Comparing Jason Bay and other Mets free agent hitters

When the Mets signed Jason Bay, he was going to be the slugger in the middle of the lineup who essentially replaced Carlos Delgado in the lineup. Then he didn’t hit for power and had his season cut short due to a concussion. Now fans are looking for any reason to feel confident about a bounce-back season.

I think of Carlos Beltran and how he had a poor season his first year after signing with the Mets as a free agent and then had a monster year in his second season. So, I decided to go back and look at all of the big-ticket free agents the Mets signed and see how they did in Year 1 and Year 2 with the franchise. Was Beltran’s experience typical or an outlier? Here are free agent hitters signed by the club since 1980:

Vince Coleman
Year 1 — .255/.347/.327
Year 2 — .275/.355/.358

Eddie Murray
Year 1 — .261/.336/.423
Year 2 — .285/.325/.467

Bobby Bonilla
Year 1 — .249/.348/.432
Year 2 — .265/.352/.522

Lance Johnson
Year 1 — .333/.362/.479
Year 2 — .309/.385/.404

Robin Ventura
Year 1 — .301/.379/.529
Year 2 — .232/.338/.439

Todd Zeile
Year 1 — .268/.356/.467
Year 2 — .266/.359/.373

Roger Cedeno
Year 1 — .260/.318/.346
Year 2 — .267/.320/.378

Cliff Floyd
Year 1 — .290/.376/.518
Year 2 — .260/.352/.462

Mike Cameron
Year 1 — .231/.319/.479
Year 2 — .273/.342/.477

Carlos Beltran
Year 1 — .266/.330/.414
Year 2 — .275/.388/.594

Jose Valentin
Year 1 — .271/.330/.490
Year 2 — .241/.302/.373

Moises Alou
Year 1 — .341/.392/.524
Year 2 — .347/.389/.388

Alex Cora
Year 1 — .251/.320/.310
Year 2 — .207/.265/.278

Big Year 2 gainers (OPS increase of 50+ points) – Bonilla, Beltran
Big Year 2 losers (OPS decrease of 50+ points) – Johnson, Ventura, Zeile, Floyd, Valentin, Alou, Cora

Nine of 13 free agents saw an OPS change of 50 or more points between their first two seasons with the Mets and eight of those were over 75 points. Unfortunately, only two of those saw a positive increase. But both of those players last name’s started with “B” so maybe there’s hope for Bay yet. The other thing those two players had in common is that they were the youngest of our nine big movers. Bonilla was 29-30 in the two seasons while Beltran was 28-29.

Bay will be 32 this season.

While this comparison does not give much hope for a Bay rebound, we should keep in mind that he has been a consistently good hitter throughout his major league career. In five of his six seasons prior to 2010, Bay had an OPS of .895 or better. The one season he did not, Bay battled knee injuries and put up a .746 OPS. The following year he put up a .286/.373/.522 line.

I think we would sign up for that in a minute.

Top 10 ways Mets have frustrated followers

It has been another frustrating season for the New York Mets and their fans.

The Mets spent eight days in last place early in the season and last led the National League East on April 30. Their offense totally collapsed in July, they couldn’t get a big hit when needed and key pitchers slumped at inopportune times.

Below I explore the 10 most frustrating topics for the 2010 New York Mets. Stats are through Tuesday.

1. Inability to hit and score in the second half

During the Jul. 6-Sept.1 period in which New York went 18-31 and dropped from two games back to 13 back, it endured four separate streaks of between three and seven games of scoring three runs or less (3,4,4,7). New York endured only two 3-game streaks prior to the break.

New York averaged 2.84 runs and hit .178 with RISP, .143 with two outs in RISP and .161 (5-for-31) with the bases loaded. The Mets entered the period batting .284/ .231/.208 in those situations.

Culprits with runners in scoring position

Wright, 5-for-39

Davis, 6-for-35

Pagan, 10-for-35

Reyes, 8-for-31

Barajas, 0-for-6

Francouer, 4-for-34

Castillo, 4-for-22

Bay, 2-for-7

Note: Wright was 30-for-91 with runners in scoring position prior to that stretch; Pagan 24-for-64 and Barajas 16-for-56.

2. Dysfunctional front office

There has to be a disconnect somewhere when injured stars Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes and management continually have breakdowns in communication over injuries, return dates, etc. And it happened again this season more than once.

Who is running the show?  The Wilpons?  Minaya?  Nobody seems to know, resulting in the Mets’ front office becoming a laughing stock.  Questionable long-term investments in Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and Jason Bay, among others have helped the Mets’ decide to fly Minaya coach on airflights.  Minaya and Manuel seem to be dead men walking at this point.

The front office took hits for not being able to effectively handle the Perez mess at the most crucial time of the season and endured ridicule over the Francisco Rodriguez abuse situation and revelations of his past bad behavior.  And they couldn’t seem to pull the trigger on deadline trades that could have helped the club.

Manuel doesn’t escape scrutiny, blowing out Fernando Nieve, who pitched 20 times by May 9, and stagnating top pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia’s development by adding him to the bullpen Opening Day instead of having him pitch every fifth day in the minor leagues.  Manuel lacked the presence and fire to get the most out of mercurial shortstop Jose Reyes and others, insisted on playing Jeff Francoeur and batting Luis Castillo and Ruben Tejada at the top of the order.

