Can Jordany Valdespin’s walk-off grand slam lead to better things?

Talk about a pick-me up!

After an uninspiring first-game effort against the Dodgers on Tuesday and then failing to do much in Matt Harvey’s so-so start(at least by Harvey standards) to begin Wednesday night’s affair, the Mets appeared on the verge of dropping their second straight game to the Dodgers.

The Mets were listless offensively for eight innings and were trailing the Dodgers 3-2 heading into the ninth inning.

However, that was all about to change. After David Wright’s RBI single with two outs in the ninth tied the game, it set the stage for Jordany Valdespin to deliver once again in the clutch.

With the Mets running the bases loaded with one out in the 10th inning, Valdespin was given the chance to play hero (Actually, Valdespin had a chance to come through in the clutch in the 8th inning. With two outs and a chance to tie the game, Valdespin, however, swung at the first pitch and promptly grounded out to first base). At this time, all that was needed, though, was just a sacrifice fly. So, when Valdespin saw a 2-1 fastball thrown by the Dodgers’ Josh Wall, he lined up and socked it to right field with it sailing all the way out of the ball park.

Euphoria then ensued.

Mets’ SNY field reporter Kevin Burkhardt interviewed Valdespin after the game and asked him what many Mets’ fans were thinking: “Is he the man right now?

Confidently, Valdespin obliged and indeed said what all wanted him to say: he was the man.

For a guy who had a game-winning home run off the Phillies’ closer Jonathan Papelbon last season, Valdespin has this late-game heroics thing down pat. (BTW, this marks the second year in a row that Valdespin’s first home run of the year came in a game-winning fashion)

Can this walk-off grand slam lead to bigger and better things? Is this the confidence booster Valdespin needs to get going?

Well, that depends on if Terry Collins takes the training wheels off Valdespin and lets him play every day. It’s high time that Collins and the Mets finally put their trust in this gifted albeit mercurial talent.

After all, Valdespin is hitting and doing a decent job on the field. Sure, he can struggle against lefties, but Valdespin at the minimum should be in there every day against righties and batting leadoff. Valdespin offers the Mets with a guy who could go deep at a moment’s notice while also having the capability to swipe the occasional bag (Valdespin does sport three stolen bases). Outside of Wright, no one has that dual-threat capability.

Valdespin can often come across cocky, but you can’t question the passion this kid has for the game. Collins said during spring training that Valdespin has become a more mature ballplayer and it’s time Collins reward that maturity with more playing time.

With the Mets getting unproductive seasons from Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill and Mike Baxter and with recent call-up Juan Lagares a complete unknown, Valdespin is one of the better outfielders the Mets can rely on. He definitely possesses the most upside. Plus, Valdespin can man the middle infield spots in a pinch.

Collins has done enough mixing and matching with the outfield already. He should know by now what works. And with Valdespin delivering in the clutch once again, it’s time Collins makes Valdespin the “man” on a permanent basis.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

Jordany Valdespin, Mike Baxter to Prove People Wrong

Yes, it’s too early to start judging players and their numbers. The Mets season is only nine games old and some players haven’t rounded into shape just yet.

Ike Davis is struggling with the bat and is swinging (and missing) at everything and Collin Cowgill – who got off to a quick start – has drastically cooled off. He’s only gotten one hit in his last 18 at-bats.

There have already been some flashes of brilliance from some of the Mets and this could just be the beginning of retribution for some players who almost seemed like they were counted out before the season even began by some analysts and writers.

It’s only a small sample size of 15 at-bats, but Jordany Valdespin, who some predicted wouldn’t even make the Opening Day roster leads the team in batting average (if you don’t include pitcher Jonathon Niese).

Valdespin has already burned up the base paths with a triple, three runs scored and two stolen bases and is proving why speed can be such an asset, especially on a team such as the Mets, who lack scoring punch.

In 11 at-bats, Mike Baxter is showing some signs of why he should be playing more often then not.

His .364 average ranks him third on the team behind Valdespin and John Buck. He’s been patient at the plate, already drawing five walks and coming around to score three times. He’s even added a double and a stolen base for good measure.

These small sample sizes show that the Mets do indeed have players who contain the potential that GM Sandy Alderson has talked about in the past.

Many rolled their eyes at the depth of talent the Mets actually possessed, but maybe Alderson was right and the eye rollers were wrong. Or maybe the season is so fresh and brand new that pitchers haven’t figured out these guys just yet.

Whatever the case, the flashes of brilliance have opened up my eyes so far and Valdespin and Baxter have been impressive.

It’s quite obvious that Buck is also tearing the cover off of the ball, so much so that even a new hash tag has been created on Twitter and a t-shirt has even popped up, but is anyone else opening up your eyes early on this season?

If so, leave their name in the comments section below and tell us why they’ve shined for you.

 

Big opportunity in front of Jordany Valdespin

Earlier today (March 20) on WFAN, Terry Collins was speaking with the media “Sports Pope” of New York, Mike Francesa and hinted that Jordany Valdespin is his leading candidate to be the team’s opening day lead-off hitter.

