Outside of 3B, where David Wright will be manning the hot corner for the next several years, 2B is the most stable position in the franchise. Not only are there three capable starters at second on the 40-man roster (Daniel Murphy, Wilmer Flores and Eric Young Jr.), but there are also multiple bench players who can sub in for the starters (Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada, maybe even Josh Satin). There is also excellent depth at the position in the minor leagues (Jordany Valdespin (unless he’s dropped from the 40-man roster), Danny Muno, Dilson Herrera, LJ Mazzilli), making it one of the few position player spots on the team that is a strength of the major and minor league system.
Saying that, the decision about who will man 2B next year, and what to do with the personnel who do not, is a major decision for this front office this offseason. With that in mind, let’s sum up the candidates for who will be starting at second on Opening Day in April:
Wilmer Flores 50%
Daniel Murphy 40%
Eric Young Jr. 9%
Anyone Else 1%
If you couldn’t guess by my percentages, I feel that 2B will be handled from inside the organization, for all of the reasons I mentioned above. There is no need for the Mets to go outside of the organization at second. The 1% was only put on there for two reasons:
1. You never know and so I always give a 1% chance that anything can happen in the game of baseball
2. There have been a plethora of rumors surrounding multiple 2B that are reportedly going to be on the market this offseason.
So, let’s nip this now. The Mets aren’t signing Robinson Cano. The Yankees are going to end up giving him something like an 8-year contract for 200 million. If it’s less than that, it will only be because they give him fewer years, like five years and 125 million. The point is, the Mets aren’t spending that money on Cano, and I don’t think he’d come to them if they did. The Yankee’s will not let Cano go to any team in the AL East, nor the Mets. So even if the Mets came in offering six years, 180 million, I could see the Yankee’s saying, “We’ll give you a seventh year” or “We’ll give you the same amount of years, but 200 million”. Look, Cano is a great player, but he will be a Yankee next year, so let’s just move on from him.
Omar Infante? No. Good player, but not any better than what we already have.
Brandon Phillips, Howie Kendrick and Ian Kinsler? All players still in their primes, but towards the tail end of those years. All make a lot more money than the Mets in house candidates and all have flaws that make them not much of an improvement over what we have. To me, the only reason that the Mets should go out of the organization for a position would be if the upgrade is going to be major. 2nd Base doesn’t require that. Shortstop does, the outfield does, even first base arguably does (although, as you saw in my last post, I don’t think the Mets will go out of the organization in that position), but not second base, catcher or third base.
So, onto the in house options:
Young’s really only on this list as a starting candidate because I think there is a chance that both Flores and Murphy are traded this offseason. The only way that would happen is if both are included in a major deal for a corner OF. If the Mets wanted to a take a chance on Matt Kemp, I could see the Dodgers asking for Murphy and Flores to man two holes on their infield (2B and 3B). If the Marlins are willing to deal Giancarlo Stanton in the division, they have so many holes that Flores and Murphy would make a ton of sense as a part of that equation.
Saying all of that, I don’t see it happening. I like the idea of Kemp, but I’m also really scared of his ankle injury, which will also scare off Alderson & Company, due to his huge contract. I also don’t believe that Stanton is getting traded in the division. I’m not even sure he’s getting traded at all, but if the Marlins do, I think they’re shipping him somewhere much farther away than their own division, or even their own league.
I get that Young’s stats don’t look great. He appears to be a speed guy only and it seems like the Mets are intent on using him as a bench speed guy who can play all three OF positions and 2B. I’ m fine with that, as I think Flores and Murphy are better players, but Young intrigues me as a leadoff hitter for several reasons:
1. His speed is elite. He’s not Billy Hamilton, but there are very few players in the majors that are better and, to me, speed is an undervalued talent in this league.
2. In leadoff situations, he’s shown tremendous success. Young had 418 PA’s as a Met, of which 168 of them were either leading off the game or leading off an inning. In those 168 PA’s, Young hit .313 with a .387 OBP. Those are big time lead off numbers. When you look even further, his career numbers in those situations are also good. In 492 career PA’s either leading off a game or an inning, he’s batted .288 with a .362 OBP.
The problem with Young is the rest of his ABs. Although he was somewhat product with RISP, batting .250 as a Met, he was abysmal in most other situations. So, although he does have a talent in lead off situations, as the above numbers attest, that talent doesn’t translate elsewhere. The question of how good he would be defensively is also an issue. He was brought up as a 2B in the minors, and showed improvement there, but was never a prospect that one would say was a plus fielder. His range would be better than Murphy, due to his speed, but that doesn’t mean he’d make the plays.
