What Life Would Be Like as a Mets Beat Writer

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Travis d’Arnaud was laying on the couch with his cell phone. Jeurys Familia and Jose Valverde were play fighting and chatting in Spanish. Just another day in the New York Mets clubhouse for them, but a surreal experience for me.

I had a press pass to Citi Field on April 19 and went in dress shoes for the first time. Journalists are not allowed to wear Mets gear, and being professional wasn’t easy for me as a fan. When I saw Zack Wheeler sitting by his locker I wanted to run over and tell him 2014 is his year.

David Wright was signing autographs and I wanted one too. Matt Harvey had an orange Batman logo on his locker, and I was hoping that he was preparing for his next start. Then reality punched me in the gut.

The clubhouse was relaxed four hours before the night game against the Atlanta Braves. Once a player talks to one reporter, however, the rest of the press follows like a herd.

I suddenly felt guilty for all of the time I have spent on Twitter venting about the Mets. There’s no way I’d say any of that to any of their faces. I fondly looked at every player, trying to remind myself that I am there as a writer, not a fan.

Adam Rubin looked sharp in his suit. Before then, I was only familiar with him from Twitter and his articles. The players approach him like a teammate. I wish I had that level of rapport. I also wished I could speak Japanese and join the small-yet-devoted cluster of Japanese media solely there for Daisuke Matsuzaka.

But the clubhouse was somber after the 7-5 Mets loss. Jose Valverde must’ve left in a hurry. Curtis Granderson talked to the press but he was glum, not playful like he was about seven hours prior. Some players didn’t want to talk and others were already gone.

I left Citi Field around 11 P.M., roughly eight hours after I arrived. It was an exhausting day for me but my mind was awake. I can’t imagine how drained the players were, but they’re used to it.

The 7 train was empty on my way home compared to the end-of-game rush. I reflected on how vast the ballpark truly was when was standing on the dirt. Now I have more sympathy for all of those long fly balls that die at the warning track.

I wanted to step to the plate and pretend I was Wright, but I wasn’t allowed to step on the grass.

How the Media Covers Changes to MLB Free Agency

Qualifying offers have fundamentally altered Major League Baseball offseasons since 2012. Some of the hottest free agents available now come with extra baggage.

Organizations are allowed to offer their players that enter free agency a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer. If a new team signs a player who rejected his qualify offer, then that team has to sacrifice a first-round draft pick or the next highest pick.

Teams that finished bottom 10 by record the previous season have protection of their first round pick. The other 20 ball clubs might be more hesitant to sign players who rejected qualifying offers because they would lose a first rounder.

The media covers players’ asking prices and the various teams they are rumored to sign with. According to Hardball Talk, starting pitcher Ervin Santana asked for an over $100 million deal in free agency. He rejected the qualifying offer that the Kansas City Royals made him.

Santana began March without a contract with a ball club. The media reported on every rumor regarding teams he was linked to, but nothing came to fruition until mid-March. 

He ended up signing an underwhelming one-year, $14.1 million with the Atlanta Braves. Perhaps he would not have gotten a nine-figure deal regardless of the qualify offer, but it made teams already hesitant about Santana even more concerned. The consequence of losing a future draft pick kept him on the free agent market until just two weeks before the season began.

The Braves signed Santana a few days after their ace Kris Medlen suffered an injury during spring training that they feared would sideline him throughout the entire 2014 season. He ended up needing major surgery.

Even though Santana cost a first rounder, the Braves are a competitive team that was not willing to give up due to the loss of Medlen.

“It depends on where they are as a franchise.  The Braves see themselves as a World Series contender. They are expected to win right now. They had to sacrifice their future to an extent,” said Jared Diamond, the New York Mets beat writer for the Wall Street Journal.

Diamond believes that qualifying offers mainly come into play for second or third tier athletes and emergencies, such as what happened to the Braves. Teams are comfortable giving up a prospect for star-caliber free agents knowing that they will get production of out of the signee.

“If you’re a real star, you get signed,” he said. “You get signed no matter what because you’re a great player.”