This is what Collins said to Francesa: “Right now, the way Valdespin has been swinging the bat in that spot, we’re leaning towards him,” Collins told WFAN host Mike Francesa on Wednesday. “As of right now, that’s what we’re looking at.”

Valdespin looks like a new man at camp, as he is being more selective at the plate and getting some big hits in the process. While the sample size, of course, is really small, Valdespin has been nothing short of amazing this spring. So far in 14 games Valdespin has posted an eye-opening .348/.388/.609 slash line while also chipping in with four home runs, nine RBI’s and one stolen base. The .996 OPS he is putting up is simply jaw-dropping.

What is also refreshing is that Collins told Francesa that Valdespin is showing more humility and maturity in camp this spring. When you combine the start he is off to with the way he is endearing himself to the coaching staff, Valdespin has a nice opportunity in front of him. It’s high time Valdespin takes this opportunity and tackles it by the horns.

With a weak outfield and with injuries to Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner at second base (not to mention David Wright at third base), Valdespin could be used all over the field. As pointed out by David Groveman a little over a week ago, Valdespin has enough reasons going for him as to why he should be a part of the roster. At this point, Valdespin’s inclusion on the roster appears to be a lock with Collins’ recent vote of confidence. So now the question becomes: is Valdespin a lead-pipe cinch to be a starter and lead-off hitter for good?

Having Valdespin at the top of the order is a delicate situation based on past results, but between the lack of options elsewhere and his improving batting eye and above-average speed, Valdespin is perhaps the best option the Mets have.

In 2012, Valdespin had an up and down season en route to putting up mediocre numbers. In 191 at-bats, Valdespin posted a measly .241/.286/.424 slash line to go with eight home runs and 26 RBI’s.

Valdespin also had the flair for the dramatic. Valdespin’s propensity for hitting clutch pinch-hit home runs (especially a memorable one off the Phillies’ closer Jonathan Papelbon) made him a fan favorite. Valdespin also became a local celebrity for a quote he made famous after that infamous Phillie game: “I’m the man right now.”

While maybe something was lost in translation in that quote and he may not have meant to be so cocky,  you still have to love Valdespin’s confidence and bravado.  He  has what the kids like to call “swagger.”

So yeah, with the spring he is having, he is the man right now- at least when it comes to batting leadoff. Let’s hope Valdespin can capitalize on this opportunity and provide the Mets with the spark they need.

 

Roundtable: How should the Mets deploy Jordany Valdespin?

I reached out to friends in the Mets blogosphere recently to ask the following question:

How should the Mets handle Jordany Valdespin for the remainder of 2012 and what is his role for the 2013 team?

These people all do great work and their names are hyperlinked to their blogs so please go ahead and click on them to check out their real stuff.

Taryn Cooper – Turned down Expendables II because she thinks Chuck Norris is a phony
I think the Mets should ride JV out for the rest of the season. Then trade him while his value is still high in the offseason. He’s proved to be a good pop off the bench when he’s been needed. Otherwise, I believe that looks are what they call ‘deceiving’ with JV1…and that keeping him around for 2013 would be akin to shooting themselves in the foot.

John Coppinger – The Hulk took one look at him and said, “Nice Guns”
JV1 certainly should play as much as possible, certainly against any and all RHP. It’s tricky to find the line between giving him a shot to play and exposing his weaknesses. But at this point whatever his weaknesses at the plate, they’re known anyway. I’d like to see him play more just to get him used to the outfield more than anything. There’s nothing the Mets can gain by sticking Bay or Hairston in the starting lineup.

For 2013, it really all depends on what they do free agency wise … which I don’t think will be much, or trade-wise. Bay will probably be gone so left field will open up for him. Torres or Nieuwenhuis will be in center, and Duda will most likely get another shot in right field (though it wouldn’t break my heart to see JV1 in LF, Torres in CF, and Kirk in RF). The only way I think JV1 plays second is if the Sandy can flip Murphy into a legitimate power threat in the outfield to protect David Wright, but that’s easier said than done.

Mack Ade – Can beat up Bain with one hand tied behind his back
Let’s put aside Jordany the man and concentrate on Jordany the ballplayer. IMO, he will never have the plate patience to become even a .275 hitter in either league. I would market him quickly while his jewelry is still shiny.

Howard Megdal – Gives The Flash a 20-meter head start and beats him in the 100-meter dash
He has eight home runs, and four walks. So I’m not bullish on Jordany Valdespin. However, who else are they going to play in the outfield? Get him at-bats there, and hope he shows enough that at the very least, he can be part of a platoon. Where they’ll get the righty to go with him remains to be seen.

Jon Springer – Makes Captain America look like a communist
At worst Valdespin looks like a versatile sub with a dangerous bat, at best a kind of poor-man’s Alfonso Soriano. Those aren’t the worst things to have on a team, and for what he’ll be making in 2013, it seems like the Mets could use him. That said, if his skills happen to intrigue another organization more then us, we ought to find them, then hope we can pry a catcher, or maybe an outfielder who’d be a little bit of a surer thing, in exchange. In the meantime I’d play him as often and in as many places as we can bear to watch.

