New York Mets: Potential 2014 Lineup and Predictions

Matthew MusicoContributor IIIDecember 4, 2013

New York Mets: Potential 2014 Lineup and Predictions

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    New York Mets fans are waiting for Sandy Alderson to improve the team’s lineup—if that doesn’t happen, what should offensive expectations be for the “Amazins” next year?

    If the season were to start today, New York’s 2014 Opening Day lineup wouldn’t look much different than the end of 2013. The mere thought of that will make some fans want to crawl into the fetal position.

    The Mets have been connected to free agent sluggers Nelson Cruz and Curtis Granderson this winter. Ken Rosenthal tweeted that Sandy Alderson met with Granderson on December 1st. That’s encouraging news, but it remains to be seen if New York ends up being a serious bidder.

    MLB Depth Charts provides a projected lineup that would not be received well—it would still include Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis hitting cleanup and Chris Young as the only addition via free agency.

    It will be hard for this current lineup to clinch its first postseason berth since 2006. If they perform to realistic levels of production, they could be better than expected (although, acquiring another bat wouldn’t hurt).

    Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference, MLB.com, and FanGraphs.

1. Eric Young, Jr.—LF

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    2013 (COL/NYM): .249/.310/.336, 27 2B, 7 3B, 46 SB, 70 R

    2014: .255/.320/.350, 35 2B, 10 3B, 40 SB, 85 R

    The Mets became a different team when they acquired Eric Young, Jr. from the Colorado Rockies on June 18th. Since the departure of Jose Reyes, Terry Collins didn’t have a player with speed to put in the leadoff spot. Young provided him that luxury.

    Young never received the opportunity to be an everyday player with the Rockies, and he took advantage of his new life in Flushing.

    His presence at the top of the order immediately made the lineup more dynamic. It wasn’t that hard, considering it didn’t contain any true base stealers before his arrival.

    Young’s first full month with the Mets in July was his best—he hit .252/.364/.340 with 13 stolen bases and 18 runs scored. His performance dropped off in the second half, putting together a .228/.292/.300 line.

    This drop in production can be attributed to Young’s lack of experience as a regular player. Before appearing in 148 games in 2013, the most playing time he’s seen in a season was 98 ballgames in 2012.

    Young will be able to use his experience last season to properly prepare himself to play every day. His presence is important because New York isn’t expected to bring in any players capable of leading off.

    The reigning National League stolen base champion will get a chance to put a full season of productive play together, and he will be more consistent than 2013. He doesn't get on base as much as a typical leadoff hitter, but he can do it enough to make a difference for the Mets.

2. Daniel Murphy—2B

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    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    2013: .286/.319/.415, 13 HR, 78 RBI, 38 2B, 92 R

    2014: .285/.325/.420, 15 HR, 75 RBI, 40 2B, 85 R

    Daniel Murphy is the perfect kind of hitter for the second spot of a lineup. He knows how to handle the bat, can hit behind runners and allow those on base an opportunity to steal during his at-bat.

    The second baseman has turned himself into one of the top doubles hitters in the National League, and added a career-high 13 home runs to that in 2013. He has enough power to be a run producer, but he has more value as a table setter. His ability to put himself and others in scoring position can be best utilized in front of David Wright and the middle of the order.

    He’s been a model of consistency since 2012—Murph has played in 317 games out of a possible 324 over the past two seasons. Collins knows he can pencil Murphy in every day and he can be consistent at the plate (only had one month hitting below .282), which gives the top of the order a big lift.

    Due to the lack of depth in recent years, Collins has been forced to move Murphy around to try and find the most productive spot for him. If there is support behind him, Murph would best serve the Mets in the two spot.

3. David Wright—3B

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    2013: .307/.390/.514, 18 HR, 58 RBI, 23 2B, 63 R

    2014: .310/.370/.510. 25 HR, 95 RBI, 35 2B, 80 R

    David Wright appeared in 112 games in 2013 due to a hamstring injury, but his performance was the best it’s been in quite some time. His .904 OPS was the highest it’s been since a .924 OPS season in 2008.

