Jason Bay needs to start living up to his contract
One thing is for sure—there is no pressure on the New York Mets this season. Expectations are that low.
As the 2012 version of the Metropolitans partake in their spring training drills in Port St. Lucie, Fl, it's time to contemplate how their lineup is projected to perform over the 162-game schedule—minus Jose Reyes, of course.
There are some positives, though. David Wright and Ike Davis appear to be 100 percent healthy after their injury-plagued seasons last year. Jason Bay, a huge disappointment to date, came on strong in September, so hopefully he is finally on track to live up to his huge free-agent contract.
The fences have moved in at CitiField, so that should help the Mets' offensive production as well.
Here are projected stats for New York's starting lineup this season (based on their lineup staying healthy, which is never a sure thing)....
Mets fans certainly know that Jose Reyes can't be replaced as a leadoff hitter. This puts the 34-year-old Torres in a difficult spot—having to replace the dynamic Reyes as the table setter.
Manager Terry Collins is hoping his squad will see the 2010 version of Torres, not the injury-plagued one of 2011. Torres had a fine season in 2010, batting .268 with 43 doubles, eight triples and 26 stolen bases. He added 16 home runs and 63 RBI and played an outstanding defensive center field for the San Francisco Giants.
Last season was indeed a lost one for Torres. Injuries and poor performance limited him to just 348 AB and 112 games played. His output declined across the board. In all, the Puerto Rico native hit a paltry .221 with just four round-trippers and 19 RBI. Ugly.
Torres is a .244 lifetime hitter. Let's be optimistic and say Torres remains healthy this season. He needs to improve his lifetime OBP (.318), but I'll project him to finish with 14 HR, 55 RBI and a batting average of .260—add in 25 stolen bases as well, which isn't too bad.
He's certainly no Reyes though.
Daniel Murphy is not guaranteed a job as the Mets' starting second baseman, but he certainly is a solid favorite to begin the season there. Now all he needs to do is stay healthy.
The Jacksonville, FL native sustained a torn MCL injury in his right knee last Aug. 7th against the Braves and missed the rest of the season. He's wearing braces on both knees this spring training and has played a scant 24 games at second base in his career.
The Mets love his bat, though. "Murph" is a line-drive hitter that uses the gaps well and is a good hit-and-run man. Now beginning his fourth season, Murphy owns a career .292 average, including a .320 mark last year. His OBP was solid as well (.362), and Murphy has been discussed as a possible leadoff man due to that fact.
Most likely, though, he'll start in the two hole. Murphy did play in 155 games in 2010, so let's say he figures a way to stay healthy and puts up these numbers in 2012:
Projected stats: 15 HR, 52 RBI, .312 average (and plays in 150 games).
David Wright is determined to have a huge bounce-back year in 2012. He's 29 years old, in his prime and is looking to take advantage of CitiField's more hitter-friendly dimensions.
Last season was a lost one for the nine-year veteran. Wright played in only 102 games in an injury-filled campaign and batted a career low .255. His power production was way down as well; he hammered just 14 home runs and knocked in only 61 runs. A frustrating and forgettable year to say the least.
Look for that to change this season. The Norfolk, VA native has excellent gap power, especially to right-center field where the new fence is 398 feet from home plate (still pretty far) instead of the ridiculous 415 feet it was during CitiField's first three years.
A career .300 hitter, expect a now-healthy Wright to regain his previous All-Star form. I feel he'll regain his status as one of the best offensive third baseman in baseball in 2012. I predict 28 HR, 100 RBI and a solid .290 batting average. Look for Wright to run more often, too, and 20 stolen bases is not out of the question. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts though.
"We Like Ike" was the slogan when Dwight Eisenhower ran for President in the 1950's. Mets fans like Ike too—Ike Davis, that is, and hope the slugging first baseman can enjoy a healthy, productive 2012 campaign.
It's still hard to believe that when Davis pumped into David Wright as they attempted to catch a pop up by the pitcher's mound last May 10th in Colorado that his season was over. This can only happen to the Mets, right? The former Arizona State star was off to a great start last season (7-25-.302 in 36 games) before his left ankle injury ruined his sophomore season.
