Commentary

Projecting the Mets' lineup

Amazin's have speed atop order, but decline will be rapid if sluggers aren't healthy

Updated: March 31, 2011, 3:21 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

If healthy, the New York Mets' lineup figures to be more than sound. But "if healthy" is a big qualifier. Carlos Beltran breaks camp with the Mets with gimpy knees. And on Tuesday, Jason Bay suffered a strained left rib-cage muscle that sent him to the disabled list.

Still, the Mets have a solid 1-2 punch atop the order with speedy switch-hitters Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan. And Ike Davis and Josh Thole proved last year that they can handle major league pitching.


Jose Reyes
Reyes

JOSE REYES, SS

Last year: .282, 11 HRs, 54 RBIs, 20 steals

Pro: Trying to prove he merits a mega-contract as a free agent next offseason, Reyes has considerable incentive to produce. After dealing with a thyroid scare last spring training, then a right-oblique injury in-season, Reyes appears healthy now, with his legs feeling as good as they have since before 2009 surgery to remove a hamstring tendon behind his right knee.

Con: Reyes had a .321 on-base percentage last season, his lowest total since having a .300 OBP in 2005. He could find himself traded before the July 31 deadline if the Mets resolve that they don't have the means and/or will to re-sign him.

Projection: .284, 12 HRs, 60 RBIs, 58 steals


Pagan
Pagan

ANGEL PAGAN, CF

Last year: .290, 11 HRs, 69 RBIs, 37 steals

Pro: Based on last year's first-half performance in center field, Pagan showed he could handle the duties there on a regular basis. Now, he gets the chance full time, with mentor Carlos Beltran shifting to right field. Pagan won't steal as many bases as Reyes, but he does give the Mets a speedy 1-2 switch-hitting punch atop the order. Pagan also has made strides in raising his baseball IQ and playing fundamentally sound.

Con: Pagan's on-base percentage last season did exceed Reyes' (.340 to .321), but he too could use more discipline at the plate. Also, while it should not be a major issue, manager Terry Collins hopes Pagan won't be deferential to Beltran on balls in right-center, since the center fielder should take charge.

Projection: .286, 12 HRs, 65 RBIs, 31 steals


Wright
Wright

DAVID WRIGHT, 3B

Last year: .283, 29 HRs, 103 RBIs

Pro: The leader of the Mets, Wright has been durable, with the lone DL stint of his career coming two years ago -- against his will -- after San Francisco's Matt Cain beaned the third baseman and caused a concussion. Aside from a 10-homer campaign that year, Wright's offensive numbers mostly have been consistent throughout his career, with one exception.

Con: Wright's strikeout rate has consistently climbed throughout his career, from 113 in 2005 and '06, to 115 in '07, to 118, 140 and then 161 last year. He also had 20 errors and a .956 fielding percentage last season. The error total led major league third basemen, ahead of runners-up Michael Young and Adrian Beltre with 19 apiece.

Projection: .302, 28 HRs, 111 RBIs


Beltran
Beltran

CARLOS BELTRAN, RF

Last year: .255, 7 HRs, 27 RBIs

Pro: Like Reyes, Beltran needs a solid year to set up his next contract, even if that clearly will not be with the Mets, providing plenty of incentive to produce. And while Beltran's legs may be failing him at age 33, he has put up 112 RBIs as recently as 2008.

Con: Beltran's left knee flared up during spring training, and both knees figure to be persistent issues throughout the season, meaning he will be in and out of the lineup. The adjustment to right field is of secondary concern. But it is worth noting that Beltran has appeared in only three major league games in right field, all in 2000 with the Kansas City Royals.

Projection: .266, 12 HRs, 44 RBIs


Bay
Bay

JASON BAY, LF

Last year: .259, 6 HRs, 47 RBIs

Pro: The concussion that ended Bay's season after a July 25 game at Dodger Stadium appears behind the left fielder. Also promising: Free agents typically perform better in their second seasons in New York compared with Year 1. It would not be hard to surpass the six homers Bay produced in 348 at-bats last season, after joining the Mets on a four-year, $66 million deal.

Con: Bay fiddled with his stance during spring training, originally trying to keep his hands and bat flatter and minimizing his movement. That did not agree with him, and late in camp he went to more of a hybrid of last year's stance and new hitting coach Dave Hudgens' teachings -- his hands returning higher and closer to last year's location at the start of his swing, but his feet wider apart.

Projection: .277, 23 HRs, 104 RBIs


Davis
Davis

IKE DAVIS, 1B

Last year: .264, 19 HRs, 71 RBIs

Pro: A slick fielder, Davis will help offset any limitations that second baseman Brad Emaus has with range to his left. Davis is the first stable, lefty-fielding first baseman for the Mets since John Olerud. And while he's not quite Keith Hernandez, Davis will be an asset with his glove -- and his long reach into the stands.

Con: In a division that includes young sluggers such as Jayson Heyward, Mike Stanton and Domonic Brown, Davis is the Mets' best answer. Yet he likely won't be able to keep up with the plate production of his NL East peers.

Projection: .261, 22 HRs, 80 RBIs


Emaus
Emaus

BRAD EMAUS, 2B

Last year: N/A

Pro: The Rule 5 pick from the Toronto Blue Jays has the type of track record the Mets' new front office loves. Emaus had more walks (81) than strikeouts (69) in 2010, while also producing 15 homers in 445 minor league at-bats. Last season, Emaus' combined .397 on-base percentage (with Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Las Vegas) was better than any Mets farmhand who had more than 250 plate appearances at either level, with the exception of Mike Nickeas' .403 OBP in 318 plate appearances with Double-A Binghamton.

Con: Emaus has never appeared in a major league game, so the Mets are depending upon former Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi's projections and faith in believing Emaus will succeed. Emaus is not a gifted second baseman, either. If he flounders and does not make it the whole year on the major league roster, he would need to be placed on waivers and then offered back to Toronto if he cleared.

Projection: .244, 12 HRs, 44 RBIs


Thole
Thole

JOSH THOLE, C

Last year: .277, 3 HRs, 17 RBIs

Pro: Thole's choke-up-and-make-contact approach at the plate should consistently lead to high batting averages. It causes one scout to speculate that Thole will have a 15-year major league career. Despite only becoming a full-time professional catcher in May 2008, Thole has made great strides recently and is trusted by his pitching staff to handle the No. 1 duties.

Con: Even with his progress, Thole likely will never grade out to more than an average defensive catcher. And the same approach that should lead to high batting averages also means Thole likely will not crack single digits in homers.

Projection: .291, 7 HRs, 55 RBIs

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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