New York Mets: Projecting the 2013 Opening Day Batting Order
The New York Mets will field a team in 2013 that looks very similar to that of last season's team which won 74 games.
The biggest difference, of course, will be the absence of reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, and the presence of Travis d'Arnaud and John Buck behind the plate—assuming the club can workout an extension with the right-handed pitcher.
In terms of power hitters, the Mets will be very thin, unless they are able to pull off a surprise trade for a legitimate power threat.
The team will be very dependent on David Wright, Lucas Duda and Ike Davis providing the pop in the middle of the order, with Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and Kirk Nieuwenhuis setting the table.
There are still a few pieces that must be put into place, mainly whether they will re-sign Scott Hairston.
1. Ruben Tejada, Shortstop
In 2012, the Mets provided Ruben Tejada with the stiff test of replacing Jose Reyes, who had been one of the most productive players in team history.
Did Tejada perform at an All-Star level as Reyes had? No, but for a 22-year-old thrown into the impossible task of being the incumbent of a perennial MVP candidate, he did an admirable job.
In 114 games, the Panama native hit .289 with 26 doubles while being the catalyst at the top of the order.
Obviously, he has much to improve on as he posted a 73:27 K/BB ratio while stealing only four bases in eight attempts.
The plus side is that Tejada has not been overwhelmed by the spotlight of being the shortstop in NY, and he is certainly not an automatic out at the plate.
He must provide the same type of offense this season, but he needs to improve his .333 OBP, which is way too low for a leadoff hitter on any team.
Daniel Murphy, Second Base
It is not a knock on Daniel Murphy, who is a tireless worker and the type of hard-nosed player that every team needs, but I would have tried to trade him to an American League team such as the Tampa Bay Rays for a reliever.
In fact, I believe he is more valuable to an AL team who could use him at DH in addition to multiple positions. The Mets could have then moved Jordany Valdespin to his natural position to fill the void.
Nevertheless, it appears the team has not pursued any sort of deal, which means Murphy will enter his age-28 season as the second baseman.
As a middle infielder, his offensive production is much more acceptable than as a corner infielder or outfielder.
His .291 AVG and 40 doubles are his most appealing characteristics, but his power took a step back from his previous seasons, and he needs to improve the .332 OBP for a top-of-the-order hitter.
Defensively, he is not a liability, but his 15 errors ranked among the worst in MLB. That will most likely improve as he gets more comfortable making the difficult plays such turning double plays and going to his right.
3. David Wright, Third Base
Fresh off his contract extension, which will likely enable him to retire in blue and orange, David Wright will take the field in 2013 as a 30-year-old veteran and the unquestioned leader on the team.
Wright finished sixth in the NL MVP voting, the fifth time he has been in the top 10 for his career.
He will most likely have another three or four elite seasons left in him, but it is a bit concerning that his numbers in the second half were considerably weaker than his first-half total.
The third baseman had a phenomenal April through June, which was unsustainable, but his OPS fell to .750 while he racked up 65 strikeouts.
He has always been a streaky hitter, but the fact is that Wright's numbers are always among the best at his position, aside from 2011, which was tainted due to his back injury.
The Virginia native is the franchise leader in several individual offensive categories and will most likely retire with his name atop the record books in every category aside from stolen bases and triples.
2013 will be another solid season for Wright, as he is the quintessential third-place hitter.
4. Ike Davis, First Base
After a wretched first two months of the season, it's hard to believe Ike Davis finished the season with 32 home runs and 90 RBI.
From the viewpoint of a traditional baseball fan, Davis supplies the type of production that is typical from a corner infielder.
If you delve deeper into the stats, however, it is apparent Davis is as one-dimensional as it gets on offense.
He hit a dismal .174 against left-handed pitchers with only eight of his 32 homers. Additionally, he struck out 141 times against only 65 walks, while posting a .308 OBP.
Perhaps much of it was due to his symptoms of the Valley fever in the offseason, which means the team will not give up on him yet.
I am not convinced Ike has reached his ceiling yet, however, he could be a 40 home run, 120 RBI guy when healthy.
He will be 26 years old once the season starts, which means he is entering his physical peak. He could be in line for a monster 2013 season.
5. Cody Ross, Right Field
According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, the Mets are "kicking the tires" on free-agent outfielder Cody Ross.
He would be acquired simply to fill the void of Scott Hairston, who was the lone right-handed power threat, and one of the only players who was competent against left-handed pitcher.
Ross surpassed Hairston last year in terms of home runs, 22 to 20. He also drove in 81 runs for the 69-win Boston Red Sox.
He is not a dynamic player, as he is virtually limited to relying on power, but Hairston is the same type of player.
If the Mets can sign him for two years, it would be a great deal, as he will most likely begin to decline considering he is 31 years old.
In the middle of a National League lineup, the Mets could do a lot worse than Cody Ross, who has a .928 career OPS against lefties.
6. Lucas Duda, Left Field
For some strange reason, Lucas Duda seemingly forgot how to hit in the second half of last season. The Mets were forced to demote him in order to regain his stroke.
Ultimately, his 2012 numbers were ugly (.718 OPS, 120 SO in 401 AB), but he has shown glimpses in his career which leads you to believe he has untapped potential.
In 2011, for example, he posted an .852 OPS with 10 home runs in 301 at-bats.
Duda is a liability in the outfield, which forced the team to move him to left field in order to help the team defense.
As far as offense is concerned, Duda should have a much better season as he regains his confidence at the plate, and age-27 has traditionally been a breakout season for power hitters.
7. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Center Field
This is where the lineup gets very weak.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis endeared himself to the Citi Field faithful in the early part of the season, as he was one of the faces of the Mets' surprisingly hot start to the season.
He played a strong center field—aside from dropping a routine pop-up by Carlos Beltran—and he swung the bat well providing a spark to the offense.
Eventually, he cooled off. Then he went ice cold, which prompted the Mets to demote him to Triple-A. Then he suffered an injury to his right foot.
He may not be good enough to start on many teams, but the Mets are devoid of legitimate options in the outfield.
His athleticism and ability to hit for power make him a better option than the likes of Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin.
Kirk's 98:25 K/BB ratio is simply unacceptable, and he will need to make more contact to be an everyday player, but if he has a strong showing in spring training, he could earn the job.
8. John Buck, Catcher
Let this be clear: John Buck is simply warming up the starting catching spot until newly-acquired Travis d'Arnaud is ready to play at the big league level, which should be in late April.
Buck is a backup catcher at best, as he posted the worst AVG (.192) of any player with at least 300 AB in 2012.
At the very least, he is an experienced player who will serve as the mentor for d'Arnaud.
The Mets can hope that he regains his power stroke which allowed him to knock 20 home runs with an .802 OPS in 2010.
More likely, he will provide the offense that Kelly Shoppach did last year.
9. Johan Santana, Pitcher
With the departure of R.A. Dickey, the Mets will need the rest of their starting pitching to step up.
While Johan Santana may not be an elite pitcher anymore at 34 years old, he will most likely get the ball on Opening Day due to his career achievements.
Ultimately, the rotation will be built around Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee in 2013, with Santana's contributions representing a bonus.
Obviously, he provided the highlight of 2012, as he threw the first no-hitter in team history on June 1 against the reigning world champion St. Louis Cardinals.
After that, his performances were simply hard to watch as he clearly struggled through pain as he slogged through the next month.
He lost all five of his remaining decisions while allowing 33 runs in 19 innings.
In fairness to him, Santana has tremendous work ethic, possesses incredible mental fortitude and will most likely remain as an effective pitcher as long as he is healthy.
The operative word being "healthy," of course.