Has 2013 been a step back for the Mets’ young core?

Before the 2013 season started, most Mets fans were quite aware that the team would not be competitive. Many were perfectly willing to take another year of losing baseball if it meant that the team was moving toward eventual perennial competitiveness. What’s another losing season if it meant that the team’s top prospects were inching closer to making their debut, the young core players were continuing their growth, and Sandy Alderson started making the necessary moves to fill in the glaring holes on the roster?

Well, the prospects are inching their way closer, albeit not quite as fast as some would like. We haven’t quite gotten to the point in the season where major trades take place, but we’re close. Alderson also has the offseason to improve the team via trades and free agent signings. The problem in the Mets’ plan moving forward lies in the continued growth of the young core players, or lack thereof. In fact, several core players have seemed to regress in 2013.

Jonathon Niese, whom the Mets signed to a five-year, $25.5 million contract extension last April, has certainly not performed how the team had hoped this year. He’s currently sporting a 4.15 ERA, his WHIP has ballooned to 1.575, and his walk rate has gone up while his strikeout rate has gone down. It’s still early in the season, and Niese has time to turn it around, but there has to be some concern at this point.

When he was healthy, the 2013 version of Ruben Tejada knocked more baseballs around on defense than he did at the plate. Although many thought (though not necessarily agreed with) the team would move forward with Ruben Tejada at shortstop, Alderson made it quite clear when he revealed to Mike Francesca on WFAN that he did not view Tejada (or “left fielder” Lucas Duda) as core players. Though certainly not a surprising fact in and of itself, that Alderson was so upfront about it was a bit unexpected. Through 50 games before his injury, Tejada was hitting just .209/.267/.262 with an OPS+ of 51.

Unlike Tejada and Duda, Alderson did insist that Ike Davis was still part of the team’s core. Davis’ struggles have been well covered so it won’t be rehashed here. Still, the fact that the Mets’ first baseman of the future is struggling in AAA is enough to make any Mets fan wonder what direction the team is actually headed.

It’s been often stated that the Mets hoped to start being competitive by 2014. So who on this 2013 Mets roster makes up this supposed competitive core? David Wright, Matt Harvey, Bobby Parnell, Niese, and Davis? Maybe Dillon Gee and Daniel Murphy? Where is the rest of the core going to come from next year?

Zack Wheeler will be up, and hopes are high for the young right-hander. We may see Wilmer Flores and possibly Cesar Puello this year too, and each of these players certainly bring a bit of hope and excitement with them. But beyond that things are looking pretty grim for the 2014 Mets. Alderson sure has his work cut out for him, and we can only hope he has some magic up his sleeve.

16 comments for “Has 2013 been a step back for the Mets’ young core?

  1. June 16, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Realized I did not mention d’Arnaud at the end. Add him to the (short) list of short-term prospect hopefuls.

  2. Name
    June 16, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    I’d just like to point out that winning (or losing) doesn’t come gradually. It’s not like you win 70 games one year, then 77 the next, then up to 85, until you get up to a 95 win team. More often than not you transition from sucky to competitive very quickly. If I remember correctly, over a numerous number of years now there has been at least 1 team who had been under .500 the year before make the playoffs the next year.

    These are all the teams that are currently projecting to win or lose 10% more games (16-17 games more wins/losses) this year than last year.

    The Red Sox- 69 wins last year, on pace for 95 this year
    White Sox – 85 wins last year, on pace for 68 this year
    Angels – 89 wins last year, on pace for 70 this year

    Nats-98 wins last year, on pace for 81 this year
    Marlins-69 wins last year, on pace for 50 this year
    Pirates- 79 wins last year, on pace for 96 this year
    Brewers- 83 wins last year, on pace for 66 this year
    Dodgers-86 wins last year, on pace for 69 this year
    Rockies-64 wins last year, on pace for 86 this year.

    That’s a total of 9 teams (30%) having a massive change of fortunes, and though this list will most likely shrink a bit, there’s no reason to give up on 2014 like I hear on numerous radio programs and on here.

    • June 17, 2013 at 8:55 am

      A very thought-provoking post.

      I went back and checked 2011 to 2012 and here are the teams that improved/declined 10% or more:

      Phillies — 102 to 81
      Nationals — 80 to 98
      Orioles — 69 to 93
      Red Sox — 90 to 69
      A’s — 74 to 94

      Just from the Mets’ own history we have:

      1965 to 1966 — 50 to 66
      1968 to 1969 — 73 to 100
      1969 to 1970 — 100 to 83
      1976 to 1977 — 86 to 64
      1983 to 1984 — 68 to 90
      1986 to 1987 — 108 to 92
      1996 to 1997 — 71 to 88
      2008 to 2009 — 89 to 70

      I don’t think improvement has to come in this fashion — Yankees had a stretch where they went 67-71-76-88 — but we certainly shouldn’t consider it unusual or unlikely.

      • Jerry Grote
        June 17, 2013 at 9:15 am

        Frame of reference?

        If this team leaps forward and wins 20% more games than this … and thus becomes part of this great group of teams …

        in 2014 they’ll win 75 games. Oh joy, oh rapture.

        Have a great Monday.

    • Metsense
      June 17, 2013 at 9:28 am

      Name, I think you cut through all the BS with your point. Put a team out there that has an average player offensively/defensively at each position and a bench that is deep enough to weather injuries and a team should at least be competitive at .500. Then the players on the team that are the best at their position (Wright,Harvey) will carry you further. The GM and Management should be reactive and observant enough to be able to sit a faltering average player and ride the success of the “carreer year” player. Core players are the consistantly best player at the position (Wright and apparently Harvey) the others are interchangeable parts that a FO moves around to insure success. Each year is a new beginning and a chance to win (or lose), as Name points out. One year ago, on June 3, 2012, the Mets were in first place. Instead of seizing the moment, the Front Office determined that it was false hope and insisted that their plan was going to bring the “Holy Grail”. One year later, and a lot of miserable baseball in between, I am not convinced that this front office was right. Name is right, don’t give up on 2014 and the front office should not have given up on 2012 or 2013. Seize the moment or it may just pass you by.