    As long as he stays healthy, there isn’t much to question with regard to Wright’s production. He’s fully adjusted to life at Citi Field and is in the prime of his career entering his 11th big league season.

    Wright is under contract until 2020, but it’s important for the Mets to put a team around him now. Despite not a lot of support, he’s been productive in 2012 and 2013 at the plate.

    Who ends up hitting behind David will determine what kind of pitches he gets to hit. His on-base percentage has increased dramatically to the .390 range over the past two seasons because pitchers are not throwing balls into the strike zone with the same regularity. Having a struggling Ike Davis hitting behind him makes it easier for opposing hurlers to pitch around Wright.

    If the 2014 cleanup hitter for Terry Collins is consistently productive, Wright will see his on-base percentage dip because he will have better pitches to swing at. If he sees more balls in the strike zone, his power numbers are bound to increase.

4. Ike Davis—1B

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2013: .205/.326/.334, 9 HR, 33 RBI, 14 2B, 37 R

    2014: .245/.340/.475, 23 HR, 75 RBI, 26 2B, 65 R

    If Ike Davis is not traded this winter, his presence in the lineup will be an interesting one. The way the team is currently constructed, he’s best suited to be the cleanup hitter. His performance from last season says otherwise.

    After a slow start to the 2012 season, Davis had a big second half to finish the year with career highs in home runs (32) and RBI (90). He showed his ability to get hot for a prolonged period of time and be a force in the middle of a lineup.

    The jury is still out as to whether or not Davis can succeed in New York. He has the power potential to flourish at the spacious confines of Citi Field, but he can’t be counted on as the biggest power threat in the lineup.

    Like Wright, it becomes increasingly important to see who is batting behind Ike next season—if he’s still with the organization. If there is a legitimate power threat in the on deck circle, pitchers will take their chances and give Davis some better pitches to hit.

    Once he returned from his three-week stint in the minors, he showed more patience and improved his triple slash to .286/.449/.505. That included only four home runs and 11 doubles in 105 at-bats, but it's a step in the right direction. If he continues focusing on hitting line drives in the outfield gaps, the home runs will start to come.

    For Ike to have a chance of returning to some kind of respectability with the bat, he’ll need some support in the lineup.

5. Chris Young—RF

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    2013: .200/.280/.379, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 18 2B, 46 R

    2014: .240/.335/.450, 18 HR, 75 RBI, 25 2B, 80 R

    Chris Young isn’t the power hitting outfielder Mets fans were hoping to see acquired this winter. Depending on how the market develops, he could be the biggest upgrade to the outfield for 2014.

    The former Arizona Diamondback is coming off a down season with the Oakland Athletics. He appeared in 107 games, but was used more as a fourth outfielder. It was the first time he was relegated to a bench role in his career, and his stat line clearly shows it was an adjustment for him.

    He’ll return to being an everyday player in 2014 for New York—that was one of the selling points from Sandy Alderson when he met with Young in Houston prior to agreeing upon a deal, according to Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger.

    Young strikes out a ton (23.4 percent career strikeout rate), but he’s also drawn a lot of walks when given regular playing time. The outfielder owns a 10.6 percent career walk rate. He earned a free pass 9.6 percent of the time last year in Oakland—the first time it was under 10 percent since 2008.

    Despite a low batting average, he’ll get on base at a reasonable clip. Combine that with his power potential and it’s easy to see why he was on Alderson’s radar. He’s hit 10 or more home runs in seven straight seasons—David Wright is only other current Met with that distinction.

    For the financial commitment the organization has made in Young ($7.25 million over one year), this has the potential of being a favorable deal for the Mets.

