2012 In Review
The 2012 New York Mets season was a tale of two halves. Buoyed by outstanding pitching and the resurgent bat of David Wright, the Mets blazed to a 46-40 record at the All-Star break. Then things started to fall apart. Former ace southpaw Johan Santana, after tossing two shutouts (including a no-hitter) in the first half of the season, completely fell apart. The Mets’ $23MM man tossed just 14 innings after the all-star break before flaming out on the DL in August. Santana’s 16.33 ERA over that stretch all but erased what was a solid first half and was responsible for five of the 48 post All-Star losses the Mets suffered.
Aside from Santana, the starting pitching was outstanding. 38 year old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey won 21 games and the Cy Young Award. For a two month span (May-June), Dickey was nearly unhittable. The righty compiled a 9-0 record with an ERA of 1.31 and 88 K’s in 82.2 innings of work. #2 man Jon Niese posted career best marks across the board last year, earning 13 wins and striking out 155 hitters en route to a 3.40 ERA. As impressive as Dickey and Niese were, the real pleasant surprise was the rapid ascension of 6-4 225 lb. powerhouse and UNC alum Matt Harvey. The 23 year old earned his first career start in July and dominated from the get go. In his 59.1 innings, Harvey disposed of 70 hitters by way of the K and held them to a .200 BA in his 10 second half starts. His 3-5 record was indicative of the struggles had by both the bullpen and offense.
With the fences moved in, the Mets seemed to sell out for power. While the club hit 33 more homers than 2011, their batting average slipped from .263 in 2011 to .249 last year. Also down were the number of runs and bases on balls, while strikeouts were up by nearly 200. David Wright’s first half numbers (.351/441/.563 11 HR 59 RBI 27 2B) were vintage splits, but the second half saw his OPS dip by more than 250 points, his plate discipline vanish (31 BB/65 K’s) and his runs, RBI, and doubles take drastic drops. It was almost as if Wright was trying too hard for too long to carry a sluggish offense on his back. Ike Davis led the Mets with 32 HR, but his .227 BA was among the lowest for Mets starters. On the bright side, Davis’ second half produced 20 of his 32 HR’s and his average was increased by 40 points over his first half numbers.
- C: John Buck
- 1B: Ike Davis
- 2B: Daniel Murphy
- SS: Ruben Tejada
- 3B: David Wright
- RF: Mike Baxter/Marlon Byrd
- CF: Kirk Niuewenhuis/Collin Cowgill
- LF: Lucas Duda
In large part, things remain pretty unchanged heading into the 2013 season. The top of the order will be manned by Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy. Both players have demonstrated in their relatively young careers a solid ability to hit for a high average, though neither have demonstrated the ability to hit for much power or demonstrated aggressiveness in utilizing their speed on the basepaths. The middle of the lineup will consist of Wright, Davis, Duda, and probably Byrd. Davis and Duda will be challenged to alter their pull-happy ways that were key contributors to the prolonged slumps they suffered through last year. At their best, both Duda and Davis are solid run producers with the ability to hit 20-30 HR each and hit above .270. Kirk Niuewenhuis is a somewhat intriguing player entering his sophomore season. His blend of power and athleticism is comparable to Seattle Mariners OF Michael Saunders. Like Saunders, Niuewenhuis would display tantalizing talent in one moment only to look completely overmatched in others. He has the ability to hit near the top or near the bottom of the Mets lineup this year, or could find himself back at AAA.
Perhaps the most intriguing pieces of the Mets lineup are on the outside looking in. New York traded R.A. Dickey in the offseason to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for their #1 prospect, catcher Travis d’Arnaud and RHP Noah Syndergaard. d’Arnaud could make this roster out of camp, but will likely be sent to AAA Buffalo to play out the first couple months of the season. The Mets haven’t had an offensively minded catcher since Mike Piazza. While he may not have the future pedigree of a surefire Hall of Famer like Piazza, his 20-25 HR ability will be a welcome addition to a lineup aching for production. The Mets have been experimenting with former SS Jordany Valdespin in the outfield. Last year, the 25 year old put up some solid debut numbers in his 191 major league AB’s. Valdespin hit 8 HR and stole 10 bases while batting .241 in a part time role. This spring, Valdespin has already hit three HR and driven in eight runs while playing both the infield and outfield. It seems that the Mets are grooming him to be a super utility player and are looking for increased opportunities to get his bat into the lineup.