      • Jerry Grote
        June 17, 2013 at 9:51 am

        @Metsense … No.

        Each year is NOT a new year. The one thing that is pretty clear from everything that both Brian and Name have posted, is that the tail of standard deviations probably ends at around 20-22% gains/losses from one year to the next.

        As you watch each day pass, you are confirming that 2014 is in fact a lost year. If we continue to play sub-400 ball this year, your best bet in 2014 is barely approach 500 ball.

        • Jerry Grote
          June 17, 2013 at 12:19 pm

          There have been 45 “team-years” when a franchise has recorded less than 66 wins since 1995.

          Oddly, Arizona moved from 65 to plus seasons twice. The Cubs (67,65,88,67) and Seattle (88,61,85,61,67) managed to sandwich a good year around mostly futility; Colorado (potentially) this year.

          Most teams, when they fall to 65 wins or less, are committed pretty hard core to being a bad team. The reality of the last almost 20 years has been of 45 instances, only Arizona has been able to really make “last year” irrelevant. And you could argue that in at least one of those instances (93,65,100) you were dealing with a positive reversion to the mean talent on the team.

          At the current rate, the Mets are on pace to win 63 games. The overwhelming evidence points to this team being bad for several seasons in a row and empirically speaking, I see little to disprove this concept right now.

    • June 17, 2013 at 8:09 pm

      I would caution about projected wins at this point in the year, especially for the Pirates (ha!). Your point is well taken, but the key issue here is: will the Mets have the players in place to make such an improvement next year?

  3. June 17, 2013 at 1:47 am

    I don’t care about hope. If the kids are competent players then why is SA spending so much time on the waiver list with rejects like Rick Ankiel? Bring them up now. 2013 is a lost season. Why not show the fans what the future has in place?
    TO Name. I don’t care about other teams fortunes or misfortunes. I understand your point. You understand the difficult position the Mets are in financially? You know that all 30 teams next season will receive 50 million dollars(as opposed to 25)from the new television contracts. Projections are meaningless. How healthy a team stays and avoids any key players from missing significant time play important roles. As for free agents for 2014? I don’t see SA signing any major game changers. The Mets have no outfield, no first base man, no shortstop. Their bull pen has the worst ERA in baseball. Oh! Almost forgot and we have no manager or competent coaches. Other than that we’re okay. How are the Mets going to rebuild when they so many holes? Harvey,Wheeler,Wright and…?
    To Rob. If all things being equal then what superstar free agent in his right mind is going to come here? Even the Pirates will be able to offer just as good a deal as the Met front office without the nonsense that’s going on here. Not only is it about the players, you are going to need a manager who the players will respect and listen to.

    • June 17, 2013 at 8:10 pm

      Well, I can’t speak to what a player will and will not want to do obviously, but it’s still NY and if you believe the team they should have the money to spend. We’ll see.

  4. Billy
    June 17, 2013 at 10:41 am

    The Mets can be great next year
    Starters 1,2 – Harvey, Wheeler, (ace potential ace)3,4 – Niese, Gee (both have improved lately entering their prime) with a competition for the fifth spot including Montero and our younger prospects can be one of the best in the game

    Relief, a crap shoot, but with closer Parnell, setup Familia, Long Man Heffner we have a nice core of relief

    Offense we need Help (Free Agent wish list will be choo, Cruz)
    1) Choo CF
    2) Murphy 2B
    3) Wright 3B
    4) Cruz RF
    5) d’Arnaud
    6/7 Winner of LF competition/1B competition, Davis, Flores, Duda, Puello, Nieuwenhuis, Lagares, Den Decker
    8) SS competition Quintanilla, Tovar, Tejada
    but by adding those two free agents getting a leadoff hitter and a middle of the order bat fixes our lineup, and while 6-7 can have a low average, they will draw walks and have some power.

    one bright spot of being so bad, when we get the FA help, we get to keep our 1st pick

    • June 17, 2013 at 8:12 pm

      At this point, it really does come down to the offense. Great pitching wins championships, but you’ve still got to score runs. Just ask Matt Harvey. Or RA Dickey before that. Or Johan Santana before that.

      Alderson has a lot of work to do to get the offense respectable.

  5. June 17, 2013 at 11:10 am

    I would stay away from Cruz considering what could turn out to be a 100 game suspension pending from the Miami clinic scandal. You have to wonder how much his numbers are being inflated. It’s easy to write names for a wish list. How much are the Mets going to overspend on a free agent to come and play for them. Choo would be a step in the right direction in solving lead off and right field.

  6. June 18, 2013 at 1:07 am

    In response to Name. The key issue is whether or not the Mets sign a free agent outfielder to solidify the defense who will have a productive bat. If not next season is history before it even begins.

  7. Gonzo
    June 18, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    “At this point, it really does come down to the offense. Great pitching wins championships, but you’ve still got to score runs.” I don’t like the insinuation of this author that you need more than 3 hits to win a baseball game. No, wait… You kinda do. Bollocks. Outings like Saturday’s game really make you fear for the team but as it’s already been said, it was to be expected until the young talent is ready to come in to play. If someone could just get Ike Davis a “How to play baseball after you’ve clearly forgotten how to PLAY baseball for..dummies” book, the Mets could have that whole first base mess situated…LGM?

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