Our guest bloggers is Matt Seybold from The Sporting Hippeaux, Gregg Snyder of Double G Sports, Kerel Cooper from On the Black, Ron Kaplan from Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf, and Steve Keane of the Eddie Kranepool Society.
Question 1 – Will the Mets get production from anyone other than Jason Bay?
Josh: They can always count on production from many of their big name players! Carlos Beltran and David Wright can hit and play defense! Plus, you still have big names like Jose Reyes! I think Bay is a great addition to the team for not only outfield but also the power hitter they can rely on in the middle of the lineup.
Daniels: They will get plenty of production all around. The only reason they didn’t get production last season is because no one played a full season and the guys who were left never saw a pitch. This team, almost in its entirety, was predicted to win 90+ games last year. Now it’s hardly predicted to go over .500. Carlos Delgado was worth 10+ wins? Really?
Ron: At the risk of sounding negative, depends what you mean by production. If you mean Delgado numbers from 2008, doubtful. But Wright will bounce back, now that he’s used to the new ballpark. A healthy Reyes can only help the team, which is a big if, all around. If they can enjoy the luxury of a set lineup, and not shuffle players in and out and side to side defensively, I look for a big improvement.
Steve: To predict who will be productive is a bit tough right now as we don’t know what the opening day lineup will look like? No Beltran until May (fingers crossed), worrying about where Jose Reyes will hit in the lineup and will he be healthy enough, the new Daniel Murphy/Ike Davis competition for not only 1st base but for the 6th/7th spot in the order, Will David Wright bounce back (I think so in a big way) and the enigma known as Jeff Francoeur.
Gregg: David Wright will bounce back and have a very good year. I don’t expect a career high in home runs, but he will certainly have more then last season. The big question is, Will Beltran and Reyes be healthy? If they can stay healthy, both will produce. When healthy, this Mets clubs does have a decent lineup that will produce. I like the combination of Reyes, Beltran, Bay and Wright mixed in with Francoeur, Castillo, and Barajas.
Matt: It would be a rare misfortune if the Mets were to suffer that many critical injuries two seasons in a row. If it weren’t for Wright’s concussion, his production last season would’ve been fine, albeit will a significant reduction in power. His 30 HR pop from ’07 and ’08 may be too much to expect, but 20 HR, 100+ RBI, and a 900 OPS are still realistic. Reyes and Beltran may not be ready by Opening Day, but I still expect them both to play at least 120 games, which makes the Mets much, much better than they were in 2009, probably one of the five or six best lineups in the National League. Run production shouldn’t be a problem. Run prevention, on the other hand…
Ron: I take it from the thread that we’re just talking about offensive production here? ‘Cause goodness knows the pitchers have to stay healthy, too. Is it my imagination of is Oliver Perez the reincarnation of Sid Fernandez: brilliant at times, but someone who has trouble with some of the mental aspects of the game?
Kerel: From an offensive standpoint I think they will get production from their core players: Wright, Reyes, Beltran and Bay (as long as they are healthy). I think how good the Mets offense will be this year will depend on what the Mets get out of guys like Pagan, Jeff Francoeur, Daniel Murphy and Luis Castillo. It will be important for these guys to help extend and turn over the lineup and not be rally killers.
Russ: If the Mets as an entire team are healthy (thyroids, knees, etc.) they have the possibility to be a very exciting offensive team. However, they can only accomplish this if from the return if Carlos Beltran through October, none if their main four get injured.
Jeff: For me, the Mets production lies totally with the health and productivity of Jose Reyes. When he’s in the lineup, they are a completely different team. The thyroid issue he’s dealing with shouldn’t be taken lightly. If this becomes something that either a) keeps him out of the lineup, or b) requires medication that affects his productivity, the Mets could be in trouble (even with Jason Bay). But, if Reyes checks out OK and his legs are good, the Mets could contend……if they could only pitch and play defense.
Russ: I’m sure their pitching is our next roundtable question.
Gregg: The bottom line is health. They have a lineup that can produce if healthy.