3. Jason Bay power outage

Boston GM Theo Epstein was ripped when he wouldn’t ante-up for Bay in the offseason, but whose laughing now?

Bay, who signed for four years and $66 million, hit .259 with a career-low .402 slugging percentage to go with a .749 OBA – second lowest in his career – with six homers and 47 RBI in 95 games before a concussion ended his season.

Among players with 400 plate appearances and a .400 slugging, Bay has the seventh lowest HR percentage (1.72) this season and by far the lowest among players who at one time hit 30 homers.

Bay hit two homers in his last 33 games (both in same game) and hit .170 with a .443 OPS in his final 14 games when the Mets were going through a July power drought.  He had a 6.72 HR percentage last season in Boston with 36 blasts.

One positive note for Bay-lovers.  The 32-year-old posted a.830 OPS at Citi Field.

4. Mike Pelfrey slump

I think everybody in Mets nation has bought into Pelfrey as a solid starting pitcher.  He’s the 10th right-hander in franchise history to post 15 wins, and Pelfrey started 2010 great and is finishing strong.  Unfortunately, however, most fans are fixated on Pelfrey’s slump, which happened to coincide with New York’s offensive woes in July and August.

And it was bad. After starting 10-2 with a 2.71 ERA, Pelfrey went 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in seven starts from June 30-Aug. 4, getting tagged for 62 hits and 16 walks in 30 innings.

It was too late for the Mets by the time the 2005 first-rounder turned it around, going 5-3 with a 2.85 ERA in his last nine starts.

5. Second base production – or lack thereof

Check out these OPS numbers:  Luis Castillo, .606, Alex Cora, .543, Ruben Tejada, .561.  Among players with 169 TPA, Cora is third worst, Tejada 9th and Castillo, 15th.  The trio has combined for one homer, 50 RBI and 67 runs in 686 plate appearances.

Among major league second basemen, the Mets rank last in OPS (.583) and homers (1) and 29th in average (.222) and doubles (19).

With the Mets second basemen mostly batting second, New York ranks 29th in the majors in OPS (.652), batting (.246) and homers (4) from the No. 2 spot.

6. David Wright slump

When the Mets needed a lift most from their best player, Wright couldn’t deliver.

Wright was third in the NL in RBI with 64 in 82 games on July 1, batting .317 with a .941 OPS.

When New York went 18-31 from July 7- Sept 1, Wright hit .242/.710 OPS and 22 RBI.  He was 5-for-39 with runners in scoring position and endured skids of 3-for-27, 2-for-33 and 1-for-15 during that period.  He has added a 5-for-39 skid in September.

Wright is a few strikeouts shy of  Tommie Agee and Dave Kingman’s franchise record of 156 strikeouts.

7. Rod Barajas disappearing after great start

Of his 12 homers, Rod Barajas had three multiple-homer games and belted game-winning homers in the ninth inning on May 4 & 7.

Barajas hit .269 with an .844 OPS in his first 41 games through May 31 with 11 homers and 30 RBI.  He hit .163 with a .444 OPS in his last 33 games with a homer and four RBI.  He had one RBI in June.

In 2009 at Toronto, Barajas was batting .311 with a 823 OPS and 34 RBI in his first 44 games before finishing the last 91 games with .194 average, .598 OPS and 48 RBI.

Can Josh Thole take over full time?  Thole had four RBI in his first nine at-bats, but just nine in his last 162 at-bats.  He is batting .241 with a .564 OPS in September with two RBI in 54 at-bats.

8. The struggles of Pedro Feliciano

It’s hard to quibble with a man who is leading the NL in appearances for the third straight season and could have joined Paul Quantrill as the only pitchers in history with four straight 80-appearance seasons if he only had pitched in two more games in 2007.  But Feliciano has allowed 12 more hits and nine more walks in the same amount of innings this season as last.

Again, during the Mets’ biggest offensive swoon, Feliciano came up small.  In 26 games from June 29 to August 31, the 33-year-old was 1-4 with a 6.06 ERA and 27 hits and 10 walks allowed in 16 1/3 innings.

Overall this season, Feliciano has been hit at a .351 clip by right-handers (.285 career), .328 on the road (.263) and .303 with runners in scoring position (.226).  Only a great September run (2 runs, 5 hits in 12 IP) has given Mets fans hope that he hasn’t used up his effectiveness for 2011.

His OPS by days rest increased with days off:

.579 with no days;

.660 with one day;

.817 with two days;

.967 with three days;

1.750 with five days

.984 with six days.

9. Oliver Perez and John Maine

If New York was going to contend, it needed two of the three pitchers among Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine to come through.

For the most part, Pelfrey took care of business, but Perez and Maine didn’t.  Even before Maine got hurt, he didn’t pitch well. He was 1-3, 6.13 ERA and a 1.815 WHIP in nine starts.

Perez was even worse.  After a solid 2008 campaign and signing a 3-year/$36 million contract, Perez is 3-8 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.964 WHIP in 30 games.  After a knee injury shut him down last season, Perez was 0-4 with a 6.65 ERA this season and completely killed club morale by refusing an assignment to Class AAA.

10. Opening with Gary Matthews Jr. in CF

Jerry Manuel had Matthews in center field over Angel Pagan on Opening Day.

