The All-Star break is upon us and it’s natural to look forward. The Mets at 48-40, four games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL and one game behind in the wild card race.
Below is a list of Mets players with a grade given to each hitter and pitcher on how they have played so far in the 2010 season. Not a whole lot was expected from the Mets, but they have been relatively healthy this season and they are playing with more confidence and cohesiveness.
All grades are relative to their impact on the lineup and the expectations placed upon them. Hence, you will see a player who is obviously not as talented as some others, but get better grades.
Rod Barajas — Catcher: Grade B –
Barajas was one of the main reasons the Mets dug themselves out of a 4-8 hole and got hot toward the end of April and into early May, which turned their season around. Barajas, came up with clutch hit after clutch hit, even hitting a walk-off home run on May 7. Barajas surged out of the gate with 11 HR’s in the first 52 games. However, Barajas has struggled mightily in June and July, with his last home run being hit on May 31. He has been somewhat of a liability lately as Mets manger Jerry Manuel has been given a lot of time to prospect Josh Thole.
Henry Blanco — Catcher: Grade B+
You can’t get much more value for a backup catcher than what Blanco has provided. Pitchers are really comfortable with Blanco behind the plate and his defense is above average. He has thrown out 47 percent of base runners as well. He has even ht a walk-off home run.
Josh Thole — Catcher: Grade Incomplete
I would love to give Thole a high grade here because of his gaudy numbers (.529 AVG and five RBI’s in 20 games). However, Thole only has 17 AB’s and his role with the team has not been permanently defined. Thole still has a future with the Mets though.
Ike Davis — First Baseman: Grade B
Davis, who didn’t even make the club out of spring training, was brought up in late April and has re-energized the club with his pop and glove. He has been a mainstay at the position after Fernando Tatis and Mike Jacobs proved to be incapable of holding down the fort. Prior to going 2-3 on Sunday with his 11th home run, Davis had been struggling as his average has dropped to .258. There is no shame in that for the young rookie. His future seems bright with the Mets, considering the Mets never thought of trading him in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes.
Ruben Tejada — Second Baseman: Grade C+
This is a hard grade to give, but there are two sides to the grade. His defense would be an A while his offense would be a D. The rookie has looked overmatched at the plate, but on the field he has looked like a seasoned vet. There is a lot of learning for the 20-year-old to absorb, and there is no telling how much better he can get
Luis Castillo — Second Baseman: Grade D+
Castillo, who is always an injury risk, is someone the Mets simply cannot count on anymore. He does possess the ability to get on base, but he can’t stay healthy. At his age, Castillo’s lack of pop, declining speed and range at second are proving to be detrimental to the team. Management will have a tough time demoting Tejada when Castillo is ready to return.
Alex Cora — Second Basemen/Shortstop: Grade C
Cora is a great clubhouse leader with great baseball acumen. Cora is a fine role player but his numbers (.222 AVG, 0 HR’s, and 20 RBI’s) are not that great. It is his intangibles that even get him the C grade.
Jose Reyes — Shortstop: Grade B
Let’s hope the lingering oblique injury is something that can go away with the break because Reyes needs to heal up and get back to what he does best: get on base and wreck havoc. Reyes, who also missed the first week of the season, took a while to heat up but in June he was looking like the Reyes of old. It is only injuries that are holding Reyes back.
Fernando Tatis — First Baseman/Infield Reserve: Grade D
Tatis, who was recently put on the DL, has taken a step back from his last couple of years with the Mets. With Davis firmly entrenched at first base, Tatis’ only role is a righty off the bench with some pop and he has been a disappointment on that front (.185 AVG, 2 HR’s).
David Wright — Third Baseman: Grade A+
What more needs to be said? Wright is back after a dismal 2009 season and is in the discussion for the NL MVP with a .314 AVG, 14 HR’s and a NL leading 65 RBI’s. Wright is back to being an All-Star and one you can most definitely count on in the second half.
Jason Bay — Left Field: Grade C
Bay was supposed to be the answer to the Mets problems with the long balls after hitting 36 of them with the Red Sox last year, but he has a measly six thus far this season. Bay has had some trouble adjusting to the Mets lineup and has not come through in the clutch. His number are not terrible, but they are not on par with the elite in baseball and he was paid as if he was one of the elite outfielders in the game. Bay can still make amends and has been known to be a streaky hitter. Let’s hope that streak will pick up in the dog days of the summer.
Angel Pagan — Center Field: Grade A+
Pagan has not only met the meager expectations placed upon him in the pre-season, he has thoroughly exceeded them. When Carlos Beltran returns this week, it will not be Pagan who will do the sitting and that is the testament to the year he has had. Pagan, who is 5th in the national league in hitting at .315, has been the most consistent and clutch hitter on the team. He has been a gem on the base paths and his range in centerfield is second to none. It’s scary to think how the Mets would be if Pagan wasn’t so good in the first half.
