10 New York Mets with the Most to Prove in 2013

Shale BriskinContributor IIIOctober 8, 2012

10 New York Mets with the Most to Prove in 2013

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    As we look to the upcoming 2013 season, quite a few Mets players will have something to prove beginning in April. Some simply underachieved in 2012 and did not perform well, while others had injuries that prevented them from not playing for the entire year.

    While many members of the Mets' 2012 roster performed rather poorly, the only players included here are the ones that will most likely return. Others such as Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres, for example, are not included because they are now either free agents and unlikely to re-sign with the Mets or unlikely to get offered a new contract.

    With that being said, here are ten Mets players that will have something to prove in 2013.

Josh Thole

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    Assuming he's not traded this offseason, Josh Thole remains a big question mark for the Mets going forward. He had a poor 2012 season overall and the Mets will have to determine if they want to keep believing in him as their everyday catcher.

    The Mets' outfield is certainly a mess, but their depth at catcher is just as bad. Thole batted just .234 in 2012, only had 16 combined extra base hits and played worse defensively. In August, he was slumping so bad that the recently acquired Kelly Shoppach got significant playing time down the stretch.

    The only positive aspect of Thole's season was that he helped R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese have career years. While the seasons of those two pitchers were certainly significant, the Mets need more offense and there are better options out there than Thole.

    Nonetheless, if Thole is still a Met in the spring, he will have a lot to prove as a hitter. From 2009-2011, Thole got on base more, put the ball in play and hit to all fields. In order to increase his value to both the Mets and the open market, he will have to significantly improve his .290 OBP in 2012.

Ike Davis

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    Ike Davis ended up being arguably one of the Mets' best hitters this year and definitely their most notable slugger with the 32 home runs and 90 RBI he had. So how could he have something to prove in 2013?

    What Davis has to prove is that he can be a more consistent slugger going forward. He struggled mightily during the first two months of the season and was still batting way below .200 by June. He was lost at the plate against left-handed pitchers and did not really start hitting until the middle of June. As a result, management and fans began getting fed up and Davis was almost sent down to the minor leagues. Thankfully, manager Terry Collins kept believing in him and it paid off.

    Davis hit 20 home runs in the second half, which was among the league leaders. He was by far one of the Mets' best hitters in the second half, but mainly because most of his teammates did not hit well at all.

    Assuming he does not get traded anytime soon, Davis will be expected to have an even bigger season in 2013. 35-40 home runs and around 110 RBI should be reasonable expectations as long as he's more consistent throughout the entire season.

Lucas Duda

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    In 2013, Lucas Duda will have a lot to prove, both offensively and defensively.

    While it's possible he may get traded, Duda is slated to be the Mets' everyday left fielder in 2013. After playing poorly in right field for most of the 2012 season, Duda was shifted to left, which has worked better so far. He will not have as much ground to cover, so hopefully this change will benefit both himself and the Mets next year.

    Duda does not have much natural speed and range, but does have a great throwing arm. As long as he can hit and does not have too much trouble in left field, the Mets will be satisfied.

    Offensively, Duda had a decent start to his season and was one of the Mets' bigger power threats in the first half. Unfortunately, he struggled in July, got sent to the minors for about a month and was not able to produce for a full season. He finished with only 15 home runs and 57 RBI in 401 at-bats. Down the stretch, Duda platooned in left field and got a few starts at first base.

    High expectations were there for Duda before the 2012 season began. At the time, 25-30 home runs sounded quite reasonable. Duda's offensive season this year was not exactly terrible, but at the same time, it failed to live up to its expectations.

    Next season, Duda will have to put it all together and have a solid and more consistent full year. At least 20-25 home runs will be expected of him, if not more, and the RBI total will need to be a lot higher as well.

    The Mets will need to decide whether Duda is going to be a big part of their future. If they think he is, they will have to hope that Duda can have some more productive seasons than what he did in 2012.

