Oh how things change. I sort of meant to make this a monthly feature, but every-other-monthly gives us more information to play with. So here we are four months into the season, two months after the last update, with the updated 2014 Mets Power Rankings.
If you’re new, the idea behind the list is this: If you are an expansion team set to play baseball in 2014 with the sole goal of fielding a competitive team in 2014 – that is, you care about 2014 and nothing else – and you can only pick current Mets players, whom would you take and in what order? The only other limitation being that the player must be under team (Mets) control in 2014. (Also, for the sake of the exercise, the dollar value of contracts don’t count.) That’s the idea here. So the list is mostly young players and prospects, though our first old man has snuck in.
That’s the guiding philosophy. Here’s the list:
1. Ruben Tejada (June: #3) – Tejada has played a near-full season, 161 Major League games, between 2011-12. He’s hit .301/.362/.361 with 31 doubles over that span, and both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs put Tejada at 3.6 wins above replacement. That’s an average to slightly-above-so performance for a shortstop – good in its own right — but Tejada is still only 22 years old and figuring things out. (It’s pretty obvious he’s wasted some at-bats this season trying only to figure out how to hit a home run.) Starlin Castro and Elvis Andrus are the two best young shortstops in baseball and a step ahead, but Tejada is making a compelling case to be #3. He’s not flashy at any one thing, but he’s good at enough things to more than make up the difference.
2. Jon Niese (June: #4) – Niese’s 4.63 ERA in July looked like the beginning of another second-half slide, but after a strong first start in August, Niese’s second-half ERA sits at 3.67, a bit lower than his 3.73 first-half ERA. Niese still has a career-low batting average against on balls put in play, a number put up with a terrible fielding team behind him – so this seems to scream luck — but if he finishes the season with an ERA below 4.00, I’ll be a believer.
3. Daniel Murphy (June: #6) – Since the beginning of 2011, Murphy has hit .312/.354/.437 with 61 doubles and has played first, second, and third base. He’s a poor defender at second, but not unplayable. And I’m pretty sure if another team stuck Murphy at third base, where he can actually play, he’d be one of the game’s better third basemen. He’s a weird player – a gawky, too-long-limbed singles hitter playing out of position at second base — but somehow a good one.
These top three – Tejada, Niese, and Murphy – aren’t necessarily huge stars, but they’ve been useful pieces for the Mets all season. The Mets look set at shortstop, second base and one rotation spot going forward.
4. Matt Harvey (June: #10) – Matt Harvey’s 2012 FIP in Triple-A: 3.70. Dillon Gee’s 2010 FIP in Triple-A: 4.01. I think Harvey will be better than Dillon Gee, and may be already, but I’m not sure how much better. It seems every pitching prospect is designated either the next Dwight Gooden or just another Quad-A starter, and no one is ever anything in between. But most Major League pitchers are somewhere in between. It makes sense that Harvey might be too.
5. Dillon Gee (June: #8) – It looks like Gee’s sophomore campaign may be over after he underwent surgery to break up a blood clot in his shoulder, but Gee took a step forward in 2012. His ERA improved slightly, from 4.43 to 4.10, but his peripheral stats, FIP and xFIP, both improved by about a full run. It looks like he’s got a good idea out there. So depending on what you subscribe to, he’s either a not-terrible fifth starter or a decent middle-of-the-rotation guy.
6. Ike Davis (June: #13) – He’s got 20 home runs . . . but also a .278 on-base percentage. The eroded plate discipline is most alarming: Davis’ biggest strength in his first two seasons was his ability to draw walks, and that’s disappeared. He walked in 12% of his plate appearances in 2010, and 11.4% last season. He’s down to 8% this season. The drop may not seem like much, but it’s an additional 25 walks in a season and represents the difference between being one of the more patient hitters in the NL and one of the least. Davis seemed to get it together in June, but he stopped walking again in July (when he hit nine home runs but drew only four walks). I have no idea if he’s a good player or not anymore.
7. Johan Santana (June: #1) – The Mets hold an option on Santana for 2014, so he makes it onto the list because he technically qualifies. The inclusion of a well-compensated veteran may be antithetical to the rankings, but think about this seriously: You and seven of your friends are holding a fantasy draft for 2014. The draft takes place now, today, right now. And you can only pick current Mets players under team control in 2014, etc. Even with the injury risk, someone takes Santana in the first round, right?
