The February 15 spring training report date for the New York Mets is right around the corner, which will officially kick off their mission of becoming a winning baseball team in 2014.
Unlike recent winters, Sandy Alderson and his staff have been active in the free-agent market, handing out multi-year deals to Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon. The organization also inked Chris Young to a one-year deal and handed out a few minor league contracts to free-agent starting pitchers.
As we prepare to watch the Mets take the field for the first time in months, let’s take a look at scouting reports and statistical projections for the pitchers and catchers expected to fight for an Opening Day roster spot in Port St. Lucie.
The potential for Travis d’Arnaud to be a successful big league player has been there for quite some time. Whether or not he’ll have the opportunity to prove himself depends on if he can stay healthy for an entire season.
MLB.com ranked d’Arnaud the game’s top catching prospect, and it’s because of what he’s shown he can do at the plate and behind it. In the batter’s box, he’s displayed above-average bat speed and could use that ability to hit anywhere between 15 and 25 home runs per season.
As a minor leaguer, he wasn’t the most patient hitter but has become more patient as he enters his age-25 season. Prior to 2013, he posted a walk rate higher than nine percent in the minor leagues just once, which happened in 2008. His 31-game run in the big leagues last season is a small sample size, but d’Arnaud posted a 10.7 percent walk rate.
Behind the plate, d’Arnaud shows off even more skills—this includes good footwork, his ability to block balls in the dirt and to frame borderline pitches. He’s invested in getting to know his pitching staff, as well.
2014 projection: .260/.330/.420, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 25 2B, 55 R
Prior to 2013 getting underway, Recker looked to be merely a placeholder until d’Arnaud proved he was ready to join the Mets in the big leagues.
Once d’Arnaud landed on the disabled list with a fractured foot, Recker’s stay in the bigs lasted much longer than a lot of people anticipated. Despite collecting just 151 plate appearances last season, Recker posted a .215/.280/.400 line with six home runs and 19 RBI.
The backup catcher owned a 32.5 percent strikeout rate, but with a .185 Isolated Power (ISO) number, he provided pop off the bench for Terry Collins. He’s even versatile enough to hop on the mound when needed, pitching an inning against the Washington Nationals last season. He came away with an 18.00 ERA, but those are just details.
Given Recker’s familiarity with the pitching staff from last season, he should be the favorite to be d’Arnaud’s backup come Opening Day on March 31. His defensive skills are adequate, and his ability to hit for power is what Collins should be looking for.
2014: projection: .220/.290/.420, 9 HR, 23 RBI, 10 2B, 20 R
Heading into this winter, Sandy Alderson didn’t feel the need to aggressively pursue a backup catcher because they were happy with Recker. However, having some depth at a crucial position is important.
Teagarden and Recker will compete with one another for a 25-man roster spot. New York inked Teagarden to a minor league deal mainly because of his home run potential at the plate.
Once a top prospect in the Texas Rangers’ organization, Teagarden’s future in the big leagues didn’t work out the way people were hoping it would. In his last two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, he’s appeared in 45 games, putting together a .162/.203/.308 line.
Unless he tears the cover off the ball in Port St. Lucie, he’ll likely get a ticket to Triple-A with Juan Centeno to start the year with the Las Vegas 51s. It seems as if Teagarden will likely be insurance at the catcher position if someone goes down with an injury in the big leagues.
Once Kevin Plawecki is ready to make the jump from Double-A to Triple-A, it would be surprising to still see Teagarden with the organization.
2014 projection: .200/.250/.340, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4 2B, 5 R
After an up-and-down season in 2013, Jonathon Niese is looking forward to repeating the success of the career year he put together in 2012.
It was a tale of two halves last season for Niese—he went 3-6 with a 4.32 ERA prior to a stint on the disabled list but finished strong after the All-Star game, posting a 5-2 record with a 3.00 ERA.
Since his debut in 2008, Niese has become increasingly more confident in throwing all four of his pitches in big situations. The southpaw currently has a fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup in his repertoire.
As he’s gained experience, Niese has thrown his fastball less often, decreasing from 63.3 percent of the time in 2008 to just 48.6 percent in 2013. He’s been relying more heavily on his cutter to get ahead in the count, while mixing in his curveball as more of an out pitch. He’s continuing to gain confidence in his changeup, having thrown it 8.8 percent of the time last season, up five percent from 2012.
Niese is entering his age-27 season and hopes to stay healthy so he can put together another year like he did in ’12. With Matt Harvey on the sidelines, this is Niese’s chance to prove he can also be relied upon as a consistent contributor to the rotation.