Matthews was less than underwhelming, batting .190 with a .507 OPS in 65 plate appearances. He drove in just one of the 50 batters he had on base – a 2 percent ratio that is the second worst in the major leagues this season behind only Ryan Langerhans (4/61; .164).

2010 Mets Dopplegangers

One of the difficult things when analyzing the Mets offense this year is to separate the names from the numbers they have actually produced. Sure, yesterday’s lineup had Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and David Wright in it but is it accurate to consider the performance the Mets are receiving from these players in 2010 to what our mind thinks of when it hears Beltran or Reyes or Wright?

So, in order to help separate performance from reputation, I took the players position, games played level and OPS+ and used the Play Index at Baseball-Reference.com to come up with a somewhat similar player in team history to substitute in for comparison purposes. So, here are the Mets’ leaders by position with a substitute from the team’s past.

Catcher
Rod Barajas – 267 PA, 80 OPS+, .225/.263/.414
2003 Vance Wilson – 292 PA, 75 OPS+, .243/.293/.373

First Base
Ike Davis – 522 PA, 115 OPS+, .263/.349/.449
1995 Rico Brogna – 540 PA, 119 OPS+, .289/.342/.485

Second Base
Luis Castillo – 295 PA, 67 OPS+, .235/.338/.267
2005 Miguel Cairo – 367 PA, 64 OPS+, .251/.296/.324

Third Base
David Wright – 593 PA, 130 OPS+, .289/.361/.498
1987 Howard Johnson – 645 PA, 133 OPS+, .265/.364/.504

Shortstop
Jose Reyes – 524 PA, 101 OPS+, .286/.322/.427
2004 Kaz Matsui – 509 PA, 88 OPS+ .272/.331/.396

Left Field
Jason Bay – 401 PA, 103 OPS+, .259/.347/.402
2001 Benny Agbayani – 339 PA, 101 OPS+, .277/.364/.399

Center Field
Angel Pagan – 556 PA, 109 OPS+, .289/.342/.432
1986 Mookie Wilson – 415 PA, 115 OPS+ .289/.345/.430

Right Field
Jeff Francoeur – 449 PA, 79 OPS+, .237/.293/.369
2002 Jeromy Burnitz – 550 PA, 80 OPS+, .215/.311/.365

Bench
Carlos Beltran – 207 PA, 92 OPS+, .236/.338/.368
1997 Brian McRae – 162 PA, 92 OPS+, .248/.317/.414

Ruben Tejada – 201 PA, 44 OPS+, .188/.281/.241
1968 Phil Linz – 275 PA, 45 OPS+, .209/.243/.236

Alex Cora – 187 PA, 48 OPS+, .207/.265/.278
1963 Al Moran – 370 PA, 47 OPS+, .193/.274/.230

Josh Thole – 167 PA, 108 OPS+, .297/.377/.385
1963 Jesse Gonder – 134 PA, 110 OPS+, .302/.328/.405

Chris Carter – 155 PA, 86 OPS+, .259/.316/.371
1999 Matt Franco – 161, 88 OPS+, .235/.366/.364

The hardest position was shortstop, as the Mets have not had anyone play a significant number of games and record an OPS+ of 100 or more except for Reyes. There were players who were closer than Matsui to him in OPS+, but they did not have close to the SB or HR that Matsui did.

The comparison that surprised me the most was finding Agbayani show up for Bay. Most Mets fans have a soft place in their heart for Agbayani but few would go that far with Bay. And the most troubling one is to see Gonder show up for Thole. Gonder played 131 games the following season and had a 99 OPS+ as a 28-year old and then never had more than 174 PA the rest of his career.

This was a sobering exercise. To think that this year’s hitters are akin to Phil Linz, Kat Matsui and Rico Brogna is not anything Mets fans want to hear. For my own sanity, I’ll go back to thinking of them as Beltran, Reyes and Wright.

Dreadful offense dooms July

After a terrific June in which the team went 18-8, the Mets followed up with a brutal July, in which they posted a dismal 9-17 record. Everyone points to the 2-9 road trip that opened up the second half of the season but the bad play started before the break, when the Mets went 2-4 in a six-game homestand. And the road trip could have been a bit more respectable save for a terrible record in one-run games. The Mets went 1-5 in one-run games on their West Coast swing.

The Good

The entire Mets’ staff had a 3.58 ERA in July and deserved a better fate than a .346 winning percentage. Johan Santana was the only pitcher with a Won-Loss record to match his stats. He went 3-0 with a 2.06 ERA in the month. And his ERA was only that high due to a meltdown versus the Cardinals in his last start in July, It appears the new Santana will give the Mets a chance to win nearly every time out, but when he’s off, he will get beat around pretty bad.

R.A. Dickey continued to pitch like an All-Star, as he posted a 1.51 ERA with a 2.67 K/BB ratio in six games covering 41.2 innings. Yet somehow he had a 1-2 record in July. Jonathon Niese fared a little better as his 2.48 ERA and 3.86 K/BB ratio translated into a 2-2 record. Niese is quietly having a terrific rookie season and in a normal year he would be one of the frontrunners for the Rookie of the Year Award.

