What to expect from the New York Mets infield in 2013

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by Chris DiLorenzo

It seems as though the Mets have been going through the “rebuilding” phase since game 7 of the 2006 NLCS when Carlos Beltran struck out looking in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs. Or maybe the rebuilding phase started after the 2007 and 2008 seasons following two of the worst collapses in MLB history. Either way you want to look at it, it has been a long, stressful, and depressing six seasons since the Mets last tasted the playoffs. Could this year be the year we finally play baseball in November again? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. However the 2013 Mets could be a surprising team if they can figure out how to play above .500 baseball past the midsummer classic.

Third base is never in question when someone mentions the boys from Queens with David Wright handling the hot corner. Since joining the big leagues David Wright has been as consistent as it gets defensively. Wright’s fielding percentage only dropping below .950 his first two seasons with the Mets (.942 and .948 respectively) with his overall career fielding percentage being .953. Expect David Wright’s fielding percentage in 2013 to be just as high, if not higher due to him playing competitive baseball before the season in the World Baseball Classic. When it comes to David’s bat he is as good a third basemen as there is in the National League. He has consistently put up great numbers for an average, with a .301 career batting average. Wright however has not hit 30 homeruns since the 08 season, which is a concern to many. I wouldn’t read too much into his home run numbers because David has taken on a different role as a hitter. His approach of less power with more consistent contact produced a career high OBP of .391 last season. One of the biggest weaknesses with his hitting has been the strike outs; his highest season was in 2010 when he whiffed 161 times. Last season Wright struck out 112 times which is a great improvement, most likely as a result of the change to his swing and approach at the plate. We should expect big things from David Wright this year, being the “Captain” of the team and the face of the franchise. It is clear David is involved with the front office operations when he attempted to recruit Michael Bourn to Queens before he decided on going to Cleveland. David Wright will be here for the long run so no need to worry Mets fans. He signed a contract extension through 2020 with his overall contract being worth $192 million.

Moving from third to short stop, Ruben Tejada is an exciting young and extremely talented player. He is no Jose Reyes but it is simply unfair to ask him to fill the shoes of Reyes at short. Tejada will never be the hitter Reyes was and more importantly he will never be the leadoff hitter that the Mets have been searching for since Reyes’ departure to Miami. Tejada showed a lot of promise and potential last year with the bat putting up a .289 batting average in 114 appearances at the plate. It seemed like Tejada was always working the pitcher while at the plate, going deep into the count and eventually either drawing a walk or getting the hit with an OBP of .333. His on base percentage needs to rise this season if Tejada wants to take the next step as a hitter since he doesn’t hit for power (Tejada hit 1 home run all of last season). When it comes to the field I believe Tejada can be just as effective as Reyes was and he proved that last season. Diving up the middle, turning double plays or going to his right, it was exciting watching him field the position. Tejada had a fielding percentage of .974 while committing only 12 errors. Look to see Ruben Tejada improve on his bat by putting the ball into play more while being as consistent as it gets at short stop.

Daniel Murphy doesn’t look like a natural at second base, but boy did he turn it around last season with the glove. Appearing in 138 games last season at second base, Murphy had an identical fielding percentage as his neighbor middle infielder with a .974. Murphy struggled his first few seasons at second but worked hard in the off season to fix his mistakes and it showed tremendously. Murphy reacted quicker off the bat, moved easier to his left, and covered up the middle better than ever while committing only 15 errors. Murph was just below a .300 batting average last season, putting up a .291 in 571 AB after a hot start, joining David Wright at the top of the National League for batting averages. He seemed to see the ball better, only striking out 82 times, but lacked the ability to hit for power with only 6 home runs. If Murphy wants to make a name for himself in Flushing he needs to hit for more power, especially since the Mets desperately need some power this season. As for the fielding Murphy is headed in the right direction, although he may never look like he quite belongs.

Valley Fever was the biggest issue with the first basemen Ike Davis last season, and it deeply impacted him at the plate in the first half the year. Ike flat out couldn’t hit early on, and he actually flirted with a trip back down to the minors. Following the All Star break Ike Davis looked like a completely different player at the plate, finishing the season with 32 home runs and looking like the power hitter the Mets envisioned when they drafted him in 2008. Although his average was a mere .227, it was a break out second half of the season while the rest of the team fell apart. Playing first base defensively has never been an issue with Ike, who looks like he was born to play the position. Nothing gets past Ike who can stretch like a ballerina and scoop anything in the dirt (which had a big effect on David Wrights decrease in errors at third base.) Davis finished last season with a .994 fielding percentage in 148 games with only 8 errors. Ike Davis is going to have to battle with Valley Fever for the rest of his life, but if the second half of last season is any preview to Ike’s young career, the league better take notice. Look for Ike to have a higher batting average since he has handled the adversity Valley Fever brings, and can prepare for it this time around. Dare I say put up 45+ home runs in a full healthy season? I don’t think it is farfetched to say this due to the fact that he put up 30+ home runs last season after his record slow start.

Having sent Josh Thole to Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade it has been a mystery as to who will call the game behind the plate for the Mets. It is expected that John Buck will man the plate for the beginning of the season until they deem Travis D’arnaud ready for the big leagues. One of the top prospects in the MLB, the Mets acquired Travis D’arnaud in the R.A Dickey trade with the Blue Jays. John Buck has more pop than Thole with the bat (which is easy to do) having hit 12 home runs last season while appearing at the plate 343 times in Miami. His batting average however was atrocious, hitting only.192 which the Mets will not be able to live with. His OBP was .297, having drawn 49 walks. Don’t expect Buck to hit high in the batting order. What Buck does lack with the bat he makes up for behind the plate. Buck had a .991 fielding percentage last season with the Marlins, while only committing 7 errors in 105 games. Something that causes concern with Buck is his ability to throw runners out, only catching runners stealing 27% of the time. John Buck clearly is not the long term answer for the Mets at catcher, but is a solid interim solution until the debut of Travis D’arnaud sometime in the 2013 season.

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