2014 projection: 14-8 record, 3.50 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 144 Ks, 52 BBs, 185 IP
Signing a 40-year-old Bartolo Colon to a two-year contract worth $20 million is a risky move by Sandy Alderson, but one he felt was needed. With the amount of pitching prospects in New York’s system, they only need a veteran like Colon for two years.
That’s why they didn’t go after Matt Garza, Ervin Santana or even Ubaldo Jimenez. These guys will be looking for a contract in the neighborhood of four or five years. (Garza just received a four-year deal from the Brewers.) The Mets simply didn’t need a free-agent starter for that long.
Despite serving a PED-related suspension while with the Oakland Athletics in 2012, Colon has been consistent since missing the entire 2010 season. The big right-hander hasn’t started less than 24 games in each of those years.
He proved to be a workhorse in Oakland, which is exactly what the Mets wanted in filling the hole left by Harvey’s absence. In 190.1 innings last season, Colon posted an 18-6 record with a 2.65 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.
Throughout his career, Colon has challenged hitters with his fastball, throwing it 80.2 percent of the time. He mixes in a slider and a changeup on occasion, but for the most part, he’s coming right after hitters.
With an average fastball velocity of 89.9 miles per hour in 2013, control is the key to Colon’s success. He’s been successful over the last three seasons because he’s allowed just 1.67 walks per nine innings.
2014 projection: 13-9 record, 3.30 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 130 Ks, 33 BBs, 180 IP
The first two months of the 2013 season couldn’t have started much worse for Dillon Gee. Coming off missing the second half of 2012 with a blood clot in his throwing shoulder, the righty started the year with a 3-6 record and an ERA close to 6.00.
A stellar start in the Bronx against the New York Yankees put Gee on track for the rest of the year where he threw 7.1 spectacular innings, allowing four hits, one run and a career-high 12 strikeouts. By the end of the year, Gee had put together his best overall performance with a 12-11 record and 3.62 ERA and actually led the staff in wins.
Gee has four pitches to work with while on the mound: a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. Throughout his career, he’s favored his fastball and changeup more but used his slider a career-high 18.3 percent of the time in 2013. He threw his fastball 53.8 percent of the time, the first time in his career the frequency has increased from one year to the next.
In my last assessment of the Mets’ pitching staff heading into 2014, a commenter mentioned that my projections for Gee looked a little low. After some thought, I did shortchange the right-hander a bit given his potential and what he showed last season.
2014 projection: 15-8 record, 3.55 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 164 Ks, 54 BBs, 210 IP
Since he took a similar path to the big leagues as Harvey, it’s inevitable that people hope Zack Wheeler can continue following that same path in his first full big league season.
Fans have been waiting for Wheeler since Alderson traded Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants prior to the 2011 non-waiver trade deadline. The right-hander put together a solid showing in 2013 with a 7-5 record and 3.42 ERA in 100 innings of work.
Wheeler has an easy delivery that brings a mid-90s fastball to the plate, along with a slider, curveball and developing changeup. During those 100 big league innings, the righty threw his fastball 71.1 percent of the time. With a 4.1 BB/9 rate, he found himself behind in the count more than he would have liked, needing his fastball more than normal.
As he settles into his routine with the Mets, it’s clear the ability and confidence is there for Wheeler to become a front-end starter. Now that he’s got a taste of what the big leagues are like, it will be easier for him to calm his nerves and keep his delivery consistent.
The only thing that can stop Wheeler from being successful will be himself—he’s not afraid to come after hitters in big spots, holding them to a .208/.317/.275 line with men on base. If he can establish his fastball and get ahead in counts enough to utilize his secondary pitches more, he’ll have a successful 2014 season.
2014 projection: 14-7 record, 3.55 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 185 Ks, 65 BBs, 200 IP
The fifth spot in the rotation will be an interesting competition to watch in Port St. Lucie next month. It looks like the Mets want to hand Jenrry Mejia the job, but they’re certainly motivating him by bringing Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan in on minor league deals.
Mejia is a forgotten prospect at times because of how he was misused in recent years. He was constantly being switched between the starting rotation and the bullpen. This indecisiveness led to the young right-hander needing Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss the 2011 season.
He made his way back to the majors in 2012, but he continued struggling with his command. His 2013 season was cut short due to bone chips in his throwing elbow, but Mejia looked like the top prospect he once was. In 27.1 innings pitched, he posted a 1-2 record with a 2.30 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.
