

State of the Team - Third Baseman

This one's easy -

David Wright.

Enough said.

But seriously, beyond Wright, they have a few players who would work as reserve third basemen, such as Daniel Murphy (came up as a 3B), Justin Turner, Nick Evans, etc.

They have some minor leaguers, too, who could provide some production at third base. Zach Lutz is likely to start the season as Buffalo's Third Baseman, after splitting .287/.380/.571 between multiple levels, mostly in Binghamton, but with 5 games in Buffalo.

However, the main prospect for the Mets at 3B is Aderlin Rodriguez. Rodriguez played in Rookie Ball and Low-A Savannah last year, and ended up with a split of .300/.350/.532. Rodriguez projects to have among the most potential power among current Mets prospects, although he may be forced to move to First Base or a Corner Outfield spot in order to stick in the Majors. Overall, though, he's the one to keep an eye on going forward.

Monday, January 3, 2011

State of the Team - Second Baseman/Shortstop

I know, it's been too long since my last post. But here goes with a more difficult and complex topic - 2nd Base for the New York Mets. I've decided to combine second base and shortstop into one post.

Jose Reyes comes first. The everyday shortstop position for the Mets is Reyes' and should stay Reyes' unless he is hurt or traded. However, there is a question about whether his production can return to pre-09 levels. Reyes only averaged 384 PA over the past two years, with .282/.328/.421 line and 41/53 total in stolen base attempts. Hopefully he can return to his 06-08 form, when he averaged .292/.355/.461 with a total of 48 HR, 47 SB, and 198 SB. Reyes of those years was a dynamic player, among the best in baseball at his position.

As it stands, there are five six names in the mix for probably two-three other middle infield roster spots on opening day (2B and one-two reserve spots). Luis Castillo is the only established player with significant MLB experience at second base. Castillo is in the final year of a 4-year/$25 million dollar contract, and is owed $6.25 million this year. That's a lot of money for a team that is relatively money-conscious, as the Mets have become under Alderson. Castillo's production has declined, and his value to the team has declined as well. It is highly unlikely that the Mets would be able to trade him, mostly due to his large contract in proportion to his value. The only upside is that the end is in sight. Castillo only hit .235 last year in 86 games, and as a guy who was a good contact hitter with good speed, he only stole 8/11 bases successfully, and only had 2 triples. In addition, his range in the field has diminished greatly, as his Range Factor/Game (a stat of arguable worth) has decreased from around 4.5 for most of his career to 4.0 last year. All of that being said, he still drew 39 walks to only 25 strikeouts, and should this team take on a "Moneyball" focus as some have suggested, Castillo could be on the opening day roster. If he is, he will be the everyday second baseman, as he has no versatility or ability to play other positions. As an aside, of note is the fact that Castillo is the active major league leader in games played at Second Base. This is going to be a difficult decision for Alderson, Collins and the rest.

Next in line for second is Daniel Murphy. Murphy is pre-arbitration still, meaning that he will earn the league minimum next year, making him definitely a low-cost option. He also still has options, meaning that he could be sent to the minors without having to pass through waivers. Murphy was injured most of last year, having hurt his knee at the end of spring training and again in early Summer. He played 11 games in the minors, and hit .294/.314/.471 in 8 games at Buffalo. More telling is his '09 season, when he was effectively the everyday first baseman and hit .266/.313/.427 in 556 plate appearances, including a Mets-leading 12 home runs. Yeah, '09 was a tough year. Murphy's big question is the defense, specifically, turning the double play, and more specifically, whether he will hit enough to offset what they assume will be subpar defense at second. He has been working on it the past year+ in both the minors and the winter league, but the real answer won't come until we can see how he plays at spring training. Either way, Murphy is likely to be on the Mets as either the primary second baseman, or as a super-sub in the mode of Mark DeRosa and Juan Uribe, a player who can fill in for extended amounts of time and multiple positions, as he can play first, second or third as well as left field, and probably right field in a pinch. Plus, he can do this.