The qualifying offer system favors teams that make offers to free agents who end up not returning because they get compensated with a draft pick. Free agents that are not bonafide stars, such as Santana, seem to suffer in the process. 

Newspaper outlets and blogs strive to educate fans on the intricacies of qualifying offers.

“There’s not enough of a sample. Every year, there’ll be more of an understanding. Their agents [of second and third tier talent] made a miscalculation, and it’s hard to blame them. No one knew how it would go down,” said Diamond.

Stephen Drew Not Worth the Upgrade, Wait For 2015

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By Stephen Miller

Mets fans and the media have made a lot of noise about free agent shortstop Stephen Drew’s potential of signing with the New York Mets. The incumbent Ruben Tejada had a terrible -0.3 WAR 2013 and Drew is the best alternative on the open market. The problem is that Drew is not worth the contract his agent Scott Boras is asking for.

Drew is an injury liability who has never played a full season in his eight-year career. In 2011 and 2012, he only played a combined 165 games. At probably $12 million per year for three to four years, his value could be sapped by the third year, when the Mets will have a better shot at the division title. Considering the physical demands to play shortstop, it would not be a surprise if he gets shifted to second base in three years. Drew can hit double digits in home runs and play great defense at a demanding position, but he would not become a top-tier second baseman.

In many ways, Drew in Queens makes sense for both the player and the club since the Mets would only sacrifice a third-round draft pick. But the Mets’ already slim chances of winning a championship in 2014 disappeared when Matt Harvey underwent major surgery late last season. While general manager Sandy Alderson shored up the outfield and added depth to the starting rotation, this team cannot compete with the Washington Nationals or Atlanta Braves, their National East rivals, in 2014, with or without Drew. Even if the Mets miraculously win 81 games, the second Wild Card would remain virtually out of reach.

Why not make a marginal upgrade for the team, some would ask. Drew is most likely better than Tejada in the near term because he has a better track record offensively and has provided superb defense in four of his past five seasons. At the age of 30, he probably only has two years left of his prime before one could expect a decline due to his age.

The incumbent Ruben Tejada is only 24 years old won’t come close to Drew’s power, but he is absolutely a serviceable shortstop that still has many years ahead of him. Last year, his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was an astonishingly low .228, an indication that he had a very unlucky year on balls in play. What Tejada provides is surplus value. One million and one hundred thousand dollars is a bargain if he can provide 1 fWAR, which is worth approximately worth $5 million on the open market. In 2011 and 2012, he provided 1.6 and 1.8 fWAR respectively, far from a Top 10 shortstop yet still valuable.

If Tejada does not prove he can be an everyday shortstop this season the pickings are fruitful this next offseason. Here is the 2015 shortstop free agent class (age in parentheses):

Asdrubal Cabrera (29)

J.J. Hardy (32)

Derek Jeter (41)

Jed Lowrie (31)

Hanley Ramirez (31)

Jimmy Rollins (36) – vesting/club/player option

Target Hardy (a better Drew in every way). Target Cabrera. Target Lowrie. Heck, why not go for Ramirez? The Mets could also make a trade. The 2014 availabilities are not even close to what’s in store for 2015. Tejada had an awful 2013, but he is yet to reach his ceiling. He deserves more of a chance to stay on the field than Drew does a long-term contract.

Stephen Drew: The Missing Piece?

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By David Andrews

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson showed little faith in shortstop Ruben Tejada last year, and with less than three weeks until Spring Training it looks as if Tejada is going to get another chance. Instead, Alderson should go shopping while free agent shortstop Stephen Drew is still on the market. He is worth more than just a one-year deal to boost fan morale. A three-year, $36 million contract is the way to go.

According to a report late on January 28 by MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, the Mets are unlikely to sign Drew. The question is how long the Mets could lock him in for if their interest reemerges. Alderson has said that he is only willing to sign him for one year at a bargain, but Scott Boras, Drew’s agent, seeks three. The Mets might have better shortstop options in 2015, but there is also the possibility that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles extend would-be free agents Hanley Ramirez and J.J. Hardy. Other teams could outbid the Mets for other desirable free agent shortstops. Ramirez and Hardy will ask for more than Drew next offseason. Why wait one year to sign Hardy, who isn’t even that much better than him?

