2014 Mets Q&A with Toby Hyde

This week, we’ll be previewing the Phillies’ NL East opponents for the 2014 season with a brief Q&A session with various team bloggers.

Toby Hyde is a contributor to SNY.tv‘s Mets Minor League Blog.  He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few Mets-related questions to help preview the upcoming season in the NL East. Give him a follow on Twitter @TobyHyde.

1. The Mets jumped back into free agency by signing Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million contract. Do you think this was a wise signing by GM Sandy Alderson?

No. A team will have a hard time going to the playoffs paying Granderson $15 million in his age 33-36 season on a team payroll of $90 million. The Mets Opening Day payroll in 2014 projects to be under $85 million. Much of Granderson’s 2011-12 power spike with the Yankees, when he had 41 and 43 homers was driven by a HR/FB spike (20.5% and 24.2% respectively). He was back down to 11.3% in 2013, closer to his career-rate of 15%.

He’s never hit lefties well. He strikes out a ton.

About the best the Mets can hope for is a ~3 WAR player in 2014 and 2015, and a slow, gentle decline through the middle of Granderson’s 30s and the last two years of the deal. However, in comparing Granderson to a set of comparable modern outfielders, I found a steep decline for similar players at this age.

He is unlikely to be an above average starting outfielder in years three and four of the deal. If they can get enough value out of him in years one and two, on a $/win level, the contract might be ok.

The problem for the Mets with this contract is that Matt Harvey will be out for 2014, dramatically hurting the Mets’ playoff chances. Meanwhile, the Mets’ best bet for a good season for Granderson is in 2014. Moving forward to 2016 and 2017, the final years of Granderson will be in his age 35 and 36 seasons. It is unlikely that he will be a $15 million dollar/year player when the Mets hope their young pitching led by Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and friends will be ready for primetime.

I wrote a lengthy piece about Granderson here.

2. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are both dealing with injuries. The Mets planned to use spring training to have both players battle for the first base job. What do the Mets plan to do at first base if neither can go?

Neither Davis (.204/.268/.334 – 440 PA) nor Duda (.224/.302/.341 – 345 PA) hits lefties at anything like a 1B level, so the Mets were already planning on carrying the right-handed hitting Josh Satin to hit lefties, regardless of whether Duda or Davis was the starter. If neither Davis nor Duda could go on Opening Day, Satin would probably play everyday until one of the limping Ds returns.

However, I expect one, if not both, of the Ds to be ready by Opening Day. Both Davis and Duda hit in minor league games on Friday, March 14th, but did not run. Duda should be back in the big league lineup he week of March 17th.

3. Juan Lagares is competing with Eric Young, Jr. for a starting outfield job. Who do you see winning, and how will the Mets configure their outfield?

Lagares is simply the better, younger player who thus has a little more upside. He should start in center field with Granderson and Chris Young on corners. The switch-hitting Eric Young Jr. will play a lot. Chris Young is weak against righties and Granderson is weak against lefties. When Young does play in place of Lagares, Chris Young will probably play center, with EY Jr. in left and Granderson in right.

4. The Mets lost Matt Harvey for at least most of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery, but they did add Bartolo Colon on a two-year deal. Is the rotation good enough to hold up over a full season?

The short answer is “no,” because no team can expect its starters to stay healthy all year. However, I think the longer answer is, yeah, the Mets rotation should be fine, or even pretty good because there’s some interesting depth. Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs found that in 2013, teams averaged 32 starts from guys beyond their top five most used starters. Pitchers get hurt; it’s what they do.

Jon Niese, who the Mets had hoped would be the Opening Day starter is headed back to New York for an MRI on his elbow Monday the 17th, after an earlier Spring Training MRI on his shoulder.

However, starting pitching is an area where the Mets have some depth and choices.

Besides Niese, the Mets have Colon, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee.

Jenrry Mejia and Daisuke Matsuzaka have been battling for the fifth starter’s spot in Spring Training with John Lannan trailing in third place. Despite the fact that the Indians released Matsuzaka in 2013 after he was ordinary in AAA, the Mets were encouraged by his final four starts when he ran a 1.37 ERA in 26.1 innings and allowed opponents to hit .146/.248/.213 in 102 plate appearances. A cynic might point to the ordinary 21/9 K/BB ratio and the .179 opponents’ BABIP and suggest regression will come to Matsuzaka.