Greg Prince – When he showed up Aquaman lost all of his sea creature friends
Pick a position and let Jordany play it just about every day for a couple of weeks — against righties, against all but the most Carlton-like lefties. Make him THE left fielder; or right fielder; or center fielder (probably not second base, given Murphy’s earned incumbency for the duration of 2012). Work with him on defense and pitch selection and look for incremental improvement. Sit him down and explain demeanor. But mostly let Jordany play. Before determining what his 2013 might be, see what he can do unimpeded in 2012.

*****

There’s not a lot of variety in what the panel hopes for from Valdespin. The only thing I’d like to add is that it would be great if he developed his bunting skills. Back in the day, Frank Taveras was dangerous with his push bunt past the pitcher. I could see Valdespin doing the same thing with his drag bunting.

*****

Thanks to Taryn, John, Mack, Howard, John and Greg for contributing today. Make sure you visit their sites and check out their stuff.

The baseball skills of Ruben Tejada and Jordany Valdespin

I ain’t an athlete lady, I’m a ballplayer.”

That’s the famous quote from John Kruk, after a woman questioned his conditioning after seeing him drinking beer and smoking cigarettes at a restaurant during Spring Training one year. Kruk’s listed height and weight over at Baseball-Reference is 5’10, 170. The former is likely right, the latter likely off somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 pounds by the time he retired.

I thought of that Kruk quote Sunday, when Ruben Tejada was thrown out stealing by about five feet, despite getting a good jump on the pitch and the opposing catcher double-clutching before making the throw. Unlike Kruk, Tejada is 5’11, 185 pounds and looks like a traditional cut athlete, one who we would assume was a fast runner.

In this Olympic year, if Tejada and Jordany Valdespin competed one-on-one in a decathlon, I have little doubt that Valdespin would smoke him. It would not surprise me in the slightest if Valdespin would win all 10 events.

Valdespin’s an athlete while Tejada’s a baseball player.

Tejada’s not fast and he has little over-the-fence power. In 810 ABs in the majors, Tejada has 2 HR. Meanwhile, in 127 ABs this year, Valdespin has 7 HR. He also has 5 SB in 133 PA, compared to 1 SB in 289 PA for Tejada.

But what Tejada lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in baseball ability. Let’s see how these two compare in baseball skills:

Strike Zone Judgment – Tejada’s BB/K rate is 3X better (.36 to .12)
Zone Contact Percentage – Not only is Tejada better at recognizing balls and strikes, he’s better at hitting strikes, with a 92.6 Z-Contact rate compared to 84.2 for Valdespin. Tejada’s also better at hitting pitches out of the strike zone, with a 67.8 O-Contact rate compared to 65.4 for Valdespin.
Line Drive Percentage – Once you hit the ball, the best outcome is a line drive, which results in a hit nearly 72 percent of the time this year in the National League. Tejada has a LD% of 30.7 compared to a 10.6 rate from Valdespin.
Fielding – Valdespin has a (-6 DRS) in 204.2 innings in the field, which is not good. A full season is somewhere around 1,200 innings, meaning at his current rate, Valdespin would cost his team around 3.5 wins on defense alone. In 547 innings at SS, Tejada has a 0 DRS, meaning he’s an average fielder for the position.

Of course, Valdespin is hurt here by his athleticism, as it means he’s playing out of position in the outfield. Let’s compare Valdespin at 2B and SS to Tejada at those same positions in 2010 and 2011, when he bounced back and forth between the two spots. Valdespin is a (-4) in 74.1 innings in the middle infield while Tejada was a (-2) in 609.2 innings in 2010 and he posted a 0 DRS in 810.1 innings in 2011.

Perhaps the sample size is too small to accurately judge Valdespin. But if the 2013 Mets have both players in the starting lineup, there’s absolutely no doubt that Tejada would play the tougher defensive position of shortstop, while Valdespin would be either at 2B or CF.

*****

Valdespin has excelled as a PH this year, with a .259/.333/.815 line, thanks to 5 HR in 27 ABs as a pinch-hitter. But as a starter, he has a .261/.278/.375 line in 91 PA. This is who he is. The PH performance was magical and a lot of fun to see the rookie take veteran closers deep. But if I was asked to sum up those exploits in two words, I would use “exciting” and “unsustainable.” Just because they were exciting does not mean we should take that as his baseline level of performance. We are seeing first hand pitchers exploiting his weaknesses once they face him on a regular basis.

The baseball season is a grind, which rewards reliability and exposes weaknesses. In his brief career, Tejada has proven the ability to take close pitches, go deep in counts, hit line drives and play a solid MLB shortstop. Valdespin has displayed a flair for the dramatic with several exciting homers as a pinch-hitter. He’s not embarrassed himself in CF and the OF is probably his best chance for playing time with the Mets.

