10 Mets Players with Something Very Important to Play for Down the Stretch

Shale BriskinContributor IIISeptember 17, 2012

10 Mets Players with Something Very Important to Play for Down the Stretch

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    For just about all of September, the Mets have been a doormat team that has helped NL postseason contenders pick up extra wins. The offense has been futile and the pitching staff can only do so much when the offense can't hit. This isn't anything new though because the Mets have pretty much been playing like this since the All-Star break.

    Despite the rest of the season overall not meaning that much to the Mets in the long term, the last two and a half weeks could be critical for certain players that are either trying to reach individual milestones or play well enough to have a starting job next season.

    Here are ten players on the Mets with something to prove before the end of the season.

1. R.A. Dickey: NL Cy Young Award Contender

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    The biggest story by far within the Mets has been R.A. Dickey's quest to become just the third Met to ever win the NL Cy Young Award.

    With 18 wins and a league leading 2.68 ERA, Dickey is quite the favorite to win the award, with Johnny Cueto and Gio Gonzalez being his main competition.

    Dickey will have around three or four starts left. Thus, he should be able to get to 20 wins and hopefully win the award. The Mets' offense cannot afford to go hitless during Dickey's starts because him winning the NL Cy Young Award would instantly restore credibility to the Mets and knuckleballers.

    Hopefully, this will all happen and Dickey will be the one holding the plaque he rightfully deserves.

2. Ike Davis: 30 Home Runs?

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    With 27 home runs and 81 RBI at the end of the Mets' road trip to Milwaukee, Ike Davis is certainly capable of getting to 30 home runs and 90 RBI by the end of the season.

    It's quite amazing that Davis has these numbers right now, being that he struggled mightily and barely did any kind of hitting for the first three months of the year. But since July, Davis has been hitting much better and has hit the vast majority of his home runs in the second half.

    The Mets have not had a player get to 30 home runs in a season since teammate David Wright (33) and Davis' first base predecessor Carlos Delgado (38) each got past 30 home runs in 2008. Wright fell just one short though in 2010 with 29 home runs that year.

    If Davis can get to 30 home runs, it would be great because it would put an exclamation point to the amazing resurgence he has had in the second half. Hopefully, his 2013 season will be more consistent and full of more run production than this year as he continues to improve as one of baseball's most promising young first basemen.

3. Lucas Duda: A Good Fit for the 2013 Mets?

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    Ever since he got called up in late 2010, Lucas Duda has been known for one thing: his explosive power. That explosive power is what brought him up to the major leagues and what will ultimately keep him on the Mets in a starting role.

    Duda hit reasonably well in the first half, but in July, his hitting got worse. As a result of that and his season-long defensive issues in right field, he was demoted to the minor leagues for about a month. Since being recalled a few weeks ago, Duda has been a left fielder and has been hitting better.

    Duda though is a natural first baseman, but thanks to the presence of Ike Davis at first base, who is as good as anyone there defensively, Duda had no choice but to become an outfielder. He does not have the speed to cover a lot of ground and it has hurt the Mets at times. 

    In the offseason, the Mets will have to decide if and where Duda will fit into their plans. If he doesn't, he will likely get traded to a team in need of a first baseman or designated hitter. Duda has the potential to be a great slugger, but with the Mets already solidified at first base for years to come, he may have to be a star first baseman elsewhere.

    If anything, a strong finish to Duda's season will help him remain a starting outfielder for the Mets in 2013.

4. Josh Thole: Can He Be a Productive Everyday Catcher?

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    With Jason Bay and Andres Torres struggling as much as they have this year, the struggles of Josh Thole have gone more unnoticed, but have been just as critical to the Mets this year.

    Thole had one good offensive month in April, but has not hit well at all since then. His average is over 20 points lower than it had been in both of the last two years and with no power to make up for his drop in average, he has become a more useless presence at the plate.

    Thole has struggled defensively at times too. He has allowed a few too many passed balls in the last few months and has lost playing time lately thanks to all his struggles.

    Thole is young, but the Mets need to decide whether to stick with him going forward. He works well with the pitchers and is definitely a reason as to why R.A. Dickey has been so successful this year. On the other hand, he hasn't hit for most of the season and has not played as well defensively. It will be interesting to see what decision the Mets will make.

5. Kelly Shoppach: Is He the Answer Behind the Plate?

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    Another reason Josh Thole has lost playing time is because Kelly Shoppach has played very well behind the plate since getting acquired in August.

    Shoppach has become a great veteran presence for both the pitching staff and the rest of the team, while hitting with more power than all three of the other Mets' catchers this year combined. He has given the struggling Mets' offense a much needed boost and the Mets should look carefully to re-sign him in the offseason.

