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 two months into the season 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 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. Johan Santana (Pre-season: Unranked); 3-3, 2.96 ERA, 73 Ks: Well that was unexpected. Santana was mentioned briefly in the pre-season edition as a candidate, but only because he was a candidate in the technical sense: The Mets hold a $25 million option for Santana in 2014, so he’s under team control for that year. He counts, but he wasn’t on the original list because two months ago Santana was a 33-year-old pitcher coming off major shoulder surgery from which few had returned, and he hadn’t thrown a big league pitch since 2010. There was still a sense that he may never actually pitch again.
And now two months later, Santana has thrown the Mets’ first no-hitter, he leads the league in shutouts and is tenth in strikeouts. His numbers look exactly like his numbers from 2008-10, except Santana’s strikeouts are up. His changeup has remained as effective as ever, even with his reduced velocity overall.
So here’s the question: If you’re drafting players today for 2014, is there anyone (whose contract the Mets control in 2014) you take over Santana? Who has a better shot at being an All-Star in 2014? Don’t you have to go for the elite talent over anything else? And, if so, don’t you have to pick Santana?
2. Lucas Duda (Last time: #3); .262/.349/.450, 10 home runs: The big guy can hit, and it seems that he’s heating up. He leads the Mets in home runs and his .800 OPS* is second on the Mets to David Wright. Duda costs the Mets a ton of runs in right field, but in abstract 2014 draft land, we’re not holding that against him, as our abstract 2014 fantasy baseball team will put Duda at first base. Which, by the way, is a possibility that seems more and more likely for the real 2012 Mets when a certain first basemen goes to Buffalo.
*OPS = On-base Plus Slugging, and is apparently rounded up in Duda’s case.
3. Ruben Tejada (Last time: #2); .305/.362/.400, 10 doubles: The good is that Tejada hit .305 and played a solid shortstop as a 22-year-old Major League player for about five weeks. The bad is that Tejada pulled a quad tripping into first base at the beginning of May, and he just suffered a setback in Buffalo this week. The shortstop’s rehab is back to square one in Port St. Lucie, and there’s no set date for his return. Tejada had been durable throughout his minor league career, so let’s hope this is just a minor injury blip and not the birth of a trend.
4. Jon Niese (Last time: #5); 4-2, 3.69, 67 strikeouts: The National League ERA is 3.91 this season, so Niese right now has a better-than-average ERA. Although he may or may not be pitching better than previous seasons: Niese’s strikeouts are up, but so are his walks and home runs allowed. His improvements have come in areas in which pitchers tend to have less control — his batting average against on balls in play and the percentage of runners left on base — so sabermetric air-raid sirens sound across fantasy leagues everywhere. Or maybe it really was the nose?
5. Josh Thole (Last time: #6); .272/.336/.333, one home run: In 2005, the Red Sox traded catcher Doug Mirabelli to the Padres, only to discover that Josh Bard couldn’t catch Tim Wakefield’s knuckleballs. The Red Sox had to trade Bard (a similar player to Mirabelli, only younger), reliever Cla Meredith, and cash to the Padres to re-acquire Mirabelli.
Josh Thole, as a .280 hitter and catcher, is a useful baseball player to begin with. But he’s probably got more value to the Mets than to any other team because he can catch R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball, in addition to his other skills. Thole may stick around in Queens as long as Dickey does.
6. Daniel Murphy (Last time: #4); .284/.332/.358, 15 doubles: He’s hitting .284 but with only 16 extra-base hits, no home runs, and 17 walks. Murphy’s poor defense at second was going to work only because of his bat, but Murphy’s .690 OPS is below the .709 OPS for National League second basemen this season. We like Murphy, but below-average defense and below-average offense does not add up to an above-average player. (I just entered that problem into my calculator and it reads “ERROR.”) Murphy has 20 Major League home runs already, so more should come. But his lack of power and patience is a source of worry.