However, if I’m the Mets, I don’t know how much money I put into the leadoff spot. This team needs middle of the order hitters, so if you have someone like Young on your team, who has shown throughout his career that he has a talent for getting on base when no one else is on, and then causing havoc on the base paths with his speed, why not utilize that and put resources into other parts of the lineup? I don’t think they’ll go that route, but it would be interesting.
Murphy had a superb season in 2013. It’s been talked about multiple times on Mets 360 and other blogs in the Mets blogosphere, so I’m not going to quote the numbers, just list the top ten finishes in the NL; 8th in Runs Scored, 7th in Stolen Bases, 7th in Doubles, 8th in Total Bases, 2nd in Hits. Yes, he did this in a lot of ABs and is not a great OBP guy, but Murphy can hit, period. He’s also improved at 2B (although he was 2nd in Errors as a 2B, he was also 3rd in Assists, 2nd in Putouts and 3rd in Double Plays turned), making himself not a liability at the position.
So why is Murphy not the most likely guy to start in 2014? All the above information makes Murphy the biggest ML trade chip the Mets have. Although Phillips, Kinsler and Kendrick are reportedly on the market, Murphy is younger and cheaper than all three. Murphy is at the start of his prime and can play 1B and 3B if that’s the need. I could see Murphy being the ML part of a deal for a variety of OFs (Jose Bautista would be my choice), and I could also see the Mets holding onto him and signing FAs to fill the other needs. Either way, I’d be happy. Murphy is a Met that fans should be glad is on our team, and if he’s traded and he brings back a big piece of the puzzle for the next few years, then he should be celebrated for what’s he’s done and as one of the best 2nd Baseman in team history. If he improves my team I’m happy, if he’s hustling like he always does on the field, I’d also be happy.
Now, for Flores. Again, I will not rehash the history of Flores. Mets fans have known about this guy since he was 16. I also get that he had a tough time in his first shot at the majors, but there is statistical evidence in his minor league career that shows he can be, at the least, another version of Daniel Murphy.
To illustrate this, I’m going to dab into the world of major league equivalencies. To me, that’s the best way to even out minor league statistics when comparing ML players to players with mostly a minor league history.
Murphy had his own ML audition in 2008, after having break out campaign at AA Binghamton. The 23 year old had the following stat line: .308 BA, .870 OPS, 9.7% walk rate and 11.3% SO Rate. Pretty good.
Flores broke out at AA in 2012. The 20 year old’s stat line was: .311 BA, .855 OPS, 7.3% walk rate and a 10.1% SO Rate. Again, pretty good, and he was only 20 years old.
When you look at their ML Equivalencies, the numbers come out as follows:
Murphy: .238 AVG, .667 OPS, 6% walk rate, 12.6% SO rate
Flores: .237 AVG, .633 OPS, 5.2% walk rate, 12.1% SO rate
Nearly identical numbers. Now, we know the differences. Murphy came up to the majors in 2008 and was successful. Flores wasn’t in 2013. But it can’t be ignored that these similar stat lines came when Flores was 20 and Murphy was 23. It also can’t be ignored that Murphy’s debut occurred at 23, as opposed to Flores at 21. Flores also suffered that ankle injury, which could have further marred a good debut.
Flores also showed improvement once moving to AAA. Of course, his actual numbers were inflated at Las Vegas, but his equivalencies also show improvement.
AAA: .253 AVG, .690 OPS. Although the OPS only jumps 57 points, those were almost all in his slugging percentage, which took a 50 point jump, while his OBP took a 7-point jump.
What does this all mean? Considering how close they were at AA, I feel that Flores can, at his baseline, be a Murphy clone. The difference is, whereas Murphy was never expected to produce power, and by now we know he will be a 35 to 45 double guy with 8 to 12 HR’s a year, Flores has always projected to have 15 to 20 HR power. So, Flores will be Murphy with more power.
I would take that, and I think that will be the deciding factor in Flores being our 2B next year. Even fielding wise, they aren’t very different. Flores has a slightly better career minor league fielding percentage, Murphy slightly better range. That simply means, Flores makes more plays that come to him, while Murphy makes more plays that Flores can’t get to, in essence, evening the situation out. None will be a plus defensive infielder, but as Murphy has shown, they won’t be a detriment either.
When you add it all up, it makes sense to trade Murphy and give the 2B reigns to Flores. Murphy will get more back in a trade. There is depth in the organization at second and we already have an ML alternative (Young) if Flores flops. Plus, for similar expected production (I can’t see Flores, if given the starting duty at 2B, not at least replicating Murphy’s stat line from 2009, .266 AVG, .741 OPS, and he might even eclipse those numbers), why pay Murphy 5.5 million or more, when you have Flores for the bare minimum, at a much younger age. I’m a Flores believer and I look forward to the next several years of Flores, Travis d’Arnaud and Wright as strong right handed bats in our order.