At age 24, Valdespin looks like he belongs in the majors, in one role or another. At age 22, Tejada looks like an MLB SS capable of hitting in either of the top spots in the order. Putting on my Carnac the Magnificent hat, in five years it’s easy to see Tejada challenging for an All-Star berth. In five years Valdespin will be hoping that Dayton Moore still believes in his tools enough to give him another shot.

But that’s pure speculation on my part. Let’s watch Valdespin get MLB experience and see if he can adjust to how pitchers are trying to get him out. Let’s see if he can learn some patience at the plate. Let’s see if he can develop into a good bunter to take advantage of his speed. Let’s see if he can learn how to play the outfield. Let’s see if this athlete can become a ballplayer.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy Tejada for the player he already is. And I would like to invite Terry Collins to do the same thing. There is no need to bust Tejada’s chops for not arriving *early* to Spring Training and there’s no reason to get on his case about stealing more bases, either.

Just remember, Tejada’s a ballplayer, not an athlete.

Somehow, someway the Mets need to get Jordany Valdespin regular playing time

Everybody’s favorite pinch and clutch hitter extraordinaire-and always the man right now-Jordany Valdespin, deserves a better fate than by being just a platoon/matchups type player.

Valdespin has proven he has the appropriate feel and moxie for the game and right now the stats are showing it. As of Friday, July 27 Valdespin is sporting a .286/.314/.571 line which equates to an impressive .885 OPS. He also has seven home runs in only 98 at-bats.

The only problem for Valdespin is finding a position to get him some regular playing time.

Valdespin’s natural position is at second base, but with Daniel Murphy residing over there and with him in the midst of hot streak and solid season overall, it’s not likely that Valdespin will get regular playing time there.

Valdespin can also play all outfield positions, but with a rotation that includes Jason Bay, Andres Torres, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Scott Hairston and eventually Lucas Duda once again, Valdespin is often jockeying with the others while biding his time.

There are two options that the Mets should consider to get Valdespin regular playing time:

Either trade Daniel Murphy while the iron is hot (but not for middle reliever) and get Valdespin regular time there, or do the right thing and bench Jason Bay for good (I assume cutting him is out of the equation).

If the Mets can’t get fair value for Murphy, and that’s looking like the case, then Valdespin should get playing time in leftfield.

With Valdespin being a lefty and with the club already sporting a very lefty-heavy lineup, if you start Valdespin then it is imperative that you start Hairston in right to mix up the lineup.

In any event Valdespin deserves more time. It is important to his growth as a player to be getting everyday at-bats. If the Mets are not going to give him the at-bats up in the majors, then maybe they should send him down to Buffalo so he can get routine playing time.

But that’s not what Mets’ fans want and it’s not a position I endorse. We all want to see more of Valdespin and his flair for the dramatic and passion for the game.

With the season heading south, Valdespin’s talents should be on full display as the Mets should get to know what they are dealing with. By Valdespin receiving erratic at-bats right now, the Mets can’t accurately gauge the true value of his worth.

Valdespin will always give you energy, and that is something the Mets desperately need right now.

So, come hell or high water, if the Mets want some passion and energy for the rest of the year, while also figuring how Valdespin fits into the future plans of the team, it would behoove the club for him to get regular playing time.

That’s the least Valdespin –The Man Right Now-deserves at this moment

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Mets should sell high on Jordany Valdespin

In the last game before the All-Star break, the Mets trotted Jordany Valdespin out to center field, where he made several nice running catches and did not look too much like a guy playing out of position. He went 1-for-3 in the game and now has a .257/.297/.529 slash line. He’s come up with some big hits and has developed into a mini folk hero among Mets fans for his performances against Jonathon Papelbon.

And now is the time to trade him.

There is no doubt that Valdespin brings things to the table. He is confident, athletic and a hard worker. Now we just have to determine how good he is. Do you really believe the slash line quoted above is an accurate sample of his “true” ability? To me, the AVG and OBP look about what I expected. It’s that .529 SLG that looks completely out of place.

In 70 ABs in the majors, Valdespin has 10 extra-base hits. In over 14 percent of his at-bats, Valdespin is notching either a double, triple or home run. For a comparison, David Wright records an XBH in 13 percent of his ABs. If Valdespin had 500 ABs in a season, do you really think he would have 70 extra-base hits? I do not yet that is the pace he is on.

If we look further down the stat sheet, we see the reason to be worried about Valdespin going forward. He has just two walks this year and a 2.7 BB%. There is only one player with enough plate appearances to rank as qualified on the FanGraphs leaderboards this year with a walk rate that low – Alexei Ramirez. In 337 PA this season, Ramirez has walked just nine times, for an identical 2.7 BB%.

Ramirez has a .266/.287/.341 slash line – a SLG mark 188 points below Valdespin’s current rate. And it’s not like Ramirez is a slap hitter. He had 21 HR in his rookie season and has 69 homers from 2008-2011. Much like Valdespin, Ramirez played multiple positions when he first made the majors. He played 2B, 3B, SS and CF in 2008 before settling in as the starting shortstop for the White Sox.