Only one hitter had an outstanding month for the Mets and few should be surprised it was Angel Pagan. He posted a .337/.402/.594 slash line in July. He also scored 15 runs and was successful on 9 of his 10 SB attempts. Remember when Pagan was not good enough to start on Opening Day? Or how about when people thought that he should go to the bench when Carlos Beltran returned? Do you recall when some thought he should platoon with Jeff Francoeur? Hopefully all of that nonsense has been permanently put to bed.

Ike Davis had 6 HR, 18 RBIs and 13 runs. He also batted .214 with a .287 OBP and struck out a team-leading 28 times. David Wright batted .296 with 14 RBIs and 13 runs. He also had just a .797 OPS. Josh Thole had a .426 OBP and even hit a HR while choking up more than anyone since Felix Millan. Alleged to be a defensive liability, Thole now is the personal catcher for Dickey, the toughest pitcher on the staff to catch.

The Bad

The Mets had a .227/.293/.353 slash line for July. Pretty much every hitter besides Pagan deserves some sort of mention in this section. Beltran got off to a slow start in his return from the DL, as he had a .204/.313/.333 mark in 15 games. At least he seems healthy enough to be on the field and has 2 doubles, a triple, a HR and 9 BB in 64 PA.

Second base was a vortex of suck for the month. Luis Catillo led the way with a .545 OPS in 46 PA. Alex Cora was even worse with a .161/.203/.250 line in 59 PA. And bringing up the rear was Ruben Tejada with a .108/.244/.108 ledger in 47 PA. But at least he can use the defense that he is only 20 years old. When Castillo was 20, he did not fare much better with a .625 OPS in 180 PA with the Marlins. Cora had a .623 OPS in the Hi-A Florida State League at the same age.

Pedro Feliciano gets his name called on a regular basis but has not been good for awhile. In July he was 0-3 with a 5.23 ERA with 7 BB in 10.1 IP. Feliciano wants to be an all-purpose reliever but he is still best utilized as a situational lefty. This year RHB have an .875 OPS against him. But against LHB, Feliciano has a .238/.307/.338 line despite a .322 BABIP.

The Ugly

Jeff Francoeur batted .132 with a .206 slugging mark in 73 PA. He is hitless in his last 15 at-bats and is making the club long for the return of Jason Bay, who posted a .194/.266/.250 line before being sidelined with a concussion.

Teflon Mike Pelfrey went 0-3 with a 10.02 ERA in the month but continues to get a free ride from most of the faithful. In 20.2 IP, Pelfrey allowed 13 BB and notched just 10 Ks. Last year after the All-Star break, Pelfrey had a 5.67 ERA yet remained in the rotation because he was the only one healthy. Hopefully Manuel will not hesitate to remove him in 2010 if he continues to pitch this poorly. Pat Misch is 10-4 with a 3.24 ERA at Triple-A. Realistically, Misch is not a long-term answer, but he would give the club a better chance to win games right now than Pelfrey.

***

Most fans were disappointed that the Mets stood still at the deadline. It has typically been the M.O. of general manager Omar Minaya to make his big moves in the offseason, so it should not be a surprise. Plus, there continue to be rumors that the Mets were unable to add payroll, further limiting the moves that Minaya might make.

The team is on the fringe of playoff contention, 6.5 games back both in the NL East and the Wild Card standings. Given their position, it would have been questionable at best to acquire a mid-rotation starter at big money for a long-shot playoff berth. The Mets will have to play the guys they have and hope that the offense can bounce back. There are still 22 games left against the Braves and Phillies, so the Mets might have a better shot at the division title than the Wild Card.

Sink or Swim Time for the Mets

Prior to Wednesday night’s game at Arizona, the Mets players held a 15-minute team meeting to address their recent struggles and map out a plan to rectify their losing ways.

The meeting may help out in the long run, but after a grueling 14-inning affair on Wednesday night the Mets were swept by the lowly Diamondbacks in heartbreaking fashion. Wednesday’s defeat was the Mets 11th walk-off loss. This west-coast road trip is amounting to be a disaster. The Mets have lost six of seven games to start off the second half.

When will this end? When is enough, enough?

Hand it to utility man Alex Cora for showing some guts in calling out some reporters on Tuesday night. It was first believed that Cora was calling out his teammates for laughing after a loss, but Cora was showing anger at reporters and media who were laughing and enjoying themselves too much. Cora has had enough of the ‘aw shucks whatever’ attitude that has been festering in the Mets locker room.

The Mets players have to be held accountable and have to realize the urgency of the season at this point. I assume that was the tone of the meeting. Too bad the immediate result was another tough loss.

For a moment in Wednesday’s game it looked liked some of that spunk was back for the Mets. With the Mets trailing 3-2 in the 6th inning, Rod Barajas belted a game tying home run to snap out of his own slump and give the team some life. From there the bullpen stepped up for seven scoreless innings, with Oliver Perez of all people even getting out of jams, but could not go any further after Fernando Nieve gave up two big hits in the 14th to lose the game.

The guts the Mets showed late in the game was refreshing, but this is a team that is struggling mightily to score runs and something must be done.

As Brian Joura pointed out in Wednesday’s post, maybe it is time the Mets look to get some offense before the trading deadline. Somebody needs to light a fire under the team. It may be drastic, but desperate times call for desperate measure and maybe just maybe the Mets should look into firing Howard Johnson.

There is just no life in the Mets bats right now and a change, any change, might be necessary. I love Johnson, and he is a Met legend, but change for the sake of change might be the way to go.