Seventy-eight wins for the 2014 Mets won’t get them into the playoffs, but Drew would have an impact on the team. The difference in WAR (wins above replacement) between Drew (3.4) and Tejada (-0.3) was 3.7 last season. Could that be the difference between an eighth consecutive year of missing the playoffs and a Wild Card spot? It’s a long shot but not impossible. Say the Mets have a better season than expected and win 81 games. That could be 84 or 85 wins with Drew. Since the addition of the second Wild Card position in 2012, the worst team record to win the spot was the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals’ 88-74 season. That still puts the Mets just a few games out.

Drew played 124 games last season for the Red Sox. Prior to 2013 his last full season was with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010. Drew put up strong offensive numbers for a shortstop when healthy. Last year he hit .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBI. In 2010 he hit .278 with 15 home runs and 61 RBI. If that does not seem impressive, then looking over Tejada’s offensive line should change a few minds. He had a .202 batting average with no home runs and 10 RBI last season. In 2010 Tejada hit .213 with just one homer and 15 RBI. Four seasons have gone by and he has only hit two home runs. The Mets need some kind of power from the shortstop position.

2014 is shaping up to be another lame duck year for the Mets. The ace is out for the season and won’t return until 2015. The future beyond 2014 is bright, but if the Mets want fans to frequent Citi Field this season Alderson should insert Drew’s bat into the lineup and remove the worthless Tejada. But why mess with team chemistry by only having Drew for 2015 and a new shortstop in 2016? Alderson should give Drew the security of a third year with a $3 million buyout. That would be comforting for both Drew and the Mets. If Alderson were willing to make Drew a key piece for 2015 and 2016, when postseason hope might rekindle in Queens, then I’d tell Alderson to open his wallet. With a three-year deal at the right price, Drew would be a great fit for the Mets. Either that or place your faith in the hands of Tejada and hope he doesn’t throw it wide.

You can follow David Andrews on Twitter @Metfan2442

Hate It Or Love It, My 2014 New York Mets Projections

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By Michael Mandelkern

Most New York Mets fans do not see eye to eye on the 2014 season. The Ike Davis versus Lucas Duda debate has been contentious and never ending. Some believe Curtis Granderson will be another Jason Bay while others are optimistic about the three-time All-Star. What keeps these arguments alive in January is that Opening Day is not until March 31st and fans are itching for baseball. No one knows for sure how the Mets will perform this year. Many players on the roster have not played one full season in the majors going into 2014. Predicting performances based on a small sample size is difficult, but minor league statistics must be taken with a grain of salt.

I compiled my own predictions of 12 Mets hitters for the 2014 season. They are based on past MLB performance and my gut feeling from watching games. There are no correct answers because I am inherently biased and did not apply a computer formula. If you have something to say about it leave a comment or tweet me @metsonmymind.

Eric Young Jr. 

.247/.316 /.337 with 2 HR and 22 RBI

Last season is the most accurate evaluation of Young since he played 14 games shy of a full season. He got off to a hot start when the Rockies traded him to the Mets in June, but then he became an easy out for considerable stretches. He is overeager at the plate and does not draw many walks. However, he posted OBPs of .342 and .377 in 2011 and 2012, respectively, as a part-time player so he has potential. He has virtually no pop and drove in just 32 runs in 2013, so he won’t produce much. With the additions of Chris Young and Curtis Granderson, he likely won’t play as many games as he did in 2013. Speed kills, but only if the runner is on base.

Josh Satin

.252/.330/.377 with 5 HR and 26 RBI

Prior to 2013, Satin only played 16 games with the Mets: 15 in 2011 and 1 in 2012. He had an impressive .376 OBP in his 75 games last season. Satin demonstrated plate discipline and an ability to work a count over his 221 plate appearances in 2013. He has earned a roster spot as a bench player, but maintaining that on-base percentage is not realistic. Between the platoon, pinch-hitting and utility starting, he could see a similar amount of at-bats to last season. His extra-base power is scarce, yet he can connect with singles.

