5 New York Mets Whose Early Success Will Continue All Season
To almost everyone's surprise, the New York Mets have come out of the gates blazing, winning seven of their first 10 games, their best start since 2006.
They have gotten solid production out of their starting and relief pitching, and have been able to manifest runs in scoring situations.
It hasn't always been pretty, but the Mets are getting it done. It may be early, but several of the Mets' young players and veterans are stepping up, attempting to prove the doubters wrong.
Here are five players who have found early success and will continue to produce throughout the season.
When shortstop Jose Reyes took his talents to South Beach, he left heavy shoes for Ruben Tejada to fill. Since he arrived in the majors, Reyes was the engine that made the Mets offense go, and with his departure left an enormous question mark at the top of the lineup.
But Tejada has filled in nicely thus far, and looks to be coming into his own. During his first two years in the big leagues, Tejada spent the majority of his time connected to Reyes at the hip, soaking up all the information that he could.
While he doesn't possess the speed that Reyes does, he's much more patient at the plate than the former Met. He works counts and doesn't strike out often, which are great qualities for a leadoff hitter.
He has also been driving the ball much better than in years past, and through 10 games has six doubles, a little less than half the amount he had all of last year.
Tejada's glove may be the best part about his game. While rotating between shortstop and second base last year, Tejada recorded just 12 errors. Look for that number to go down in 2012 as he will be able to put his complete focus on just playing shortstop this year.
Tejada doesn't have to be Reyes to be successful. The Mets need stability at the top of the lineup to give the big bats the opportunity to drive in runs, and Tejada has the tools to get the job done.
Projections for 2012: .285 BA, .368 OBP, 2 HR, 43 RBI
The anchor of the Mets pitching rotation finally appears to be healthy once again.
Through his first two starts, Johan Santana has given up just one run in 10 innings, while striking out 13. While his velocity continues to decline as his age progresses, Santana has mixed his pitches well and looks confident on the mound.
While he will almost certainly need extra days of rest as the season wears on, his production is crucial to the Mets going forward.
Even if the Mets can't stay in contention in a competitive NL East, if Santana can stay healthy and produce he will be a valuable trade chip come the deadline.
The Mets would love to unload an aging Santana, who they owe $49.5 million to over the next two seasons, especially if the can get a A/B-level prospect. However, if the Mets do stay in it, Santana can provide a young Mets rotation with veteran leadership and can anchor this team down the stretch.
Final 2012 Projections: 28 GS, 13-7, 2.95 ERA, 165 Ks
Before his season ended last year due to a torn MCL, Daniel Murphy was killing the baseball, and appears to have picked up right where he left off.
Murphy has come through several times this year with timely hits, including his walk-off single against the Nationals last week.
Murphy is very patient at the plate and waits for his pitch. He's got a solid swing and frequently hits shots into the gaps. For a guy who rarely strikes out, the No. 2 slot in the order seems like a perfect place for Murphy, with David Wright batting behind him.
While his fielding may always be questionable, and his baserunning at times makes you scratch your head, his bat will keep him in the lineup, so long as he doesn't injure himself out there. Murphy has become one of the leaders on this squad, even though he is still young.
I fully expect Murphy to have a very productive season.
Final 2012 Projections: .316 BA, .385 OBP, 12 HR, 68 RBI
Niese was a bit inconsistent last year, but showed flashes of brilliance. That was enough to give the young left-hander a five-year extension worth $25 million, and he is out to prove he was worth every penny.
Niese has looked real strong in both his outings so far this season. He carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning of his first start, and pitched 6.2 innings of shutout baseball in his second start.
His ability to pitch deep into games will be crucial in saving the Mets bullpen throughout the season. His mechanics look much better than last season, and he is throwing quality strikes.
Being the third man in the rotation should give Niese favorable matchups throughout the season, and should have a chance to reach a career high in wins.
The lefty looks determined to prove his worth and help provide stability to the rotation.
Final 2012 Projections: 29 GS, 14-8, 3.78 ERA, 150 Ks
There are few hitters in baseball who have gotten off to the start that Wright has.
After tearing an abdominal muscle in spring training, Wright has shown no ill signs of the injury, and has pounded the ball to start the year.
He's hitting .542 in seven games, driving the ball in all directions. He just looks much better at the plate. He claims to have gone back to an approach he was using several years ago, and it's paying dividends. His swing looks real smooth, and he is performing like middle-of-the-lineup threat the Mets need him to be.
Wright could be playing his final year with the Mets, as he as an opt-out clause after the season. Wright is a top-five third baseman in baseball, and he is looking to be paid like one. The Mets can't afford to lose another one of their homegrown players, especially to a division rival. They need to open their wallets and make Wright their franchise player.
I fully expect Wright, playing in a contract year, to keep up his production and keep the Mets in the thick of things for at least the next few months.
Final 2012 Projections: .318 BA, .415 OBP, 27 HR, 110 RBI