I am not suggesting that they definitely should dump HoJo, but someone needs to be held accountable. Looking at the way Jason Bay, Ike Davis and Rod Barajas are swinging lately is like watching a train wreck.
I have already stated numerous times how the Mets need some pitching, and still do, but I agree some changes or tweaks have to be made on offense in order to save this apparently sinking ship.

Maybe it’s just the west coast that is not agreeing with the Mets and all they need is some home cooking. However, do remember when the Mets come home on Monday they will open against baseball’s hottest team in the St. Louis Cardinals (currently on an eight-game winning streak).

It’s sink or swim time for the Mets, and the team must treat the Dodger series as being thrown a life preserver, with winning two games being a must. One win against the Dodgers would be very disheartening. Getting swept by the Dodgers might as well be considered catastrophic.

Mets Report Card

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.

Mets rally falls short

The New York Mets (46-37) rallied from a 7-1 deficit, responding to the Cincinnati Reds six-run fifth inning with five runs of their own, but the rally fell short as the Reds held off the Mets 8-6.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel was thrown out of the game in the fifth inning, after the umpiring crew reversed a call. With the scored tied at one, the bases loaded and a 2-2 count on Scott Rolen, Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey threw an inside pitch that was originally ruled strike three by homeplate umpire Jerry Meals, who ruled Rolen tipped the pitch.

After the umpires convened, they changed the ruling to a hit-by-pitch, causing Rod Barajas to explode. Manuel intervened, argued and thrown out. 

The Mets are now 28-13 at Citi Field. The Atlanta Braves lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 3-1. The Phillies are now four games behind the Braves, while the Mets remain two game out in the National League East.

Cincinnati Reds @ New York Mets … recap and boxscore

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Post Game Notes:

Mike Pelfrey (10-3, 3.39) could not get through the fifth inning, allowing seven runs, nine hits and a home run in his start.

Raul Valdes returned to the Mets today and he recorded the final out of the fifth inning. Fernando Nieve, who hasn’t appeared since last Monday in San Juan against the Florida Marlins, pitched three innings in relief, surrending a home run to Joey Votto (his second of the game). Nieve also struck out the side in the seventh inning.

Pedro Feliciano made his 48th appearance of the season, pitching a scoreless inning in the ninth.

David Wright has 11 multi-hit games in his last 14 starts. Wright added two more hits with a triple and two runs.

Angel Pagan went 2-for-5, hitting his fifth home run of the season off Travis Wood in the fifth inning.

Alex Cora went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI.

###

Post Game Quotes:

Crew chief Dale Scott (on umpires call):

“The easy call would have been to keep it the same, but we’re not looking for the easy call, we’re looking to get it right. In this case, it was the correct call — not the popular call, but the correct one.”

Mike Pelfrey (on his performance):

“For the first time in over a year, I let my emotions get the best of me,” Pelfrey said. “It wasn’t very good on my part.”
Jerry Manuel (on Pelfrey):
“He was somewhat frustrated. He thought a previous pitch was a strike and I think after that point, he kind of lost it there.”

//

Mets bounce back in DC

The New York Mets (45-35) scored four runs in the fourth inning and Jonathon Niese pitched seven innings in a 5-3 win over the Washington Nationals Friday night.

The Mets are now 17-23 on the road and 4-6 against the Nationals this season.

New York Mets @ Washington Nationals … recap and boxscore

###

Post Game Notes:

Jonathon Niese (6-2, 3.62) pitched seven innings, allowing one run and six hits while sriking out eight and walking one batter (117 pitches/77 strikes). Niese also delivered with the bat with a fourth inning double, scoring Alex Cora.

Cora had a big two-run triple in the Mets four-run fourth inning. He started at second base and had three RBI in the game.

Bobby Parnell chalked up a scoreless eighth inning in relief, throwing eight pitches. Since being recalled from Buffalo, Parnell has not been scored on in six of his seven appearances (1.17 ERA).

Pedro Feliciano made his 46th appearance, starting the ninth inning and retiring one batter before being replaced by Elmer Dessens, who went on to allow one hit, one walk and two earned runs. Francisco Rodriguez followed, giving up two more hits, before finishing the game to record his 19th save of the season

Angel Pagan returned to the starting lineup, batting leadoff and going 1-for-5 with two strikeouts.

David Wright‘s hot streak is spilling into July. He went 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored, raising his season batting average to .312.

Jeff Francoeur added two hits in four plate appearances.

Post Game Quotes:

Jerry Manuel (on ending of the game):

“I was hiding at that time. I didn’t see anything. I looked up and they came running off the field, and I said, ‘Oh, we must have won.”

 

//

Road sweep is latest good thing

The Orioles are not very good.

But it counts when the Yankees and Red Sox beat them and it counts when the Mets do the same. And given the team’s poor road record this year, the three-game sweep in Baltimore was met with open arms. Perhaps most encouraging was how the sweep was a total team effort. The hitters tallied 19 runs in the three games, all three starting pitchers recorded a win and the bullpen usage was both sensible and effective.