Ron: Health is always the issue and the one thing that no one can predict. Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any “speed bumps” on the team that take up salary with little in return, with all due respect to the likes of Moises Alou and Garry Sheffield.
Question 2 – How will the rotation shape up?
Ron: Here we go again: health is a factor. Can Santana come back and pitch on the same high level as in the past? Can the team count on Pelfrey, Maine, and Perez to win 12-15 games apiece? Who gets the fifth spot? Nieve? Niese? Misch? Figueroa? Perhaps a new acquisition picked up during Spring Training? And how deep into the game can they get? Someone should erase the concept of “quality start” from the collective consciousness. Nowadays it seems that too many starting pitchers (and their managers) look at that as their goal, rather than trying to get at least into the seventh and eighth innings, putting extra pressure on the bullpen. Who will be that eighth-inning stalwart that serves as the link to Rodriguez as closer?
Gregg: I do think the Mets can count on Santana, Maine, and Pelfrey as the top three. Obviously health is always an issue, as it is with any team. The team lacks a true #2 starter however. I think Maine is really more of a 3 and Pelfrey a 4 or 5, but on this team they are forced to take bigger roles. Oliver Perez is currently the fourth starter. I do not trust him AT ALL. The fifth starter spot will come down to Niese, Nieve, or Figueroa. As you can see on my blog, the race for that spot is currently very close. Pitching is a concern on this team.
Steve: There is one given in the starting rotation-Johan Santana-and four question marks. Mets management is looking at 800 innings for starters 2-4, that is beyond wishful thinking. Big Pelf still has to prove his mental toughness as does Oliver Perez and John Main needs to prove durability. Of all the starting pitchers not named Santana, the guy I have the most confidence in is Jon Niese. The question becomes does Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel give jobs to pitchers because of contract (Ollie Perez) or on merit (Hisanori Takahasi, Fernando Nieve) ?
Kerel: Unless there is an injury I expect it to be: Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Jon Niese. For the record, I am not confident in this rotation. I really wanted the Mets to go out and get a solid #2 pitcher over the off season and they didn’t do that. If the Mets expect to make the playoffs they will need a break out year from Pelfrey and for Maine and Perez to pitch like they did in 2007 when each of them one 15 games. In short, I don’t see that happening, but I hope I’m wrong.
Matt: The biggest flaw with the Mets is definitely the rotation. Johan at the top is fine, obviously, assuming he comes back fully healthy, but I think the organization severely over-estimated the talent of John Maine, Mike Pelfrey, and, most of all, Oliver Perez. As Greg suggests, Pelfrey and Maine should eventually be decent middle-of-the-rotation innings-eaters, but that probably isn’t going to be enough in the NL East, at least this year. Perez is on the fast track to becoming Carlos Silva or Jeff Suppan, a guy with a bloated contract who doesn’t even factor into the rotation. It would be nice if the Mets had a couple of top prospects coming up the pipeline, but I don’t see it. Niese is the best of the bunch, but I think it would me a mistake to put him in the rotation to begin the year. He’s only 23 and he hasn’t exactly dominated AAA yet. At the same time, however, he’d probably be better than Nelson Figueroa. They gave Bobby Parnell a brief audition in the rotation at the end of last year. It didn’t go so well, but if he could bring down his walk rate, I could see giving him another look. The Mets need their lineup to be rolling on all cylinders, because even in the best case scenario, they’re going to be involved in more than their fair share of slugfests.
Daniels: The combination of Maine, Perez, and Pelfrey were predicted to win something like 45 games last year. They’re predicted to win less than 20. Neither projection is fair. If you presume that Maine’s 2008 injury was a hold-over from having, according to the New York Post, “the largest bonespur doctors have ever seen” removed from his shoulder in 2007 and that Perez had an issue that required surgery, then they should now both be fully healthy. As for the fifth position, I believe Jon Niese is the only remaining pitcher with options. I think Fernando Nieve will likely win the fifth spot in the rotation with Nelson Figueroa filling a long-man/spot-starter role. That said, I expect to see Niese at the major league level sometime this season.
Russ: I wonder if after Santana, the Mets have that typical collection of “nice” pitchers that would be complimentary pieces to other teams. However, here they are a focus and maybe that is their biggest flaw as an organization.
