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New York Mets 2013 Preview

Ruben Tejada

While other teams are ramping up for the 2013 season, the Mets seem to be slowly preparing for 2014. Their contract situation, a mess just a season ago, has been mostly resolved with R.A Dickey, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, and Mike Pelfrey all coming off the payroll. David Wright is the only player the team has committed to long-term, owing him $192 million through 2020. Johan Santana is the only dead money remaining on the roster, having diluted any value he may have had with a horrible second half and yet another injury.

In the meantime, the Mets have been stacking up on prospects and are going into the season with one of the youngest teams in the league. Travis d’Arnaud, Matt Harvey, Jenrry Mejia, and Jeurys Familia will look to build on their 2012 seasons. Younger guys like Zack Wheeler and maybe even Brandon Nimmo and Noah Syndergaard may see some big league time as well if the Mets spend most of their season running open auditions for spots like they did last season. The Mets look to be putting together a very nice team, but one that won’t come together until at least 2014 or even 2015. In the meantime, let’s take a look at what we can expect from the rebuilding Mets in 2013.

2012 Team Rankings:

Wins: 74

Runs: 25th Overall

Batting Average: 19th Overall

ERA: 20th Overall

WHIP: 19th Overall

Catchers: John Buck, Travis d’Arnaud – Grade: B-

The Mets made their only real improvement this offseason at the catcher position. Not only did they finally get rid of Josh Thole, they added their starting catcher for this year and for years to come.

Although Buck batted under .200 last year and was traded twice this offseason, he is a pretty solid offensive catcher who will usually bat in the .220-.240 range, hit 12-18 home runs, and drive in 50+ runs.

The Mets will certainly try to get d’Arnaud into the mix as soon as possible. The 23-year-old is a top prospect who was the centerpiece of the trade that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto. He has really developed over the last two seasons in the minors showing potential to hit over .300 with good pop. The only downside with him seems to be the strikeouts and lack of walks. At the same time, about half of his minor league hits are for extra bases.

First Base: Ike Davis, Justin Turner – Grade: B

No one struggled more than Davis in the first half of the season but the Mets let him ride it out and he ended up with a decent season. Although he only batted .227, he hit 32 homers and drove in 90 RBI. The strikeouts, streaky-ness, and inability to hit lefties are all worrisome but Ike is a good power hitter with a great glove. He’s also only 25.

Turner figures to be the Mets utility guy around the infield this year. He’s a singles hitter who bats in the .260-.270 range but has a good strikeout-walk ratio and plays all over, even if he doesn’t have a particularly great glove.

Second Base: Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner – Grade: C+

Murphy has become a pretty reliable second baseman, even if his glove leaves something to be desired. He batted .291 with 65 RBI, 62 R, and 10 SB last season and should continue at that pace if he stays healthy.

Shortstop: Ruben Tejada, Jordany Valdespin – Grade: C+

The 22-year-old Tejada has proven himself as the Mets’ best defensive shortstop since Rey Ordonez. He also proved that he is not a slouch with the bat, batting .289 last season. He is a singles hitter that doesn’t do much when he is on base but he is a good looking shortstop in a league where there aren’t many.

I wasn’t sure about Valdespin last season but he proved himself in just 191 at-bats with a solid bat and glove playing short and outfield. He figures to play more outfield this season, probably a better fit for him. In the minors, Valdespin showed an ability to bat around .285 with double-digit home runs and 30+ steals. If the Mets let him develop, he could be a good one.

Third Base: David Wright, Justin Turner – Grade: B+

At 30, Wright is the veteran of the team and his bounce-back season last year earned him a massive eight-year extension. Wright batted .306 (.381 OBP) last season with 21 homers, 93 RBI, 91 R, 41 2B, 15 SB. If he can stay healthy, this is right where he has been his entire career, even if Citi Field has sapped some of his power.