Only 19 qualified players in 2012 have a BB%<5.0 for the season. It is not easy to be a regular in the majors and be that much of a free-swinger. Valdespin has a .271 ISO right now and only three regulars combine his dismal walk rate and an ISO of .200 or greater. They are Ian Desmond, Adam Jones and Alex Rios.

In six seasons in the minors, Desmond’s highest ISO was .158 and his two previous seasons in the majors he posted ISOs of .124 and .104 last year. What he is doing this year is completely out of character compared to what he has done in eight seasons of professional baseball.

Jones had a .272 ISO in his last season in the minors. He’s made steady progress in the majors and last year had a .186 ISO. He seems to be a player capable of posting a poor walk rate and a high ISO but his BB% is 4.4 compared to Valdespin’s 2.7 percent.

In 2006 and 2007, Rios posted back-to-back years with ISOs over .200 but his walk rate was in the 7.3 range. Last year he had a .121 ISO and a 4.7 BB%. He’s barely over a .200 ISO this year and probably will not finish the season as a low BB high ISO guy under these parameters.

So, do you think Valdespin is more like Jones or does he seem more like Ramirez or Alcides Escobar (4.3 BB%, .103 ISO) or Willie Bloomquist (4.4, 0.99)? Or my favorite comp for him – Yuniesky Betancourt, he of the lifetime 3.4 BB%, .125 ISO and .684 OPS.

Valdespin had a .186 ISO in Double-A last year and a .141 ISO in Triple-A this year. Before the season began, ZiPS projected him for a .120 ISO in the majors. A triple slash line of .257/.297/.377 looks entirely reasonable but how valuable is that player? That’s a .674 OPS or essentially what Justin Turner has produced this season.

That’s a bottom-tier starter at either second or short in the majors and a fine backup.

But Sandy Alderson and company should be exploring if his youth and his early-season power numbers have other teams convinced he’s more than that and are willing to trade something worthwhile to get him. Valdespin is a sell-high candidate and Mets fans should be willing to deal him for a top-notch set-up man or an impact RHB.

Jordany Valdespin: “I’m the man right now!”

If you live in the New York area and listen to the “Boomer and Carton Show” on WFAN, then you may know that they like to play a certain sound bite when talking about the Mets’ utility player Jordany Valdespin.

That being: “I’m the man right now!” Here is a link for a primer.

Those immortal words were uttered after Valdespin played the hero back in May when he hit a three-run, game-winning home run off Phillies’ closer Jonathan Papelbon.

With Valdespin just starting to grasp the English language, maybe something was lost in translation, but it’s a humorous little clip nonetheless. On the flipside, it does show the confidence that Valdespin has in himself.

Well, with the way he is playing of late, Valdespin might be turning into the “man” as the versatile player is starting to have his impact felt on the field. In his last 13 games, Valdespin is 11-35 with one home run, one triple, four doubles and nine runs driven in.

While his overall numbers (including a .224/.250/.431 slash line) are less than stellar, it has been Valdespin’s heart and clutchness of late that is capturing the hearts of Mets’ fans. Valdespin does have the knack for coming up with a clutch hit, as both of his home runs hit this year have come as a pinch-hitter.

Mets’ manager Terry Collins is starting to warm up to the idea of playing Valdespin more often. After Wednesday’s game, Valdespin has now started the last three games. Collins likes the fact that Valdespin has speed while also possessing a ‘thunder bat.’

“He’s adding some spark and adding some energy,” Collins told reporters about why he is using Valdespin more often. Collins added, “The last few games he’s played, we’ve won.”

The problem is finding a permanent spot for Valdespin.

With his experiment at shortstop being an abomination, the only spot for Valdespin to earn his keep has been the two places he’s played in the last three games: left field and second base.  Well, with Daniel Murphy firmly entrenched at second base, the only position for Valdespin to capitalize on his talents is in left field.

With Jason Bay chronically being hurt and underachieving, if Valdespin  keeps up this pace, he will be in line for significant playing time with the Mets in left. At the very least, when Bay is healthy to return Collins should at least entertain the idea of platooning Bay and Valdespin.

Who knows if Valdespin can keep this up, but he does personify the Mets’ scrappy and hard-working image. With the way he has been playing, Valdespin deserves a shot at routine playing time.

It’s the least you could do for “the man right now!”

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Why Is Jordany Valdespin still up?

When the Mets re-activated Andres Torres from the DL they had a choice of either sending down Zach Lutz or Jordany Valdespin. They picked to send down Lutz, who didn’t do much in his eight at-bat stint, collecting just one hit and striking out five times. It’s not like Valdespin had earned the right to stay in the bigs. He’s had just five at-bats and has been hitless in all of them.

