It seems like just yesterday that Terry Collins was making a mountain out of, well, extremely flat ground when he complained loudly and longly about Ruben Tejada not reporting to camp early. Then Tejada came down with one of many injuries that Mets players have suffered this Spring. But we see that neither of these things seemed to have slowed down Tejada very much.
When Tejada came up for the second time last year and was in the lineup on a regular basis, this was his line over his final 181 PA: .319/.384/.400 – .784 OPS
Meanwhile, here are his numbers in Grapefruit League play in 38 PA: .273/.368/.424 – .793 OPS
This will be Tejada’s first full season in the majors and he is age 22. Former Mets SS Jose Reyes also played his first full season in the majors at age 22 and he put up a .687 OPS and even drew some mild MVP support. Voters were no doubt swayed by Reyes’ 60 SB that year. While Tejada will not match Reyes in steals, he has an excellent chance to surpass him in many other categories when you compare their age 22 seasons.
GEE HAS IMPRESSIVE SPRING: I think it is safe to say that I am very bearish on Dillon Gee heading into the 2012 season. After a tremendous start last year, Gee had a very tough end to the season, with a 5.51 ERA over his final 94.2 IP. But Gee has a solid 3.07 ERA after four starts. Rather than ERA, I like to look at strikeouts and walks allowed in Spring Training and this is where Gee really shines so far. In 14.2 IP he’s allowed 3 BB and has 12 Ks. Last year when he started off the year 7-0, Gee had a 3.00 BB/9. But for the remainder of the season his walks shot up to a 4.66 BB/9. If Gee hopes to get back on track in 2012, he has to be stingy with his walks and so far he is doing just that.
DUDA TEARS IT UP: On the opposite side of the spectrum, a Met I have been very bullish on is Lucas Duda. It amazes me that he has not received more national attention, as he had a 136 OPS+ in 347 PA last year. The comparison that I like to make is that Giancarlo Stanton had a 141 OPS+ last year and everyone treated him like the second coming. I know full well that Stanton is four years younger and is more athletic that Duda is. But with a bat in their hands the difference last year was negligible.
Hands down, Duda is having the best Spring of any Mets hitter, with a .325/.440/.725 line in 46 PA. Perhaps most impressively of all he has 4 HR in 40 ABs. Last year Duda hit 10 HR in 301 ABs in the majors. Eight of those homers came on the road. Everyone considers the new dimensions most likely to help Jason Bay and David Wright. But Duda should see more homers in the new park, too. If he can get up to just a 40-60 split in his HR output, Duda should challenge for 30 HR this year.
HERRERA WINS SPOT FOR OPENING DAY: Baseball is typically a bottom-line business but for some reason Danny Herrera has a hard time catching a break. Herrera is a LOOGY and with a lifetime .588 OPS allowed to lefties – he’s a really good one. Yet he’s seen considerable time in the minors in three of the past four years and he’s already on his fourth organization here with the Mets.
The Mets did not protect him on their 40-man roster and none of the other 29 clubs thought he was a worthwhile pickup. He re-signed with the Mets and came to camp with no one giving him a chance to win a job, despite the fact that he posted a 1.13 ERA and a 1.125 WHIP with the club last year. And if that wasn’t enough, the Mets said earlier in Spring Training that because he threw a screwball that they did not consider him an option as a lefty reliever, which is so incredibly stupid that even Steve Phillips is laughing at that remark.
So, Herrera kept his mouth shut and outpitched never-weres Chuck James and Garrett Olson to win the job. The latest info is that Tim Byrdak will not miss much time and will be back with the Mets sooner rather than later. Knowing Herrera’s luck, they will cut him to make room for Byrdak, who likely is not any better and is 11 years older. But let’s celebrate the victory instead of fretting about a potential future snub. Congratulations Mr. Herrera – you’re in the majors where you belong.
TURNER HOPES SPRING STATS ARE MEANINGLESS: Justin Turner leads all Mets players with 53 ABs this Spring. His .437 OPS is the lowest mark for any player in camp with 13 or more ABs. For most bench players, that might mean a trip to the minors or the unemployment line. But there’s been no talk whatsoever that Turner’s spot on the roster is in jeopardy. Perhaps if he had come up with a big Spring, Josh Satin could have put pressure on Turner. But an OPS 182 points higher clearly wasn’t enough, as Satin was sent to the minors.
Turner earned a lot of goodwill with the way he handled things in Spring Training last year when he got the short end of the stick in the competition for the second base job. He earned further points with his hot month of May last year for the Mets. But if he hopes to be with the team in 2013 and beyond, Turner will have to step up and show something before last May becomes a distant memory.