With baseball season right around the corner and the WBC’s surprisingly exciting play, the flu like symptoms of following a baseball season is starting to sap my energy and make me a zombie like creature trying to consume everything to keep me going. So without further adieu here are some observations from the offseason and camp:
- Yoenis Cespedes is looking at an MVP- Let’s get to the one development I’m most intrigued by. Cespedes came with the “yeah but” title when he arrived at the Mets doorstep. Even last winter, when Cespedes was almost guaranteed to bank on an amazing second half following a trade to the Mets, he was given another one year prove it deal disguised as a 3 year extension. Nobody blamed the Mets for proceeding with caution with Cespedes. The reputation that preceded him was that he was a head case and a guy that would put his skills on cruise control once offered the security of a long term contract. But after resigning with the Mets, and showing up motivated and helping lead the Mets to a second straight playoff season (if you count a one game wild card) he was rewarded with a four year extension in which it seemed he ONLY negotiated with the Mets. He has shown up to camp and started launching balls to parts of the ballpark that people felt safe congregating at. Its a testament to the power he added on to his frame and him feeling an obligation to his employer to respond kindly to his first long term contract after being somewhat of a journeyman his first few years. My prediction is that he has a line around 35HR’s, 100+ RBI’s and a .295 average.
- The OF is still a guessing game- From the moment the Mets acquired Jay Bruce I went “wait, what?” Early in the season I understood the Mets trying to ease Michael Conforto into the lineup and eventually allowing his skill to rise to the top of the heap. But what eventually ended up happening is the lack of reps made it impossible for Conforto to overcome a slump and down to the minors he went. If anything, what he proved in his stint at Triple A (9 hrs 28 RBI’s and a .422 average in 128 AB) was that he belongs in the major leagues. Now, the Mets most promising hitting prospect since David Wright is again having to scramble for AB’s. While, it was a shock that the market for power hitting corner OF’s turned out to be nil, the Mets could have solved this by NOT TRADING FOR JAY BRUCE. If you will recall, Bruce was one of the targets in the 2015 trading deadline in which the Mets ended up dealing for Yoenis Cespedes after the now infamous Carlos Gomez deal blew up and yet the Mets went back to that well. Now, the Mets have Yoenis Cespedes locked at left field, Curtis Granderson out of position in centerfield with Juan Lagares providing defensive support (another young guy’s development deferred) and Jay Bruce and Conforto in right field. There have been rumblings of Conforto playing some centerfield and even moving him to left and having Cespedes play some center but this is meant as a bandaid on a bigger problem. The best case for the Mets is Bruce kills it early in the season, and he’s traded by midseason but that’s still a half season worth of AB’s that will get split. My prediction and the more likely scenario is that Bruce is traded for pennies on the dollar for a reliever like the Mets had reportedly hoped.
- David Wright’s career is in jeopardy- I appreciate the Mets being hopeful and optimistic about the Captain, but I think everyone else knows that its best to close the book on Wright’s career. As wonderful as he is and as great a presence in the clubhouse he is, its time to operate under the reality that he is no longer fit to play in the major leagues. This conversation will be difficult and awkward for Mets management because of who he is and what he represents but both sides need to come to terms with Wright’s degenerative condition and that he risks his own health by continuing to engage in strenuous activity. One can’t help but wonder if the Mets had kept Daniel Murphy what would have happened. Its amazing that Jose Reyes is here and he’s on the contract he’s on but I would be surprised if he had even a replacement level contribution. This leads to the obvious question of when super prospect Amed Rosario comes up and pushes Asdrubal Cabrera (gamely playing SS) to 3B. My prediction: Wright plays 85-90 games and Rosario shows up in August.
- Lucas Duda’s career in doubt- Jay Bruce debuted at 1b over the weekend leading to even more questions about Lucas Duda’s availability for the season. This is Duda’s last arbitration season and he will eligible to be a free agent following the season. With other super prospect Dominic Smith nearing readiness, it means Duda’s time in a Met uniform will come to an end but how can the Mets extract any value for him? The obvious answer lies in how many games he plays and who the Mets can depend on playing there if he gets traded midseason. That answer lies in Bruce and Conforto possibly playing the position well enough that the Mets don’t feel obligated to rush Smith up to the big leagues. My prediction: Duda plays out the season and leaves with the Mets getting nothing for him while Smith only shows up as a September call-up and takes over in 2018 on a full time basis.
- Its time for a 6-man rotation- The Mets have, rightly so, held back on trading Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo for upgrades given the fragility of their rotation. My solution for the longest time has been that the Mets should throw convention out the window and go to a six man rotation to help preserve their arms and stretch these guys out. Not only is injury a concern but there is legitimate worry about how some of these guys will come back from their injuries and also what you have in Gsellman and Lugo given the small sample size. Are they for real? Were they just fortunate? Given the unknown of Syndergaard adding almost 17 pounds of muscle to his body and what famed pitching coach Tom House has said about how that can affect a pitcher. There is genuine concern that Matt Harvey’s spring is not just him trying to get a feel for his pitches. The only guy that seemingly has come back without a hitch is Jacob DeGrom who admittedly has been lighting up the radar gun. Its worth for the beginning of the season to stretch these guys out and then go back to a more traditional 5 man rotation once we hit July and August. My prediction: The Mets go with a 5 man rotation with Gsellman taking the 5th spot behind Syndergaard, DeGrom, Harvey and Matz and Lugo starts in the bullpen.
- Breakout player of this camp has been Champ Stuart- Plenty folks deserve this accolade but for me this is more about the guy most Mets fans didn’t know about and came out and made a name for himself. He has shown the ability to hit for power and the ability to steal a ton of bases thanks to his speed. He is a prime candidate to play center field but he has the same issue Billy Hamilton does- he doesn’t get on base as much as Mets officials would like which will always hamper his ability to get beyond minor leagues and September call ups. If he were to cut down his strikeouts and show a propensity to get on base, this kid can go far. My Prediction: He gets called up in September and is used as a threat on the basepaths.