The next name is Brad Emaus, who the Mets selected from the Blue Jays in the Rule 5 Draft this year. Per the rule 5 draft, the Mets would have to keep Emaus on the 25-man roster or offer him back to the Blue Jays. Emaus would also make the league minimum, but overall looks to be a similar player to Murphy, only right-handed, and likely more  comfortable defensively at second base. The two could conceivably platoon, but only if the Mets have a third infielder who is a more versatile defender. Emaus hit .290/.397/.496 between AA and AAA last year, a pretty impressive showing albeit in the Minors, and his numbers in AAA were actually better than those in AA. Like Murphy, it is unlikely that Emaus can play shortstop at the major league level.

Justin Turner provides a similar skill set to Emaus, and would also make the league minimum. Turner's only a career 4/35 hitter in the Majors, having played primarily second in addition to short and third. Last year, however, Turner was very productive between Buffalo and Norfolk (Baltimore's AAA), as he ended with a line of .316/.374/.487. Turner inexplicably didn't get a chance to show himself last September, but his work in Buffalo won him a chance to compete in Spring Training. Turner's advantage over Emaus may be in that he can play shortstop while Emaus cannot.

Ruben Tejada is likely to spend the overwhelming majority of the 2011 where he should've spent last year - in Buffalo. Tejada didn't turn 21 until after the season ended, and as such shouldn't have been in the Majors yet. Tejada can definitely field, he's good and likely to get better with his glove, but his question mark is the bat. A line of .213/.305/.282 is not good enough to overcome the glove, especially at second base. 22 walks to only 38 strikeouts in 255 PA bodes well for Tejada, but he needs another year or two in a more training-oriented environment to get himself to be a consistent major league option. Tejada played a similar amount in Buffalo during the year, racking up 244 PA, and putting up a line of .280/.329/.344. If he can ever do that in the majors, he'll play, but until he shows that, he wont. Even with that line, he's only a border-line everyday player, especially with a lack of stolen bases and no power to speak of.

This list just keeps going. Also available are Luis Hernandez and the recently acquired Chin-Lung Hu. Both are no-hit versatile utility players. Neither have shown the propensity for success at the major league level, while both have had enough success at the minors to keep them on the cusp. One of the two may break through and have a great spring training to find themselves on the team, but it's far from a lock. Russ Adams could also play both positions, and could be a surprise given enough of a look.

If I had to predict right now, I would say that the Mets are likely to have on the opening day roster - Reyes, Murphy, Emaus and Hu.

Two sleepers lie in the minors as the Mets top Second Base prospects. Jordany Valdespin and Reese Havens both are highly thought of by Mets brass, and both may even get a chance to prove themselves in Spring Training. Valdespin was protected by the Mets from the Rule 5 draft, and is likely to start the year in Binghamton after a .272/.300/.398 split between St. Lucie and Binghamton last year. Havens was the Mets' first round pick in '08 (22nd overall), and has hit when he's played. The key, though, is when, and he hasn't played enough as he's spent much of the past two seasons on the disabled list. The Mets got glimpses, when he split .312/.386/.598 in 140 PA between St. Lucie and Binghamton last year. Havens may make it to CitiField in 2011 if he stays healthy and productive and the Mets' second base situation turns out to be a complete mess.

One of the Mets' top overall prospects is currently a shortstop, although he will likely move his position as he moves up. The 19-year old Wilmer Flores hit .289/.333/.484 between Savannah and St. Lucie last year, and is an absolute beast, as he is usually rated in the top two (with Jenrry Mejia) of Mets prospects overall. Flores projects to build on his 6'3"/175lb. frame and become a true power threat. One of the comparisons I've heard is Miguel Cabrera, although hopefully Flores won't be as much of a fat-ass as Cabrera. Other names to remember are Rylan Sandoval, who made it as high as as a 22-year old St. Lucie last year, splitting .295/.398/.466 and Wilfredo Tovar, who split .266/307/.327 between Brooklyn, Savannah and St. Lucie as he turned 19 in August.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cliff Lee signs with Philly

Well, there's that. At least this deal had somewhat more of the ring of sanity to it, although I think Lee's close to the most overrated free agent pitcher in history. 5 years, $120 million - it's scary when that deal seems relatively sane. Yeah, Lee's had a couple of good years, and his 2008 season was excellent (22-3, 2.58, Cy-Young Award). However, past that his stats don't reveal a top-5 in the country ace.