- Johan Santana LHP
- Jon Niese RHP
- Shaun Marcum RHP
- Dillon Gee LHP
- Matt Harvey RHP
Santana’s opening day status is still up in the air. He drew some heat from Mets GM Sandy Alderson for showing up to camp out of shape and ill-prepared to pitch—not a desired characteristic for a man drawing a $25.5 MM salary. The free agent acquisition of Marcum was a low cost option to fill the enormous hole left by R.A. Dickey’s departure. While Marcum has proven to be a solid mid-rotation starter, there is an urgent need for the other pieces of the rotation to pitch as well or better than last year’s solid group. Naturally, all eyes are on Santana, who is likely in his final season with the Mets. Santana’s disappointing second half demise evokes concern that 2010 may have been the best of what the southpaw had left in the tank.
Matt Harvey’s sophomore season will also be an area of keen interest. Dominant during his fast track ride through the minor leagues, Harvey was actually at his best when donning the Mets pinstripes. 70 K’s in 59 innings, Harvey allowed two or fewer runs in 10 of his 12 starts. He’s got the size, stuff, and command to be an ace of the Mets rotation in short order, however, I’d expect manager Terry Collins to limit his workload to less than 200 innings this season. Just on the cusp of the major league roster is another electric frontline starter in 22 year old RHP Zach Wheeler. Wheeler, a former San Francisco Giants 1st round pick, was acquired in a 2011 trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the Bay Area. Wheeler split time at AA and AAA, going 12-8 with a 3.26 ERA and 148 K’s in 149 innings. Wheeler’s only made one appearance this spring, which gives reason to believe that he’ll start the season at AAA. He won’t be down there all year, though. It’s easily conceivable that the Mets will be sellers at the trade deadline, possibly dealing Santana or Marcum. When a rotation spot opens, be either trade or injury, Wheeler’s name will be at the top of the list to fill it.
- CL: Frank Francisco
- SU: Bobby Parnell
- RHP: Jueurys Familia, Jennry Mejia, Brandon Lyon, Elvin Ramirez
- LHP: Josh Edgin, Robert Carson
Last year’s bullpen was abysmal. Francisco, despite saving 23 games in 26 chances, had an ERA north of 5.50 and struggled mightily with his command. He’s doubtful to be ready for opening day as he’s recovering from a December elbow surgery (bone spurs). That may open the door for last year’s set up man Bobby Parnell to seize the job. Parnell, in large part, pitched well last year, but struggled when given the opportunity to close games, blowing five of twelve opportunities. Parnell’s fastball is electric. He can hump it up to 100 MPH, and his knuckle-curve is a devastating strikeout pitch. Despite the power fastball, Parnell is adept to forcing ground ball outs at a rate of 2.0 or better per fly ball. The Mets have a couple of promising arms in Familia and Mejia that could serve in a variety of roles this season, either as swingmen, long relievers, or starters at the AAA level.
Five Undervalued New York Mets Cards
1.) Kirk Nieuwenhuis 2012 Serial Numbered RC Autos
At 6-3 and 215 lb., Nieuwenhuis is a complete athlete who can do a lot of things right on the baseball field. The Mets have been searching for a leadoff hitter with an ability to get on base frequently and drive the ball with authority. Nieuwenhuis has the ability to do just that. In his three and a half minor league seasons. the 25 year old posted a .817 OPS and stole 47 bases. He is slated to platoon with Collin Cowgill in CF, but could play a more regular role if he demonstrates that he can hit LHP’s with more consistency. Nieuwenhuis’ first autographed cards were in the 2008 Razor series, but his first MLB licensed autos are in an assortment of 2012 products, including Topps Chrome, Finest, National Treasures (there’s some beautiful patches there) and Triple Threads. Surprisingly, serial numbered refractor versions of his autos can be had for prices under $5 each. For a kid who has flashed five-tool ability and could see time at the top of a New York team’s lineup—that seems pretty darn low.
