2014 New York Mets Preview

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It’s finally that time of the year again. The team is down in Florida preparing for the upcoming season. Who will be the starting first baseman? Will Ruben Tejada have to be the shortstop? Who will pitch on opening day? These are some of the questions already generating buzz.

Let us take a look position by position at what we are to expect for the 2014 New York Mets. Not only will we look at my projected starters, but I would also like to look towards the future as well and see what not only 2014 has, but what the next several years have in store for Mets fans.

First Base

This is where things get interesting. Not only is this probably the spot for the most exciting position battle this year, but it also has a lot of candidates who can fulfill this role.

Ike Davis is the obvious leading candidate. One of the Mets biggest prospects had a 32 home run season not too long ago. He had a miserable year last year hitting the ball, but he looks to come back refreshed, retooled and ready for action. He comes with above average defense and the potential for above average power.

Lucas Duda will be Davis’ biggest threat. Duda has impressed me with how hard he tries to succeed. Just when people are ready to write him off, it seems like he comes right back better than he was. This is something we didn’t see from Davis. When Davis got frustrated it seemed to compound and dig him even deeper. Duda has been learning to work counts into his favor and then use his power to punish a pitcher’s mistake. His fielding could be better, but if he has a great Spring Training, I could easily see him beating out Davis.

Mets' first base competitors, Ika Davis (left) and Lucas Duda (right)

Mets’ first base competitors, Ika Davis (left) and Lucas Duda (right)

Davis and Duda are the ones battling it out for this year. There are some options to shift things around even more, like putting Daniel Murphy or Wilmer Flores at first base, but let’s not confuse things so soon.

Dominic Smith is the prospect to look forward to. The Mets selected Smith with the 11th pick of the 2013 draft. This kid shows all the promise of an elite hitter. He has below average speed, but his hitting could really become elite. He seems like the type of player who will shoot up the ranks of the minor leagues as he tears apart pitching at each level. He has the potential to be both an average and power hitter and could be a force for the Mets in a couple years.

Major Met prospect Dominic Smith

Major Met prospect Dominic Smith

Second Base

This job is Daniel Murphy’s. Murphy is coming off a very good 2013 campaign. The knock on Murphy was his fielding, and he has really made strides with it. Murphy is becoming a dependable fielder and a solid all around hitter. Last year he displayed some power and speed that nobody really saw coming. Murphy is developing into one of the better second basemans in the league, due to the lack of much talent at the position. He is a major piece of what the Mets are doing this year, and they still have to decide if his future is with this organization.

Mets' second baseman, Daniel Murphy

Mets’ second baseman, Daniel Murphy

Dilson Herrera is a player the Mets traded for last year. Herrera has a little bit of what Murphy is to the Mets. He is a player who will hit for average but has surprising pop in his bat. If the Mets choose to not extend Murphy they could easily rely on Herrera to be the future second baseman.

Wilmer Flores is another name who comes into play at second base. The problem with Flores is that he is a man without a position. He has proven that he could be an above average hitter, but the problem is finding out where you can put him. If this were the American League I would say there is your DH. Flores is being tried out at shortstop this Spring Training, but he has failed that test before. Should something happen to Murphy he would become the new starting second baseman. He could also be the bridge between Murphy and Herrera as well.

Shortstop

Here is the Mets achilles heel. Ruben Tejada was a solid shortstop two years ago, but a horrible 2013 campaign has him in the doghouse. Not only did he show poor work in the field and hitting, he was a problem off the field and had his work ethic questioned. Tejada can easily earn his job back with a solid Spring, but that is up for him to do, and I am not so sure he will do it.

Will Ruben Tejada be able to get back to where he was two years ago?

Will Ruben Tejada be able to get back to where he was two years ago?

Stephen Drew is a name that often gets applied to the Mets. He is currently a Free Agent, and although the two sides have negotiated, they have yet to budge. If Tejada becomes a serious red flag and Wilmer Flores doesn’t work out, they may be forced to overpay for Drew.

Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini are the young guys affiliated with shortstop, but neither has shown the ability to be a great hitter, and both are a long way away from the big leagues. This will be a problem position for a couple years.

Third Base

This position isn’t even a question. The newly crowned “Face Of MLB,” David Wright, will be the third baseman. Not much else needs to be said here.

The newly crowned "Face of MLB" New York Mets' third baseman, David Wright

The newly crowned “Face of MLB” New York Mets’ third baseman, David Wright

Outfield

What many people have complained about, I actually believe can turn out to not be much of a problem at all.

Curtis Granderson was signed in the offseason and will slide in at one of the corner outfield positions. Granderson carries elite power, and although hasn’t recently, has shown in the past that he can hit for average as well. I believe that he will adapt his swing to shoot for the Citi Field gaps instead of trying to hit homers in the tiny Yankee Stadium ballpark.