However, he doesn't necessarily need to be now that he's paired with Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels down in Philly. That rotation is scary, but that'll make it all the more satisfying for the Mets to beat the Phillies. I would hope that any Mets player who goes on record reacts the same way and embraces the challenge.

Monday, December 13, 2010

State of the Team - First Basemen

Next up on the positional analysis is first baseman. At the major league level, the position appears to be Ike Davis' to lose for the time being, after his solid rookie campaign, both at the plate and in the field. While the batting average, at .264, could've been higher, the .351 OBP shows a solid eye at the plate, and the power is definitely there, as he slugged 19 homers and 71 RBI. Davis' glove is a big advantage, as he's probably the most solid first baseman (or, really, only solid first baseman) the Mets have had since John Olerud, or even Keith Hernandez. To Davis' advantage as well is that as a rookie whom the Mets control for a long time and costs little, he's very likely to stay on the roster for the time being. Basically, Davis is a keeper for this. Oh, and this, this and thisAnd for good measure, this too.

Past Davis, though, things aren't so rosy. Daniel Murphy is a strong possibility to make the team as a second baseman, primarily, and would become the primary backup at first, where he played most of 2009. Nick Evans is out of options, so he could very well make the team as a right-handed bat off the bench, who would be able to spell Davis against LHP and can contribute passable defense at first. Evans hit a combined .300/.368/.532 in 145 between AA, AAA and the Majors last year, so he should definitely receive strong consideration in Spring Training. Also, he can play all three outfield positions, which would give the Mets important flexibility.

In the free agent market, it's unlikely that the Mets will pick up a reserve whose primary position is first base. Most of the players available would either not fit what the Mets are looking for in terms of flexibility, or would be someone seeking a starting position and the according salary. The only possibility would be someone like Ryan Garko, who again would provide a right-handed bat off of the bench to spell Davis.

No one in the minor league system really stands out right now as a top prospect. 22-year old Stefan Welch split .256/.325/.395 last fear in St. Lucie, although he hasn't yet shown the power that one would hope to get from a first baseman (only 8 hr in 133 GP). Welch is struggling in his time (which is being spent as a 3B) down playing for the new Australian Baseball League. Alex Sanchez would be just about the only prospect that stimulates any interest. Sanchez played 47 games as a 19-year old in the Gulf Coast League, and split .269/.319/.406. Sanchez is a big kid who's likely to fill out, and if he develops more power, could become a prospect.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mets sign C Paulino

Reports from the Winter Meetings indicate that the Mets have reached a deal with C Ronny Paulino, although the signing has not been officially announced by the team. Reports indicate that it will be for one year at $1.3 million per year.

Paulino appears to fit as a perfect compliment to Josh Thole, albeit less defensively adept as previous backups have been. Paulino appeared in 91 games last year for Florida, hitting .259/.311/.354 in 344 plate appearances. The big draw for Paulino, however, is how well he hits lefties. Paulino split a gaudy .358/.380/.516 in 100 PA last year for Florida, and has a career .338/.390/.491 split against lefties. This signing makes him appear as an clear cut compliment to the lefty-hitting Thole.

However, the real question mark with Paulino stems from the 50-game suspension he was served with last year for use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs. He claims it was an unknown ingredient in a weight-loss supplement he used - I don't know, maybe it was. I'd hope to give him the benefit of the doubt - either way, you've got to wonder both if he'll lose something he had before the suspension, or more likely, if he'll be rusty upon his return. He still has eight games remaining on the suspension that will have to be served at the beginning of the season.

Overall, however, this appears to be a good signing as a backup catcher looking to prove something and parlay his performance into a starting job in 2012. One year, $1.3 million seems to be the best you can hope for to pay for a veteran backup such as Paulino.

Monday, December 6, 2010

State of the Team - Catchers

Update, 6:43 PM - 
The Mets today signed C Dusty Ryan to a Minor League Deal (official press release here) - he'll likely play in Buffalo, or possibly even Binghamton. Not exactly too exciting of a sign, given his .199/.333/.349 line in AAA Portland last year (San Diego), although he does show a good eye for the strike zone with 50 walks in 89 games last year. He appears to be average defensively, as he threw out 26% last year for Portland.