2.) Brandon Nimmo 2011 Bowman Chrome RC Auto
The Mets #1 draft pick from the 2011 season played his first season at one of the most difficult hitters locales in minor league baseball, Brooklyn. Nimmo, a Wyoming native, didn’t have a high school baseball team and was considered by many scouts and baseball insiders to be an extremely raw project. Nimmo hit six HR at short season Brooklyn, and doubled 20 times in his 266 AB. Though he hit just .240, it was Nimmo’s advanced plate approach (46 BB) that drew praise from the organization. This year will mark the 6-3 195 lb OF’s first full season campaign, and it will be interesting to see if the plate discipline carries forward against more advanced and refined pitching. Nimmo’s power bat and athleticism will carry him through the Mets’ system, though it may take a while for him to reach the major leagues. If you’re patient and prone to long term prognostication, Nimmo’s 2011 Bowman Chrome Draft RC autos at $10-12 each could be solid value buys. More affordable are his 2011 Bowman Sterling autos at $5-6 each.
3.) Lucas Duda 2008 Donruss Elite Extra Patch Auto RC
The USC alum had a down year in 2012, though his track record at both the minor and major league level would indicate that his struggles could very well be an outlier. At 6-4 and 255 lb., Duda is a giant 27 year old who I think is primed for a career year. He’s yet to surpass 400 AB in any major league season, but if he does, it’s not inconceivable to expect a 20-25 HR and 80-90 RBI output from him. He’ll probably hit in the 5th spot in New York’s lineup, giving him ample opportunities to drive in David Wright and Ike Davis ahead of him. Duda’s first year autos are in the 2008 Donruss Elite and Donruss Threads series. There isn’t a whole lot of market data for these cards, but a couple recent sales of the autographed maufactured collegiate patches from the Elite Extra series both drew prices in the $5-6 range. Honestly, I think if you can find an auto of his for less than $10, you’ll have purchased something with some growth potential. Also, his 2008 Bowman Chrome non-autographed base RC’s have been nabbed at 50 cents to a buck each.
4.) Gavin Cecchini 2012 Bowman Chrome Draft RC Auto
Garin’s younger brother was selected in the 1st round by the Mets this past June. Baseball America liked him enough this offseason to rank the 19 year old SS as the #2 prospect in the Mets’ bountiful system. Cecchini’s defense is his best tool so far and he’s projected to be an above average to excellent defender at the major league level. Offensively, he’s a scrappy hitter with fringe average power potential and the ability to hit near the top of a major league lineup. He batted .241 in his first professional season at rookie level Kingston and collected just 12 XBH in 191 AB. However, he’s got some projectability in his 6-1 180 lb. frame and his contact rate and plus speed gives optimism to the notion that he’ll hit for a higher average going forward. $6-8 range, as I think many people shied away from his unremarkable numbers. I’d like to see what a full season renders for the younger Cecchini.
5.) Cory Vaughn 2011 Topps Minor League Serial #’ed RC’s
I’m going off the board a bit with this one. If you look at any 2013 New York Mets preseason top prospects lists, you won’t see this guy in the top 20. For a 23 year old who smacked 51 XBH (23 HR) and stole 21 bases in 25 attempts at High-A, that seems a little low to me. Vaughn is a statuesque 6-3 and 225 lb. While he’s struggled to hit for a high average (.262 in two and a half professional seasons) he’s posted an .826 OPS and has scored 180 runs. The only cards of Vaughn’s are his 2011 Topps Pro Debut cards. These are not autographed and can be found for as low as a quarter apiece. More intriguing to me, are the serial numbered parallels. There have been a couple sales of his blue versions (#/369) for less than $4 shipped. Vaughn’s been solid in his brief spring training experiences and I feel that his 2013 season (likely at AA) will give us a much sharper perspective of his potential. Keep you eyes peeled for possible autos in 2013 products. Odds are they’ll be overlooked by several collectors chasing bigger names.
Better years are in store for the Mets, but 2013 probably won’t be one of them. Down a Cy Young Award winner, this club will have to rely on several other players improving on their 2012 numbers in order to surpass the 74 wins from last season. I expect better things from Duda, Davis, and Johan Santana. Parnell should lock down the 9th inning duties for the entire year, and could be dominant in that role. The emergence of Travis d’Arnaud will help this lineup and the development of Harvey and Wheeler as the future 1-2 punch for the rotation will be extremely intriguing. In the end, this team could push past the 80 win mark, but I’d expect a moderate 2-3 win improvement over last year’s numbers. In the N.L. East, that’s a fourth place finish.