Besides Wright and Davis, Mets bring lineup that desperately needs punch

David Wright #5 of the New York

David Wright #5 of the New York Mets (Credit: David Wright #5 of the New York Mets (Getty Images))

David Wright signed up for eight more years with the Mets during the offseason because he said he believes in Sandy Alderson’s vision for the team.

Forgive him if, on some level, he may not believe in the team’s present.

It’s not that the newly minted team captain has nobody surrounding him in the lineup on Opening Day Monday.

But beyond Wright and Ike Davis, the Mets leave a lot to be desired in the batters box.

At least they’ll have Wright from Day 1. The team’s all-time hits leader suffered an abdominal injury during the World Baseball Classic. More good news: The third baseman was on a tear as the sparkplug behind Team USA’s run to the WBC second round. If he can bring that momentum into the regular season, he could carry the Mets to a surprising start.

In Davis, Wright does have some protection in the lineup. Of course, the first baseman must avoid the abysmal start to the season he experienced a year ago (.170, with 5 home runs in April/May). He should perform better this year and his future remains bright in Queens.

It’s no secret the Mets’ outfield isn’t a pretty sight after missing out on Michael Bourn, the only high-profile free agent option that general manager Alderson pursued.
Lucas Duda struggled to the point of being sent down to the minors last season, and Marlon Byrd’s career was in dire straits following his dismal 2012.

These are the players manager Terry Collins is turning to as his corner outfielders.
Speaking of poor 2012 campaigns, starting catcher John Buck hit .192 last season with the Marlins in 106 games.

Buck is only a placeholder for the position, though. The true starting backstop of 2013, Travis d’Arnaud, will start the year with Triple-A Las Vegas. The crown jewel acquired from the Blue Jays in return for R.A. Dickey, d’Arnaud is the best catcher not on a major league roster Monday. Once he comes to Queens in June, the job will be his for years.

It’s players like d’Arnaud and Alderson’s ability to bring them into the fold that should give Mets fans the same hope for the future that Wright says he possesses.

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Banking on young arms to carry Amazin's
The news that Johan Santana, the most accomplished pitcher on the Mets’ staff, is gone for the year cast a pall over the days leading up to Monday’s opener. But really, this season in Queens is about looking forward at the young arms in the organization, especially the trio of Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.

Niese, Monday’s starter, turned 26 during the offseason and posted career-bests in wins (13), ERA (3.40) and strikeouts (155) last year. The lefthander isn’t going to win 20 games as did 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey — who was traded to the Blue Jays — a year ago, but he gives the Mets as good a chance as anyone to win every fifth day.

Harvey, who had the look of a future front line starter in his 10 starts at the end of last season, already has ascended to the No. 2 spot in the rotation. The 24-year-old right-hander’s 2.73 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings had Mets faithful salivating for more before he was shut down by an innings limit.

No such restrictions are expected this year.

As for Wheeler, he won’t be at Citi Field Monday because he’s starting the year with Triple-A Las Vegas. However, his stay is expected to be brief, and the righthander should make his big league debut in June. The prize of the 2011 Carlos Beltran trade with the Giants, Wheeler will be 23 by then and is considered to be one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.

Starting pitching was never the issue with the Mets in 2012. The problem was, and still may be, the bullpen. Only the Brewers (4.66) posted a more bloated relief pitching ERA in 2012 than the Mets (4.65) last season.

Frank Francisco didn’t help matters with a 5.53 ERA as the team’s closer last season, but there is hope that Bobby Parnell can finally prove himself to be a reliable ninth-inning man this season. He had a terrific spring (2.31 ERA) after an impressive 2012 campaign (2.49 ERA), and has one of the most fearsome fastball’s in the game.

Bridging the gap between the rotation will be a new acquisitions LaTroy Hawkins and Brandon Lyon, among others. Only time will tell if they’re the answer to last year’s most glaring problem on the mound.
 

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