Mejia is predominantly a fastball/slider pitcher but also uses his changeup on occasion. He has a curveball in his arsenal, but the slider was very effective and had a lot of bite in his short time on the mound last season.
New York is hoping for Mejia to finally come into his own and grab this last spot in the rotation, but there are plenty of unknowns. It will soon be found out whether or not he can replicate the 8.89 K/9 and 1.32 BB/9 rates over an extended period of time. He also hasn’t thrown more than 108.2 innings in a single season during his professional career.
Entering his age-24 season, this is the perfect opportunity to show the Mets he can be a critical piece to the future in Flushing.
2014 projection: 7-5 record, 3.40 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 116 Ks, 46 BBs, 140 IP
Acquiring John Lannan was a great depth signing by the Mets for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, he’s a left-handed starting pitcher. When it comes to the upper minor leagues, New York has no legitimate southpaw starters to choose from, outside of Darin Gorski.
He’s a predominant fastball/changeup pitcher, which will play better in the more spacious confines of Citi Field than it did last season at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Also, he’s a New York native—originally from Long Beach and a graduate of Chaminade High School.
The Mets are hoping being near his hometown will help revive his career on the mound after posting a 5.33 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 74.1 innings last season for the Philadelphia Phillies.
In addition to his fastball and changeup, Lannan does have a slider and curveball, each of which he threw nearly 10 percent of the time in 2013.
He’s entering his age-29 season, should still have plenty left in the tank and has something to prove to the rest of the league. Outside of the pitching prospects, he’ll probably get plenty of opportunities in the big leagues if any of the incumbent starters get injured.
2014 projection: 3-5 record, 4.15 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 26 Ks, 18 BBs, 50 IP
The start of Daisuke Matsuzaka’s Mets career late last season did not go very well—he allowed 15 runs and 19 hits through his first 12.1 innings of work (three starts). It finished a lot better over his final four starts, allowing four runs on 13 hits and nine walks. He won three out of those four starts.
Dice-K credits his drastic turnaround to Dan Warthen, who found a mechanical flaw. The revival was enough to convince him to compete for that fifth spot in the rotation in Port St. Lucie.
The biggest issue with Dice-K is getting the ball over the plate on a consistent basis. While his 3.72 BB/9 and 61.5 percent first-strike rate weren't the best, they were actually the best they’ve been since he broke into the majors with the Boston Red Sox in 2007.
If everything goes the way the Mets would like, Matsuzaka won’t be throwing many innings in the majors for the “Amazins” in 2014.
2014 projection: 1-2 record, 4.30 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 16 Ks, 8 BBs, 20 IP
Signed prior to 2013 as depth for the Triple-A rotation, Carlos Torres ended up showing what he could bring to the table and that he could be a valuable arm in the major leagues.
After throwing back-to-back shutouts for the Las Vegas 51s and being named Pacific Coast League pitcher of the week on June 10, the opt-out clause in his contract was fast approaching. Instead of letting him sign with another team, the Mets promoted him.
In 33 appearances (nine starts) for New York, Torres went 4-6 with a 3.44 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He filled the role as long reliever and spot starter very well—which was a role Jeremy Hefner occupied in 2012.
Torres is mainly a fastball pitcher, throwing his cutter most often (44.8 percent of the time). The increased use of this pitch led to a career-high 67.9 percent first-strike rate, as well as a 9.9 percent swinging-strike rate (also a career best).
2014 projection: 3-6 record, 3.60 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 58 Ks, 17 BBs, 75 IP
Scott Rice emerged out of nowhere as a dependable southpaw reliever for Terry Collins. It took him 14 seasons to get to the big leagues, and he took full advantage of it by appearing in 73 games, posting a 3.71 ERA and 1.35 WHIP.
Rice is predominantly a fastball/slider pitcher, seeing a lot of his appearances falling in the seventh and eighth inning in 2013. Collins usually brought him into the ballgame against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .174/.244/.223 line in 138 plate appearances. He also generated a 13.9 percent swinging-strike rate.
Heading into this season, it looks as if Rice has solidified his spot in the bullpen as one of the two left-handed relievers to head to Flushing for Opening Day on March 31.
2014 projection: 2-5 record, 3.75 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 55 Ks, 28 BBs, 65 IP
Josh Edgin is hoping to cement himself as the other left-hander in the bullpen that Collins can pair with Rice. Edgin’s 2013 season started off very rocky—he put together a 9.64 ERA in his first 11 appearances, which found him in Double-A trying to figure things out.
