August 22, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey (33) throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Mets finally seem to be headed in the right direction. Since Yadier Molina’s home run cleared the fence at Shea Stadium in 2006, the Mets have been beset by an epic September collapse, terrible management decisions, a slew of injuries and involvement in America’s biggest Ponzi scheme. As the Mets head into 2013 GM Sandy Alderson has built the Mets in part by trading veteran assets for highly rated prospects.
This offseason Alderson dealt National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey for a package centered around catcher Travis d’Arnaud and pitcher Noah Syndergaard. D’Arnaud, Baseball America’s #23 rated prospect, batted .333 with 16 HR in 67 games in Triple-A in 2012. He will likely start the season at Triple-A, but should be called up by midseason. Syndergaard is Baseball America’s #54 rated prospect but will not figure in the Mets 2013 plans.
The Mets other major move of the offseason was locking up their only star David Wright to an eight year $138 million contract extension. Wright enjoyed a bounceback 2012, with a batting line of .306 BA/.391.OBP/.492 SLG. The six time All-Star is one of the premier infielders in the National League.
Wright and slugging first baseman Ike Davis should give the Mets a solid number three and four hitters in the lineup. Despite a terrible first half in 2012, Davis wound up leading the Mets with 32 HR and finishing second to Wright with 90 RBI.
Despite the presence of Wright and Davis, the 2013 New York Mets are not yet postseason contenders. The two highest paid outfielders on owner Fred Wilpon’s payroll are the recently departed Jason Bay and the long departed Bobby Bonilla. This years outfield includes a cast of characters such as Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda.
An interesting player to watch in the early stages of the 2013 season is Jordany Valdespin. Valdespin has had a memorable spring batting .347 with four HR and one Justin Verlander 97 MPH fastball to the groin HBP. Currently Valdespin is seeing time at second base while starter Daniel Murphy recovers from an injury. When Murphy returns, Valdespin could see time in the outfield. Manager Terry Collins has been so impressed with Valdespin that he recently told NY radio station WFAN that he is considering the youngster for the leadoff role.
The biggest reason for optimism around Citi Field centers around the Mets young pitching. Rookie Matt Harvey dazzled during a 10 game call up, pitching to a 2.73 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. At some point in 2013, Zach Wheeler, Baseball America’s #11 prospect, should be in the Mets rotation. Opening day starter Jonathon Niese will be in his fourth full season as a Met, but is only 26 years old. He pitched to a 1.17 WHIP in 30 starts last year. This being the Mets, not all the news can be good, both Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum are struggling with arm issues and may miss several starts to open the season.
The New York Mets bullpen is a work in progress. Newly named closer Bobby Parnell possesses triple digit heat, but has melted down when given the opportunity to close in the past. Veteran relievers Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins will likely join lefty Josh Edgin in the setup role.
If the New York Mets aren’t on the rise, at least they have stopped their free fall. The signing of David Wright could signal that the Mets will once again spend like a big market team. And with the contracts of Santana and Bay expiring after 2013, the Mets should be able to pursue a free agent outfielder.
With absolutely no offensive production from the outfield and a rotation already plagued by injuries, the Mets will find it tough to compete in the NL East this season. The Citi Field faithful should be happy if Harvey builds on his rookie season and d’Arnaud and Wheeler make positive contributions. It will be difficult for the Amazins to leapfrog Washington, Atlanta or Philadelphia in the standings in 2013, at least there is hope for the future in Flushing.