6. Juan Lagares—CF

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    2013: .242/.281/.352, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 21 2B, 35 R

    2014: .250/.300/.400, 5 HR, 45 RBI, 25 2B, 45 R

    The defensive prowess of Juan Lagares is already known. He appeared in 121 games last season for New York, ranking near the top of various defensive metrics for outfielders.

    As of right now, the starting center field job is his to lose. He’ll lose it if he can’t show the ability to handle big league pitching.

    When Lagares began getting regular playing time, the Mets improved overall as a team. Over the last 100 games of the season, they played .500 baseball. That’s a far cry from a playoff team, but it was much better than the first 62 games.

    The outfielder is currently playing in the Dominican Winter League, where he’s hitting .345/.378/.418. He’s only drawn six walks in 110 at-bats, but his lack of walks shouldn’t be a concern—as long as he continues to put balls in play with more regularity.

    Lagares’ defense brings a lot of value to the Mets because he prevents a lot of runs. Preventing runs is as important (possibly more important) than producing runs, especially since it can be overlooked as being valuable.

    If he can handle himself at the plate, he will be a tremendous asset to New York’s lineup. Seeing the progress he’s making in winter ball, there’s a good chance he’ll be the Opening Day center fielder for the Mets.

7. Travis D’Arnaud—C

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2013: .202/.286/.263, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 2B, 4 R

    2014: .250/.330/.420 13 HR, 50 RBI, 25 2B, 55 R

    Travis d’Arnaud is the one true unknown in next season’s starting lineup due to his lack of big league experience. The 24-year-old appeared in 31 games for the Mets after making his MLB debut on August 17th against the San Diego Padres.

    His skills and potential make him a top prospect, but injuries have hampered his development over the past two years. He’s been limited to 99 minor league games since 2012.

    D’Arnaud isn’t projected to become the next Mike Piazza in the batter’s box, but his offensive potential is why Alderson acquired him via trade last winter. His current position in the lineup can provide some much-needed depth for Terry Collins.

    In his short time in Flushing, he put together a 10.7 percent walk rate. Despite not putting together any eye-popping statistics, he showed patience at the plate that a lot of rookies don't have. That control of the strike zone is what's going to help him become a productive major league hitter.

    This will hopefully be d’Arnaud’s first full season of play since he appeared in 114 games in Double-A during the 2011 season. The experience he earned in those 31 games last year should expedite the adjustment process so he can hit the ground running come spring training.

8. Ruben Tejada—SS

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2013: .202/.259/.260, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 12 2B, 20 R

    2014: .255/.320/.330, 1 HR, 30 RBI, 20 2B, 50 R

    The regression of Ruben Tejada in 2013 was one of the biggest disappointments out of Flushing. He stepped into the starting shortstop position as a 23-year-old in 2012 after Jose Reyes signed with the Miami Marlins, responding with a solid .289/.333/.351 line.

    Injuries and lack of production hampered Tejada’s time in the big leagues last season—he appeared in 57 games following a career-high 114 games played in ’12.

    Tejada saw a huge drop in making solid contact last season. During 2012, he hit line drives in 30 percent of his at-bats, yet that decreased dramatically to 19.2 percent in 2013. That decrease lead to a .228 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), compared to a .339 mark the season before.

    It’s tough to think Tejada will immediately return to his production from 2011 and 2012, but he has to be more motivated than ever. Sandy Alderson is publicly looking for an external solution at shortstop because of his ineffectiveness. The inflated prices of the free agent market and New York’s unwillingness to overpay may give Tejada one more chance to prove himself.

    In the eighth spot in the lineup, the expectation for his production can be equated to that of former Met shortstop, Rey Ordonez. If he can provide solid defense and hit around .250 or .260, the organization should be happy. Having Eric Young, Jr. will allow Tejada to stay out of the leadoff spot, letting him focus on playing his game and not trying to do too much at the plate.

    Matt's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, Yahoo! Sports, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue and Mets Merized Online. To keep up with Matt, you can follow him on Twitter.