Sunday, March 09, 2014

N.Y. Mets: Climbing The Hill In 2014

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

NEW YORK METS - Call To Arms; The Mets Are Loading Up.

After three full years of reconstruction, Sandy Alderson's minor league pipeline seems ready to provide for the pitching needs of Flushing.  The arrivals of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are what many fans hope is just the beginning.  In the near term at least, the Mets will be shuffling up quite a number of quality arms - more so than position players.

Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero are just two of several starting pitchers that should be sprouting up in Flushing soon.  The club will no doubt consider Super-2 status when deciding upon their call-up dates. Then behind them, perhaps starters such as Logan Verrett, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz are not too far off.

For now, the Mets will return with Zack Wheeler, Jonathan Niese, and Dillon Gee in the starting rotation. Bartolo Colon is the fourth man in, while the club is holding a competition for the fifth spot, consisting of John Lannan, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jenrry Mejia, and long shot Carlos Torres.

John Lannan is a 29-year old, left-handed pitcher.  That, in itself is worth its weight in gold, but some might argue he never delivered on the promise Washington held for him earlier in his career.  I'm not one of them.  I feel he can still be a fine pitcher if he can shake the injury bug.  Last season, he was shut down due to a knee injury.

It's been a long road back for Daisuke Matsuzaka, but last season in seven appearances for the Mets, he didn't look too shabby - did he?  In fact, he was a very worthwhile late season acquisition, who showed, at age 32, there was certainly something left in the tank.  He enters this season as a 33-year old, and is a good insurance policy to have around.

Of course, spring training will decide how Lannan and Dice-K ultimately fit into the Mets plans.

Bartolo Colon is the fourth man in.  What he still has in the tank remains to be seen.  If he continues to pitch with the effectiveness he displayed last season, he will be worth every penny Sandy Alderson committed to him.  However, the fact that he'll turn 41-years old in May, and isn't in prime shape has many fearing Colon will turn into, among other things, a National League bust.  With health, he will do what he does best, which is consistently pound the strike zone with fastballs.  It will be interesting to watch him, and his pitching style play out in the senior circuit.  If Sandy Alderson indeed thinks the Mets can win 90 games this season, then Bartolo Colon will need to play a huge role in that.

In the bullpen, all eyes are on Bobby Parnell.  Will he be healthy enough to resume his role as closer?  That still remains to be seen.  The next question that begs asking then, is who would potentially take his place? There is no clear choice.  According to Coach Terry, the rest of the bullpen could include Jeurys Familia, Vic Black, Josh Edgin, and Scott Rice.  Carlos Torres will most likely join them, while Lannan and Jenrry Mejia could both realistically wind up in the bullpen as well.

What comes next concerns me.  After failing to retain LaTroy Hawkins, and watching the free agent relief market pass them by, the Mets signed Kyle Farnsworth, and Jose Valverde to minor league contracts, and invited them to camp.  I guess there is no harm in that...., yet.

Sandy Alderson really dropped the ball on this one.  This is right in line with his overall inability to build a bullpen - ever since he first commissioned Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez and D.J. Carrasco to be his firemen.  That said, even with continuing uncertainty, this year's bullpen might very well turn into Sandy Alderson's best yet.

Reliever Vic Black will have a full season to show his worth, and the healthy return of Jeurys Familia, possibly teaming up with Jenrry Mejia, is being eagerly anticipated.

But the real key to the Mets bullpen might very well lay in who they decide to promote from within.  The Mets have a number of quality, and very interesting candidates with varying AA and AAA experience to chose from.

Relievers Jeff Walters and Jack Leathersich are just two of a crop of relievers who have all pitched at least one season with AA Binghamton.  Overall, the bullpen depth at Binghamton last season was particularly quite deep.  John Church, Chase Huchingson, and Adam Kolarek are a few others who potentially stand ready to reinforce the bullpen by late summer if needed.

Heading into the 2014 season, pitching will no doubt be the team's primary strength.  Even minus Matt Harvey, there is a lot to like, and feel good about with regards to the Mets pitching options, and increasing depth of quality.

From top to bottom, the Mets are still somewhat organizationally light in left-handed pitching though.  Sandy Alderson can fix that, but the greater decision he eventually will face is, which pitcher, if any, would he trade in order to secure a premium position player?

There is one school of thought that says you need to give in order to get.  However, there is a large pocket of Mets fans who will have none of that, and are fiercely resistant to trading any of them.  Me?  I prefer the Mets hoard their pitchers, and explore other strategies for securing more offense.


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