Breaking down the Mets' 2012 lineup
Sans Reyes, Beltran and Pagan, Amazin's must rely more on power, less on speed
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Jose Reyes is in Miami. Carlos Beltran is in St. Louis. Angel Pagan is in San Francisco. And manager Terry Collins says the New York Mets' lineup now will have a revamped look as a result.
"We're a little different team," Collins said. "Last year, with Angel and with Jose, we ran the bases and we created some runs. We don't have that animal right now, unless Andres [Torres] is in the lineup.
"We're going to have to use the one thing we've got -- and that's some power. It's still a matter of working the count, getting on base, having our on-base percentage as high as it was last year, because I think with the power of our lineup, we'll score some runs. But we've got to get on."
Here's a look at the position players:
1. ANDRES TORRES, CF
Torres, 34, was acquired from the San Francisco Giants with reliever Ramon Ramirez for Pagan during the winter meetings. He is viewed as a defensive upgrade over Pagan. Torres strained his left calf March 20, leading to questions about whether he would start the season on the DL. However, he was due to make his Grapefruit League return Tuesday against the Yankees, which would signal he is ready for Thursday's opener. Torres will serve as the leadoff hitter. The question: Will his production be more like 2010 (.343 on-base percentage) or 2011 (.312)?
Scout's view: "I didn't get a great handle on him. Just the little bit that I've seen, he would probably be a good fourth outfielder on a lot of clubs. It's almost not even fair for me to make that comment. I wrote a report on him and just said: Brief look due to injury. Looks like he goes back on the ball well. Plus defender."
2. DANIEL MURPHY, 2B
Murphy ranked fifth in average in the National League at .320 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury for the second straight year -- this time on an Aug. 7 slide by Atlanta's Jose Constanza, which resulted in a sprained medial collateral ligament in Murphy's left knee. Murphy had injured the same ligament in the other knee the previous year manning second base at Triple-A Buffalo. He is now committed to second base full-time, for better or worse. Constanza, by the way, made Atlanta's 25-man roster and will be at Citi Field this weekend.
Scout's view: "What's the right way to phrase that? I really like his bat. I think he has to hit a lot to just overcome some defensive shortcomings. I will say that I saw him out early working really hard to become adequate defensively, which I think is a big plus. I noticed that he looks like he has trouble more on the backhand side than anything else, from the games I saw. He needs to just continue to work on doing a better job of making the pivot to turn the double play at second base."
3. DAVID WRIGHT, 3B
Wright lost two months of last season dealing with a stress fracture in his lower back. He then was idled during spring training by an abdominal muscle tear and did not appear in a Grapefruit League game until March 26. Wright figures to be the biggest beneficiary of Citi Field's new dimensions. An ESPNNewYork.com study of the balls Wright put in play from 2009 through 2011 revealed that 13 extra shots would have been homers had the new dimensions been in place since the ballpark's inception. And that does not account for the psychological benefits of the now-less-imposing dimensions.
Scout's view: "Watching two BPs, one game, I came away very impressed with his bat speed, with his stroke and the way the ball jumped off his bat. I think he's going to be fine and he's going to have a very good year."
4. IKE DAVIS, 1B
After the collision with Wright in Denver on May 10, Davis did not reappear during the season because of cartilage damage that originally was not detected. Davis then was flagged upon arriving at camp in February for a suspected case of valley fever, which is prevalent in the Southwest. He has not shown symptoms, but Collins said he will be cautious about overusing Davis to avoid him suffering extreme fatigue. Look for Justin Turner to get action at first base against some lefties in place of Davis, especially when the opposition starts a southpaw right before a Mets off day, which would afford Davis a two-day break. Davis hit .302 with seven homers and 25 RBIs in 129 at-bats before last season's ankle injury. With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder now in the American League, perhaps Davis can be a 2012 All-Star.
Scout's view: "I came away thinking he's got 20-plus home run power and plus defense at first base."