Jose Reyes went 6-13 with a double and home run.
David Wright matched Reyes by going 6-13 but had two doubles, two homers and 7 RBIs/
Chris Carter hit two 3-run homers
Jason Bay broke an 0-16 stretch with a 4-4 day Sunday, including a homer to straight away center field.
Alex Cora delivered three hits and two RBIs.
R.A. Dickey ran his record to 4-0 and set a career-high with 8 Ks.
Hisanori Takahashi bounced back from two rough starts to go a season-high 7 IP and allowed just 1 ER.
Mike Pelfrey battled to win his team-high ninth game of the year.
The bullpen allowed just 1 R in 7 IP and had a scoreless inning from both Ryota Igarashi and Raul Valdes, two pitchers who had struggled as of late.

The Mets are now 35-28, a season-high seven games over .500 after going 8-1 in their last nine games. The Mets have outscored their opponents 43-21 in that stretch. The team’s starting pitchers have notched six wins in that span, including two each by Dickey and Jon Niese. Overall the starters have 7 QS in the last nine games and have a 2.25 ERA in that time period.

So many things are going right for the Mets, reminiscent from earlier in the year when they went 10-1. The key going forward is to determine what is merely a hot streak unlikely to last and what moves can the team make to improve.

Reyes and Wright are unlikely to continue to hit .462 with a .923 slugging mark. The offense should look to see where it can improve to pick up the slack. By far the easiest move is to incorporate a platoon in right field where Jeff Francoeur starts against LHP and Carter starts against RHP. Here are their stats this season when they have the platoon advantage:

Francoeur – .370/.426/.481 in 61 PA vs LHP
Carter – .281/.324/.563 in 34 PA vs RHP

Francoeur has a .695 OPS versus righties this year, which is right in line with what he has done in his career against them. Lifetime Francoeur has a .258/.299/.410 line against RHP in 2,269 PA. Perhaps Carter is not really likely to put up an .887 OPS versus righties over an entire season. However, it is quite likely that Francoeur will put up that .695 mark. Even if Carter drops 100 points of OPS from here on out, he is still a better option at the plate than Francoeur against RHP.

There is not a whole lot else to be done offensively. The Mets have to hope that Bay will produce the power that he has every other year in the majors when he has been healthy. They have to hope that the catching tandem of Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco can keep hitting homers. And finally they have to hope that Ike Davis can keep providing a power threat from the left hand site of the plate. Davis is batting just .227 vs RHP but does have 5 of his 7 HR against righties. Overall the Mets are slugging 48 points higher against LHP than RHP, another reason they need Carter’s bat in the lineup.

Starting pitching-wise, the Mets have to assume that Pelfrey is for real at this point. Now they have to determine what they can realistically expect from Niese, Dickey and Takahashi going forward. Can the Mets go .500 when those three guys are on the mound? Here’s how it has broken down so far:

Niese – 10 starts, 6-4
Dickey – 5 starts, 4-1
Takahashi – 5 starts, 3-2

So far, so good, as the Mets have gone 13-7 in games started by these three pitchers at the end of the rotation. At this point, the Mets are committed to Niese, so the question becomes should they have the same commitment to Dickey and Takahashi? Should John Maine go back into the rotation when he comes back and should the team actively pursue a SP on the trade market?

Personally, I believe both pitchers have done enough to keep getting the ball every five days. I am not thrilled with the idea of John Maine, reliever, but that is where I would pitch him when he came back. I would not pursue a trade for a SP until Maine got a chance in the rotation, and perhaps not even then, if Maine came back and was effective.

If nothing else this week, we learned that Kevin Millwood is not an upgrade and that the club should not pursue him in any way, shape or form. A true upgrade like Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt probably costs more than the Mets are willing to commit at this point. I would be thrilled to see either pitcher on the team, but here in mid-June, neither seems like a realistic option. A month from now we could be singing a different tune.

And finally we have the bullpen. Jerry Manuel seems to have lost his obsession with pitching Fernando Nieve in every game. Francisco Rodriguez has been solid as the closer and Pedro Feliciano has been good against LHB and tolerable against RHB. Hopefully Igarashi and Valdes are back on the right track and Elmer Dessens can continue to give quality innings.

Are the 2010 Mets still best served having Nieve and Jenrry Mejia in the bullpen at this point? I like having a pitcher who can come in and throw gas. Now that Nieve is not pitching every day, he can still dial it up to the mid-90s and Mejia can go even faster than that. I still say that both of these guys should have been in the minors as SP this season. But at this point, one of them is needed in the pen. Pick one, make him the designated gas thrower and send the other back to the minors to be a SP. Manny Acosta or Bobby Parnell or Pat Misch can come up and throw the lowest-leverage innings in the pen in their place.

The Mets are on pace to win 90 games right now. When you factor in the banishment of Oliver Perez (Mets were 1-6 in his starts), the potential return of Carlos Beltran and a few easy moves at the major league level, the Mets could even squeak out a few more wins if everything breaks right.

This is a team that should score runs, has starting pitchers who give the team a chance to win every night and a bullpen that can be effective if the manager does not decide to overwork guys for no reason. Obviously they have a huge home field advantage and if they can win a few games on the road, this could be a playoff team.

The Phillies are finding out that it is no fun when your catalyst is on the disabled list. While the Mets scuffled without Reyes last year, the Phillies are 23-26 when Jimmy Rollins does not play. Last year Philadelphia got a huge boost when three pitchers not in its rotation on Opening Day (Happ, Lee, Martinez) combined to go 24-9 (.727). This year it is the Mets who are healthier and it is the Mets getting the unexpected SP boost. Dickey and Takahashi are 9-2 (.818).