Davis looks fully recovered in spring training so far and a big offensive season should be in the offing. He has excellent power—he has hit some of the longest home runs in CitiField history—and he should also take advantage of his park's friendlier dimensions.
Can he sustain a .300 average? Perhaps. His .383 OBP (short sample) last year shows his plate discipline is improved. Look for Ike's final line to read: 25 HR, 95 RBI and a .285 average.
Staying healthy is the first step.
This is such a huge upcoming season for Jason Bay. Since signing his four-year, $66 million contract in Dec. 2009, the British Columbia native has been a huge bust, plain and simple.
Mets fans are frustrated with Bay, but there appears to be light at the end of a very long tunnel. He finished last season strong, batting .313 in September with three HR, 13 RBI and seven doubles in only 64 at-bats. He also garnered National League Player of the Year honors in early September.
So there is hope. Bay is essentially a pull hitter, and the shorter dimensions in left and left-center field will hopefully boost Bay's anemic production in a Mets' uniform. It's now just 358 feet in left, compared to 371 previously. That can only help.
Bay is 33 years old now so he should have a few good seasons left. He is two seasons removed now from a stellar 36-119-.267 campaign, and there is a lot of pressure on him. Call me the eternal optimist, but I predict Bay will sock 21 HR and add 85 RBI.
He's long overdue.
Power. The Mets don't have a lot of it, and General Manager Sandy Alderson is hoping that Duda can continue to show potential in that category.
The former USC product had an impressive season last year, batting .292 with 10 HR and 50 RBI in only 301 AB. Duda rebounded nicely from a slow start, hitting over .300 from July to September. He was on fire during the dog days of August, smashing five homers, knocking in 19 runs and hitting a stellar .319.
Duda will sit against some tough lefties in favor of Scott Hairston, but manager Terry Collins told the Associated Press that he sees the confidence growing in his young slugger.
"He now believes in himself,” Collins said. “Where he came up with some doubts last summer, in the beginning he talked about it and vocalized it: 'I’m not sure I belong here.' Well I just think now he believes he belongs here.”
Look for the Mets to try and get Duda 500 at-bats this season. I feel he'll respond with a very good campaign: 25 HR, 75 RBI and a .280 batting average.
The 25-year-old backstop took a step back offensively and defensively last season. His average slipped from .277 to .268 in 2011, and he hit only three homers in 340 AB.
The Mets realize that Thole has very limited power as his .344 slugging percentage suggests. He did, however, improve his RBI total from 17 to 40 last season, and Thole does own a career OBP of .350, which is not really that bad for a catcher.
With the fences moved in this season, the Mets brass is hopeful that Thole can add a few more round-trippers this season and continue to hit righties decently (.280 last year). He will sit against some southpaw hurlers in favor of Mike Nickeas.
Thole also has to improve defensively—he had the dubious distinction of pacing the NL with 16 passed balls—and some of that comes with the territory of catching a knuckleballer like R.A. Dickey.
Projected offensive stats: 6 HR, 45 RBI, .270 average.
Talk about a tough spot. The 22-year-old Tejada will be the everyday shortstop, replacing you know who. At least the Mets will put him in the eighth spot in the batting order to take some pressure off him.
Tejada showed great improvement at the plate last season, raising his batting average from .213 to .284. The Mets know he can't supply the dynamic offensive production that Reyes did, but they hope he can continue to hit well at the bottom of the order. They like his potential.
He arrived in camp last Sunday. While Tejada was technically on time, his timing still disappointed manager Terry Collins.
“I had a little problem there,” Tejada told ESPN's Adam Rubin. “In Panama they closed the embassy a couple of days, so I wasn’t here to play. … I wanted to come early, but because of the issue with the paperwork for the visa, I couldn’t come in time. I’m here now.”
Projected stats: 1 HR (it's time), 42 RBI,. 282, 14 stolen bases