New York Mets' Coldest Starts to the Season That Will Continue

Steve SeepersaudContributor IApril 8, 2013

New York Mets' Coldest Starts to the Season That Will Continue

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    Championships aren't necessarily won or lost during the first week of the season. That said, the initial few games on a team's schedule can set the tone in a positive direction or be a harbinger of disasters to come in the ensuing months.

    Unless a team is in the extremely rare situation in which everyone in the lineup is killing it at the same time, slow starts are inevitable for a portion of the lineup. That said, we'll look at why, for the New York Mets, there's some reason to be concerned about Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Ruben Tejada.

Ruben Tejada's Woes Continue

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    After batting .096 in spring training with an on-base percentage of .210, what should a player do? Turn the page on the calendar to April, say "thank goodness that's over" and take advantage of a fresh start. Problem is, Ruben Tejada has hardly done that.

    His stumbling block during spring training was hitting too many fly balls and ground balls instead of smacking line drives, according to Yardbarker. He's a solid contact hitter with potential for a breakout season with an average over .300. But, he won't get there unless he figures out that he's better off playing to his strengths.

    Logging hits during the games on April 7 and 8 finally pushed his batting average above .200. At this point, on the whole, RotoChamp.com projects that Tejada will hit a little above .270 with an on-base percentage around .330. That's fairly run of the mill.

    Struggles at the plate can wear on a player and lead to problems with the glove. Tejada is also having problems on defense; to his credit, he's not cheesing out by blaming the cold weather. He told Jorge Castillo of The Star-Ledger that he's just not making the plays that he should be making.

Lucas Duda Still a Work in Progress

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    If the Mets had some more solid talent to work with, Duda would be logging more bench time in the bigs or would be a starter in Triple-A. Put another way, Duda didn't have much trouble earning a spot in the Mets starting lineup even though he hit .239 with 120 strikeouts in 401 plate appearances. That speaks volumes about who's coming up through the farm system.

    In 2012, his play was so crap-tastic that the Mets sent him down to the minors for a stretch. A Yahoo! Sports report slammed Duda for his lack of prowess in the field and said he'd have to offset his outfield follies by hitting for power. He hit five dingers in spring training and does have one this season. During his lackluster spring, Duda had more strikeouts (18) than hits (17).

    RotoChamp.com projects overall that he'll end the 2013 campaign with 17 homers, 63 RBI and an average of .252. While the Mets aren't expected to contend this year, fans would like to think the team is trying to build something for the future. If that's true, the Mets are going to need more firepower, as Ike Davis and David Wright can't shoulder the load.

With Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the Mets Have a New Dr. K

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    Kirk Nieuwenhuis must really love his first initial, because he struck out 98 times in nearly 300 at-bats last season. It won't take much detective work to identify an area of his game that's in dire need of improvement.

    Spring 2013 didn't show any sign of that; Nieuwenhuis struck out at nearly the same rate with 13 K's in 35 plate appearances. With two strikeouts in his first nine at-bats in meaningful 2013 games, he's on pace to play himself out of the lineup.

    RotoChamp.com projects that he'll hit .233 with six homers and 24 RBI in 240 at-bats. That last figure is key because it suggests he won't get all that much playing time. The word around Citi Field is that Nieuwenhuis will platoon with Collin Cowgill in left field.