New York Mets: 2011 MLB Season Preview

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New York Mets: 2011 MLB Season Preview
Marc Serota/Getty Images

NEW YORK METS

Last Year: 79-83, 4th in NL East  

Manager: Terry Collins 

PROJECTED LINEUP 

C- Josh Thole (L) 

1B- Ike Davis (L)

2B- Brad Emaus (R)

3B- David Wright (R) 

SS- Jose Reyes (S)

LF- Jason Bay (R)

CF- Angel Pagan (S)

RF- Carlos Beltran (S)

The Mets' offense was in the bottom 10 of most major hitting categories in 2010 because of injuries and poor performances from veterans. This lineup revolves around David Wright and Jose Reyes. Wright has one of the best combinations of power, average, OBP and speed in the game, but he is prone to strikeouts. These strikeout streaks led to fluctuating hot and cold streaks, but Wright is the safest bet in the lineup. He should produce a line of .290/.380/.510 with 25-30 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Reyes has been hampered by leg injuries that have taken away some of his SB numbers, but if he is healthy he will produce. Reyes should hit approximately 12 home runs and 35 stolen bases with a line of .275/.330/.430.

Brad Eamus, a rule five pick, will be the regular second baseman. He has some power in his bat, and should hit .260 with 10 home runs, if he plays for most of the season. Ike Davis has the ability to be a 30 HR type of hitter, but his power should stay in the mid 20's this year. Davis will improve on his average, and his OBP is one of the stronger parts of his game.

Josh Thole will be in the lineup against righties and bat in the lower half of the lineup. Thole has minimal power and should put five home runs with a .280/.350/.380 line. The offensive production of the outfield is one of the key factors that should determine where the Mets finish in the division, and Jason Bay is the key in the outfield (See KEY PLAYER section).

Angel Pagan had a great season in 2010, and I see him being one of the bright spots in this lineup in the No. 2 hole. Watch for Pagan to put up 10 home runs and 30 stolen bases with a similar 2010 .290/.340/.420 line.

Carlos Beltran will bat cleanup in the in the order, but Beltran isn't the same player after his 2009 knee surgery. His knee has already been a problem during Spring Training, and it is unclear how often he can play. If Beltran somehow gets 500 at-bats, I see him hitting 17 home runs with a .270/.358/.470 line and getting dealt to a contender. 

The Mets' defense had a solid year in 2010 ranking 12th in UZR. However, that number is due in part to the poorer defenders being hurt and replaced with reserves who could play the field. The left side of the infield did struggle with range since the move to Citi Field. David Wright has had a negative 10 UZR rating over the last two seasons at 3B. Jose Reyes has struggled with the same problems over the last two seasons, and has had a -5 UZR rating.

Ike Davis is the infield's best defender and has the second best UZR rate among major league first basemen. Josh Thole is a good receiver behind the plate, and has a positive percentage throwing out would-be basestealers. Angel Pagan is an exceptional outfielder, and the Mets made the right decision to shift Pagan to CF after Beltran struggled there in 2010. Jason Bay is below average in LF, but he isn't as bad as some report. 

BENCH

IF/OF- Willie Harris (L)

IF-Chin-lung Hu (R) 

OF- Scott Hairston (R) 

C- Mike Nickeas (R) 

IF- Daniel Murphy (L) 

STARTING ROTATION

RHP- Mike Pelfrey 

LHP- Jon Niese 

RHP- RA Dickey  

RHP- Chris Young 

LHP- Chris Capuano 

LHP- Johan Santana (Recovering from shoulder surgery due back in second half of season) 

The Mets' pitching staff put up good numbers in 2010, but this unit will take will be a weakness for this club in 2011. The Mets are going to be without their best pitcher for most of the season. Johan Santana won't be back in the rotation until July at the earliest, and there has been speculation that he might not pitch at all this year.

Mike Pelfrey becomes the ace of the staff after having a nice season in 2010. Pelfrey pitched better after he started throwing a splitter and using his curveball more often to go along with his power sinker. He is a pitcher who will put up an ERA between 3.60 and 4.20 depending on how many batters Pelfrey can strand on the bases, but his low K/BB ratio will keep him from being a premier starter.

I liked what Jon Niese did in 2010 and his season could have been better with a lower BABIP.  Niese uses a mediocre fastball (89.7 MPH), a good cutter, a below average curveball and a change-up that allowed him to strikeout over 7 per 9 innings. Pitching in Citi Field should help again, and I expect an ERA around 3.90 with the same 7 K/9 innings and 3.20 BB/9 ratio. 