Gregg: If anyone, I would say Maine is a little better then a “nice complimentary piece.” to most teams. The rest of them are just that however. I don’t think you can say pitching is the biggest flaw of the organization. It’s definitely the biggest flaw on the roster, but the biggest flaw as an organization is Omar Minaya and Jerry Manual.
Russ: I was thinking players not front office. Point taken.
Gregg: I know, just busting chops.
Daniels: No, it’s not. The idea that Omar Minaya is a bad General Manager is absolutely insane.
Ron: By the way, and speaking of health, I see that Joe Nathan might be out for the year (according to initial reports) with a torn ligament in his elbow. What do you suppose that does to pre-spring training predictions about the Twins?
Jeff: If Nathan’s injury is season-ending, it’s devastating news for the Twins. They rely on him so heavily as they play in so many close games. His loss really shakes up the whole bullpen, throwing guys into positions and situations they are unfamiliar with. It could be a catastrophe, in my opinion.
Russ: I don’t see how he will recover without surgery. I have heard “significant tear” from more than one source.
Chad: Yeah, i don’t know why they’re trying the same route they tried with Neshek. My only idea is that with Neshek they still had control over him, as with Nathan by the time his two year recovery is done, his contract would be up.
Nathan being out is a worst case scenario for the Twins. In my opinion it is a minimum 10 game swing. From blown saves to coming in with the score tied it will cost them at least 10, probably more and will easy send them from the top of the division to the middle of the pack.
Question 3 – What should we expect from Fernando Martinez – this season and long term?
Kerel: Unless there are injuries or something else unexpected (like trading GMJ), I see Fernando Martinez starting the year in the minor leagues. I know he played well in winter ball and is off to a good start this spring but it’s a numbers thing and if he is not going to play everyday at the big league level he should be in the minors playing everyday so he can continue to improve.
Long Term: If he continues to improve and stays healthy I don’t see why he can’t be the Mets everyday RF or CF in a year or two. He has all the tools to be an everyday player and potential all-star. Beltran’s contract is up at the end of 2011 and Francoeur’s contract is up and the end of this year. Depending how Francoeur plays this year, F-Mart could be the everyday RF in 2011.
Gregg: I agree with Kerel, I think he starts this season in the minors. You never know what will happen with injuries but he would likely be the first outfielder called up in that instance. He is off to a very good start this spring and continues to improve. He should still be considered a major part of the Mets future. They have too many outfielders this year, send him to Triple-A and let him play full time.
I could easily see him as an every day player for the club in the coming years.
Ron: I agree with Kerel. After Beltran decides he no longer wants to play in NY and/or vice versa and/or his knees give out and after Francouer wears out the patience of who is manager at that point, Martinez will get his shot. But looking at his profile in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook, I have to ask, what’s the big deal? He hasn’t hit particularly well, he has his own health issues (and he isn’t even 22 yet), his defense is, at best, average. Can you say Greg Jeffries?
Steve: Again another unknown in the Mets universe, Fernando Martinez. I’m still stuck with the image of F-Mart not running out the nubber in front of the plate. You would think a kid as highly touted as Martinez, when given the call to the big leagues would have run trough a brick wall. It’s not all Martinez’ fault, the young man has been in the Mets system for four years so it reflects badly on the minor league coaching staff.
That said, Martinez has the benefit of Ike Davis and Jenry Meijia being the hot prospects in camp, so that relieves some of the pressure to prove up to his press clippings. What we should expect from F-Mart is a twenty year old to be in optimum shape and not break down like a 15 yr journey man. The talent is there but I question if the fire and desire is equal to that. Martinez has a lot to prove in 2010.
Matt: I was very surprised when the Mets acquired Gary Matthews Jr. The Beltran drama seemed like the perfect opportunity to give Martinez a long look after a good run at AAA in ’09 and a dominant performance in the Caribbean Series (1067 OPS). If he proved he was ready (or nearly ready) for the majors, well, Jeff Francoeur is the definition of expendable. If he wasn’t the Mets would at least know they needed to have a new game plan for 2011. I still think this should be the plan, but it may mean releasing Gary Matthews Jr. or forcing Angel Pagan back to AAA after he earned the fourth outfielder spot with his play in ’09.
