If healthy, the Mets’ front five, led by two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana, could be one of the team’s strengths. R.A. Dickey is coming off a 1.82 ERA last September, Jon Niese had a career-high 11 wins and Dillon Gee started the season 7-0 before finishing with 13 victories. Mike Pelfrey, a former first-round draft pick, has the most to prove of anyone — and if he doesn’t, this will be his final year in Flushing.
After trading Francisco Rodriguez last July and failing to find a closer in-house, Sandy Alderson gave Frank Francisco a two-year, $12-million deal. Based on what has transpired in spring training, Francisco could have trouble keeping the title. Bobby Parnell, he of the triple-digit fastball, has shown signs of realizing his potential and could threaten new additions Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez for a late-inning role. Overall, this should be an improved group from last year’s revolving door relief crew.
Valley Fever or not, Ike Davis has shown no ill effects from the season-ending bone bruise in his ankle and appears ready to fulfill his promise as a slugging force from the cleanup spot. Davis was on pace for 25-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs before the freak injury. With a solid glove, Davis will help stabilize the Mets’ shaky infield defense.
Daniel Murphy’s primary goal in spring training was to master the double-play pivot at second base, and he’s definitely made progress. But is it enough to keep him out of harm’s way during the course of an entire season? Time will tell. If he can avoid injury, Murphy’s offensive production should help compensate for any defensive shortcomings.
David Wright’s readiness for the upcoming season was tested by a torn abdominal muscle that sidelined him for all but the last 10 days of the Grapefruit League schedule. He missed two months with a stress fracture a year ago, and Wright’s durability is now a question. He also has to show he’s still capable of a 20-homer, 100-RBI season, of which he’s had only one in the past three years.
There’s no point in suggesting that Ruben Tejada can even try to replace Jose Reyes from an offensive standpoint. But Tejada, only 22, is a solid defender who has Gold Glove potential, and he might outshine Reyes at the position. The Mets will keep their fingers crossed that he can develop at the bottom of the lineup.
This is a critical year for Josh Thole, who needs to convince the Mets he can be a capable defender as well as a decent lefthanded hitter. To that end, Thole spent the offseason working with the team’s catching instructor, Bob Natal. Can he take charge of a pitching staff? Those questions won’t be answered until the regular season.
Tired of Angel Pagan, the Mets traded for Andres Torres, a better defender who lacks the dynamic offensive ability Pagan had when healthy. Torres also is the Mets’ default leadoff hitter after Reyes’ departure, and there’s no guarantee he’s up to that task. Jason Bay, after two seasons, has yet to be the run-producer the Mets envisioned, but maybe the closer walls will help. On a more positive note, Lucas Duda had a strong spring training and could be a home run-hitting force, something the Mets desperately need.
Without much money to spend, the Mets skimped on their bench. Mike Nickeas already is a better glove than Thole, but it would help to hit above .190. Justin Turner is a versatile backup who was clutch on occasion, and Ronny Cedeno provides some needed insurance at shortstop. Scott Hairston is the lone source of reserve power; Mike Baxter is an adequate outfield sub who doesn’t supply much pinch-hitting pop.
Terry Collins had a better first year at the helm than most had predicted, which convinced Sandy Alderson to pick up his 2013 option at the end of September. The Mets responded to his fiery nature, and there seemed to be a real connection between Collins and the clubhouse. For a team lacking in entertainment value, Collins usually puts on a good show, win or lose.