New York Mets: Opening Day Question Marks
In 2011, Sandy Alderson and the Mets have a lot of question marks when it comes to the team’s opening day roster when they take against Josh Johnson and the Florida Marlins.
New York is in a bit of a rebuilding year in which expectations are not very high. There is probably more uncertainty going into this year than there has been before going into any other season in the past three years.
Other than David Wright, the Mets don’t know what they will get from the rest of the team. Right now, the rotation has questions, the bullpen is uncertain, second base is still up for grabs and the latest news on Beltran is a little concerning.
Wright will hit 25 home runs and drive in 100 runs, but what about everyone else?
The ace of the staff is out until at least late June, probably early July, but the Mets need someone to fill in for Johan Santana for the time being. The first question is whether or not Mike Pelfrey can do what he did the first half of last season when he went 10-2, with a 2.93 ERA. They will need him to be the ace of the staff, which we have seen him do for a short period of time.
As Pelfrey began to falter after the All-Star break last season, so did the Mets. The success of the Mets in 2011 hinges on whether Pelfrey can hold down the fort until Santana returns.
After Mike Pelfrey, there are more question marks in the rotation. The knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey had the best year of his career last year, but he will need to prove that it wasn’t a fluke. Teams now have tape of him and they just might have figured out Dickey and his dancing knuckler.
Next comes Jon Niese, who was solid, but not great last year. He will need to use his cutter and big curveball more in order to improve versus righties. The southpaw is still young and might have some bumps in the road this season.
Then there are perhaps the biggest question marks in the rotation when it comes to the number four and five starters. Both Chris Young and Chris Capuano are coming off injuries. Young underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery in 2009, and Capuano had a second Tommy John surgery in 2008. Young was an All-Star in 2007 and is a fly ball pitcher in the cavernous Citi Field. Capuano has had some good seasons in Milwaukee, and if both stay healthy, they can win some games for the Mets this season.
This offseason, the Mets decided to part ways with Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi, two very important members of last year’s bullpen.
Takahashi was a versatile reliever who started games, pitched in middle-relief, was a long man and even saved a few games. Feliciano was a lefty specialist and appeared in 92 games last season. He was paid to get out Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Brian McCann and other dangerous lefties in the NL East, and did an exceptional job. The question is who will replace Takahashi, and who will be brought in to face these tough left-handed hitters this season? The only two lefties who have a shot at making the team are Tim Byrdak and Pat Misch.
It is almost certain that Taylor Buchholz and D.J. Carrasco will be in the bullpen, as both were signed to major league contracts in the offseason. Buchholz is another pitcher coming off injury and can be a valuable asset to the team if he remains healthy.
Francisco Rodriguez missed the end of last season after he injured his thumb in a fight with his girlfriend’s father. He was a bit erratic last season, and he must also prove that he is still a top five closer in the league.
Also in the mix are Bobby Parnell, Blaine Boyer and Rule V draft-pick Pedro Beato from the Orioles. There is still a competition for a few spots in the bullpen which is unusual given the fact that the season starts in two weeks.
With Luis Castillo gone, the competition for a starting second base job in Port St. Lucie is now down to five players.
Halfway done with spring training, second base is still up for grabs. No one has really stood out. Brad Emaus is probably the most balanced player and is a Rule V pick from the Blue Jays. This might play a factor in Terry Collins’ decision because if Emaus is not on the major league roster, the Mets must send him back to Toronto.
While he might be a liability in the field, everybody knows that Daniel Murphy can hit, but if Collins puts him at second, can he turn a double play?
Other options at second base include Luis Hernandez, Justin Turner and Chin-lung Hu. Opening day is drawing near, but Mets fans still don’t know who will be at second base.
It took a great deal of pride for Carlos Beltran to admit he can no longer play center field. After making the switch to right, he has suffered from tendonitis in his knee. The worrying part is that this is not the knee that was operated on last season.
His status for opening day is up in the air, and if he can’t compete, the Mets face even more questions. A trip to the DL would open the door for guys like Scott Hairston, Willie Harris and Lucas Duda.
Just when the Mets thought their outfield would consist of Jason Bay, Angel Pagan and Carlos Beltran, this might not be an option if Beltran can’t go.
Food for Thought
Jason Bay is healthy this season, but will that necessarily result in him playing like the Jason Bay of the Pirates and Red Sox?
Also, there is the sophomore slump. Ike Davis burst onto the scene last year, hitting 19 homeruns as a rookie. He needs to avoid the dreaded slump and continue where he left off in 2010 if he wants to take another step forward.
All of these questions do not necessarily mean that the Mets will have another bad year. In baseball, you just never know what is going to happen next.