NEW YORK METS: State of METropolis - PART III.
State of METropolis; PART II - Pitching Staff
State of METropolis; PART I - Ownership, Front Office; Management
VII. THE POSITIONAL PLAYERS:
Nothing too scientific here. This is just the way I see the field right now.
Catcher - Mike Piazza took his last at-bat for the Mets in 2005. Over the next five years, there was exactly one season that speaks well for the position. That season came in 2006 and was authored by Paul LoDuca who hit over .300 batting second in the order. Outside of that, the back-stop position has been...backed-up.
After several years of bar league backstops, I was more than happy to welcome virtually the only catching prospect we had; Josh Thole; to the club, albeit prematurely. He rose through the system based on the strength of his hitting. He clearly needed more time in the minors or at least one more full season at Buffalo prior to his promotion to Flushing. We all get that. But with his arrival also started my man-crush.
I realize I may be part of the minority of Thole supporters. However, I am am wholly committed to giving him the starting job behind the dish next season. On-the-job training is a tough way to learn your craft. And defensively, to his detractors I cede the fact he needs work on his technique. But I believe in him. He's shown himself to be a very pushy receiver with his pitchers. I like that. And when allowed, he's called very nice games along the way (especially when Coach Collins lets him catch Dillon Gee).
Otherwise, what can I tell you? I like him... I believe more than anything, last season Coach Collins didn't exactly utilize him they way I would have liked. And it's hard for any young player to establish a feel for the game when asked to be a second option. That's a way of me saying - no platooning. At least in my eyes, the catcher has exhibited quite a few instances of being a clutch hitter and finished the season on a strong, positive note. Thole is still a young guy. But my guess is Sandy Alderson might be looking to upgrade the position if something presents itself. I would kindly ask for patience however for our young back-stop and a steady dose of playing time.
There is no catching prospect currently in the system to speak of. So if Sandy's plan is to just swap Thole out with a middle of the road, low salary, yet more experienced catcher, I'd sooner stick with Thole, unless he is retained as a back up or sent to Buffalo with a possible future as Met catcher still in tact. I do not want him traded. This is all part of his developmental process. If Thole doesn't exhibit significant enough progress in 2012, then I'd consider a decision to make a move a bit more reasonable.
First Base - I once though how nice it could have had Carlos Delgado been able to get his 500th home run as a Met. He came close. His bad hip said no however. After the solid years he had in Flushing, if he had hit that milestone home run here, how high in regard would we have elevated Delgado in Met history? I wonder. I'd imagine the range would be from not at all, to fairly important.
Fast forward and Ike Davis is a story about an injury which still has everyone puzzled. Even when the injury occurred, no one who was at the park to witness it, nor watching on TV could have ever imagined that seemingly minor collision between him and David Wright would turn out so disastrously. If his recovery goes well over the winter and he's ready for Spring Training and available on Opening Day, I'd assume the job is still his. And if he picks up where he left off, the Mets will be in great shape at first base.
Showing power as part of a strong finish to the season, Lucas Duda played himself into the official back-up plan should Ike Davis be slow to return. He's by far a better first baseman than he is a right fielder. But that doesn't mean he won't wind up back out there.
This is another position where there is no clear cut minor league prospect ready to step in. Additionally, there's two very prominent first basement on the free agent market this season; Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Will or can the Mets be players for either player's services? Uh...,No. Next position.
Second Base - Justin Turner is a spunky kid. He made the memory of Luis Castillo disappear from our minds quickly. Is he the answer at second base? Probably not. Looking back, this position hasn't been manned by a good quality player since Edgardo Alfonso. And not since Jose Valentin hit 17 home runs from this position in 2006 have we had anything to scream about. Kaz Matsui made us scream but for different reasons.
Speaking of Kaz Mastui, he reminds me of the foolish attempt by the Mets to switch Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate Matsui upon his signing. And that's why I'm still against Daniel Murphy being a viable candidate at second base. I don't like putting players out of position. But Murphy never really had a position to begin with. The best place for him is probably the American League. The Mets have a history of playing guys out of position, that I do not believe I ever found myself in agreement with even once.
It seems as if Met fans have been waiting for Reese Havens to rise through the system forever now. He's been slowed by injuries which no doubt set him back a bit. Josh Satin is also part of the conversation now. So at least organizationally, the Mets are showing a little depth at second base. What that means for 2011 is still indeterminable. Of course, if Jose Reyes is retained, this job should belong to Ruben Tejada.
Trades, Free Agents? Next position.
Shortstop - Jose Reyes with the Miami Marlins? !Aye caramba! Does it matter? It doesn't look like Jose Reyes is coming back whether he winds up in South Beach or Siberia. If his price stays low due to a lack of serious bidders, then there's the chance he stays a Met. But Sandy Alderson assured METopolis the club won't be dictating the pace of negotiations, nor establishing a market-maker's offer. With next year's payroll becoming more fixed and rigid by the day, it seems unlikely the Mets can afford to retain him and still maintain a projected $100 million dollar payroll with only a handful of players earning the lion's share.
Where do they potentially go from here? Ruben Tejada? He got a little better with every game he played. But like many of the early season mayday call-ups, he/they were forced into the big show prematurely. That said, he like Duda, finished strong as the season wound down. Tejada is versatile enough to play second base also. But this is his natural position and one that just might be his on Opening Day.