The last three seasons, the expectations were for the Mets to make the playoffs and each time they fell short in excruciating fashion. This year there was virtually no talk of the playoffs. So, this is payback time for the fans. Now we get to sit back and enjoy things. This is a team that has had its share of bad breaks yet still finds itself in the playoff hunt.

It is time to get on the bandwagon.

Murphy’s Law rears ugly head again

While it may not have been as damaging as the injuries that piled up last season for the Mets, Daniel Murphy’s season-ending injury will certainly have ramifications with the roster in to the summer.

Murphy was perhaps days away from being recalled before he again was involved in another freak accident. On Wednesday night in Buffalo, while playing second base of all places, Murphy suffered an MCL tear of his right knee after an opposing player slid into him in an awkward manner. Previously, Murphy suffered a right knee sprain in the final week of spring training and was working his way back into shape. Yet another setback in a maddening season filled with its highs and lows.

Murphy was not going to be an everyday starter when he eventually would have been recalled since Ike Davis has taken over that position, but this injury still stings.

The Mets lack punch off the bench and Murphy’s bat could have come in handy for the stretch run. While in the minors, Murphy was trying to get work in at second base, while also playing first and the outfield, and possibly fill in for the oft-injured Luis Castillo, but that point is moot now.

So do the Mets now try to get a second baseman off the trade market? As of now, if Castillo does go on the DL, the plan is for the Mets to recall prospect Ruben Tejada and place him on the bench while Alex Cora plays second base.

That affects the bench now. If Murphy and Castillo are on the shelf, you have to go with Gary Matthews, Fernando Tatis, Chris Carter, Henry Blanco and Tejada.

Is that enough?

Matthews has been nothing short of a disappointment and Tatis is nothing to get too warmed up about. Blanco is what he is, a defensive back-up catcher. Everyone in Mets nation loves “The Animal” Carter, but can he sustain it? He’s great off the bench. However, with the Mets now without Murphy, the team sure could use a utility hitter with pop.

Here’s a name that is sure to conjure some memories — Ty Wigginton.

You know that Baltimore would be willing to ship him off knowing they have no plans for him being with the team long term. Wigginton earlier in the week confessed that he loved his time in New York, but would not get worked up in trade talks.

Wigginton has proved he still has plenty of pop left in his bat (13 home runs) and would be embraced back in New York. Ideally, you would like a lefty bat with power (Russell Branyan?), but if Wigginton and stabilizing pitcher Kevin Millwood could come to New York cheap, I don’t see the possible downside?

Bad Luck With RISP

One day after going 1-12 with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP), the Mets had a much better time of it Thursday, going 4-14. Still, production with RISP has been one of the trouble spots for the Mets early in the 2010 season. After nine games, the team has a .554 OPS with RISP.

How bad is that? The National League average for OPS in RISP is .807. The Mets rank 15th out of 16 teams, 92 points behind the 14th place Washington Nationals. The only team the Mets edge out is the woeful Houston Astros, who have a .529 OPS.

Here are the top six players for the Mets in terms of PA with RISP and what they have done:

Name	                PA	 AVG	OBP	SLG
Jeff Francoeur	        16	.200	.438	.300
Jason Bay	        12	.182	.250	.182
Gary Matthews	        12	.000	.250	.000
Rod Barajas	        11	.333	.273	.444
Fernando Tatis	        11	.222	.364	.222
Alex Cora	        10	.111	.200	.111

The first thing that jumps out is that David Wright is nowhere to be seen in this chart. Ideally, the lineup is situated so that the team’s best hitter comes up with RISP but with Jose Reyes missing time early and still working his way back into shape, the top of the order for the Mets has not been very good.

The next thing to stand out is reason #512 why Gary Matthews should be on the bench. I suppose it is nice that the Mets are keeping their promise to a veteran and giving him a chance to compete for a starting position. But as I have stated earlier, if the choice is between a guy we know is no good (Matthews) and a guy who may or may not be good (Angel Pagan) – always, always, always go with the guy who at least has a chance to be good.

Bay and to a lesser extent Tatis struggling has been a problem. Francoeur has not done as well in these situations as he has done overall, but to suggest that a guy with a .438 OBP is a problem is not a stance I am willing to take. Barajas is right where you would expect him to be in OBP and SLG (maybe a tad high on the SLG end) and Cora is not far from where one would expect.

Right now the Mets are below average in runs scoring. Hopefully once Reyes gets back to 100 percent and Beltran rejoins the lineup next month, things will improve on that end. And the team has a chance to really make a move with just a little better luck with RISP.

Why do I call it luck? Because the NL BABIP with RISP (or National League Batting Average on Balls in Play with Runners in Scoring Position, for those who prefer English) is .291, essentially the same as the .300 BABIP overall this season. The Mets BABIP with RISP is .217, which is simply not going to last over an entire season. Last year the NL overall BABIP was .299 and with RISP it was .292. The lowest BABIP for RISP for a team in 2009 was .275, while the Mets hit .309 for the year.