Outfield: Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jordany Valdespin, Mike Baxter – Grade: C-

Duda and Nieuwenhuis both figure into the Mets longterm plans but both ended up getting sent back down to the minors last season.

The 26-year-old Duda bated .239 in 401 at-bats last season (after batting .292 the previous year) and added 15 HR and 57 RBI. The strikeouts are killer for him though, he had 120 in 459 plate appearances after having just 57 in 347 plate appearances the previous year. If he can manage the Ks, he could be a very reliable power outfielder.

The 25-year-old Nieuwenhuis showed great promise with the glove but was very mediocre in his offensive game. Another guy who struggled mightily with strikeouts last season, going down on strikes 98 times in just 282 at-bats. He projects to be a .280 hitter who can add 15 HR and 15 SB but his ceiling isn’t as high as Duda’s or Valdespin’s.

Baxter was a handy utility player last season who helped the Mets a ton off the bench and when Jason Bay was down. He is like a slower version of Endy Chavez but plays hard and has earned his spot on the team.

Starting Rotation: Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Matt Harvey, Jenrry Mejia, Jeremy Hefner – Grade: C+

On the one hand, Johan pitched the Mets’ first no-hitter last season. On the other hand, he pitched worse than Johan has ever pitched after that no-hitter. Between injuries and horrid pitching, Johan ended up going 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, all career highs. In the last guaranteed year of his contract, the Mets are hoping he can raise his value so they can trade him for prospects come summer.

Niese finally established himself as a reliable starter in 2012. He went 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP and is looking like a great long-term starter for the Mets to hold on to as they re-build.

I wasn’t sold on Gee in 2011 but he looked solid going 6-7 with a 4.10 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. He projects to be a back-end rotation guy but a solid one if he can stay healthy.

Harvey has been the talk of the Mets for a while and the 23-year-old turned a lot of heads as he put up a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 10 starts last season. If all goes right, Harvey could be the Mets ace for years to come.

Mejia barely got to play last season and he is no lock for a starting job but the Mets have been waiting for the 23-year-old to work his way into the rotation since 2010. Injuries have kept him back but this is a kid who has straight up dominated every level of the minor leagues since he was 17 so you can see why the Mets are optimistic.

Hefner was not impressive last season, going 4-7 with a 5.09 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 13 starts. He’s a better reliever than he is starter. The problem with the Mets is that the guys they want to start – Jeurys Familia, Zack Wheeler, and the recently-acquired Noah Syndergaard who came over in the Dickey trade are all far too young. Expect to see Familia and Wheeler get at least some time in the rotation this season.

Bullpen: Frank Francisco, Bobby Parnell, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Elvin Ramirez, Rob Carson – Grade: C

The Mets made most of their offseason moves last season in the bullpen – which ended in disaster. This season they didn’t add anyone (yet) which means they are going to have one of the youngest bullpens in the league. It also means you are going to see a lot more guys than just the ones listed here. No surprise, the Mets used 28 starting and relief pitchers in 2012.

Francisco was signed to an $11 million deal last offseason and became an immediate bust. To be fair, he only blew three saves in 26 opportunities. At the same time, he was ugly to watch while he was out there, putting up a 5.53 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. He remains the Mets closer but only because no one else in the pen can be relied upon.

Parnell is the only other veteran in the pen. He has proven to be a very good set up man but a horrid closer. If he stays out of the closer job, the 2.49 ERA and 1.24 WHIP he had last season is right around where he should be.

Ramirez, Edgin, and Carson all struggled in their limited time in 2012 but it was the first major league action any of them had seen. Familia really struggled too but the 22-year-old is projected to be a starter in 2014 though his minor league numbers make you worry about inconsistency.

Expect to see Zack Wheeler, one of the top pitching prospects in the country up at some point as well, that kid has ridiculous potential and simply mows down opposing lineups.

Team Grade: C+

Fearless Prediction: 78-84, 4th in NL East

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