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30-1 Countdown: #22 New York Mets

My 30-1 MLB countdown and team preview brings me to a team for whom I have rooted for over 25 years. A team that is trying to keep its focus off its financial problems and on to the team that has been constructed for the 2012 season. That of course, is the New York Mets. I decided to put my fandom aside when I put this list together, which means I am being as objective as I can be. As spring training has started, I am rooting as much as I can for my favorite team and it is my hopes that they somehow exceed expectations.

To say this team has been snakebitten with injuries over the past couple of seasons is an under-statement. As a fan, you get tired of  hearing about how good the team could be if everybody stays healthy. Already David Wright is experiencing problems with his ribs and Ike Davis has valley fever. Not to mention Scott Hairston and his oblique injury that may cause him to miss the beginning of the season.  Injuries are a part of the game, as even on a good year some players will miss time. That is where depth comes in; right now the Mets have little to no depth, especially when it comes to position players.

The Mets major moves this offseason consisted of adding free agent closer Frank Francisco and set up man Jon Rauch. They finished their day of business by trading OF Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Ramon Ramirez and OF Andres Torres. Other than that, the only offseason move they made was signing SS Ronny Cedeno, formerly of the Pirates.

Ruben Tejada (.284, 0, 36) takes over at shortstop for Jose Reyes. A lot will be on his plate this year as he may try to be somebody he is not. Terry Collins has decided to move him to the bottom of the lineup which I think is an excellent move so he can just worry about being a shortstop. Tejada will struggle if he tries to be Jose Reyes, which he obviously is not. He is a very fundamentally sound player and should improve as a hitter over time. The leadoff spot goes to Torres. The Mets are hoping Torres can hit closer to his 2010 form (.268, 16, 63 in 139 games) as opposed to the 2011 version (.221, 4, 19 in 112 games).

Daniel Murphy is getting the opportunity to be the everyday second baseman, and he will also bat second in the batting order. Murphy has worked hard this offseason to prepare for second base (he always does), but it could be a tough task to ask him to play there all season and remain healthy (he has injured his knees the last 2 years turning a double play at second base). Justin Turner had a very surprising 2011 season (.260, 4, 51 in 117 games) and should provide some insurance at second as well as third and maybe first base. Cedeno will back up Tejada at short.

Injuries last season to Davis (who never played again after May) and Wright (who missed 60 games) stalled any progress the team had made after a 5-13 start. The trades of RHP Francisco Rodriguez and OF Carlos Beltran affected the team and the knockout punch was when they lost Reyes and Murphy in the same game. Having Davis and Wright for the whole season makes them look better on paper than they were last year. Losing Reyes and not having Beltran gives the team some ground to make up. Some of the ground can be made up with Jason Bay, who has not hit for much power since coming to the Mets two years ago. Lucas Duda played very well in the second half  of last season by hitting .292 with 10 homers and 50 RBI in 100 games. Josh Thole has to work on his defense, as it affected his offense last year.

The success or failure of the Mets pitching staff will be affected by the health of Johan Santana. Santana has looked to be in great shape and is determined to pitch opening day against the Braves. If Santana has no setbacks and can pitch the full season, it will give the Mets an advantage they do not have at the moment. RA Dickey (8-13, 3.28) and Jonathon Niese (11-11, 4.40) are the best of the rest in a rotation that has little backup resources. Mike Pelfrey (7-13, 4.74) and Dillon Gee (13-6. 4.43) round out a rotation that does not have a 6th starter if somebody has to start the season on the DL. Miguel Batista and rookie Matt Harvey are be the favorites to land a spot if Santana or somebody else doesn’t start the season. Harvey has come into camp with the determination to make the team, but it is still very likely he will start the season in AAA, perhaps even AA.

The bullpen is improved from last year, when it blew seemingly every 8th or 9th inning lead in the second half of 2011. Francisco was 1-4, 3.55 and 17 saves for Toronto last season, missing some time with an injury. Rauch filled in as the Blue Jays closer, but had a tough season (5-4, 4.85, 11 saves). Rauch gave up 11 HR in 52 IP last year, something that needs to be better this year. I like the acquisition of Ramirez, who was 3-3 with a 2.62 ERA to go along with 4 saves with the Giants last year. He also showed a little moxy when he beaned Shane Victorino of the Phillies and walked up to him afterwards, starting a fight between the two teams. Manny Acosta (4-1, 3.45, 4 sv) and Bobby Parnell (4-6, 3.64, 6 sv) should be part of the mix and Tim Byrdak (2-1, 3.72 in 72 games) did a very good job last year.

Other than Turner and possibly Cedeno, the Mets have no bench. It is not worth breaking down stats for Mike Baxter, Adam Loewen and Mike Nickeas, all of whom have spent little to no time in the big leagues. Maybe one of them can be a surprise for 2012. Perhaps OF prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis can impress the brass enough to earn a spot on the team to start the season. Perhaps Sandy Alderson will see what is out there towards the end of spring training, but that is unlikely.

Vegas was down on the Mets when it came to the O/U. Only the Orioles (69.5) and the Astros (64) were given lower numbers than the Mets (70.5). Maybe Vegas is predicting the Mets will continue their salary purge and have an all-time bad season. I think they will win more than that, finishing 76-86 for last place in the NL East. The other four teams in the division are better at this point. If Wright, Bay, and Davis put up the numbers they are capable of, they could do better. Also, if Santana becomes Santana again, they will exceed expectations. If you are not rooting for that, root for the younger pitchers in the organization to continue to develop and maybe for the team to land a future star in this year’s draft. I think they may be better than people think.

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One Comment

  1. Brandon

    March 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    As a Mets fan too, I wish for everything to go right with Bay, Wright, and Santana, but I’m more worried about their pitching. Do you think the Mets should have went for Oswalt more a few years ago? I know he had some injury problems, but I think he would have been a good edition to the rotation after Santana was out and even better now with Santana in.

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