The latter half of the rotation should worry the Mets and the fans. RA Dickey had an amazing season as he fully committed to his knuckleball once he began commanding it. Dickey throws a harder knuckleball from Wakefield, averaging 75.9 MPH. These get more groundballs and decrease the amount of floating knuckleballs that lead to home runs. I can't say whether Dickey can repeat his 2010 performance, but at worst he will be a much-needed innings eater for this staff.

Chris Young, who has made 18 starts the last two years, will be the No. 4 pitcher in the rotation. First off, I don't see Young making more than 15 starts for this team. He has battled shoulder problems his entire career, and it is hard to believe that he will stay healthy this year. Secondly, Young's shoulder problems have dropped his velocity to 84.7 MPH. His height, delivery and off-speed stuff can create enough smoke and mirrors to have minor success in Citi Field, but I have no confidence in him being able to stay on the field long enough.

Chris Capuano is a soft-tossing lefty that will be the fifth starter for this rotation. Capuano can get enough strikeouts to be successful, but he has also had a hard time staying healthy over the last few years. 

BULLPEN

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

RHP- Francisco Rodriguez (Closer) 

RHP- Bobby Parnell 

RHP- DJ Carrasco 

RHP- Manny Acosta or RHP- Blaine Boyer  

LHP- Tim Byrdak  

RHP- Taylor Bucholtz 

RHP- Pedro Beato 

The Mets' bullpen looks destined to struggle in 2011 since most of the relievers have command issues. Francisco Rodriguez is still a good closer, but if he appears in 55 games this season, the Mets will have to pay a $17.5 million club option in 2012. The Mets don't need to spend that kind of money on a closer. I am also concerned about his velocity, but he is still the most valuable member of the bullpen.

I like the 94-97 MPH fastball Bobby Parnell brings out of the pen. Parnell had much better command in 2010, and he should make for one of the lone bright spots in this year's group.

Manny Acosta has very good stuff, but he will put too many runners on base because of his lack of command. I wouldn't trust him in a major setup role. Blaine Boyer is fighting with Acosta for that spot.  

DJ Carrasco isn't a terrible option to set up. He has a starter's repertoire, but he is more suited to be a swing man for this team. The Mets will miss having Pedro Feliciano as a lefty specialist. Terry Collins and Alderson have decided to go with Tim Byrdak as the primary lefty. He will put up a 8 K/9 ratio, but his BB rate should be somewhere close to five. I wouldn't let Byrdak face many right-handed batters. Taylor Bucholtz was an effective setup man for the Rockies in 2008, but I haven't liked where his velocity has been since coming back from Tommy John surgery this season. Pedro Beato, a rule five pick, will start the season with the club. He throws a low 90's sinking fastball, and a good slider. 

NOTABLE NON ROSTER INVITEES

RHP- Jason Isringhausen 

LHP- Taylor Tankersley 

LHP- Tim Byrdak

RHP- Boof Bonser 

RHP- Ryota Igarashi 

LHP- Michael O'Connor 

C- Raul Chavez (R)

IF/OF- Willie Harris (L)

KEY PLAYER- Jason Bay

Even before his season-ending concussion, Jason Bay was in the midst of his worst season since he became an everyday player. Bay was signed by the Mets to be an automatic 28-32 home run type of power hitter, but he only put up a .407 slugging percentage and hit six home runs in 400 at-bats. The Mets need Bay to return to his old power-hitting ways if they want to even think about competing in this division. I think Bay will get some of his power back and hit approximately 18 home runs, but I don't think he will put up the numbers he did with the Pirates and the Red Sox

PROSPECT TO WATCH- RHP Jenrry Meija 

Jenrry Meija appeared in 33 games for the Mets in 2010 coming mostly out of the bullpen. The Mets made the right move later in the year and converted him back into a starter. Meija will start 2011 in AAA, but I am sure he will get an opportunity to start in the majors this year. Young and Capuano are bound to spend time on the DL, and Meija will be one of the pitchers called on to help out this season. Meija throws a 95 MPH fastball with a good curve and change-up. He gets a ton of groundballs and enough strikeouts to be successful, but he does need to work on his command. 

PROJECTED FINISH- 5th in NL East

This season has the makings of a disaster for the New York Mets. The Madoff issue has hurt the Mets and their spending capabilities. The success of the offense depends on whether this aging team can stay healthy, and the bullpen lost a few key components. The loss of Johan Santana will hurt this team the most, and the rotation is full of questions. I have a feeling this season will be a disaster leaving the team fighting for fourth place. This core had its chances in 2006-2008 and it should be time to rebuild.

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