Before the regular season even starts, should the New York Mets be alarmed? The questions surrounding their pitching staff as well as the lack of depth behind their lineup are sure to hinder any chance they have at winning the N.L. East.
General Manager Omar Minaya stayed relatively quiet this offseason adding outfielder Jason Bay but neglecting the Mets’ depth and pitching problems, leaving them with a weak rotation and a scant bench.
Between Jose Reyes’ mysterious thyroid problem and Carlos Beltran being out until May while he recovers from knee service, the core of the Mets team is slowly crumbling as opening day approaches.
Johan Santana’s much anticipated return from elbow surgery didn’t quite go as planned as he couldn’t make it out of the second inning against the Astros, and the rest of the rotation isn’t looking stellar either.
Besides Santana, the rest of the Mets’ rotation includes none other than Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, John Maine and a fifth starter to be named. This has to be one of the top five most unreliable rotations in the league.
Pelfrey, a former ninth overall pick, has been up and down in his four year career amassing a 28-32 record with a 4.58 ERA, and has not fulfilled his potential.
Perez is notoriously inconsistent as a starter, with control problems being at the root of his struggles. John Maine has been solid in the past, but after arm fatigue set in on him last year he had a tough time making it through five innings in most outings.
The battle for the fifth spot in the rotation between Fernando Nieve and Jon Niese hasn’t yielded any stunning performances and the consensus is that they’ll leave Niese to develop more in AAA while Nieve rounds out the rotation.
The bullpen is solid with Francisco Rodriguez closing games, as long as he can stay healthy. Although even if he is healthy it remains to be seen if he can return to the dominant form he displayed in Anaheim.
Veteran Kelvim Escobar gives them a decent reliever while prospect Jenrry Mejia has impressed coaches in spring training and may be given a shot to start the year in the bullpen.
Beyond those three the bullpen candidates consist of Sean Green, Ryota Igarashi and Bobby Parnell; a below average group of relievers. Pedro Feliciano is also in the mix and is effective, especially against lefties, but he is at risk of being overused and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sidelined with arm troubles.
The Mets pitching questions heavily outweigh the ones surrounding the lineup, but that doesn’t mean the lineup is in great shape.
Reyes and Beltran are injured and their starting catcher will most likely be veteran journeyman Rod Barajas or the unspectacular Omir Santos. Also, fan favorite and homegrown talent Daniel Murphy doesn’t seem to be the answer at first base.
Fortunately prospect Ike Davis is the answer, but they likely will keep him in the minors for another season, or at least part of this one. The aging Alex Cora looks like the replacement for Reyes, and doesn’t have the tools to make up for Reyes’ absence in any aspect.
On a brighter note, the outfield looks good and might prove to be the Mets strongest area. Jason Bay, the big offseason acquisition, provides a much needed true power threat, and Jeff Francoeur seems poised to return to his rookie of the year form if he can just cut down on the strikeouts.
While Beltran is out, Gary Matthews Jr. will most likely fill in assuming he beats out Angel Pagan. A platoon of the two of them could give the Mets enough to compensate for at least the defense and speed they are missing with Beltran absent.
Luis Castillo performed well last year except for a certain fielding error against the Yankees and David Wright sounds very determined come back strong after a dismal season.
Unfortunately for the Mets, even if Wright, Bay and Francoeur are hitting well they still don’t have the depth to fill in for their injured players and compete in the tough N.L. East.
Their lack of quality arms in the rotation and bullpen is a large obstacle that needs to be overcome either through trades or the farm system for them to make a run this year.
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