Jordany Valdespin

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    One of the more exciting players on the Mets this year was rookie Jordany Valdespin. Valdespin played for the majority of the season as a second baseman, shortstop and outfielder.

    Valdespin is best known for the Mets' single season record five pinch-hit home runs hit this year, with many of them occurring in the 9th inning. He ignited the Mets and their fanbase at times with his dramatic hits and youthful energy.

    Aside from the pinch-hit home runs, though, Valdespin was rather overmatched as a Met, both at the plate and in the field. Offensively, Valdespin only drew ten walks in 206 plate appearances, but struck out 44 times. He swung at a lot of pitches and more often than not, was not successful at it.

    For all the great moments he provided, Valdespin only batted .241 with just a .286 OBP. His power was a lot better than expected, but with his low OBP and average, it seems as if he will need more time in the minor leagues to develop into a better hitter.

    In the field, Valdespin found some problems, too. Although he is a natural second baseman, Valdespin found himself in the outfield thanks to Daniel Murphy becoming the everyday second baseman. Valdespin played all three outfield positions this year, the majority being in left field. Despite having great speed, though, Valdespin did not play that well in the outfield and got quite a few bad reads on fly balls that turned into extra base hits.

    Going forward, the Mets will have to decide if Valdespin will stick to just second base or become a utility player and at what level for 2013. At best, Valdespin will be a backup outfielder and middle infielder, as well as a top pinch-hitter for the Mets in 2013, but another season in the minor leagues could be just as likely to occur.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis

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    One of the Mets' biggest surprises in the first half was the play of rookie outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who got called up for the second game of the season to play center field after Andres Torres got injured on Opening Day.

    Nieuwenhuis hit well for the first three months of the season and played well at all three outfield positions. He even batted .325 in April and finished a close runner up to Wade Miley in the Rookie of the Month voting. He also showed some unexpected power with seven home runs, including five home runs in June.

    In July, though, Nieuwenhuis hit poorly and eventually got sent to the minor leagues near the end of the month. Unfortunately, he injured his foot shortly after and missed the rest of the season.

    Nieuwenhuis will definitely considered as one of the frontrunners to become the Mets' new center fielder in 2013. Andres Torres is almost certain not to get offered a contract by the Mets, which would leave an opening there. Nieuwenhuis hit surprisingly well for much of the season and played the outfield very well with a lot of range and speed.

    On the other hand, there is one big glaring weakness for Nieuwenhuis: 98 strikeouts in just 282 at-bats. Nieuwenhuis will have to lower that rate significantly and be more patient at the plate. 25 walks in 314 plate appearances is also something he will have to work on in order to become a regular outfielder for the Mets.

    Nieuwenhuis is likely to get a lot of playing time with the Mets in 2013, but he will only improve as a player if he strikes out less and draws more walks.

Jason Bay

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    After three very disappointing seasons as a Met, it's clear that Jason Bay is no longer the feared hitter he once was. As a result, there will be virtually no expectations for Bay to do well in 2013.

    Bay's future as a Met is not even that certain. The Mets will not release him during the offseason, but could very well do so during Spring Training, just like they did in 2011 with Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. Regardless, Bay will no longer be an everyday player in 2013, especially if the Mets play well early in the season. He will be platooned at best, but is more likely to just be a pinch-hitter and possible defensive replacement.

    If Bay does not get released, though, he could try to redeem himself, although the opportunities he will have will be limited. The Mets already have a lot of money committed to him, so if they can afford to do so, they will try to give Bay one more chance to play well.

    Bay's four-year, $66 million contract is already considered one of the worst in Mets history, but if he hits reasonably well in whatever opportunities he has, he could end his time as a Met on a better note.

Johan Santana

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    After missing the entire 2011 season while recovering from shoulder surgery, Johan Santana had a surprisingly good first half in 2012, which included the first no-hitter in Mets history. However, he also pitched very poorly in the second half and got shut down in the middle of August for the rest of the year. For the year, Santana finished with a 6-9 record and a career worst 4.85 ERA.

