While the season is still young, the New York Mets have had a number of surprising starts as well as some disappointing ones from key players.
The Mets are currently sitting one game under .500 13 games into the season. The surprising starts by some of their key players could help them break past the .500-level plateau. However, they will also need players off to disappointing starts to turn their seasons around if they want to compete moving forward.
As with any article discussing players’ performances this early in the season, it is important to remember that it is analyzing a very small sample size and that things could change quickly for any of these players.
I have not included players such as Ruben Tejada here, as he has played poorly but came into the season with low expectations. I have also not included any of the Mets’ starting pitchers, as they have either been relatively solid or met expectations outside of occasional poor starts.
Surprise: Lucas Duda
Since being named the Mets’ starting first baseman in the early stages of the season, Lucas Duda has shined at the plate.
Duda’s best quality throughout his career has been his ability to draw walks, but this has also been a source of criticism, as many believe he has needed to be more aggressive at the plate. Thus far this season, Duda has still exhibited patience, but he has attacked pitches he can drive, exhibited by how he has as many walks as home runs in the early going (three).
Duda has also been criticized for not being clutch in the past. Last season he hit 15 home runs in 100 games but only drove in 33 runs. While this criticism has been largely unfair, Duda has begun to quiet doubters by already driving in seven runs in the first 13 games of the season.
Duda’s 13 strikeouts in 36 at-bats so far is concerning, but his approach is noticeably improved, as the spray chart below indicates.
Strikeouts often come with working deep counts (as Duda does often), and while Duda will always be more aggressive to the pull side, the chart exhibits how he has implemented an approach directed at driving the ball to all fields.
Duda's start has been a great sign for the Mets, as they will need his power in the middle of their lineup if they want to have any chance of competing this season.
Disappointment: Curtis Granderson
Curtis Granderson has failed to live up to the expectations of his free-agent contract since moving across town to Queens.
Through 13 games, he is hitting .170 while slugging just .319. Granderson will never be a high-average hitter, but he needs to start hitting for power to have any value.
The sample so far isn’t big enough to be overly concerned yet. However, crashing into the fence Monday night in Arizona can’t help him moving forward, as he was noticeably affected at the plate:
He ended up leaving the game, and although the X-rays were negative, manager Terry Collins said that Granderson’s entire left side was sore. For a player already struggling, that is disappointing news moving forward.
Granderson has a track record of success so fans should remain patient, but his lack of power or consistency playing outside of Yankee Stadium is concerning.
Surprise: Juan Lagares
Juan Lagares’ offensive start in 2014 has been one of the Mets’ biggest early-season surprises.
Lagares built his reputation last season as a defensive wizard in center field, but so far in 2014 he has hit extraordinarily well. Through 51 at-bats, he is hitting .314 with five extra-base hits.
Beyond the numbers, his approach at the plate has been impressive, as his spray chart below exhibits his use of the whole field while hitting.
If Lagares can maintain this level of performance throughout the season, he will be a first-division caliber player. However, after straining his hamstring Monday night in Arizona, there is reason to be concerned. If the injury is at all serious, it immediately becomes the Mets' biggest early-season disappointment.
Disappointment: Travis d’Arnaud
Travis d’Arnaud’s start to the season has been one of the Mets’ bigger early-season disappointments, as he failed to get a hit in the team’s first five games of the year.
While the first five games have clearly taken a toll on d’Arnaud’s overall batting average, he has shown signs of improving at the plate, as I tweeted:
D’Arnaud has also recorded at least one hit in six of the seven games since his hitless start to the season.
While he is still hitting just .162 so far, d’Arnaud should be fine in the long term. The most important thing for him will always be staying healthy, and the fact that he has remained healthy in 2014 is good news for the Mets.
Surprise: Veteran Relievers
The Mets bullpen looked like it was in for a rough season following spring training, but after some early poor outings, a number of older pitchers have done surprisingly well.
Carlos Torres was solid in 2013 for the Mets but has been even better in the early stages of this season. In 8.2 innings, he has struck out 11 while holding a 2.08 ERA, solidifying himself as a key member of the bullpen.
Jose Valverde pitched poorly during his blown save in Los Angeles, during which he gave up three runs and blew the save. Outside of that one appearance, he has given up zero runs, and the Mets could not have asked for more from him thus far.
Kyle Farnsworth has also exceeded expectations this season with his 1.59 ERA. The most surprising aspect of his start has been his velocity, which was barely touching 90 miles per hour during the spring but last week got as high as 96.
The Mets’ bullpen is still one of the team’s biggest question marks, but the performances by the veteran relievers early in the season have been a great surprise.
Disappointment: David Wright
David Wright’s start to the season has been far from ideal, as he is supposed to be the Mets’ most consistent force. He has just two extra-base hits and is hitting a meager .231 through 52 at-bats.
While Wright has been disappointing so far, he should be the last of the Mets' worries. His .268 BABIP indicates that he has been unlucky with the balls he’s put in play and means his average should increase once the ball starts dropping his way.
When Wright has struggled in the past it has been because he gets pull-happy and stops using the whole field. His spray chart below shows that this isn’t necessarily the case right now.
While he has been rolling over on grounders, he has still been using the whole field. Wright should be fine for the rest of the season as long he doesn’t get too concerned about his numbers, as he has been unlucky more than bad so far in 2014.