    Shoppach could be a very capable starting catcher, or could also be a solid backup depending on what direction the Mets decide to go at that position. Regardless, he should be included in their plans going forward.

6. Jason Bay: Possible Release This Winter?

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    Jason Bay has had another completely lost season this year, even though he has only played in 63 games thanks to multiple stints on the disabled list. When healthy though, he has rarely helped the Mets win.

    Bay has continued to not hit well consistently and has not been the veteran presence in the outfield that the Mets were hoping for when they signed him prior to the 2010 season. He has played hard and made great catches in the field, but those only go so far due to the fact that he got paid to hit home runs for one.

    With the Mets becoming more and more of a young, homegrown team, this could be it for Bay. Lucas Duda is likely to become the everyday left fielder next year unless he gets traded. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Scott Hairston, Jordany Valdespin, Mike Baxter, and maybe even prospect Matt den Dekker will all be in the mix to become starting outfielders in 2013 as well.

    At best, Bay would be a platoon outfielder with Duda in left field, but if the Mets want to make a statement to their fans that they care about the team's future, a good start would be to release Bay, especially because no other team would likely want his services next year. And if any other team did, the Mets would have to eat most, if not all of his salary.

    Bay really hasn't offered anything positive to the Mets for three years, so conventional wisdom would be that he won't do any better in 2013. If Bay hits better for the last two weeks of this season though, he could save his job and remain a Met next year.

7. Jenrry Mejia: Where Does He Fit on the Mets' Pitching Staff?

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    Fireballing prospect Jenrry Mejia has bounced around between being a starting pitcher and a reliever throughout his career. Mejia was originally a starting pitcher, but due to his high velocity, plus his lack of control, he is better suited in the major league as a reliever.

    After making one relief appearance against the Braves during his September call-up, Mejia started recently against the Brewers. However, he got shelled and gave up five runs in three innings before being removed from the game. He gave up five walks that day as well.

    It's unknown if Mejia will get more starts for the rest of the month, or whether Mejia will be a starter going forward. He has better potential in being the Mets' closer of the future than a back end starter in the rotation. If he really develops better control though, that will make a big difference regardless of his role.

    Mejia will try to make the 2013 Mets out of Spring Training next year, but what role he will have and how he will be used is all yet to be determined.

8. Josh Edgin: Can He Solidify Himself as the Mets' Left-Handed Specialist?

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    Ever since his promotion to the Mets in July, Josh Edgin has been a very solid left-handed specialist out of the bullpen. When Tim Byrdak went down with a season ending injury, Edgin continued to pitch well and has given the Mets some stability in the bullpen within his role.

    From 2006-2010, the Mets had a dominant southpaw in the bullpen in Pedro Feliciano. Byrdak had been in that role the last two years, and now it seems as if Edgin can hold down the fort for years.

    Despite all this, it has seemed as if the Mets were always trying to acquire a second left-handed reliever for more depth. This of course would always be nice to have, but if it doesn't work out, the Mets will still be able to count on Edgin to pitch well in critical situations.

9. Frank Francisco: Can He Become a Productive Closer Again?

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    Frank Francisco has been by far one of the biggest busts for the Mets this year, and with the Mets having given him a two-year contract, they will have to figure out whether he will continue to close next year.

    The closer is supposed to be the best relief pitcher on the team, but when the closer has a 5.53 ERA, something is seriously wrong. Francisco has had his better moments, but the images of him blowing saves and having emotional outbursts will be the ones that remain more vividly in the heads of Mets fans.

    If Francisco doesn't blow any more saves for the last two weeks of the season and pitches reasonably well overall, he could help himself remain the Mets' closer next year. On the other hand, the Mets might choose to pursue another closer in the offseason to improve the bullpen even more.

10. Bobby Parnell: Could He Become the Mets' Closer in 2013?

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    Frank Francisco's struggles this year could potentially open the door for Bobby Parnell to be the Mets' closer in 2013.

    In order to be qualified though, Parnell will have to pitch well himself. He has been the Mets' most consistent reliever this year, but as a closer, he has blown five saves in nine chances. Parnell became the temporary closer when Francisco was on the disabled list, but has been a set-up man once again since Francisco was activated.

    Parnell has always had the high velocity and his secondary pitches have improved with time. However, he still has to improve his control and show that he can trust his secondary pitches as much as his fastball.

    If Francisco opens the season as the closer and struggles again for the first month or so, Parnell could inherit the closing job by default. He could also do so by pitching quite well at the start of the 2013 season. If he does that and Francisco is average at best, the Mets could make him the closer in that scenario as well.