Wilmer Flores

.272/.321/.377 with 7 HR and 28 RBI

Flores only played 27 games in 2013. He was scorching in his first week with 9 RBI in just first six games, but then he twisted his ankle and was not the same for the rest of the season. He sat out of games down the stretch and looked tentative in the batter’s box. Although it was just one week, he showed a capability to drive in runs. Since the infield is booked there is no everyday position for him. Flores needs to make the most of every opportunity presented to him, and maybe one day he will earn a starting role.

Lucas Duda

.218/.337/.418 with 6 HR and 16 RBI

These numbers are underwhelming because Ike Davis will likely get the majority of starts against right-handed pitchers. If Davis prospers then Duda will spend a lot time on the pine and possibly not even live up to these meager projections, but he could see some playing time if Davis struggles. He hit an atrocious .145 with runners in scoring position last season and only drove in 33 runs on 15 homers. The past two seasons do not suggest that he can hit for an even decent average, and his RBI production fell dramatically from 2012 to 2013. Duda could even spend all of 2014 with the Las Vegas 51s.

Ruben Tejada

.224/.301/.304 with 1 HR and 22 RBI

Tejada’s regression last season was alarming. Hitting a pathetic .202 with a .259 OBP in 2013, he was an automatic out who could work counts but he ultimately grounded out instead of drawing walks. Tejada has never played over 114 games in one season. He is injury prone, sometimes from trying to do too much. Relying on him to even play 130 games is irrational. Tejada showed some promise in 2012, but it was not sensational enough to buy himself a lot of time. With just two home runs and 86 RBI throughout his entire career, it would not be surprising if he does not hit a single home run this season.

Travis d’Arnaud 

.262/.331/.372 with 12 HR and 51 RBI

Evaluating d’Arnaud beyond his minor league performance is difficult because he played just 31 games in his Major League debut last season. Despite a strong performance in AAA, he has not even lived up to a portion of the hype. But d’Arnaud looks intimidating at the plate and seems to have a good eye. He showed an ability to hit line drives into the gap, which would serve well in Citi Field’s vast outfield. With just one homer and 5 RBI in a small sample size, it is difficult to predict whether he has big league pop. He is a top prospect who is skilled at framing pitching and had success in AAA. The catching position is his to lose this season. If d’Arnaud he excels his disappointing 2013 will be forgotten.

Juan Lagares 

.258/.302/.364 with 7 HR and 46 RBI

Lagares is in the lineup for his stellar glove and strong arm, but he may not be a complete liability on offense. He posted a below-adequate .242 batting average and .281 on-base percentage in 121 games last season. Lagares will be less of a burden at the bottom of the order if he can lay off pitches in the dirt and far outside of the strike zone. Although not a slugger, Lagares has opposite field power and is capable of belting more than a few long balls. At 24 years old, he has plenty of time to grow. If he makes significant improvements at the dish he could play in a Mets uniform for many years to come.

Chris Young

.224/.303/.440 with 19 HR and 64 RBI

Young’s peak season average is .257 and his OBP has never surpassed .341. His highest average and OBP over the past three years was .236 and .331 in 2011 and the power has been reliable. He hit 20 home runs or more in all four of his seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks in which he played 148 games or over. However, Chase Field is a friendlier ballpark to hitters than Citi Field. Unless he struggles his way onto the bench or gets hurt he will be a starter and bounce back candidate from his dreadful 2013 season.

Daniel Murphy

.282/.315/.429 with 11 HR and 74 RBI

Murphy has proven that he can drive in runners in scoring position. During a slump he is ice cold, but when Murphy is on fire he hits the ball to all parts of the field and comes through in the clutch. He is a streaky, impatient two-bagger machine with 144 doubles over the past four seasons. Since he is aggressive and expands the strike zone, it would be difficult for Murphy to get more hits and reach base at a higher clip. Taking pitches is not part of his game: his batting average and OBP have been on the decline since 2011. He had career highs in 2013 with 13 homers and 78 RBI. Sustaining this level of production would come at the expense of his average and OBP.