Valdespin is on the roster in place of the injured Ronny Cedeno, so he’s intended to be the back-up short stop. Of the nine innings Valdespin has played so far, he’s played seven in left field and two at second base.

The problem I have with Valdespin is there is no room for him on this team. He is also a left-handed hitter, and we all know the Mets have plenty of those. Now that Torres in on the team, the Mets are carrying five outfielders, so a spot for Valdespin would be hard to find. In the infield the only spot would be short stop or second base. Justin Turner is already the back-up second and I don’t see Ruben Tejada needing a break anytime soon. He is a young player who is performing well, so there is no reason to take him out.

They need to bring up a slightly older player, who can handle being a the bench for multiple games. Valdspin is still young and needs to be getting at-bats. He can’t be on this team getting an at-bat once every week.

With the two left-handed pitchers scheduled to pitch for Arizona, the Mets would be wise to send down Valdespin in favor of a right-handed bat. Valdespin has too much talent and too much to work on right now to be sitting on the bench doing nothing.

 

Wright injury could open door for Valdespin

After storming out of the gate 4-0, the Mets built a lot of goodwill among its fanbase that maybe some good news was in store for the faithful this summer.

However, after two straight losses on top of David Wright suffering from a fractured pinkie, a lot of people are ready to push the panic button. Wright fractured the right pinky finger when he dove back into first base on a pick-off attempt in Monday’s game against the Nationals. A trip to the disabled list almost seems inevitable.

If a trip to the DL is in store for Wright, how will the Mets respond? The Mets have gone into an offensive funk of late and are getting very little out of their big boppers in Ike Davis, Lucas Duda (save for a two HR Day on Saturday) and the continuously frustrating Jason Bay. The Mets showed patience at the plate in their first series with the Braves and used it to their advantage, but lately they have been caught staring at a lot of hittable pitches-something Terry Collins says has to change.

What is so disconcerting was the fact that Wright was carrying the Mets’ offense, and now that he could be out, it could pose problems for a team in search of answers at the plate. Wright was off to a blistering start, notching seven hits in 12 at-bats to go along with one home run and four RBI’s.

The timing (as if there is any good timing) of this injury is awful and while Wright will try to swing through it and play in pain, a DL stint could be in the cards if he is not up to speed by the time the Mets travel to Philadelphia for a series with the Phillies this Friday.

So, if Wright does go on the DL, where do Collins and the Mets look for answers?

The most likely scenario being kicked around is to have the defensively-challenged Daniel Murphy abandon his second base experiment and play third considering that third base is his most natural position on the diamond. If that were to happen, the Mets could go with Ronny Cedeno at second base or perhaps call up the likes of Jordany Valdespin to man second.

The potential audition of Valdespin at second base is intriguing. After impressing the Mets’ brass by hitting .310 in 42 at-bats this spring, Valdespin was given a long look as a possibility to make the team. However, since the Mets signed Cedeno to back up the middle infield spots, Mets’ officials thought Valdespin would be best suited to get at-bats in the minors on an everyday basis. So, since there is a chance for Valdespin to get routine playing time at second if Wright goes on the DL and if Murphy plays third, this might be an ideal time to see what the kid has. We all know Cedeno has his limitations and he is mostly on the squad because of his defense. With the way the Mets have been hitting, it could use the services of Valdespin, who certainly would be an offensive improvement over Cedeno.

Valdespin is currently not tearing it up in Buffalo though.

Through seven games in Buffalo, Valdespin is batting .226 with a .273 OBP. Those are hardly numbers that scream promotion.

First things first though. Let’s all take a collective breath and look at the season in a vacuum. A 4-2 start with great pitching performances from both the staff and the bullpen is more than any of us could have asked for. Let’s not jump off the ledge and make the news of Wright being injured bury our confidence. Besides, Collins hinted that he thinks Wright may be tough enough to battle through this and play on Friday. We’ll see about that, but it’s encouraging to see the skipper have faith in Wright and believe this will not be a major, catastrophic injury. It may ultimately depend on how much pain Wright can tolerate. If anything, it seems like a minimal stint on the DL (if that is the case) could be in store for Wright.

Maybe that’s wishful thinking taking into account the Mets injury history-but Wright’s injury or not-let’s not let this ruin what has been a great start to a season.

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Does Jordany Valdespin offer the most upside at 2B?

Earlier this weekend I was chatting with my friend the Rotoprofessor and he made an off the cuff remark that caught me by surprise. Basically, he said that if the Mets look at second base as primarily an offensive position, then of the options that the club has at second base, that Jordany Valdespin had the most upside.

Now, it should be noted he’s not a Daniel Murphy at second base fan. So I took that comment to mean that among Reese Havens, Ruben Tejada, Justin Turner and Valdespin that he thinks Valdespin has the best offensive profile. That really made me do a double-take and I thought we should investigate the issue further. Let’s start by seeing what prospect maven John Sickels had to say about each coming into the 2011 season:

Havens – I like him enough to give him something as high as Grade B but his health problems have to be factored in. Grade C+; though that could rise if his body lets him play.

