New York Mets: Ranking Each Spot in the Lineup Against the Rest of the NL East
This season could hold a lot of different things in store for the Mets. There are many different factors that will determine how the Mets season ends up.
In my opinion, the strong spot for the Mets this season will be their lineup. It's filled with some young talent and veterans that are more than capable of producing.
Obviously, losing Jose Reyes will never help and that does leave a big hole at the top of the lineup, but if the Mets can finally have a year of good health (which seems more than overdue), then the lineup should have a very quality season.
This article is going to be the first in a series of four articles, which will rank the rotation, bullpen and bench players against the rest of the NL East. Instead of ranking these as a whole, I'm going to break it down a little further and rank each individual player against the NL East competitors who appear as if they'll bat in the same spot in that respective team's order.
They don't have to play the same position; this will pit leadoff hitter vs. leadoff hitter and so on.
NOTE: Because there is no definite lineup yet, the Mets lineup will be based off my projections and other team's lineups will be based off of projections that were done for their teams.
1) CF Andres Torres
Acquired in the trade involving Angel Pagan and Ramon Ramirez, Torres is expected to fill the center field spot for now.
Torres doesn't have the highest ceiling, with his highest single-season batting average being .270 and also being 34 years old. For now though, it looks like Torres will open the season batting leadoff for the Mets.
If Torres can play like he did in 2010, batting .268 with a .343 OBP and 26 SBs, then the Mets will be OK with him leading off. However, if they get the Torres that batted .221 last season, they might have to explore other options.
NL EAST RANKINGS:
1) Jose Reyes - Miami Marlins
2) Michael Bourn - Atlanta Braves
3) Jimmy Rollins - Philadelphia Phillies
4) Ian Desmond - Washington Nationals
5) Andres Torres - New York Mets
This is the one glaring weakness of the Mets lineup. I considered putting Torres above Desmond, but Desmond's age and obvious potential to grow pushed him above Torres.
2) 2B Daniel Murphy
Daniel Murphy was one of a few Mets experiencing a huge year before injuries ended it too soon. He was hitting .320 before getting hurt in August.
Murphy isn't a big home run threat but I don't think that double digits are out of the question. He also doesn't walk too often, so his OBP will be driven mostly by his batting average.
I don't expect Murphy to maintain that .320 average, but I could definitely see him keeping it over .300 again. I also see him sitting in the No. 2 spot in the order for most, if not all of the year, so a high average and good gap power should propel him to another very productive season.
Even though he doesn't hit many balls over the fences, Murphy is more than capable of hitting for extra bases. For a while last year he was around the league lead in doubles. Murphy also does a great job of hitting in "clutch" situations, batting .335 with runners on and .364 with runners in scoring position.
NL EAST RANKINGS:
1) Daniel Murphy - New York Mets
2) Shane Victorino - Philadelphia Phillies
3) Jayson Werth - Washington Nationals
4) Martin Prado - Atlanta Braves
5) Emilio Bonifacio - Miami Marlins
There were a few hard choices with this list. Werth has more power than the rest of the hitters, but hit for a much lower average last year than the others in the top four. Victorino had the highest WAR, but Murphy's would have been higher had he finished the whole season. Also, Victorino plays in a huge hitter's park and Murphy's swing translates to any ballpark. With the shortened walls in Citi Field, Murphy should have an even better season.
3) 3B David Wright
We now arrive at the Met who will probably be most effected by the closer Citi Field fences. Wright has tremendous gap power, but old Citi Field was where balls in the gap went to die. Wright is still arguably in his prime at only 29 years of age, and I see no reason why he couldn't return to his past numbers.
Definitely hitting in the No. 3 spot this year, Wright will have good protection behind him with Ike Davis hitting cleanup. People also tend to forget that Wright was battling numerous injuries last season. Everything points towards David getting back to his old self and having a monster year.
NL EAST RANKINGS:
1) David Wright - New York Mets
2) Hanley Ramirez - Miami Marlins
3) Ryan Zimmerman - Washington Nationals
4) Chase Utley - Philadelphia Phillies
5) Chipper Jones - Atlanta Braves
This list was incredibly close, top to bottom. I'm probably going to get flack from fans of every team with this list, but because of how close it is, people would be upset no matter how I arranged it. Pretty much everyone on this list is coming off a subpar year that dealt with injuries. The way I see it, lineup protection + much closer walls = Wright in the No. 1 spot.
4) 1B Ike Davis
Following a pretty good rookie campaign, there were high hopes for Davis in 2011 and before an unfortunate freak injury in May, Davis looked like he was well on his way to a breakout season.
Davis got out of the gates strong, hitting .337 with five home runs and 20 RBI in April, with an OPS over 1.000. Davis was well on his way to a 30 homer season before a collision cut his year very short. Once again, hopes are high for Davis heading into 2012 and there is really no reason for his power to not continue to develop.
Some people believe that Davis' swing is a little long, but it hasn't really hampered him yet. I think that Davis will be the Mets' biggest power bat in 2012, and will get that 30 home run season. Ike will also benefit from the drawn-in fences of Citi Field.
NL EAST RANKINGS:
1) Mike Stanton - Miami Marlins
2) Ryan Howard - Philadelphia Phillies
3) Ike Davis - New York Mets
4) Dan Uggla - Atlanta Braves
5) Adam LaRoche - Washington Nationals
This was another spot in the lineup that was incredibly close. Depending on who you are, numbers 1-4 can be interchangeable. With the exception of LaRoche (who's a clear fifth), they're all going to put up around the same home run numbers.
Also, I'm fully aware that Howard is going to miss a big chunk of time to start the season, but this list is based off a fully healthy lineup. Stanton might only be 22 years old, but he has HUGE power and should obviously still be improving.