Ike Davis

.239/.328/.455 with 24 HR and 82 RBI

Davis is a gamble. The Mets could send him down to the minors before the All-Star break, yet he has the potential to be an All-Star first basemen. He hit .290 with a .468 OBP in August 2013 before suffering an oblique injury on August 31 that ended his season. He only hit nine home runs in 2013, but most of them were majestic and reminiscent of his monster second half in 2012. If Davis can combine everything he has achieved in isolation he will emerge as a top-tier first baseman in the National League.

Curtis Granderson

.241/.342/.472 with 28 HR and 88 RBI

With the exception of 2011, Granderson’s batting average has been declining since 2009. He became pull happy with the New York Yankees and slugged 41 and 43 homers in 2011 and 2012, respectively, but two hit-by-pitch injuries cut his 2013 season to just 61 games. He is not injury prone; Granderson played at least 136 games every season from 2005 to 2012. Granderson will provide much-needed pop in the middle of the order to protect David Wright. The vast Citi Field could reduce his home run total, but the large gaps in Citi Field will suit him well. What would have been a long ball in the Bronx will turn into doubles and triples. If the batters ahead of him set the table he will be cooking up plenty of rib eye steaks, as Keith Hernandez calls them.

David Wright 

.306/.384/.502 with 24 HR and 91 RBI

Wright is the most consistent and productive hitter in the Mets lineup. Aside from 2011, when he had a stress fracture in his lower back, Wright’s season-low batting average is .283 in 2010, when he also hit 29 homers and drove in 116 runs. Dan Szymborski of ESPN’s 2014 ZiPS projections for the Mets uses a computer formula that predicted Wright will hit just .276 with a .358 on-base percentage and .467 slugging with 19 HR and 74 RBI. His career slash line is .301/.382/.506. His 2012 season (.306/.391) is nearly identical to his injury-shortened 2013 season (.307/.390). Wright’s power numbers are not what they used to be, but he has legitimate protection from Granderson in 2014. Even if the homers decrease he has a track record of slugging doubles. At 31 years old he could decline, but a drop as steep as Szymborski’s calculations suggest would be shocking.

Ten Signs That You Are #MTE

Image  By Don

Your favorite “not a blogger” is back to refresh the original #MTE (Mets Twitter Elite) article and give it a new home at metsonmymind.wordpress.com.

So what was the most groundbreaking event on #MetsTwitter so far this offseason? Signing Curtis Granderson? Signing Bartolo Colon? Jill’s nipple slip? Signing Chris Young? Tanna getting arrested? 50 Cent performing at Citi Field on June 14?

Nope! The answer is none of those. That’s right, the most talked about item is the creation of #MTE. And it’s not losing steam anytime soon.

I have gotten a lot of questions lately asking who and what is #MetsTwitterElite. It’s basically a very small group of Mets fans that were losers throughout their entire lives and were most likely bullied in high school. They have formed an allegiance of sorts on Twitter, where they can hide behind their keyboards and not face reality. Since they were never “cool kids” in real life they have turned to Twitter to try and act cool. Most people see right through this act.

I have been called many nasty things by #MTE since I wrote the first article. The #MTE All-Star roster, which you can find on http://dlongo1.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/mte-official-roster/, also ruffled some feathers. My favorite insult is when they called me immature for creating such a thing, yet they attempted and failed badly to ridicule fans they do not deem worthy. Can anyone say hypocritical? I guess mature stuff in their feeble minds is TRAID jokes, silly grade school level puns and old people jokes.

#MTE has turned this harmless joke into an all-out personal attack. This further proves what type of people they are. Thank God they are a very small and non-influential group of Mets “fans.” The original article has made them, as well as some bloggers who won’t be named, very angry. They are mad that I’m not a blogger but still garnered way more attention than they ever have despite trying very hard every single day.

There are many exciting things coming to the #MTE brand in the near future. One of them is my weekly #MTE Twitter Recap where I will post all of the best (err, I should say worst #MTE tweets) of that week. So if I favorite one of your tweets, look out for it in the #MTE Twitter Recap!

