Ike Davis and David Wright, the corners of the New York Mets.
Fans often use the word “if” when discussing the 2014 New York Mets season. They have potential, but the team is made up of mainly young and unproven players. The two largest contracts, David Wright and Curtis Granderson, are key to the lineup, and top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler could be an ace. The most important players on the team would leave the biggest voids if they were not on the roster.
Imagine the Mets without Wright and Granderson. Who would play third base? Who is going to replace the long balls that Granderson is projected to launch? Significance to the team means long-term viability, a high ceiling and great expectations. Here is a list of the top five most important Mets players going into the 2014 MLB season.
Bobby Parnell winding up for a pitch.
The Mets bullpen has been bottom of the barrel in the majors over the past few years, but Bobby Parnell has emerged as a bright spot. He notched 22 saves last season with a 2.16 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched.
Parnell suffered a herniated disk last September, and if he does not recover from the injury this season the Mets do not have a proven closer. The Mets have Jose Valverde, but he is coming off an atrocious 2013. The Mets would otherwise have to mix and match in the ninth inning.
Juan Lagares is significant because of his sparkling center field defense. His glove and arm dazzled Mets fans last season, and if he can get on base and hit well enough to justify being an everyday player, Lagares can single-handedly control the opponent’s running game and turn extra-base hits into outs.
With Matt Harvey out recovering from major surgery this season, Bartolo Colon’s role is to eat innings and solidify the rotation. The Mets already have competition for the fifth rotation spot between unproven young starters and pitchers on minor league contracts hoping to revive their careers. Without Colon, the fourth and fifth rotation spots would both be questionable.
Ike Davis admiring a home run.
General manager Sandy Alderson tried to trade Davis and found little interest. It is time for Ike Davis to step up. First base is a crucial position and he has the potential to hit 30 home runs and drive in 90 runs; he did it in 2012.
If Davis breaks away from his horrendous 2013 season, he could join David Wright and Curtis Granderson to make a formidable 3-4-5 in the lineup. He could strike out and ground into double plays often, as he did last season, but he could also be the All-Star caliber first baseman he was for the second half of 2012.
The Mets are doubling down on him, and the lineup would significantly weaken if he ends up back in Triple-A Las Vegas.
Travis d'Arnaud getting ready to bat.
Catcher has been an anemic position for the Mets, and fans hope d’Arnaud lives up to the hype of being baseball’s top catching prospect going into 2014. He is applauded for his pitch framing ability, chemistry with pitchers and strong arm behind the plate.
His minor league career projects him as a contact hitter for both average and power, and since the Mets do not have a veteran backup catcher, all the weight is on d’Arnaud’s shoulders. The alternative would be a minor leaguer and another bleak year at catcher for the Mets.
Curtis Granderson's introduction to the New York Mets.
The Mets ranked 25th in the majors in home runs last season and 29th in slugging. They were starved for power, and fans are hoping that Granderson can provide pop in the middle of the order.
The former Bronx Bomber, who combined for 84 home runs between 2011 and 2012, hopes to keep knocking those home runs over the wall in Queens. The rest of the lineup is sparse in power.
General manager Sandy Alderson spent $60 million on Granderson in search of protection in the lineup for David Wright, something the Mets have been struggling to find for years. The Mets cannot afford for him to take up payroll space and not produce.
Zack Wheeler pitching against the San Francisco Giants.
Wheeler had a promising rookie season in 2013 with a 3.42 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 100 innings, but he still has adjustments to make. His command is shaky and he has struggled to go deep into games, but Wheeler is a raw talent with an electric fastball and an excellent ability to strand runners on base.
If Wheeler can lower his 1.36 WHIP from last season and 4.73 ERA at Citi Field, he will emerge as the ace this season. All eyes will be on Wheeler.
David Wright at the hot corner.
He is the face of the franchise and third in the batting order, unequivocally the core of the Mets. Wright is the most consistent hitter on the team and highly reliable to drive in a runner in scoring position.
The lineup suffered when a hamstring strain in August 2013 sent him to the disabled list until mid-September. The two-time Gold Glove winner also provides solid defense at the hot corner.
There would be a black hole at third base without the captain.
Follow me on Twitter @metsonmymind and check out my blog metsonmymind.wordpress.com. I love to talk Mets at all hours of the day and night.