7. Kirk Nieuwenhuis (Last time: #12); .286/.349/.388, 56 hits: Nieuwenhuis, who looked like he missed an opportunity during Spring Training because of injuries, has the third-most hits on the Mets this season. He’s not hitting for a ton of power — because he’s a Met and apparently they just don’t do that anymore, no matter where the walls are — but Nieuwenhuis has looked more than all right playing center field and he seems to contribute only big hits with his bat. He certainly belongs in the majors, even if his future role isn’t yet clear. He’s got some great flo though.
8. Dillon Gee (Last time: #8); 4-4, 4.42 ERA, 70 strikeouts: He’s tenth in the National League in xFIP (ERA-like statistic that looks at only strikeouts, walks, and fly balls). Gee’s strikeouts are up, his walks are down, he’s inducing more ground balls. Eight of his 12 starts this season have been quality starts. The ERA isn’t pretty, but just about every other statistic say Gee’s pitching well this season.
9. Zack Wheeler (Last time: #10); 6-2, 1.66 ERA, 67 strikeouts in Double-A: He’s making it obvious that he’s the Mets’ most talented prospect, and making the Carlos Beltran trade look like a steal. Wheeler is still two steps away from the majors, and a lot of things can happen between there and here. So far so good though.
10. Matt Harvey (Last time: #7); 5-2, 3.88 ERA, 64 strikeouts in Triple-A: One step away from the majors, and it looks like he’ll be in Queens this season. A few too many walks, but that statement applies to just about every Mets pitching prospect this season.
11. Jenrry Mejia (Last time: #11); 1-1, 2.57 ERA, 23 strikeouts across the minors: The rehabbing Mejia looks like he’ll be in the Major League bullpen pretty soon. It may not seem like it, but he’s got about 170 innings above Advanced-A already.
12. Jeurys Familia (Last time: #9); 5-2, 4.42 ERA, 56 strikeouts in Triple-A: 37 walks in 55 innings will knock you down the list a bit. But you know what else will knock you down the list?
13. Ike Davis (Last time: #1); .167/.248/.285, five home runs: Two really, really terrible months will knock you down the list. Davis is second-to-last in the NL in batting average, last in on-base percentage, and last in slugging percentage. He’s also last in OPS. He’s off to the worst start of any player in the Majors. Pitchers throw Davis almost nothing but breaking balls away, Davis doesn’t hit them, and no one seems to know how to fix it. He’s in a real bad way.
14. Matt den Dekker (Last time: #14); .338/.395/.560 in Double-A: Goodness. He’s destroying Double-A, and he’s a top center fielder. Let’s check in with Toby:
He’s now hit safely in eight straight games and has multiple hits in six straight games. The 24-year old is now hitting .340/.397/.563 in 58 games. His hot streak has taken him to the top of the league in batting average, slugging, doubles (21), extra-base hits (33) and total bases (134) and is fourth in on-base percentage. It’s not a stretch to say he has been the League’s most productive hitter to date.
Some of this is real, and some cannot continue at this rate . . . The good news for den Dekker is that even subtracting 50 points off his BABIP takes him to .290/.347/.513, which combined with good, or even plus defense in center field would have plenty of big league value.
That sounds all right.
15. Jack Leathersich (Last time: Unranked); 54 strikeouts in 16 A-ball appearances: Not really. Leathersich is here only because of . . . 54 strikeouts in 16 appearances! Come on! The minor leagues are great.
Others to watch:
Cesar Puello – .264/.313/.408 in Advanced-A
Reese Havens – .173/.313/.300 in Double-A
Wilmer Flores – .307/.350/.495 in Advanced-A
Bobby Parnell – 3.71 ERA in the major league bullpen
Juan Lagares – .267/.319/.352 in Double-A
Jefry Marte – .296/.362/.439 as a 21 year old in Double-A
Colin McHugh – 2.48 ERA in Double-A
Jordany Valdespin – One Jonathan Papelbon home run