Tejada – no longer a rookie so he was not in the 2011 Prospect Book. Here’s what Sickels said in 2010: If his bat takes another step forward, he’ll project as a regular middle infielder. If his bat stays where it currently is, he’ll still be useful in a utility role. Grace C+ but I like him.

Turner – I don’t see any reason why he can’t hang around the majors for several years as a useful role player, if he gets off to a hot start and has a bit of luck. Grade C.

Valdespin – Not one of the 39 players in the Mets farm system to get a write-up. Nor did he get one in 2010.

Now, here are their slash lines in 2011 and leagues they played:

Havens – .289/.372/.455 in 242 PA at Double-A
Tejada – .284/.360/.335 in 376 PA in the majors
Turner – .260/.334/.356 in 487 PA in the majors
Valdespin – .297/.341/.483 in 441 PA at Double-A and .280/.304/.411 in 113 PA at Triple-A

After the season, Sickels did a chat and was asked about Valdespin being a starter. Here’s his response: “I could see it at second base, providing some speed and pop although I wouldn’t expect a great OBP out of him and he would not be a star.”

And to me that’s why I don’t see Valdespin being the choice at second base – his OBP is not high enough to satisfy Sandy Alderson and the people who currently make up the team’s front office. Look at the isolated OBP (OBP-AVG) of our contestants last year and here’s what you see:

Havens – .083
Tejada – .076
Turner – .074
Valdespin – .044 and .024

True, Valdespin showed some pop last year with 17 HR which should not be completely ignored. But how much of that should we attribute to the favorable HR park of Binghamton? Turns out that he hit 9 HR in BNG and 6 in road parks while he was in Double-A, which is not a huge split. And he did hit 2 HR in 107 ABs for Buffalo.

You can certainly make a strong case that he has the most power potential of the four challengers listed for second base. But can that advantage make up for the 50+ points of OBP he’s likely to trail the others?

I like Valdespin and I am glad he is in the organization and one of the people fighting for playing time in the middle infield. If the power is real, he certainly will be a factor somewhere. His 17 HR last year was a professional-best, as was his 554 PA. In 2010 he had 6 HR and 405 PA.

In 2010, Valdespin had a late-season promotion to Double-A and looked overmatched in 117 PA, posting a .547 OPS. He returned to Binghamton last year and put up a very nice season. Instead of being under consideration for playing time at 2B for the Mets in 2012, Valdespin should be in Triple-A, trying to do the same thing at Buffalo as he did at Binghamton last year.

Perhaps Valdespin’s best shot is if he can cut it at shortstop in the majors. Last year he played three times as many games at SS (98) as he did at 2B (32). The most-likely scenario right now is that Valdespin opens the year as the starting SS at Buffalo, with Havens as his double-play partner over at 2B.

Regardless of how things shake out for the Mets in the infield, one thing is very clear – they are assembling some nice depth up the middle. We have Murphy, Tejada and Turner already in the majors, Havens, Valdespin and Josh Satin knocking at the door and 2011 over-slot pick Phillip Evans leading a host of younger players at the lower levels.

Even if Valdespin does not reach the upside that the Rotoprofessor predicts for him, the Mets should be in good shape up the middle. At the very least, they should not have to suffer through the double-play combo of Doug Flynn (.539 OPS) and Frank Taveras (.559 OPS) that the 1981 Mets did.

Mets Minors: End of season wrap-up

The regular season for Mets minor leaguers ended on Labor Day and the Class A St. Lucie Mets were eliminated in the championship series of the Florida State League playoffs and Savannah is one win away from a low Class A title in the South Atlantic League. With the offseason quickly approaching, now is a good time to take a snap shot of the prospects the Mets will be counting on in coming seasons.

The top storyline in the Mets farm system this season has to be Matt Harvey, the 2010 first-rounder who got off to a great start at St. Lucie and ended the season at Class AA Binghamton. He looks on pace to join the Mets late next season and perhaps the rotation full-time by 2013.

Easily the biggest surprise in the organization is 23-year-old shortstop Jordany Valdespin, who hit a combined .294/.333/.460 at Class AA and AAA with 32 doubles, three triples, 17 homers and 37 stolen bases. While the lefthanded hitter played shortstop this season, making 32 errors, he has a lot of experience at second base and could fill the long-lasting void at that position.

However, no matter how pleased the front office could be over Harvey and Valdespin, frustrations must continue to grow over its top pitching and hitting prospect entering the season. The elbow injury suffered by Jenrry Mejia was a huge blow to the organization, stunting the growth of the 21-year-old flamethrower for a second straight season. Now, the Dominican’s estimated return to Citi Park is probably 2013. Top hitting prospect Wilmer Flores had a baffling season at St. Lucie, hitting just .269/.309/.380 – showing no significant improvement over his half season there in ‘10.

But back to the positive – for now.