The 24-year-old Mejia was excellent over his five starts with the Mets in 2013 (2.30 ERA, 27/4 K/BB). He’s also come to Spring Training in 2014 with tremendous hair. He has a big league fastball, cutter and slider, that was basically new in 2013. His problem is that he’s never passed 110 innings in a season thanks to injury and mismanagement.

John Lannan, who will be 29 in 2014, lost rotation jobs in Washington in 2012 and Philadelphia in 2013, but maybe he can rediscover the stuff that made him a durable and dependable slightly above average MLB starter from 2003 to 2011. The 2013 numbers were bad (5.33 ERA and 38/27 K in 74.1 innings) but at the moment, it looks like the Mets are inclined to put him on the Opening Day roster in the rotation or bullpen.

Beyond that trio, top prospects Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard, a consensus Top 25 prospect in baseball, will begin the season in AAA 2014. Syndergaard has top of the rotation potential, while Montero is more of a mid-rotation to back-end type, but he’s been durable and effective all the way up to AAA. Both should be ready to help the rotation when the Mets need pitchers #7 and #8 after they are done managing service time and arbitration deadlines.

5. Bobby Parnell will be closing games for the Mets this year. Is he good enough, or should the Mets have tried to add a veteran closer over the winter?

Bobby Parnell is certainly good enough to be the Mets closer in 2014. In 2013, he posted the 14th best FIP among qualified relievers.
The Mets did well to avoid adding an expensive bullpen piece over the winter because big money contracts for relievers are almost always bad ideas. The “capital C closer position” and its usage is silly. Lets move on.

6. Former Phillies prospect Travis d’Arnaud will start behind the dish for the Mets. Do you think he’s ready to handle the job on an everyday basis?

Yup. He just needs to stay healthy. In 86 games in AAA the last two years he’s hit .328/.402/.588 while playing his home games in hitter-friendly Las Vegas. Make whatever appropriate adjustment you want for the Pacific Coast League, and then remember that he’s a catcher. He should be an above average offensive backstop. There’s bat speed and power. He does get into trouble when he tries to yank everything he sees, but in Spring Training, he’s looked comfortable driving the ball to the right-centerfield gap.

He’s a fine receiver, who was reallyreally good framing pitches in small samples in 2013 with an average or better arm for a catcher.

7. The Mets have sounded less than enthused with Ruben Tejada at shortstop. Will they make a change quickly if he doesn’t produce?

Well, maybe. The problem the Mets have is that they do not have a better internal option.

The team should be skeptical of Tejada. After a promising 2011 (.284/.360/.335 – 96 games), and a solid 2012 (.289/.333/.351 – 114 games) with average-ish defense at short (depending on your metric), he flopped hard in 2013. He hit .202/.259/.260 in 57 games, his defense regressed, and he was hurt on his way to a -0.9 bWAR. All-in-all, it was bad. Moreover, he has looked really shaky in Spring Training. If he cannot field ground balls, and he’s struggled to do so in Florida, he is not a useful Major League baseball player.

The internal options include Omar Quintanilla, Anthony Seratelli and Wilmer Flores, a former top prospect who the team moved off of shortstop two years ago because he did not have the range for the position. While Flores is in much better shape this year after attending a team-suggested gym in Michigan, and has soft hands and a strong arm, he still does not have the range to be an everyday Major League shortstop.

External options include Stephen Drew, or one of the Diamondbacks or Mariners young middle infielders. Of course, the guys on other teams would cost the Mets talent, probably young pitching.

Tejada is more likely to be replaced on a full-time basis, by an external option than an internal one.

Bold prediction: How many games will the Mets win? Will they finish ahead of the Phillies and Marlins?

The Mets will win 77 games.

Despite Jose Fernandez leading a potentially solid rotation and an exciting outfield, the Marlins don’t have any major league infielders. The Phillies don’t have enough Major League pitching and old position players. The Mets win third place in a weak NL East.

Thanks again to Toby for making the time to answer some questions for us. Check out his work at SNY.tv’s Mets Minor League blog throughout the season and make sure to follow him on Twitter @TobyHyde.

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  1. Carmine Spellane

    March 19, 2014 01:43 PM

    Wow. He thinks 77 games will be good enough for third place. By that reasoning, Atlanta and Washington will truly feast on the Phillies, Marlins and Mets.

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