Major offseason acquisition, Curtis Granderson

Major offseason acquisition, Curtis Granderson

The other two outfield spots are a question mark as of now. Juan Lagares proved that he is an elite defender, but his hitting needs some work. Eric Young Jr. brings a ton of speed, and isn’t too bad in the field, but getting on base is his problem. The Mets also spent a ton of money on Chris Young, a player who once seemed to be a budding star, but has since fizzled out. I can’t imagine the Mets not giving Chris Young the chance to prove his worth. I think we will see the outfield consist of Young Jr, Young, and Granderson.

Cesar Puello is a prospect that I would really like to see force his way onto the team. He has torn up minor league pitching, and if it weren’t for his suspension late last season, I think we would have seen a MLB preview of him last year. Puello seems like the hitting outfielder that the Mets need. He has 5-tool ability, but needs to mature. If he doesn’t force his way onto the team early this season, I think it is only a matter of time until he makes his way to Flushing.

Catcher

This position struggled once Mike Piazza left the team, but it is now looking to be a major strength.

Travis d’Arnaud was acquired in the R.A. Dickey trade from the Toronto Blue Jays. He is one of baseball’s elite prospects. He is already a spectacular defensive catcher, and he has the makings of an above average bat. He will be the team’s primary catcher so long as he can stay healthy.

Travis d'Arnaud looks to rebound from a shaky beginning to his career in a brief debut late last season

Travis d’Arnaud looks to rebound from a shaky beginning to his career in a brief debut late last season

Kevin Plawecki is another major Mets prospect and he just happens to play the same position. Plawecki is a guy the Mets would love to get into the lineup, but with d’Arnaud blocking him, they will have to decide whether or not they want to trade one, or have one of the best catching duos in baseball.

Starting Pitching

This is the Mets biggest strength. It isn’t even close. The Mets have the rare combination of youth and talent that teams around the league envy. Matt Harvey’s injury is a major blow to the rotation, but they should still be fine without him, and once he returns, whether that be late this season or next season, the rotation becomes even more dominant.

You have to start with Matt Harvey. Harvey is one of baseball’s elite pitchers. If it weren’t for Tommy John surgery that will keep him out a long time, he would be on a short list of baseball’s prime pitchers. He would be the sure-fire opening day starter.

With Harvey injured, I believe Jonathan Niese will be the opening day starter. Niese is the experienced Met who, when on, has the ability to be a top-end of the rotation talent.

Zack Wheeler is the most prized pitcher in the rotation, but due to his youth, I don’t think they bestow that pressure onto him. Zack Wheeler was baseball’s top pitching prospect until he came up with the Mets last season. Although he struggled at times, he showed the talent that had scouts around the league buzzing. Wheeler will be a major piece of the Mets for a long time.

Bartolo Colon, the veteran, was acquired in free agency, and he should add some experience to a very young rotation. I worry about whether or not he can still dominate at his age, but every time I doubt the guy, he comes back even better.

Dillon Gee is one of the most underrated pitchers the Mets have. Gee gets lost in the craze for guys like Wheeler, Harvey, Niese and the soon to be mentioned Syndergaard. Gee has quietly put up very strong numbers and has been a guy that the Mets can definitely count on in the back of the rotation.

That leaves the 5th starter spot. This one is truly up for grabs. The Mets brought veterans like John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka in to battle for the spot. I believe that Rafael Montero should be considered for the spot as well. He is also one of the Mets top prospects and he seems ready for the majors. I am all for letting a young guy get his experience in the major leagues and seeing what we have. If Lannan or Matsuzaka take the 5th spot, I don’t think it will be for long. I think they will let Montero loosen up in the minors and then let him show what he’s got before they get to their big gun.

That leads me to the most exciting prospect of all. Noah “Thor” Syndergaard. Syndergaard was also acquired from the Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey trade. “Thor” has torn up minor league hitters and has become one of baseball’s premier pitching prospects. Met fans won’t have to wait too long to see him play in the major leagues. Syndergaard should reach the majors over the Summer just like Harvey did two years ago and Wheeler did last year.

The future of The New York Mets, from left to right, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah "Thor" Syndergaard and Rafael Montero

The future of The New York Mets, from left to right, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah “Thor” Syndergaard and Rafael Montero

Well, there you have it. To recap, I believe that we will see Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada, David Wright, Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Eric Young Jr., and Travis d’Arnaud in the field on opening day, with Jonathan Niese on the mound. I can see guys like Cesar Puello, Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores and Lucas Duda fighting for playing time throughout the season. Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard are the major pitchers to look for in 2014 as well.

2014 should be a very fun year for Met fans. While this won’t be the team at its full potential yet, it will be the start of something great. Let’s Go Mets!

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About Nick Cocchiaro