He eventually returned to the big leagues and was very effective (1.29 ERA in June, 0.73 ERA in July). However, a hairline fracture in one of his left ribs put him on the disabled list, putting a premature end to his year. Edgin finished the year with 28.2 innings pitched and a 3.77 ERA.
Similar to his lefty counterpart, Edgin also uses a combination of fastball and slider to get hitters out. He differs from Rice in the fact that he throws a little harder (92.7 average fastball velocity) and can strike hitters out at a higher frequency.
2014 projection: 3-3 record, 4.20 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 42 Ks, 19 BBs, 55 IP
Jeurys Familia is in the same category as Jenrry Mejia because with the depth of pitching arms in the minor leagues, he can be forgotten at times. He spent most of his time in the minor leagues as a starting pitcher, but he has been making the transition to being a full-time reliever in the bigs.
Familia’s 2013 season was an abbreviated one because of injury—he only threw 10.2 innings over nine appearances, compiling a 4.22 ERA and 1.96 WHIP. With a mid-90s fastball at his disposal, the young righty has used this pitch the most often in his short major league career (77.1 percent of the time).
He complements his fastball with a slider that throws a hitter’s timing off at the plate since it comes in at around 83 mph—nearly a 12 mph difference in speed. The biggest issue Familia will have to rectify to be a successful big league pitcher is his control. He’s only thrown 23 innings in the majors but owns a 7.0 BB/9 rate.
His BB/9 rate in the minors wasn’t much better at 3.9, but he had more time as a starting pitcher to harness his control. As a reliever, it’s crucial for him to come right into a ballgame and attack the strike zone, especially with the type of fastball he has.
2014 projection: 4-3 record, 4.05 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 50 Ks, 23 BBs, 55 IP
Gonzalez Germen is another young and exciting arm that debuted in the Mets bullpen last season. Injuries and ineffectiveness led to him making 29 appearances in the big leagues, but it allowed New York to get a glimpse at what the 26-year-old Dominican can bring to the table.
In 34.1 innings of work in 2013, Germen posted a 8.7 K/9 rate by using both his fastball and changeup the majority of the time. That led to a 41.9 percent fly-ball rate, and in a stadium like Citi Field, just 2.4 percent of those turned into home runs. He also mixes in a slider on occasion to change the eye level of hitters.
Germen’s 4.2 BB/9 rate last season suggests he has control issues, but his minor league resume shows he has the ability to adjust. In each of his stops at the Mets affiliates, he never posted a BB/9 higher than 2.6. So, if he’s given the innings, he’ll get the ball over the plate more often.
2014 projection: 2-4 record, 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 42 Ks, 20 BBs, 50 IP
In his short time with the Mets following their acquisition of him from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Vic Black displayed a powerful combination of a mid-90s fastball and low-80s curveball.
He only has 18 big league appearances under his belt, but New York is hoping he turns into a solid set-up man in front of Bobby Parnell. Mike Petriello of FanGraphs thinks he could even be a closer waiting for the right opportunity to break out.
Through 13 innings of work with the Mets in 2013, Black put together a 3.46 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 12 strikeouts. Again, this is a very small sample size, but he posted a decent 2.8 BB/9 (for being a rookie) and a 9.8 percent swinging-strike rate.
Black’s potential to be a valuable piece in the bullpen is clear to see. He could eventually convince the Mets that Parnell is expendable, or another team will covet his services as their closer.
2014 projection: 3-5 record, 3.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 55 Ks, 23 BBs, 60 IP
Bobby Parnell has fully recovered from his September neck surgery and is already working out in Port St. Lucie, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. When Frank Francisco proclaimed he was too hurt to pitch last spring, Parnell stepped in and did a great job as the team’s closer.
For the second straight season, Parnell posted a ground-ball/fly-ball ratio greater than two, while also putting together a 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 22 saves in 50 innings of work. Through his first four years in the big leagues, the righty used a fastball/slider combination that gave him mixed results. He switched his breaking ball to a knuckle curve in 2012, which made a huge difference.
Slowing down his secondary pitch even more from his mid-90s fastball has kept hitters off balance. He also now has the confidence to throw it more often than ever before (26.6 percent in 2013). As Parnell matures as a pitcher, he eventually realized that how hard he could throw his fastball wasn’t as important as where he was throwing it over the plate.
His 64.7 percent first-pitch strike rate was the highest it’s been since his rookie season in 2008 (68.4 percent). Getting ahead in the count has allowed him to minimize his walks and create less eventful ninth innings in save situations.
2014 projection: 3-6 record, 2.30 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 35 saves, 58 Ks, 18 BBs, 65 IP
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