5. JASON BAY, LF
Bay's spring training has done little to allay fears that his best days may be behind him. He entered consecutive games against the Yankees to close Grapefruit League play hitting .195 with 13 strikeouts -- and without an RBI -- in 41 at-bats. Lucas Duda figures to jump ahead of Bay in the lineup after the first series. Collins does not want to stack the lefty-hitting Davis and Duda against the Braves this weekend because Atlanta has standout southpaws Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty in its bullpen. Once the Nationals come to town, though, Bay may slip to sixth.
Scout's view: "I haven't seen him in a long time until this year. Obviously he has some raw power. He has some length to his swing. He has to cheat -- guess -- on the fastball a little bit to catch up to the better stuff. I'm thinking along the lines that he's an average major league player at this stage."
6. LUCAS DUDA, RF
Duda led the Mets in home runs during spring training, and showed opposite-field power, too. Without a doubt the strongest hitter powerwise on the Mets, he hit .292 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs in 100 games last season. He led National League rookies in slugging percentage (.482) and on-base percentage (.370) while ranking second in average, fourth in homers and fifth in RBIs. A natural first baseman, Duda moved late in the 2011 season to right field, the position vacated by Beltran. Defense should still be a work in progress. But the elimination of the "Mo's Zone" nook in the right-field corner as part of the Citi Field alterations should benefit Duda by providing truer bounces off the wall in addition to less ground to cover.
Scout's view: "Strong. I thought he showed the ability to hit the ball to the opposite field. I think he has big-time power potential and a chance to hit 30-plus home runs down the road."
7. JOSH THOLE, C
Thole led the National League in passed balls last season with 16, but that's a somewhat unfair statistic, since he was responsible for catching R.A. Dickey's knuckleball. Not a full-time catcher as a professional until May 2008, Thole has made significant strides. He no longer views inexperience as a valid excuse. After reviewing tape during the winter, Thole discovered he had way too many stances behind the plate. He also tended to rise up every pitch before squatting to receive the ball. He has worked to settle on one stance and reduce his movement in order to improve his mechanics throwing out runners.
Scout's view: "He's just an adequate guy for me. I didn't come away thinking he was a front-line catcher. He would probably be a good backup on a lot of clubs."
8. RUBEN TEJADA, SS
Collins expressed disappointment with Tejada's on-time arrival to spring training. The manager wanted Tejada to work with strength coaches at the Mets' spring training complex in November, take a holiday break to return to his native Panama, then return in January to begin getting acclimated with his double-play partner Murphy. Tejada isn't Reyes, particularly on the basepaths, but he does have a strong arm too. He also has a higher baseball aptitude than Reyes in terms of knowing the pitch that's coming and reading the batter's swing and adjusting his positioning accordingly. He does go to his right better than Reyes.
Scout's view: "I thought he was one of the more pleasant surprises in camp for me of the players that I didn't have a lot of history on. I think down the road he's going to hit for a decent average and play above-average defense. I saw him show the ability to go to his right and make the play with the long throw in the hole. I like him. I think he's going to be a good, everyday, regular shortstop."
The Mets' $52 million offseason payroll slashing, the largest one-year drop in MLB history, manifested itself in more ways than not pursuing big-ticket free agents. The Mets resolved to use Mike Nickeas as the righty-hitting complement to Thole, assuming Nickeas could demonstrate minimal hitting competency during spring training. Scott Hairston will serve as the righty-hitting backup outfielder and the primary backup to Torres in center field. Mike Baxter beat out Adam Loewen for the lefty-hitting backup outfield role. Ronny Cedeno was signed to serve as the backup middle infielder. Turner -- who had a knack for driving in runs last year while starting 71 games at second base as well as 31 games at third base in place of Wright -- will be a second righty bat for the bench as well as the primary alternative to Davis at first base.
Scout's view: "Probably, overall, not one of the stronger benches in terms of depth and productivity. I would take Cedeno as a solid multiple utility guy out of that bunch. For me, he's got the most value of that bunch. Turner didn't have the best statistical spring training. He hit under .200. But my feeling is he's got some strength with the bat. I think he'll be a decent guy off the bench."