Saturday, February 09, 2013

New York Mets: Pitchers and Catchers 2013

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



NEW YORK METS - PORT ST. LUCIE OR BUST!
 
South bound on I-95 - Loaded up and truckin'.  The Mets are gonna try and do what many say can't be done.  They got a long way to go, and a short time to get there....
 
Hey Mr. Met, ya got your ears on?  Just keep an eye out for them smokies.  Out!..
 
 
Spring Training 2013:
Mets Year Fifty Two of the Amazin' Era
 

I - Behind the Plate


The Mets appear to have rectified their catching situation via a motivated buyer in the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Jays clearly feel the A.L. East can be had, and are sparing no expense to ensure they remain in contention for a division title.  As such, bye bye Josh Thole - Hello Travis D'Arnaud.  He was the main component in the R.A. Dickey deal.  Travis may not break camp and head north with the big club.  But as they say in the business, he is a blue chipper who will arrive in Flushing shortly.  Lingering knee worries dating back to June 2012 seem safely behind him now.  With any luck, all that remains for d'Arnaud is to spend some time at Las Vegas, then fulfill his promise upon arrival in Queens.  Simple....right?
 
 
Travis d'Arnaud was a #1 selection in 2007 by the Phillies.  He immediately became the Mets #1 organizational prospect upon arrival from Toronto.  In pre-2012 rankings, Baseball America had him ranked #17 on their top prospects list.  Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com currently ranks Travis d'Arnaud the #6 prospect in baseball.  Over the last two seasons Travis has shown promises of power.  With 424 at-bats at AA-New Hampshire in 2011, he batted .311, stroked 21 home runs, and posted a .542 slugging mark.  With 279 at-bats in 2012 at AAA-Las Vegas, Travis batted .333, hit 16 home runs, and slugged at a .595 clip before having his season cut short by a knee injury.  Keep in mind however, many consider the Pacific Coast League to be a very hitting friendly circuit.
 
 
Sandy Alderson's plan however seems to be starting the season with John Buck behind the plate.  Perhaps not so much in hitting average, Buck will be an appreciable improvement over Josh Thole with a bat.  John Buck, a nine year veteran also acquired in the R.A. Dickey trade, can hit with some power and can contribute some needed production towards the bottom of the order.


Backing up John Buck will most likely be Anthony Recker.  The Mets claimed him of waivers last year from the Cubs.  He is twenty-nine years old with twenty seven major league games under his belt.  Non-roster invitees Landon Powell and Juan Centeno will be in camp competing for a back-up role as well.  Oakland selected Powell in the first round of the 2004 June draft.  Last season he was granted free agency by Houston.  Sandy Alderson signed him last month.  Juan Centeno (23 yrs old) is a six year minor league veteran of the Mets system.  In 281 at-bats at Binghamton last season, he batted for a .285 average.


II - The Starting Rotation


Farewell R.A. Dickey and Mike Pelfrey.  It's time to move on now.

 
Bienvenidos to Johan Santana's swan song.  It is really a shame to talk about Johan in the following regard, but with Johan's 2013 total compensation amounting to roughly $31 million bucks, and taking up a disproportionate 33% (+/-) of the payroll pie, the Mets can't wait to see him go.  I reckon in order to trade Johan and attempt to receive a respectable return, the Mets would have to pick-up at least twenty three to twenty five million dollars of his 2013 salary.  If the Mets can get another team to pick up any portion of his salary at all, they should seriously consider a move.  Hell, they should even consider eating the whole check.  Anyway you look at it, the money is already spent.  So why not try and realize a return for Johan.  Within the context of the Mets continuing rebuilding effort, an overwhelming package of prospects isn't really necessary.  Teams recognize the Mets potential motivation to trade Johan.  So if they can get some solid talent in return, the venture would be worth the effort.  Then who knows.  If Johan proves worthy prior to the trade deadline, a motivated contender just might be willing to pony up a small yet premium package for his services.


This is the man who kept the Mets playoff hopes alive as 2008 wound down to the last two crucial games of the regular season.  Under do or die circumstances, Johan pitched a three hit shutout on three days rest over the Florida Marlins.  The Mets hopes of returning to the playoffs then ended however with Tom Glavine's next start and subsequent self-implosion.  The Mets would never again contend for the remainder of Johan's contract.  Of course, Johan Santana will forever be known around Flushing as the pitcher who threw the club's first ever no-hit game.  Most Mets fans will agree with me, that we are happy someone of his stature finally got it done.


