In the first volume of this tandem I finished up with the Mets' position battle in center field (Gary Matthews Jr., Angel Pagan and Fernando Martinez). Before I move on to the final five roster spots, to get you up to speed, here's the link to Volume I:
Position Battle No. 3
No. 5 starter: Jon Niese, Nelson Figueroa, Fernando Nieve, Hisanori Takahashi, and Pat Misch.
Manuel's been pushing Niese since the get-go, and the young lefty recently received high praise from starting catcher Rod Barajas, making him first in line for the job. I don't have a problem with Niese getting a shot at a full season, especially in the no-pressure No. 5 slot, but John Maine is a problem in the four-spot.
If Niese is close to a lock, the Mets have to find a place for Figueroa. The crafty, veteran right-hander is out of options and if waived, would certainly be signed by another club. Figueroa is a pitcher who has clearly improved with age, something like a righty Jamie Moyer. He had an outstanding strikeout-to-walk ratio in '09.
Maine wore out his welcome with me when he complained about being uncomfortable out of the bullpen in a preseason game. You have to be kidding me. Instead of saying, "I stunk. I had nothing," he blamed the coaching staff for putting him in an unfamiliar situation.
What a joke. If I were a decision-maker in the organization I would have immediately cut him after his childish whining. Between his injuries and severe issues with walks, it's not like Maine has proven much during his tenure with the Mets.
My guess: Maine is the 4th starter, Niese 5th (making him the 21st player on the roster). Figueroa gets waived and signed by another eager team.
What I would do: Make up an injury for Maine and put him on the DL (or demote him to AAA if he has options), make Figueroa the 4th starter and Niese 5th.
Position Battle No. 4
Second lefty reliever: Takahashi or Misch.
Both have been outstanding in the preseason. Stuff wise, Takahashi is obviously the better pitcher; he has excellent command of an 88-90 MPH fastball, a plus change-up, and an effective curve.
Misch, on the other hand, has been getting lucky. He had a 10.80 ERA with the San Francisco Giants before the Mets picked him up last year, and he's consistently 86-88 with his fastball -- often at the lower end. He has a change-up and curve like Takahashi, but neither are as effective because of his sub-par fastball velocity.
To Misch's credit, he's been finding a way to get people out. He has Manuel's support as well.
My guess: Misch gets the nod (making him the 22nd player on the roster) because he caught Manuel's eye at the end of last season. Takahashi goes to AAA.
What I would do: Keep Takahashi and demote Misch because the former has a better chance to contribute over time. Misch is simply riding a hot streak.
The Bubble Guys
IF Russ Adams (hitting .533), 1B Ike Davis, OF Fernando Martinez, SS Ruben Tejada, 1B Chris Carter, C Omir Santos, 1B Mike Jacobs, OF Frank Catalanotto, RHP Nieve, RHP Figueroa, LHP Takahashi, RHP Kiko Calero, and RHP Jenrry Mejia (top prospect, showcasing filthy stuff in the preseason).
My guess: Nieve (23rd man) gets the last spot in the bullpen because he's out of club options. Jacobs (24th man) hangs around as a power-hitting pinch hitter, if he's not traded. Tejada (last roster spot) is the only rookie to make the team because of the necessity for a second shortstop with Reyes sidelined.
What I would do: Give all the young guys their shot. The Mets only won 70 games in 2009; they have nothing to lose this year. That means Davis, Carter, Tejada, Martinez, and Mejia all make my team.
Try to trade any combination of Francoeur, Matthews, Jacobs, and Maine. Demote Igarashi and Green in favor of Mejia and Calero.
As you can see, I essentially believe that the Mets will do the opposite of everything I'd like them to do with their opening day roster.
Projected Starters: 1B Murphy, 2B Castillo, 3B Wright, SS Cora, C Barajas, RF Francoeur, CF Matthews Jr., and LF Bay.
My Preference: 1B Davis, 2B Castillo, 3B Wright, SS Tejada, C Barajas, RF Martinez, CF Pagan, and LF Bay.
Well, what can I say?
I hope I'm wrong, that's about it.
(John Frascella is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land," the first and only book centered on Boston's GM Theo Epstein. Check it out on Amazon or follow John's Twitter @RedSoxAuthor).