Almost every single person has read the original #MTE Top 10, but it needed a new outlet and I touched it up a bit. So see below…

1. MTE will use the word “TRAID,” which is completely corny and makes no sense. They giggle like schoolgirls when they use it.

2. MTE will type in all caps and spell words wrong, another extremely corny thing. I’m not sure who they are mocking other than themselves. An example of this is something like this: “SAAANDEE Y U N SINE NEONE!!!” They also add “zzzz” to end of the words, such as “RINGZZZ” and “WRONGZZ.”

3. MTE will use silly puns on players’ names. Words can’t describe how corny this is. Some examples are “BYRD IS THE WYRD,” “IMWITH28,” “BUCKSHOT” and “MOARCOWGILL.” I’m not sure how much lamer it can get, but I’m sure it will only get worse this season.

4. MTE thinks Lucas Duda is a good baseball player. This needs no further words.

5. MTE loves Sandy Alderson despite him being one the worst general managers in the history of baseball.

6. MTE will blame Omar Minaya for everything wrong with the Mets today, even though as of now none of Omar’s dead money is left on the books. They also refuse to give him credit for drafting Matt Harvey, signing Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey, Dealing Beltran and Dickey eventually turned into Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud.

7. MTE will use obscure advanced stats to try and convince people that minor leaguers are better than they actually are. In reference to #4, this is why some think bums like Duda and Josh Satin can platoon first base and it will be competent. Absolutely ridiculous.

8. MTE will call every non-Met injury prone, but will never say that about David Wright. A great example is calling Matt Kemp injury prone, even though he played more games than Wright since 2008.

9. MTE loves to attempt to bully and pile on others that disagree with them or they deem not worthy. They pounce on people new to Twitter who ask for follow backs. But in person they’d cower and apologize. I guess since they got bullied their entire lives they try to flip the switch while hiding behind a keyboard.

10. MTE @ button on Twitter must be broken, they subtweet and laugh about it.

I’m pretty sure I have missed a few examples and points, but I figured these 10 steps will help you weed out the MTE from your Twitter following list. Please feel free to give me some more examples so we can all educate the masses and not let these people ruin our once great fan base.

With all that said, I will say this: we all want the same thing, MTE included. We want a consistent winner in Queens. We are the most passionate fan base in all of baseball. I guarantee, unlike our crosstown rival, that if and when we make the playoffs every seat will be filled for every game, whether it be a mong, lunatic, pessimist, optimist…or even a Mets Twitter Elitist.

Let’s go Mets! #LGM

Tweet me at @Hey_its_Don with your thoughts

Odd Man Out: Juan Lagares or Eric Young Jr?

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This town of outfield starting isn’t big enough for the two of them. Juan Lagares or Eric Young Jr. will see considerable time on the bench.

By Michael Mandelkern

Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr. will be competing for a starting outfield role with the New York Mets in Spring Training. Young has been a bench player throughout his career and is likely nothing more. Lagares could be a gem and playing him everyday is the only way to find out. Ultimately, stellar defense is more valuable than speed. Center field is Lagares’ job to lose.

General manager Sandy Alderson recently told Steve Kearne of Kranepool Society that Curtis Granderson is the only outfielder guaranteed to play everyday. The Mets outfield is vastly improved from last season when the team signed Rick Ankiel out of desperation. Chris Young will make $7.25 million and has a starting role if he does not struggle.

Lagares was a rookie last year with the ease of a veteran. He has an impeccable sense of a baseball’s trajectory and charges the ball with authority. Opposing teams quickly learned not to test his cannon of an arm. His 15 outfield assists ranked second in the National League last season. ESPN named him MLB’s Best Defender for August.

In terms of advanced fielding, Lagares held 48.8 percent of base runners in his 108 games as a center fielder last season, 4.2 percentage points above the MLB average. He held 60 percent of runners in his brief 14 games in right field, 12.3 percentage points above the norm. He also threw out 8.5 percent of runners attempting to advance, nearly five times the MLB average of 1.8 percent. If he can sustain this defensive prowess he will be in Gold Glove contention for many years to come.