Prospects? Wilmer Flores remains the top future prospect at shortstop but may not be ready till 2013. Buffalo's Jordany Valdespin would be next in line for the often needed emergency call-up.
Tades; Free Agents? Next position please...
Third Base - He of the butterfly-net sized third baseman's glove and humbled by the Great Wall of Flushing - What a tangled web he's caught in. If Reyes goes, David Wright is next. They'll be no use in keeping him around even though the Mets will never call this a rebuilding period. But the time is coming soon when David Wright will be in the same position Jose Reyes found himself in entering this last season; his contract year. Are the Mets committed to David Wright long term? Most teams would have come to that determination already. Should the Mets commit to David Wright long term? Those are two different questions that take a back seat to the fact the Mets can't commit to David Wright long term. And this time, I hope the Mets learned a lesson, unless they prefer the potential compensation as in the case if Reyes signs elsewhere. But if I had my way, David Wright gets traded no later than next year's dead-line. If we can trade him over the Winter...better.
I believe the return on trading David Wright will help the Mets move forward more effectively than by retaining David Wright in light of the organization's tribulations. The team has other more pressing needs and the truth is third base is an easily replaceable position. Let's face it, Sandy Alderson is taking this team in a grass-roots direction so why waist David Wright's time in an uncompetitive situation. If you thought the 2011 season was a downer, 2012 will be down right depressing.
It's natural for things to get worse before they get better. That's part of the RE-building process. There's much to gain by selling high. While Carlos Beltran represented a bit of a different dynamic for the Mets, you still have to consider the potential return by making an early move. The Mets got back a nice San Francisco treat for Beltran. It's something to consider.
I would also remind Met fans, David Wright was drafted by the Mets with their compensation for Mike Hampton. Like Reyes, David Wright's situation is unfortunate. I'm with you on that. But in this organization's present situation, and condition, it's in our best interest to maximize on David Wright's current return value.
On the farm? There's nothing much to speak of in the way of third basemen that can help anytime soon.
Left Field - This, along with catcher, second base, and right field, has been The Land of the Lost; replete with stop-motion action dinosaurs; Sleestaks; and a bunch of Will and Holly players. The position was last best served by the hobbled Cliff Floyd. When healthy, he was cool. Before him you'd have to recall Benny Agbayani and Bernard Gilkey before that. After Floyd broke down, the position has been in an Ice Age. Omar Minaya, didn't just acquire a recovered caveman like Moises Alou. Omar made the huge mistake of relying heavily on him. Only a great catch by Endy Chavez made us forget how woeful the position really was. What we got out of left field since then has been strictly bar league stuff, right up until the day we acquired Jason Bay as a free agent...in a strictly knee-jerk signing by the organization. And well, we all know how that has gone..., like a fart in a space suit I'd say. There's been no escaping the stink of the deal.
As far as trades or free agents? Next position...
Center Field - Angel Pagan was recently tendered by the club. OK. He's another player I have an attachment for because of his days playing for Brooklyn. And by his standards, he's been somewhat healthy these last two seasons. The question is which player is he? Is he Pagan of 2010, or is he the regressed player of 2011? Either way, the truth is he's a fourth outfielder. He's a tremendous bench player. But as far as being the starting center fielder? Well, he's leaving something to be desired. He filled his need with the Mets admirably and always conducted himself humbly and with class. He even took it upon himself to make sure the Media and the Latin speaking players communicated correctly together, this way nothing got lost in translation. That's all fine and well, and my sentiments for him aside, center field is officially a need of the New York Mets.
Jonathan Malo and Darrell Ceciliani are still down below. How far away are they? Maybe a year and two respectively.
Trades? The rumors displease me so much, I'm not even getting into potential deals. As far as free agents? Next position...
Right Field - ...Or should we call this Adventure Land? The position never recovered from the ugly collision between Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran. Xavier Nady, whom I really grew to like in his short time here was hastily traded for relief pitching. Then Omar kicked the tires on a clearly finished Shawn Green. Ever since Ryan Church suffered a concussion and turned out to not be the solution in right field, the position has remained a no-man's land.
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Regarding all outfield positions, whatever the Mets already have in their system is clearly Plan B at this point. Lucas Duda seemed more comfortable and showed more smoothness at first base than he did in right field, where he looked like Frankenstein wrecking the lab upon misjudging balls hit in the gap. But that's where he may very well wind up next season. His bat put him into a position where his pop is now needed in the line-up. But we know his position hinges on the recovery of Ike Davis.
One time Brooklyn Cyclone, Kirk Nieuwenhuis is close. He just may be ready to make the step up to the Bigs next season, He started the season in Binghampton before a promotion to Buffalo. Keep in mind however, many Buffalo players were promoted from Double-A in part because the big club needed to back-fill so many injuries.
As mentioned above, Darrell Ceciliani has potential to skyrocket through the system as a center fielder. He was the 2010 NYPL batting champ. Jonathan Malo is another former Brooklyn player whom I thought we'd hear from sooner but is still held in high enough regard.
Maybe in a few years we may one day see what the fuss over 2011 Draftee Brandon Nimmo is all about. But the outfielder creating perhaps the largest buzz within the system right now might be Corey Vaughn.
PART IV is in the works to bring our Mets situation a little more up to date.