However, don't go patting yourselves on the back just yet Mets fans.  You booed him in his first ever start at Shea Stadium during a loss to Ben Sheets and the Milwaukee Brewers - Ponderous in a season he won his third ERA title.  When he takes the mound for the first time this season, make sure and do the right thing.  If it's Opening Day, even better.  Let him feel your appreciation right off the bat, in what will be an uncomfortable season of saying good-bye.


Over his Mets career, Johan has been hobbled by knee problems, and sidelined with shoulder issues.  In his return last year, Johan was hittable by his standards, and maintained an un-Santana like 4.85 ERA until his season was prematurely ended by fatigue.  Additionally, Johan's walks were up considerably as well.  His strikeouts however were right on point.  He is now making a second attempt to pitch in his first full campaign since the 2010 season in which he logged 199 innings in twenty nine starts.  With any appreciable return to form, the Mets can reasonably get fourteen wins out of him.  And even if he only brings his ERA down to his career average of 3.20, that would be a major improvement over last season.


If Jon Niese continues to progress as he has, the 2013 season could turn into a breakout year for the Mets lefty.  The Amazin's would be helped immeasurably if Jon Niese can step his game up, and grab the reigns of the starting rotation.  Once Johan Santana departs the team, the Mets rotation will be largely populated by young, and relatively inexperienced pitchers.  Jon Niese seems like the perfect guy right now, to lead the likes of Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, and hopefully soon, Zach Wheeler, into the 2014 season.


Dillon Gee appears to be all systems go after surgery to remove a blood clot from his pitching shoulder last year.  All is not perfect however.  He is still susceptible to numbness in his fingertips during cold weather.  Can Dillon regain his old form so soon after surgery?  He no doubt has a big test ahead of him.  He began light throwing two weeks ago.  All I can say is everyone will be monitoring Dillon Gee's Spring Training very closely, and with great anxiety.


Sandy Alderson said Matt Harvey will be entering the 2013 season with no pitch restrictions placed upon him.  He is a free range hurler now.  This kid seemingly has it all - the skill, demeanor, and fortitude of a winner.  This will be his first full major league season, and as a fan, I can't wait.  But as such, he'll be graded on a curve.  However, there's no denying after last year's arrival in Flushing, the anticipation of his potential has excited all Mets fans.  In ten starts, he averaged ten strikeouts per nine innings pitched, and limited opposing hitters to 6.4 hits per nine.  He hit three batters which is okay by me too.  In 59.1 innings pitched, he posted a 2.73 era.  If he can bring his walks down, who knows what he can achieve.


The biggest question Mets fans want answered is - When is Zach Wheeler getting here?  Patience Mets fans; patience.  Haste makes waste.  Zach spent most of his 2012 season at Binghamton, then made six appearances at Buffalo:

BINGHAMTON:
Games - 19
Record - 10-6
ERA - 3.26
Innings - 116
Hits - 92
Walks - 43
Strikeouts - 117
WHiP - 1.164
Hits/9 - 7.1
Walks/9 - 3.3
Strikeouts/9 - 9.1

BUFFALO:
Games - 6
Record - 2-2
ERA - 3.27
Innings - 33
Hits - 23
Walks - 16
Strikeouts - 31
WHiP - 1.182
Hits/9 - 6.3
Walks/9 - 4.4
Strikeouts/9 - 8.5


Zach Wheeler clearly needs to bring his bases on balls down a bit.  Otherwise he seems on the right path towards a Flushing debut.  But after starting the season at Las Vegas first.  How long that lasts seems totally up to Zach Wheeler.  The newest member of the starting rotation is Shaun Marcum.  He'll be the Mets fifth starter.  If Zach Wheeler excels at AAA and warrants a promotion, either Marcum or Dillon Gee seem the likely candidates to surrender their turns in the rotation.


By the time Frank Francisco went down with an injury and the Mets started their July swoon, three members of the Opening Day starting rotation were out of commission.  Only Dickey and Jon Niese made it till the end.  But while the rotation stayed strong over the first three months of the season, so stayed the Mets.  As was the case in 2012, health therefore seems to be the determining factor for success in 2013, or not.  The starting rotation and the infield are the team's strengths in that order.  Perhaps offensively, the line-up can provide a little more than they did last season, and give these guys some runs to work with.


Up Next  -  THE BULLPEN.



Mike.BTB

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