Experts project this to be a rough season for the Mets as they are in the midst of a serious rebuilding period. Despite the doom and gloom predictions, Opening Day is always met with optimism—albeit sometimes false.
Nothing is set in stone, but here are the final predictions for who will make the Mets' Opening Day roster.
The starting rotation is perhaps the easiest aspect of this Mets team to put together, as it now appears that Johan Santana will start the season on the disabled list (via SI.com). Despite a whole offseason of rest and recuperation, Santana was unable to get fully healthy. That's the bad news. On the bright side, manager Terry Collins now knows exactly what he will have to work with come Opening Day.
We'll start with de facto ace Jonathan Niese who made strides last year as his ERA dropped a full point from 2011 to a respectable 3.40. He has continued that trend this spring training, posting a 1.53 ERA through four starts (17.2 innings). Niese isn't your typical No. 1 starter and would obviously serve the Mets best as a No. 2, but he is poised to make a leap in 2013.
After Niese, expect Shaun Marcum to fill the No. 2 role after he was brought in this spring. The 31-year-old righty will make a cool $4 million this year after starting 21 games and posting a 3.70 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers last season. He hasn't had an especially great spring (4.66 ERA) and is also reportedly dealing with shoulder issues.
Last week, the Mets announced that Marcum had suffered an "impingement"—a diagnosis that the pitcher denounced, according to The New York Daily News' Kristie Ackert. Marcum said that he will be ready for the season, but if he isn't, the team will be dipping into the minors for an arm.
Matt Harvey will occupy the middle spot of the rotation after wowing fans and scouts alike with his rookie performance last season. He has had a whole offseason to hone his skills and work on his control and comfort on the mound, so expect him to pick up where he left off.
Dillon Gee doesn't have spectacular stuff by any means, but he's crafty enough to get by against good teams. He continued to prove so in Monday's outing against the Atlanta Braves in which he struck out seven and surrendered only two hits in six innings. The Mets are surely hoping that his shoulder issues are in the past because Gee ranks as an above-average back-end starter when healthy and effective.
That brings us to Jeremy Hefner, the man who should occupy the fifth spot in the rotation that could resemble a revolving door as the season progresses. Hefner isn't a bottom of the barrel pitcher, but he doesn't have enough talent to keep himself in the rotation, especially if Santana can recover. Not to mention Hefner will have Zack Wheeler breathing down his neck as the All-Star break approaches.
If things in the starting rotation weren't dicey enough for you, this projected bullpen will satisfy your needs.
Frank Francisco was shut down the minute he reported to spring training and will start the season on the disabled list. That leaves the closing job open for Bobby Parnell, a role that the 28-year-old fireballer filled well at the end of last season. Parnell has come a long way from his early days of nibbling at the corners and is no longer afraid to go after hitters. Don't be surprised if Francisco doesn't get his job back when he returns.
With Parnell moving up the food chain, Brandon Lyon will presumably take on the role of setup man despite his lack of effectiveness this spring. He has a 7.88 ERA in nine appearances, but based on his 3.10 ERA last season, he should be able to figure himself out and contribute.
The two aging righties, LaTroy Hawkins, 40, and Scott Atchison, 36, have been ageless wonders this spring. Hawkins hasn't allowed a run in 5.2 innings, while Atchison has given up just two in 10.1 innings. It would be nothing short of a miracle if the two stayed healthy and kept pitching at this level during the season, but stranger things have happened.
According to ESPN's Adam Rubin, Pedro Feliciano won't make the Opening Day roster as the team chose to send him down to regain his arm strength. That opened the door for Robert Carson, who, along with Josh Edgin, will comprise the lefty corps out of the bullpen.
That leaves room for one more, submariner Greg Burke. The Mets may take a chance on Burke because of his unusual delivery and lack of better options in the organization. Burke last pitched in the majors in 2009 for the San Diego Padres.
Nobody wants to end on a sour note, and that is exactly what would happen if we finished this Opening Day roster projection with the Mets outfield options—or lack thereof. So for sanity's sake, you'll find the infield next.
Lucas Duda is the only outfielder on this Mets team that has ever proved to be a valuable major league talent for an extended amount of time. Duda fell off the map last season and was demoted because of his prolonged stretch of futility, but he looks like he is getting back on track this spring.
He hasn't torn the cover off the ball, but four homers and a .265 average through 49 at-bats aren't ugly numbers. Duda is a lock to make the team, but his strikeout rate needs to plummet if he is going to be of any help to the Mets this season.
After Duda, Collin Cowgill, Jordany Valdespin, Marlon Byrd and Mike Baxter make up what is likely to be Major League Baseball's worst outfield of the year. Cowgill, Valdespin and Byrd have enjoyed mildly impressive springs, accumulating .309, .333 and .311 batting averages, respectively. Baxter has been near unwatchable this spring and is currently sitting right at the Mendoza line.
Matt den Dekker is going to miss an extended amount of time with a broken wrist, but he delivered some good news via Twitter:
Dekker (@UpperDekker) March 25, 2013
Losing den Dekker is a blow to the Mets despite the fact that he his just .205 before injuring himself while diving for a ball, as he is an excellent center fielder.
Duda should be the only full-time player on that list. A platoon between Valdespin, Byrd and Baxter would make the most sense for the team, as each of the three brings different strengths to the club.
The first month of the Mets' season will hang solely on whether David Wright is available for Opening Day as he recovers from a rib injury sustained during the World Baseball Classic. If Wright, the new captain of the team, starts the year on the shelf, the Mets might start the season in a tailspin. MLB.com's Anthony DiComo recently reported that Wright's recover is progressing well.
According to Newsday's Marc Carig, Daniel Murphy is just as optimistic as Wright is in regards to taking the field on Opening Day. His chances of doing so may not be as high as Wright's, but it would be a huge boost to the lineup. If Murphy is unable to go, expect Justin Turner to be the replacement at second base.
Not much needs to be said about Ike Davis, who put together a fine 2012 campaign after a horrendous start. He'll be the starting first baseman barring injury, and should be able to improve on last season's numbers.
Starting shortstop Ruben Tejada has been abysmal in Port St. Lucie this spring. He is hitting a paltry .089, which translates to an embarrassing four hits in 45 at-bats. As far as the argument of whether spring training statistics hold any weight, Tejada must be hoping they don't.
John Buck will be the starting backup on Opening Day and Anthony Recker would be a viable option as his backup. Of course, Buck isn't projected as a long-term contributor for the Mets, as he is just a stop-gap until Travis d'Arnaud is ready for the big time.
That leaves open spots for utility infielder Omar Quintanilla and third baseman Zach Lutz. Quintanilla has managed to hit just .225 in spring training, but he can play both middle infield positions. Lutz is hitting .309 with nine RBI, and would be a solid right handed bat off the bench if Wright avoids a stint on the disabled list to start the year.