8. Zack Wheeler (June: #9) – He’s only allowed two home runs this season and has made the jump to Triple-A.
9. Josh Thole (June: #5) – Thole’s offensive performance has slowly declined since he’s reached the Majors – his wOBA from 2010-2012: .327, .303, .280 – while his defense has slowly improved. (Thole recently blew a couple of plays at the plate, but just about every other aspect of his defensive game has gotten better. And there are maybe five or so close plays at the plate in a season. That part isn’t a big deal.) If Thole can reverse his offensive trend, he could be another above-average regular. Otherwise he’s a nice left-handed half in a catching platoon, and that’s valuable too.
10. Bobby Parnell (June: Unranked) – The Mets only useful relief pitcher? Josh Edgin, too, I guess, and Jon Rauch has actually been a pleasant surprise. But Parnell and Edgin are looking like the Mets’ best in-house relievers for next season, while Frank Francisco is still signed for 2013. Sandy Alderson still has plenty of bullpen work to do.
11. Kirk Nieuwenhuis (June: #7) – Nieuwenhuis struck out a lot in the majors. A lot. Just about one out of every three plate appearances ended in a K. On the other hand, he struggled like this in Triple-A in 2010 before figuring things out in 2011, and he’s eventually hit at every level. His season could be over after a foot injury in Triple-A.
12. Jordany Valdespin (June: Unranked) – Valdespin can run and he’s got power, and if he can play the outfield and fake it on the middle infield . . . you can live with a .300 on-base percentage, especially if he’s playing only part-time. Juan Uribe made a career doing something like that.
My favorite Valdespin at-bats: He takes Jose-Reyes-like “watch this guys, I’m going to walk here” at-bats, where he seemingly uses all of his will to work a three-ball count. Then he hacks at ball four and pops out on the infield.
13. Lucas Duda (June: #2) – Duda can hit righties (.268/.363/.470 in 587 plate appearances), but he needs to find a defensive home or to figure out lefties (.234/.282/.339) to earn another starting role. Considering that the Mets carried Duda (-0.9 WAR) and Davis (0.0 WAR) for most of the season, it’s impressive their record is what it is. Only the Mariners (Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero) and the Royals (Eric Hosmer and guess who) have also used two replacement-or-worse regulars this season.
14. Jenrry Mejia (June: #11) – Mejia has a 3.22 ERA in 44.2 Triple-A innings, which is good, but he’s only struck out 22 batters in that span, which is not. He’s coming back from Tommy John surgery. We’ll cut him slack until 2013?
15. Jeurys Familia (June: #12) – Familia has a 5.18 ERA in 106 innings with Buffalo this season. He’s struck out 93 (decent) but walked 64 (not decent). He’s not as wild as he was with St. Lucie in 2010, when he walked 74 AND hit 15 batters AND threw 25 wild pitches, but that’s too many walks. Pitching prospects, man.
Others to keep an eye on:
Matt Den Dekker – .960 OPS in Double-A, .628 OPS in Triple-A.
Jack Leathersich – He’s put up a 4.23 ERA in Advanced-A, but he’s still struck out 60 in 38.1 innings.
Cesar Puello – Hurt a lot, posted a .714 OPS repeating Advanced-A.
Reese Havens – .723 OPS in Double-A. Havens usually hits when he’s healthy enough to play, but that hasn’t held up this season.
Wilmer Flores – He’s sort of hitting in Double-A now (.730 OPS in 42 games). He just turned 21 on August 6. Happy birthday, Wilmer!
Juan Lagares – .723 OPS in Double-A with slightly diminished power numbers.
Jefry Marte – .710 OPS in Double-A, but only 21.
Collin McHugh – 3.09 ERA between Double- and Triple-A this season. He never seems to impress anyone, but he’s been good at every level.
Armando Rodriguez –
Fat as noted in comments, not fat so much as just gigantic. I hadn’t seen a recent picture, but he’s listed at 6’3″ and 250, so I assumed. My bad. No one seems to think he’ll be good, but he keeps pitching well at every level. Rodriguez has a 3.19 ERA in Double-A this season.
That’s all for now.