Without question, Lagares is vastly superior to Eric Young in controlling the opposing team’s running game, but Young is far more aggressive on the base paths. He won the National League stolen base crown in 2013 with 46, but Young’s low OBP hinders him from maximizing his agility. Young hit .251/.318/.329 in 91 games with the New York Mets last season. He posted a slash line of  .249/.310/.336 in a total of 148 combined games with the Colorado Rockies with two home runs and 32 runs batted in.

Young was a part-time player from 2009 (his Major League debut) to 2012. He is a career .258 hitter with a .325 OBP and just seven home runs. After a hot start when he was traded to the Mets in June, he came back to Earth with more playing time. Young would be most effective in a limited role.

Juan Lagares’ bat is even less impressive. He hit .242/.281/.352 with four home runs with 34 runs batted in through 121 games with the Mets in 2013. He drew just 20 walks and struck out 96 times in 421 plate appearances. Lagares needs to narrow his strike zone, but at 24 years old and just one season under his belt he has ample time to grow.

He hit a meager .207/.233/.310 in his 29 leadoff at-bats. Although a small sample, he has not effectively worked counts and gotten on base anywhere in the order. He only swiped six bags in 2013.

Eric Young is a switch hitter that is underwhelming from both sides of the plate. He displayed good range in left field, but he has a noodle of an arm compared to Lagares. All but 31 of his at-bats last season were at leadoff. His propensity to get on base has been poor. It would be easier for the Mets to eat if he was more capable of setting the table.

Ideally, both of them are bench players and the Mets have a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat to provide more protection to David Wright. Putting either Lagares or Young in the outfield is an offensive liability. Speed only kills when the runner is on base. Lagares’ offensive potential has not been realized, but his outfield play alone justifies inserting him into the lineup.

The Curious Case of Lucas Duda (http://www.topsportsreport.com/)

By Michael Mandelkern

Lucas Duda could be the New York Mets’ best option to start at first base next year. Even though he has not played a full season, his OBP and OPS statistics look promising. He has raw power too. But most importantly to General Manager Sandy Alderson, he comes cheap.

Duda, 27, made his Mets debut in September 2010 and is set to make roughly $2 million next season. This is nearly $3.5 million below the average salary of a Major League Baseball first baseman. His ceiling is lower than fellow first baseman Ike Davis, but the front office is pushing to trade Davis.

2014 is an opportunity for Duda to shine. At 6’4” and 255 pounds, he is a lumbering presence at the plate, yet his confidence has come into question throughout his career. Duda has said that he is most comfortable on offense when playing first base, but he was underwhelming at that position this past season. He batted .223/.352/.415 in 2013 with 15 HR and 33 RBI through 384 plate appearances.

His best stretch of baseball was in 2011 when he posted a .292/.370/.482 slash line with 10 home runs and 50 runs batted in through 347 plate appearances. The low average he has had over the past two seasons would be more acceptable if he were a 30 home run hitter.

Duda needs to find a balance between taking pitches and being aggressive in favorable counts. He is a soft-spoken man of few words who tends to take pitches when he should be swinging. Thirteen of his 15 home runs were solo shots aside from one two-run homer and a three-run blast in September, which means that he only drove in 15 runs without the long ball.

Plate discipline is Duda’s upside. His career on-base percentage is .342 with a .352 OBP and .767 on-base plus percentage last season. However, his OBP was only .329 in 2012 through 121 games, the most he has played in one season.

A walk only drives in a run when the bases are loaded, and his running game is slower than molasses. The Mets sent Duda down to the minor leagues in 2012 after a prolonged slump. He is seldom clutch in key situations; he had an anemic .145 batting average with runners in scoring position last season. That is worse than 566 other hitters in 2013.

Alderson must be decisive next season about whether Duda is a full-time first baseman or just a stopgap until they are able to make an upgrade. He needs to play as close to 162 games in 2014 as possible in order for the front office to truly assess his value. Some of his statistics are impressive on paper, but he has not shown the gumption to thrive under pressure.