Original Post, 6:41 PM -
So for my first positional analysis, I'll look at catchers. Currently, the Mets have 2 catchers on the 40-man roster - Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. Nickeas went 2 for 10 in 5 games last year as a September call-up, with 5 strikeouts and 1 error in 4 games behind the plate while not throwing out any of the 3 basestealers who attempted to go on him. This was on top of a season spent mostly in  Binghamton with seven games in Buffalo, where he hit .276/.389/.382 and threw out a third of runners. Look for Nickeas to play in Buffalo this year to provide depth, but hopefully he won't be needed at the Major League level.

Thole, on the other hand, showed a lot more promise. Thole turned 24 in October, and in his second year in the Majors, played in 77 games and posted a line of .277/.357/.366 - not quite at his previous years line of .321/.356/.396, but still pretty good. Note the fact that even with a decline in average, his OBP stayed level - a good sign for a mature hitter that looks to be the Mets' everyday catcher going forward. Also impressive was the improvement in his defense - he threw out 44% of runners, and appeared better at controlling a staff. There's almost no reason that Thole shouldn't start as the everyday catcher.

This, of course, leaves open the question of who is going to be the backup. Names to consider as free agents include the switch-hitting Josh Bard, Russell Martin (who was non-tendered by the Dodgers and reportedly desires a move to the East Coast, Dioner Navarro or Wil Nieves. If they don't get one of those 4, they'll likely have to settle for either an older catcher, such as Henry Blanco, Jason LaRue, Chad Moeller, Matt Treanor or Gregg Zaun. Basically, it boils down to how much of the workload they think Thole can handle. If it's 4 days a week and you need a replacement for the other three, then they could spring for one of the more pricey catchers. If not, look for them to go for more of a mentor-type. Also look for them to bring in a minor-league free agent to provide additional depth, someone along the lines of a Robinzon Diaz, Michael Barrett, Steve Holm or Raul Chavez, as well as players such as Salomon Manriquez, Shawn Riggans, Omir Santos(signed by Detroit) or Luke Montz, all who spent last year in the Mets' system. Whoever they bring in/keep will almost definitely playing in Buffalo, though.

Beyond Thole, Kai Gronauer is likely the next highest prospect. After splitting .291/.359/.379 between Savannah and St. Lucie last year at 23, MetsMinorLeagueBlog.com projects him to break camp as Binghamton's everyday starter. Also a name to consider is 20-year old Alberto Cordero, who split .282/.311/.469 between rookie and Low-A, and could be a sleeper in the SAL next year for Savannah, as well as 20 year old Juan Centeno, who split .320/.368/.424 in 44 games between Brooklyn, St. Lucie and Binghamton. The coolest names among catchers in the system has to be a toss-up between Jean Luc Blaquiere, Jeyckol De Leon, Alex Machillanada or Nelfi Zapata.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

State of the Team - Management/Front Office

So I've started a blog...

I guess the best way to start a blog that looks at the Mets is to take stock of where the team is currently. I'm going to go through position by position and look at who the Mets have, and where they should go. The obvious first place to start is with the team's management and coaching staff.

The front office looks good right now, as Sandy Alderson has come in as GM and gotten off to a good start, at least as far as bringing in other good execs. While Alderson's focus on statistical analysis may be overstated, he still will bring a good analytical eye to players, and hopefully will be able to resist making moves to appease ownership or the fan-base. It should be all about what puts the best team out on the field, what gives the Mets the best chance to win a championship. Names like J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta that have been successful in other places are always good, and it can't hurt to have a number of smart people in the Mets' front office. In addition, John Ricco seems like he's on a good path to be a top-line exec one day. The real question mark has to be  - how does the Mets minor league system react to no longer having Terry Collins, who received rave reviews in his one year, as Minor League Coordinator? Collins as manager isn't necessarily the sexiest pick, but his fire may help the Mets, who haven't always appeared to be the most motivated team recently, and as his coaching staff is largely unresolved, well, we'll just have to see what happens there. While his departure from Anaheim has been brought up as a negative, what isn't talked about is that in his previous 6 years as a manager, he finished in 2nd place in his division every year except the last, although he did never get to 90 wins.