So, contrary to what some may think, there is no great skill to hitting with RISP. Generally, players hit better with runners on base than they do overall (NL batters have a .762 OPS overall this year compared to a .799 OPS with runners on base and the .807 mark with RISP mentioned earlier). Essentially, the key to having a good offense is to get runners on base. The Mets are currently tied for seventh with 171 PA with runners on base.

As bad as things have been the first two weeks of the season, the offense, when viewed in terms of getting runners on base, shows signs of being above average. Additionally, the early returns on the bullpen are good. Right now the fate of the season rests with the starting pitching.

And a little better luck with RISP.

The Waiting Game

There is no reason why three of the Mets top prospects should even sniff a starting role in Queens when the 2010 regular season begins. First baseman Ike Davis, middle infielder Ruben Tejada and pitcher Jenrry Mejia all need to return to the minors – probably Double-A Binghamton.

All three are almost guaranteed to reach the major leagues sooner than later. In fact, I’ll be appalled if at least one isn’t starting by next year, and that’s Davis.

The debate for 2010 ended on Tuesday when the young first baseman was demoted to minor league camp. Demotion, that’s not really a fair word to use here. Davis has tons of potential, a great work ethic and apparently good character. He wasn’t sent back because he underperformed, just that it’s probably in the Mets’ best interests to let the 23-year-old develop further.

Davis was taken 18th overall in the 2008 draft, lost in a slew of underachieving top draft picks. Beginning his career in Brooklyn, Davis also underwhelmed in his first year. He hit just .256 with no home runs and 17 RBI. But as he played more in the system, his bat awoke. Davis split 2009 in Port St. Lucie and Binghamton, hitting .288 and .309 respectively. His power also reappeared as he hit 7 round-trippers and 28 RBI in Port St. Lucie and 13 home runs while knocking in 43 runs at Binghamton.

Wearing number 78 in spring training, his bat was on fire. The first baseman hit .480 with 3 home runs in 25 at-bats. Flashes of his plus defense were also on display down in Florida, although he did make a few errors early on.

Many analysts and fans believe Davis is very close to being a major league first baseman, and I agree with them. That said, he would probably benefit long-term from at least a partial season in AA or AAA to continue improving his offense, especially on avoiding a pull-happy swing.

Another Met prospect who has no real shot of breaking camp with the team is Tejada.
All-star shortstop Jose Reyes’ return to camp on Tuesday all but assured the 20-year-old middle infielder of a plane ticket upstate.

Wearing number 79 in camp, Tejada hasn’t officially been demoted yet. But between the return of Reyes, Luis Castillo still at second base and Alex Cora being paid $2 million to back up both, there’s just no room in the inn.

Much like Davis, Tejada also had a solid spring training that caught some eyes. It’s shouldn’t be too much of a surprise though; this is his third go-around. He’s played in 29 games and collected 88 at-bats since early 2008, 17 games and 47 at-bats coming in the last few months. Known for having no power and making contact with as many pitches as possible – think Slappy McSingleton – he impressed. Tejada hit for .319, but only found his way on base at a .385 clip and collected an OPS of .789.

This isn’t terribly unlike his regular season play. In two years of non-summer league play, he hit for a .272 average, including a recent .289 stint in Binghamton and a .229 effort in Port St. Lucie. He’s played in more than 130 games each season, but has just 10 home runs and 72 total extra base hits in 1,406 plate appearances throughout his minor league career.

For Tejada to be even a mediocre hitter in the majors, his bat needs significant improvement in the minors. Any increase in power would be a great help, while he could stand to take more walks and bump up his shaky OBP. More time in AA could also help stabilize his batting average. He’s also just 20 years old. Ideally he could use a full year to mature, but a long-term injury could rightfully prompt a midseason callup.

Thankfully offense isn’t Tejada’s meal ticket, his defense is. Splitting time between shortstop and second base, he’s got good range and a good arm for either position, and has no problem showing it. A number of scouts and baseball people believe he could at least be a strong defensive shortstop capable of supporting an anemic bat.

Finally we get to the curious case of Mejia. There may be enough controversy and competition for an indie film, but Mejia’s got blockbuster-level potential.

Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2007, the 19-year-old kid has impressed every step of the way. He boasts a fastball in the mid-90s with tremendous movement, a solid curveball and a changeup at 88 mph that Dan Warthen wants to make slower. There’s also been mention of a fourth pitch, ranging from a sinking fastball to a slider.

Mejia joined the farm system in the Dominican Summer League that year and showed a low ERA, as well as a poor K/BB ratio. He was rushed to Binghamton last year, throwing 44.1 innings. But after sporting a 4.47 ERA that year, compared to his 2.91 career average, it’s obvious that he hasn’t quite dominated that level. Sure, he put together a 1.54 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in 11.2 spring training innings, but Mejia’s just not ready to last a full season in the majors as a starter.

Number 76’s fastball has been the talk of Port St. Lucie this spring, eliciting comparisons from Darryl Strawberry to Mariano Rivera’s cutter. And who can blame Jerry Manuel or anyone thinking about making him a major league reliever after putting up those numbers this spring. But consider this, how long will a one-pitch repertoire last in the major leagues? It’s also worth noting that he definitely appears to have the stamina and ability to be at least a serviceable major league starter down the line. He’s continued striking out almost a batter an inning at every level, but his walks have dropped since the beginning. Give the kid a full year, probably two, in AA or AAA to improve his secondary stuff, learn to issue fewer walks and finish maturing.