New York Mets: Projected Starting Lineup for 2012
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There is a great deal of uncertainty as the Mets prepare to head to Port St. Lucie, FL for spring training in a few weeks.
Can Johan Santana make it all the way back from shoulder surgery for a torn anterior capsule? Will David Wright be traded? Can Ike Davis return from his freak ankle injury and stay healthy all season? How will the Mets recover from the loss of Jose Reyes? Will the shorter fences at Citi Field aid the ultra-disappointing Jason Bay?
However, with the coming of spring always brings the prospects of hope and rejuvenation. I'm sure many pundits (myself included) feel the Amazins' are destined for a last place finish in the very difficult National League East. Their financial situation is dire. They are devoid of superior talent at most positions. The fan base is discouraged and pessimistic.
But hope always springs eternal. Anything can happen (see the 1969 Mets). With that being said, let's take a look at the projected lineup for the 2012 version of the Metropolitans.
Batting Leadoff: Andres Torres, CF
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Talk about tough shoes to fill. The 34-year-old Torres replaces Jose Reyes as the Mets' leadoff hitter this season and is hoping to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2011 campaign.
Acquired in the off-season along with reliever Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan, Torres appeared in only 112 games for San Francisco last season. He batted just .221, down from his .268 mark in 2010. During that season, he cracked 16 HR and added 26 stolen bases, so Torres is hoping that last year was an anomaly.
The Mets know they have one of the best defensive centerfielders in the National League in Torres, but how well can he set the table as the leadoff hitter? His OBP was just .312 in 2011 after compiling a .343 OBP the previous two seasons.
It's impossible to try and match the production a healthy Reyes gave New York, but according to Andy McCullough of The Star Ledger, Torres seems to relish his new opportunity.
"I can make things happen," he said. "I know what I can bring. I know how I can play the game. I'm very excited. I'm working, hitting, hitting line drives."
Batting Second: Daniel Murphy, 2B
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One of the biggest question marks of the season will be how well Murphy can bounce back from the torn MCL injury he sustained in his right knee last Aug. 7th against Atlanta.
As of now, "Murph" should be ready for spring training and is expected to start at second base, where he has played just 24 career games at the position. A risky proposition? Yes, but the Mets love his bat and he would make an ideal hit-and-run option behind leadoff batter Andres Torres.
The 26-year-old Jacksonsville, FL product hit .320 in 109 games last season with 28 doubles, 49 RBI and a .362 OBP. He's a solid line drive hitter who does not strike out much (42 K's last season).
Murphy will begin spring training with braces on both knees, but if he can stay healthy he can provide the Mets with a professional hitter in the two hole. He needs to continue to work on his defense at second base though, especially making the pivot on the double play.
Batting Third: David Wright, 3B
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David Wright is the face of the franchise. No question about it. Will 2012 be the year the Mets trade their former All-Star? How well will he bounce back from an injury plagued campaign?
The eight-year veteran is owed $15 million this season and has a club option next year for $16 million. Will general manager Sandy Alderson pull the trigger at the trade deadline? Mets fans would hate to see him go, but New York is rebuilding and Wright could bring back plenty in return.
Until then, look for Wright to regain his form after a disappointing 14-61, .255 season in 2011. The fences have moved in at Citi Field, so look for him to provide more power, especially to right-center field where he drives the ball effectively. If he stays healthy a 30-100, .300 line would not surprise anyone. He's still in his prime and is a career .300 hitter.
Whether he belts all of those 30 home runs in a Mets uniform remains to be seen though.
Batting Cleanup: Ike Davis, 1B
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Ike Davis was off to a great start last season (7-25-.302 in 36 games) before a freak injury to his left ankle ended his year prematurely on May 10 in Colorado. It's still hard to believe.
Davis and David Wright collided on an infield pop up near the mound and Davis never played another game in 2011. A deep bone bruise was enough to wipe out his promising campaign, but the former first-round pick appears to be fully recovered for spring training.
"Right now it's not, 'I wonder if I can play.' It's 'I'm ready to play.'" said Davis, according to sportsoverdose.com. The 6'4" left-handed slugger is presently doing conditioning drills at his home in Arizona and has not suffered any setbacks.
Batting Davis cleanup makes sense because he can slot himself as a left-handed batter between Wright and Jason Bay. He possesses excellent power—Davis owned a .543 slugging percentage last year and has hit some of the longest home runs in Citi Field's young history.
The shorter dimensions will only help.
Batting Fifth: Jason Bay, LF
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There's no other way to say it. Since signing as a free agent in 2010, the British Columbia native has averaged just nine HR and 52 RBI in two lackluster campaigns with the Mets. To be fair, he did miss the last two months of 2010 with a concussion, but it just hasn't come together for him yet in the Big Apple.
There may be some sunlight peaking through the dark clouds though. Bay finished the season on a high note last year, earning National League Player of the Week honors in early September. In all, Bay hit .313 in September with seven doubles, three HR and 13 RBI in just 64 at-bats.
The Mets hope that it's an omen of things to come. The nine-year veteran seems to have fully recovered from his concussion issues, and, once again, the shorter dimensions at Citi Field can only help the pull hitter try and finally produce numbers worthy of his $18.1 million salary.
Batting Sixth: Lucas Duda, RF
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Duda had a terrific second half last year, hitting .300 or better from July to September, including a red-hot month of August. During the humid dog days, the powerful left-handed slugger cracked five HR, knocked in 20 runs and hit a robust .319.
In all, the former USC product finished with a .292 average, 10 HR and 50 RBI in just 301 AB. He is slated to begin the season in right field and will sit on occasion against a tough southpaw for Scott Hairston.
The Mets like his upside and with 500 at-bats and the shorter fences at the revamped Citi Field, Duda could hit 20-25 HR, while still providing a solid batting average. He's not a good defensive outfielder at this point, but he should improve with hard work and more game experience.
Now is the time to find out.
Batting Seventh: Josh Thole, C
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The bottom of the batting order for the Mets appears to be pretty weak, but the 25 year-old backstop owns a .276 career batting average. Thole is primarily a singles hitter, although he did hit 17 doubles, while hitting .268 last season.
Thole's career OBP of .350 is not bad for a catcher, and with the fences moved in this year, the Mets brass is hoping that the left-handed hitter can slug more than three homers in 2012. He belted that trio of round trippers last season against right-handed pitching, where he batted .280. He's slated to sit against some righties for Mike Nickeas.
One alarming statistic that Thole needs to improve on is his National League leading 16 passed balls. True, when you catch a knuckleball pitcher like R.A. Dickey the odds of giving up a passed ball increases, but it's still an important aspect of the game that he needs to work on diligently.
On a positive note, Thole ranked third in the NL in fielding percentage (.997) in 2011.
Batting Eighth: Ruben Tejada, SS
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It will take some time for Mets fans to get over the free agent loss of Jose Reyes. The 22 year old Tejada has been thrust into the everyday shortstop role for the Amazins, and hopefully there won't be any comparisons to the dynamic Reyes.
It wouldn't be fair.
Tejada has very little power, but he did improve his batting average from .213 in 2010 to .284 last year. He's not going to dazzle you with speed or line-drive triples like Reyes did, but the Mets are hoping he can play a steady shortstop, get on base (.360 OBP last year) and steal an occasional base.
Former Mets coach Chip Hale likes Tejada's potential.
“His physical presence has improved," Hale said to Adam Rubin of ESPNNY. "He’s gotten bigger. He’s gotten stronger. And I think he will continue to. And that’s enabled him to make all the plays he needs to.”