5) LF Jason Bay
It's no secret that Bay has struggled since coming to the Mets. I believe it's because he's been pressing so much.
With the notorious pitcher's park and injuries all around him, Bay tried to put up numbers that were beyond his reach in order to live up to the contract he received from the Mets.
I think this is the year that Bay returns to form. The lineup around him and the closer walls should give him the confidence boost he needs to get back to being comfortable in the box. Pretty much everywhere you look, whether it be MLB.com, ESPN.com or any other fantasy site, most people have Bay getting back to that 20 homer mark and having a decent year.
NL EAST RANKINGS:
1) Michael Morse - Washington Nationals
2) Hunter Pence - Philadelphia Phillies
3) Brian McCann - Atlanta Braves
4) Jason Bay - New York Mets
5) Logan Morrison - Miami Marlins
The NL has some very strong teams and hitting isn't hard to come by. Morse is another guy who has big-time power and Pence always has a good year. McCann is one of the top catchers in the game and always puts up stats that resemble it. Even if Bay can get back to his old ways, he still might end the year fourth on this list, but that's nothing to be ashamed of with the guys that are above him.
6) RF Lucas Duda
After a slow start to 2011, Duda finished strong. The good thing about that finish was that it started in June.
In June through September, Duda hit .283, .300, .319 and .311, respectively. His power also started coming around towards the end of the season, as he hit eight homers in the last two months of the season.
Duda should benefit from a full season in a starting role where he'll see four or five at-bats every day. He has a smooth line-drive swing that has translated to success at every level. With the Citi Field walls being moved closer to home plate, some of Duda's doubles should turn into home runs, giving him even more of a statistical boost.
NL EAST RANKINGS:
1) Freddie Freeman - Atlanta Braves
2) Lucas Duda - New York Mets
3) Gaby Sanchez - Miami Marlins
4) Danny Espinosa - Washington Nationals
5) John Mayberry - Philadelphia Phillies
Another spot in the order where all the stats tend to be pretty similar. The National League East is a stacked division this year and no one's really saying otherwise. Freeman had a terrific rookie season last year, and the fact that he did it for an entire year is why he gets the nod above Duda.
Mets killer Gaby Sanchez slides in right below Duda, but that was also a tough decision. The main reason for it is that I believe Duda will end up posting better power numbers the Sanchez. If Duda can have an entire season like he played the second half of last year, it might not be long before he's No. 1 on this list.
7) C Josh Thole
Josh Thole really experienced highs and lows in only his second full season in the major leagues last year. In June and August, he batted .327 and .300, respectively. However, in April and May, he hit .237 and .212.
Hopefully, what that says for Mets fans is that after a very slow start, the way he finished the year is what we can start to expect from Thole. I'm not saying expect him to go out there and put up a batting average above .300, but I don't think one around .290 is out of the question. Thole looked more confident at the plate towards the end of last year and has shown great ability to hit the ball where it is pitched and to go the other way, especially late in games.
NL EAST RANKINGS:
1) Jason Heyward - Atlanta Braves
2) Wilson Ramos - Washington Nationals
3) Placido Polanco - Philadelphia Phillies
4) Josh Thole - New York Mets
5) John Buck - Miami Marlins
Heyward grabs the No. 1 spot on this list because I think he'll return to the level at which he played during his rookie season when he hit .277 with 18 homers. Wilson Ramos had a good year last year for the Nats, batting .267 with 15 homers and 52 runs driven in. Polanco's production has dropped over the past few seasons, but he still plays in a hitter's ballpark and is in a very deep lineup. Buck is last because I think last year is more of the norm for him and he is going to hit for a low average with some power.
Thole could very well end up leading this list in batting average but doesn't hit for enough power or drive in enough runs to get moved up. If he can continue to develop and play more like he did at the end of last season, he should be able to jump over Polanco for third, but the other two might be hard to catch.
8) SS Ruben Tejada
Tejada is going to start at shortstop more for his glove than his bat, but there is some potential. Tejada came on strong at the end of the season, batting .303, with a .368 OBP after the All-Star break. He does a nice job getting on base at the bottom of the order, which is big in the NL, because at the very least, it allows you to clear the pitcher's spot.
Although there has been talk about having Tejada lead off, I think the Mets are best suited to leave him at the No. 8 spot in the order. Tejada is still very young, at only 22 years of age, and might not yet be able to deal with the pressure of the leadoff spot, especially right after a guy by the name of Jose Reyes was manning it.
Something that should not be overlooked with Tejada, however, is that last year in 151 ABs with runners on, Tejada hit .305. There won't be any power, but Ruben definitely has the potential to hit for average and drive in some runs because of it.
NL EAST RANKINGS:
1) Omar Infante - Miami Marlins
2) Carlos Ruiz - Philadelphia Phillies
3) Ruben Tejada - New York Mets
4) Roger Bernadina - Washington Nationals
5) Tyler Pastornicky - Atlanta Braves
Omar Infante is a very productive hitter in the Marlins lineup, and Ruiz hits for good average and gets on base at a good clip. Bernadina is a good ballplayer but hasn't come around enough to consistently hit in the major leagues. His two year numbers of 18 home runs and 33 SBs aren't bad, but he's only getting on base around 30 percent of the time. Pastornicky looks like a good young talent, but without playing a game in the major leagues yet, he can't be ranked above fifth.
Tejada has a definite chance to move on this list, if he can continue to get on base like he did last year and start to put some balls in the gaps. He's probably never going to hit more than a few home runs in a season, but he has a definite chance to rack up 30+ doubles. Tejada should continue to develop and hopefully with the lineup he has in front of him, he can drive in some runs.