Although I think Martinez will turn into a better player, I can’t help but be reminded of Lastings Milledge. The Mets declared him their top prospect, submitting him to the New York microscope, and then bounced him all over the system as a teenager, never giving him a chance to get comfortable anywhere, and when he didn’t immediately become a superstar they traded him away for very little (Brian Schneider and Ryan Church).
Last year, Martinez was only 20-years-old, but the Mets found him only 290 plate appearances. This year, wherever he is, he needs to be in the lineup everyday. I think that should be centerfield in New York until Beltran returns, then either right field in New York or centerfield in Buffalo.
Ron: Sometimes I wish I lived outside the New York area, just to see for an extended period if other teams hype their rookies as much as the Mets (excluding the Nationals’ Stephen S.). How many times have NY fans been handed a bill of goods that this minor leaguer or that would turn into the next big thing? Remember how the pitching troika of Paul Wilson, Jason Isringausen, and Bill Pulsipher were going to make everyone forget about Seaver, Koosman, and Matlack? How did that work out? Would someone please remind me of a home-grown someone that did pan out (besides Wright and Reyes), for an extended period?
Daniels: It’s likely that we won’t see much of Fernando Martinez this season. His quick look at the Major League level wasn’t particularly impressive. Considering the signing of Gary Mathews Jr and the organization’s love of Angel Pagan, I don’t expect to see much of F-Mart until late-season call-ups. Next season largely depends on what Jeff Francoeur does this year. If he reverts to the .220 hitter he was in 2008, he’ll probably end up looking for a job in 2011.
Question 4 – How will the Mets finish in the East?
Kerel: At best 2nd place but more likely 3rd place. If healthy I think they will hang on in terms of being in the wild card race but at the end of the day, they don’t have the starting pitching to win consistently enough to make the payoffs this year.
Daniels: They will finish probably second behind the Phillies. Of course, we all DO need to remember that nobody on the Phillies has missed extended time in the last three years. That really can’t keep up forever.
Gregg: Right now I have to say they will battle for 2nd place. The Phillies have the roster to win the NL East once again. The Mets and Braves will battle for 2nd place and possibly a wild card spot.
Steve: Well one thing is for sure, the Mets are no longer the favorites in the NL East in fact they are not even a favorite to be the NL Wild Card, and that may be a good thing. Expectations are not very high. Could everything fall into place? Sure it could and if it does this could be a fabulous summer in Flushing and believe me I am rooting hard for that to happen.
I would hope that Jerry Manuel would play this “no one believes in us” card to his advantage. If there is one way to galvanize a team is to get them to understand that all they have is each other and it’s time to make the critics eat their words.
All we can ask as fans is for our team to play hard and stay in contention through September. Fred Wilpon has never lived down his “meaningful games in September” quote but he’s right, if the Mets are still in the race come September I’ll be very happy.
Matt: I don’t think the Mets have a snowball’s chance in hell of sniffing the playoffs. The Phillies will pummel the NL East and at least half a dozen teams in the other two divisions are better constructed than New York, even when everybody’s healthy. I do think the Mets will get back to around .500, which may be good enough for 2nd, as both the Marlins and Braves are also flawed teams. However, if I had to predict, I’d say 4th, just behind Atlanta and Florida.
Ron: After last year, I’d be satisfied IF they finish (bada boom).
Crossing my fingers: 2nd place.
Russ: 3rd at best. Let’s see when Reyes actually returns.
Gregg: I originally said 2nd place and battle for wild card spot, but that was of the thinking everyone would be healthy. If the Beltran and Reyes injuries do not get figured out, its going to be another long year. Without a few key players, the Mets are staring at 3rd, possibly even 4th place.
Jeff: The Mets are without out a doubt the most difficult team to predict this season, imo — I honestly feel they could finish anywhere from first to last, most realistically 3rd-ish….probably depends more on Atlanta than NY — official prediction is right around .500.