Harvey wasn’t the only minor leaguer to live up to expectations. Zack Wheeler, acquired from the Giants in the Carlos Beltran deal, looked impressive in the FSL with a mid-90s fastball and improved command, albeit a short sample size. Righthander Jeurys Familia, another 21-year-old with a plus arm and stuff, quickly passed his re-test at St. Lucie and averaged over a strikeout per frame at Binghamton, splitting eight decisions with a 3.49 ERA in 17 starts.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Reese Havens and Zach Lutz, three upper-level hitting talents, produced good results but battled injuries in 2011 – nothing new for Havens and Lutz.

Nieuwenhuis was well on his way to a second-half callup when he went down with a shoulder injury two months into the season. The 23-year-old hit .298/.403/.505 at Class AAA Buffalo. Havens finished strong at Binghamton, batting .289/372/.455, and even better, stayed healthy the second half of the season. Lutz continued to crush the ball, hitting .295/.380/.500 at Buffalo, and could be an option at either infield corner spot down the road.

Among pitching surprises, Class AAA hurlers Josh Stinson, 23 and Chris Schwinden, 24, neither of whom possess the stuff to be prime prospects, had solid seasons, and now the Mets hope they’ve found another Dillon Gee.

Lower down the ladder, lefthander Darin Gorski had a breakout season at St. Lucie, joining the rotation a month in and ending as the staff ace. He was the FSL’s Pitcher of the Year after going 11-3 with a 2.08 ERA. Greg Peavey pitched well at two Class A spots and Armando Rodriguez fanned 74 batters in 75 innings at St. Luice. Lefthanded closer Josh Edgin, who possesses a 92-95-plus mph heater and a good slider, dominated at both Class A stops, posting 27 saves, a WHIP just over 1 and 76 strikeouts in 66 frames.

At Savannah, 23-year-old Taylor Whittenton rode a 1.63 ERA in 12 starts after the All-Star break to a South Atlantic League ERA title. The righthander posted a 2.49 ERA, finished 5-5 in 26 games, including 22 starts, and parlayed his repeat season into an Arizona Fall League invite. He’ll be joined there by another marginal prospect, Collin McHugh, who went 7-0, 1.45 ERA in 10 games after the break at Binghamton.

Among surprising position players was center fielder Matt den Dekker, who continued to impress defensively, and although he struck out 156 times, the 23-year-old showed power with 32 doubles, 11 triples and 17 homers to go along with 24 steals. He hit just .265 between Class A and AA but posted a .797 OPS, and more importantly, demonstrated to the brass that he’s more than just a defensive stalwart.

Twenty-two year-old outfielder Juan Lagares made the organization take note when he hit .349 at Class A and AA. And former Padres first-rounder Allan Dykstra hit .267/.389/.474 with a Binghamton-team best 19 homers after joining the organization in March.

At the Class A level, St. Lucie third baseman Jefry Marte hit .248 and played in the Futures Game but slumped badly after a hot start. Aderlin Rodriguez hit 17 homers as a 19-year-old third baseman in the SAL but hit just .221 with a .265 on-base percentage. Nineteen-year-old catcher Gilbert Gomez showed improved hitting skills to go with his plus defensive skills at a position the Mets sorely lack quality prospects. Short-season Class A shortstop Daniel Muno will get some attention after batting .355/.466/.514 at Brooklyn.

Mejia and Flores weren’t the only disappointments.

Class AAA outfielder Fernando Martinez had another injury-plagued, underwhelming season and toolsy St. Lucie outfielder Cesar Puello, much like Flores, failed to break out. The 20-year-old hit .259 with a .710 OPS and 19 steals. Outfielder Cory Vaughn, 22, got off to blazing starts at both Savannah and St. Lucie but slumped tremendously at both, finishing a combined .255/.362/.402 with 13 homers. Shortstop Robbie Shields also played at both spots and did nothing to help his future utility infield prospect status.

Darrell Ceciliani, who won a New York Penn batting title a season ago, hit just .259 at Savannah, and catcher Blake Forsythe never heated up until blasting two homers in a playoff game. He batted .235 with nine bombs during the regular season. Brandon Nimmo, the first-round pick this summer who never played high school baseball in his Wyoming High School, went 8-for-38 with two homers in his rookie-level pro debut.

Soft-tossing lefthander Mark Cohoon, the Mets’ Pitcher f the Year in 2010, was 5-14, 5.29 ERA at AA and AAA, squashing any hopes Mets fans had of the 23-year-old booming onto the major league scene. Class AA hurlers Brad Holt and Robert Carson solidified themselves as non-prospects with extremely underwhelming seasons at Class AA. Juan Urbina, just 18 and considered the top teen arm, was 4-6 with a 5.95 ERA and a 1.571 WHIP in 12 starts at rookie-level Kingsport.

The offseason top-10
1. Matt Harvey
2. Zack Wheeler
3. Jordany Valdespin
4. Kirk Nieuwenhuis
5. Jeurys Familia
6. Jenrry Mejia
7. Cesar Puello
8. Reese Havens
9. Wilmer Flores
10. Brandon Nimmo