    2013 will almost certainly be Santana's final season with the Mets because they will probably not pick up his option for 2014, making him a free agent. He has not been thoroughly healthy for most of his time with the Mets and has not pitched for a full season since 2008. Furthermore, Santana's velocity has decreased significantly and, if he does not have good command on his pitches, he can get into trouble on the mound very easily.

    In his final season as a Met, Santana will have to prove that he can stay healthy and pitch well. He will be playing for his next contract and if he gets hurt and doesn't pitch well, he may not be wanted much by any team. Thus, it's important for him that he stays healthy, but if he gets hurt by May or June, the Mets will likely call up Zack Wheeler to take his place and probably for good.

Matt Harvey

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    One of the Mets' best pitchers in the second half was rookie Matt Harvey, who had been one of the organization's top prospects. As of right now, he will be the Mets' No. 3 starter in their rotation.

    Harvey made his major league debut on July 26 and struck out 11 batters in just 5.1 shutout innings that night. He continued to pitch well, although the Mets' offense did not always give him legitimate run support. He finished the year with a 3-5 record, a 2.73 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 59.1 innings.

    Harvey had a great rookie season in 2012. There is no doubt about that. Harvey will have to prove though that he can sustain his success across an entire season. If the Mets can give him a better offense to give more run support, Harvey could definitely get to 15 or 16 wins next season.

    Harvey has the velocity, the command and all the mental aspects of what it takes to be a great pitcher. If he stays healthy, he can become one of the best pitchers in the league in a very short amount of time. He and Zack Wheeler are the future of the Mets and fans will enjoy seeing the talent that Harvey has over a full season.

Dillon Gee

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    Yet another Mets starter that will have something to prove in 2013 will be Dillon Gee. Gee finished 2012 with a 6-7 record and a 4.10 ERA, but unfortunately, his season ended in early July after a blood clot was found in an artery near his right shoulder. He subsequently missed the remainder of the season, but will be good to go for Spring Training.

    Gee's 2012 season before the injury was solid, although the record and ERA would not exactly say so. This is partially because Gee did not get particularly good run support. Nonetheless, he will look to bounce back in 2013 and pitch at least as well as he did in 2011 when he won 13 games.

    Gee will be competing for the fifth spot in the Mets' rotation, but this depends on who else the Mets sign to compete against him. Zack Wheeler could take his place in the rotation later in the season, but this will also depend on whether Johan Santana is healthy by then, or not.

    Gee will have to prove that he can get past his unique injury and pitch better than he did in 2012 when he was healthy.

Frank Francisco

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    Last offseason, the Mets thought they made a good signing by giving Frank Francisco a two-year contract to become their new closer. However, Francisco underachieved and missed over a month on the disabled list. All in all, it was a forgettable season for him.

    Francisco finished the year with a 5.53 ERA, which is by far the worst of his career. At times, he would pitch well in the 9th inning, but in other appearances, he'd give up a lot of hits and runs. His bad outings led to multiple anger outbursts and frustration for himself, his teammates and Mets fans everywhere.

    Despite all his struggles, manager Terry Collins stuck with Francisco as the team's closer when he was healthy. The fact that the Mets did not really have another reliever that could be a good closer was a contributing factor, but some of them would have likely done better than Francisco this year.

    Going into 2013, Francisco is slated to be the closer once again, but if he struggles early in the season, he could easily get removed from closing duties in favor of Bobby Parnell or possibly another reliever if the Mets bring anyone else with closing experience in. His role with the Mets next season will be in his control, as long as he pitches better and more like the reliable closer he was for the Rangers and Blue Jays.

    Francisco will have to prove that he can pitch much better than he did in 2012 and get back to being a dominant closer. The Mets' bullpen this year was a mess, but if Francisco can improve, it will make the entire bullpen look a lot better.