Jeff Francoeur — Right Field: Grade C
Francoeur is another player whose grade is different based upon his offense and defense. At the plate, Francoeur has been mediocre (.253 AVG 8 HR’s, 42 RBI’s) and has gone into a funk as we hit the break. However, there is no denying how much his arm has meant to the team. No one runs on Francoeur and there is no telling how many runs he saves with his powerful arm. With the return of Beltran this week and the emergence of Pagan, it will be Francoeur who will sit the most in the outfield.
Chris Carter — Outfield: Grade C+
Carter, nicknamed “The Animal,” has given the team a spark on many occasions, even delivering a game winning hit in his first at bat with the team on May 11 vs. the Nationals. But Carter has his flaws and is just a reserve for a reason.
Johan Santana — Starting Pitcher: Grade B+
If it wasn’t for his recent hot streak, the Mets might be sinking into the abyss. The Mets won two games last week and both were Santana starts. That should indicate his value. Santana, coming off elbow surgery, took a while to get back into a groove. Santana is usually known for being a second half pitcher and the Mets hope that trend continues.
Mike Pelfrey — Starting Pitcher: Grade B
Earlier in the season Pelfrey was pitching like an ace, a lock for the All-Star team, but in his last five starts or so, Pelfrey has been pitching with what has been described as a “dead arm.” Hate to say it, but Pelfrey has been awful lately and some Met fans have their concerns. There is the hope he regains the confidence he had to start the season with the All-Star break being the best remedy.
Jon Niese — Starting Pitcher: Grade B
Niese has been a revelation this year. After returning from the disabled list on June 5, Niese has come back on a tear and has gone 5-0 upon his return. With his performance this year, Niese has proven to be a reliable back end starter and the one the Mets will continue to rely on for years.
R.A. Dickey — Starting Pitcher: Grade A
Where did this guy come from? In a year where Oliver Perez and John Maine’s injuries and ineffectiveness have cramped the Mets staff, Dickey has been a breath of fresh air. Dickey’s knuckleball has kept hitters guessing and has been a rock in the rotation with a 6-2 record and 2.77 ERA. The question is, can he keep it up?
Hisanori Takahashi — Starting Pitcher: Grade B
Takahashi is another pitcher filling in well since the demise of Perez and Maine. Takahashi, who started in the bullpen, has filled in admirably but has had a rough go of it lately. The Mets bumped him from the rotation this past week, but once the season resumes, Takahashi will be back on the mound with the starting staff. He has a lot of value in the bullpen, but will remain in the rotation unless the Mets make a trade for a starter.
Bobby Parnell — Relief Pitcher: Grade B+
Parnell has been all you could have asked for when he was called up in June. Parnell has a jumping fastball and he may have cemented himself as the primary set up guy for the Mets with his recent pitching.
Elmer Dessens — Relief Pitcher: Grade B+
Dessens for the most part has done a great job. He gets results on substance and not flash. His numbers (1.47 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) indicate that he is a vital member of the bullpen.
Pedro Feliciano — Relief Pitcher: Grade B
Feliciano is another solid vet who keeps getting the job done. He is no longer just a lefty specialist as Manuel sometimes leans on him late in games despite having to face some tough righties. Feliciano has proven to be consistent and expect that to carry into the second half.
Ryota Igarashi — Relief Pitcher: Grade D+
Ever since his injury in April, Igarashi has been up and down, but mostly down. If Feliciano is the model of consistency, Igarashi is the antithesis. Igarashi was just sent down to the minors to iron out his problems.
Fernando Nieve — Relief Pitcher: Grade C
Nieve has had a truly roller coaster season alternating some stellar performances with some obvious stinkers. Nieve, much like Igarashi, has been anything but consistent. It’s hard to be harsh on Nieve though as he was clearly overused in the beginning of the season.
Francisco Rodriguez — Relief Pitcher (Closer): Grade B
Rodriguez has been solid if unspectacular this season. He has had some bad blown saves and has served up a few too many hanging curveballs. But his other numbers (21 saves, 2.45 ERA and 1.27 WHIP) suggest that he is still one of the better closers in the games.
Jerry Manuel — Manager: Grade B
As a manager you usually take too much credit when you win and too much blame when you lose. That statement fits Manuel to a T. Generally, the players like playing for him and after the team was in a 4-8 hole, there were concerns that Manuel could lose his job. But the ship has been righted and to some degree that is because of Manuel and not in spite of.
Other players either injured, sent down to the minors, have played sparingly or have been mitigated disasters will not receive a grade and they include:
Frank Catalanotto, Gary Matthews Jr., Oliver Perez, John Maine, Mike Jacobs, Tobi Stoner, Raul Valdes, Manny Acosta, Jesus Feliciano, Jenrry Mejia, Nick Evans and Sean Green.