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5 Player Projections for the 2014 New York Mets

Michael MandelkernContributor IIIMarch 20, 2014

5 Player Projections for the 2014 New York Mets

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    Terry Collins, center, manager of the New York Mets
    Terry Collins, center, manager of the New York MetsJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    What position is more of a black hole, shortstop or first base? These are the kinds of debates New York Mets fans have about the 2014 season.

    Opening Day is less than two weeks away and Ruben Tejada is still projected to be the starting shortstop. I wrote projections of 12 players on my blog metsonmymind.wordpress.com in January and readjusted it to reflect the current state of the Mets. I narrowed down the list to five players.

    The battle for first base between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda was supposed to be contentious. Davis and Duda have only had a combined 13 spring training at-bats due to nagging injuries. From mishaps moving furniture to valley fever, the ailments continue for them. Their readiness for Opening Day is to be determined. (I did not include their projections because their roles are not certain, but I featured them in my original list).

    The more compelling competition is between Juan Lagares or Eric Young Jr. for the third outfield spot. Lagares is hitting for higher average, getting on base more and playing better defense than Young Jr. Manager Terry Collins still has faith that Young can be a prototypical leadoff hitter.

    Some believe Curtis Granderson will be another Jason Bay while others are optimistic about the three-time All-Star.

    Many players on the roster have not played one full season in the majors going into 2014. David Wright has thrived throughout his career, but predicting performances based on a small sample size is difficult.

    Minor league statistics must be taken with a grain of salt. Many fans argue that spring training has zero importance, yet players get scrutinized and praised for their play in March.

    As if the uncertainty at shortstop and first base is not enough of a headache for the Mets, the projected Opening Day starter Jonathon Niese had two MRIs in the past month.

    The following are predictions of Young, Lagares, Granderson, Niese and Tejada for the 2014 season. They are based on watching the 2013 season and past MLB performance.

     

     

Eric Young Jr.

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    Eric Young Jr., Mets outfielder, stepping to the plate.
    Eric Young Jr., Mets outfielder, stepping to the plate.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    .251/.319 /.343 with 2 HR and 23 RBI

     

    2013 is the most accurate evaluation of Young since he played 14 games shy of a full season. He got off to a hot start when the Colorado Rockies traded him to the Mets in June, but then he became an easy out for considerable stretches.

    Young is overeager at the plate and does not draw many walks. However, he posted OBPs of .342 and .377 in 2011 and 2012, respectively, as a part-time player. He has virtually no pop, however, and his peak RBI total came last season with 32.

    His main strength is his foot speed and base stealing ability. Young won the National League stolen base title in 2013 with 46 steals.

    Collins believes that Young is capable of a .350 OBP. Speed kills, but only if the runner is on base.

Juan Lagares

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    .252/.296/.353 with 7 HR and 46 RBI

     

    The above videos demonstrates why running on Lagares is not wise and displays his defensive prowess. The footage also shows some of his best swings. 

    Lagares would be in the lineup for his stellar glove and strong arm, but he may not be a complete liability on offense.

    He will be less of a burden at the bottom of the order if he can lay off pitches in the dirt and far outside of the strike zone. Lagares posted a below-adequate .242 batting average and .281 on-base percentage in 121 games last season.

    Although not a slugger, Lagares has opposite-field power. He is hitting .306 with a .359 OBP in 36 spring training at-bats, but just three walks. Lagares needs to improve his plate discipline to prove to Collins that he can contribute in the lineup.

    At 24 years old, he has plenty of time to grow. Lagares does not come close to Young Jr.’s speed, but he exceeds him in all facets of defense. If he makes significant improvements at the dish he could play in a Mets uniform for many years to come.

Curtis Granderson

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    .238/.343/.481 with 29 HR and 87 RBI

     

    The above video is of the two long home runs Granderson hit on March 4 in spring training against the Houston Astros.

    With the exception of 2011, Granderson’s batting average has dropped since 2009. He became pull happy on the New York Yankees and slugged 41 and 43 homers in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Two hit-by-pitch injuries, however, cut his 2013 season to just 61 games.

    Granderson is not injury prone; he played at least 136 games every season from 2005 to 2012. He will provide much-needed pop in the middle of the order to protect David Wright.

    The vast Citi Field might reduce his home run total, but the large gaps in the outfield will suit him well offensively. What would have been a long ball in the Bronx will turn into doubles and triples.

    He has nine strikeouts in 31 spring training at-bats, but three of his six hits are for extra bases. Expect power from him, but also a lot of swings and misses.

    If the hitters ahead of him set the table, Granderson will be cooking up plenty of rib eye steaks, as Keith Hernandez calls them.

Jonathon Niese

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    Jonathon Niese, starting pitcher, winding up for a pitch.
    Jonathon Niese, starting pitcher, winding up for a pitch.Associated Press

    21 starts, 3.93 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 98 strikeouts

     

    Niese’s career has been marred by inconsistency and injury.

    The lefty posted a 3.73 and 4.32 ERA prior to the All-Star Game in 2012 and 2013. Following the break, Niese had a 3.01 and 3.00 ERA in 2012 and 2013, respectively. He gave up 15 home runs prior to the 2012 All-Star break and 7 after it. Opponents hit .293 against him pre All-Star Game and .266 afterwards in 2013.

    Niese has only pitched four innings in spring training in which he gave up six earned runs on nine hits. His career WHIP since his first full season in 2010 has ranged from 1.40 to 1.46 with the exception of his 1.17 WHIP in 2012.

    He needed a cortisone injection on March 17 due to discomfort in his pitching elbow. Niese suffered a lower right leg contusion, left shoulder tendinitis and was placed on the 15-day disabled list for a partially torn left rotator cuff in 2013. Neither of his two MRIs in the past month revealed any serious injury, but his durability is in question.

    Niese is capable of pitching seven innings of one-run ball with little drama. But he has also gotten himself into trouble and crumbled, knocking himself out of ball games early.

    Since he is likely not ready for Opening Day, it is difficult to predict when he will be ready to pitch. Niese will struggle to find consistency if he cannot overcome soreness and fatigue.

Ruben Tejada

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    Ruben Tejada, shortstop, taking a swing.
    Ruben Tejada, shortstop, taking a swing.Associated Press

    .218/.286/.304 with 1 HR and 22 RBI

     

    Tejada’s regression last season was alarming. Hitting a lowly .202 with a .259 OBP in 2013, he could work counts but was an automatic out. Ultimately, he would ground out instead of drawing walks.

    As of March 19, Tejada is 3-for-25 in spring training with four errors and no signs of returning to his 2012 form. He never had tremendous range or power two seasons ago, but he at least made routine plays and hit for average.

    Tejada has never played more than 114 games in one season. He is injury prone, sometimes from trying to do too muchRelying on him to even play 120 games is irrational.

    He showed some promise in 2012, but Tejada was not sensational enough to buy himself this much time. With just two home runs and 86 RBI throughout his entire career, it would not be surprising if he does not hit a single home run in 2014.

     

    Voice your opinions in the comments section or tweet me @MMandelkern_BR.

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