Featured Post: Let’s Talk About the Future

By Christina Montana

September 27, 2013 19 Comments

MiLB: April 29 - St. Lucie Mets at Tampa Yankees

If there’s anything we’ve become good at these last four years it’s saying “just wait till 2014, 2015, etc.” More specifically, yet ironically lacking specifics, is that we generally say “We’re building for the future” and “Next year.” There’s always this concept of a Master Plan, or something resembling the religious concept of Intelligent Design–that Sandy Alderson has been building this team from the farm up, evolving our philosophies, shifting our statistical focus, and player management.

When it all comes down to it, each year could’ve been “our year” since Alderson’s taken over. There was always a fluke chance of everything suddenly falling together, even with a ragtag team, and our Mets showing signs of climbing from their rut. While the 2006 Mets saw huge years from Delgado and Beltran, we can’t forget that Wright and Reyes were only 23 years old, that we had Jose Valentin starting, and Xavier Nady as our starting right fielder. My point is, sometimes things fall nicely into place, and sometimes, as we’ve seen: they can fall into place one year, and then hit a downward spiral of injuries.

So when we look at 2014, we should consider that our pitching staff in the glorious year that was 2006 featured the likes of Tom Glavine (15-7, 3.82 ERA), Steve Trachsel (15-8, 4.97 ERA), Pedro Martinez (9-8, 4.48 ERA), El Duque (9-7, 4.09 ERA), and John Maine (6-5, 3.60 ERA). They all had pretty nice-looking records, but their ERAs show that they were saved by teammates who scored at a ridiculous clip (i.e: a majority of them having career years).

Compare that to our pitchers this year, albeit with almost no run support and the all-too-often bullpen flaws early on: Matt Harvey (9-5, 2.27 ERA), Zack Wheeler (7-5, 3.42 ERA), Dillon Gee (12-10, 3.54 ERA), Jonathon Niese (7-8, 3.81 ERA). Obviously, I’m neglecting to include those who aren’t going to be part of our future starting rotation (but let’s not forget Jenrry Mejia 1-2, 2.30 ERA in 5 starts).

We have Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom on their way, as soon as 2014 for all three. We have so much solid pitching depth throughout the organization that it would make other teams cry for their futures against us (Steven Matz, Gabriel Ynoa, Darin Gorski, Jacob Lugo, Robert Whalen, Chris Flexen).

Honestly, we should have solid pitching for years to come. As for the lineup in 2014, we shouldn’t be underselling the talent our “rookies” have. They’re getting their feet wet for the first time in the majors, and will then spend the off-season figuring out how to adjust.

A roster that includes David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Matt den Dekker, Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wilfredo Tovar would be incredibly talented defensively, and stocked with line drive, gap-to-gap hitters. Wright, Murphy, MdD,TdA and Flores are all very capable of between 12-20 home runs. What’s even more impressive is the age of a roster like that: 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 24, 22.

That group of guys still allows for an outside addition if need be, but I definitely believe that those guys (presuming that Tovar can prove he belongs–he’s already shown he’s the only player who can drop a sac bunt, apparently).

As for offensive help from within, there’s still the likes of Kevin Plawecki, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Dustin Lawley (who IS a power hitter), Allan Dykstra, Cesar Puello, etc. We aren’t as completely void offensively as fans like to think. Just because we don’t have a #1 draft pick, doesn’t mean we haven’t reaped the benefits of some talented kids.

The point is: here comes the future. That one we’ve been waiting for with bated breath. There WILL be talented players in Citi Field next year, not just infamous ReplaceMets/AAAA Mets. And there will be good teams to root for and enjoy for years to come.

Obviously, this post shouldn’t be misconstrued as comparing the 2006 team to any future Mets team, next year or thereafter. The idea is to show the potential our team could have for the future. The idea is to show how break out years, career years, or just expected years can put everything right back on track. I’m not saying to expect someone to fill the Delgado role, the Beltran role, the Floyd role, the Reyes role–no. What I’m saying is that the talent, the youth, the drive to succeed and be great is there.

Like we say after every season: just wait til next year. And this time, we should be right.

(Cesar Puello photo courtesy of Kelly Madden)

  • tom

    Good recap, Christina. I’d have put Puello higher on the list of offensive guys. For pitchers besides those you mentioned, there are bullpen pieces (Familia, Leathersich, Kolarek, and others), and guys like Michael Fulmer, who had injuries that shortened his 2013, but was considered almost Syndergaard-like going into 2013. Let’s see who we trade and who we keep – but there are chips and foundational pieces in system.

  • Vin

    What’s nice is I think there is enough on the farm and in the payroll (with all the contracts coming off) to really positively impact the big league team while also maintaining a good system next year.

    BTW, the guy we got in the trade, Herra, is a nice looking player who could be a much bigger trade chip at next year’s deadline then he was this year (he should be at least in A+ by then), or a keeper. So there’s another good position prospect.

  • Yeah, I left out a few people. The lists I did put together weren’t in any particular ranking order. I left off Fulmer because he’s had a rough last year, so he wouldn’t be as immediate as the other names you list.

  • 3doza33

    Puello could help us next year. Plawecki in 2 years, Nimmo in 3, and Domo is probably 4 years away. Lawley can hit for power but has a lot of work to do! He needs to make a lot more contact to make it to the next level! I hope he’s a diamond in the rough but I’m not gonna get my hopes up. We are set with pitching but we definitely need to go out and buy 2-3 mlb proven hitters to contend next year cause we will be waiting a few more years for the hitters in our minors to blossom. Thankfully this is the offseason we have all been waiting for with Santana and Bay’s mammoth contracts coming off the books! We finally have the money to spend so lets hope for a very merry X-Mas!!

  • Oh, most definitely. I guess my main point with mentioning Plawecki, Nimmo, and Dom is that, we aren’t completely void of offense in the minors as people like to think. I definitely agree we need another 1 or 2, but giving our young guys (as listed) would be a hugely intriguing sight to behold. We’ve been seeing them win pretty consistently this passed week or so, it’s been refreshing to see them produce (especially alongside Wright).

  • 3doza33

    Yeah there are a lot of debbie downers in mets land these days. They are terrible and make some of the comment sections of the blogs unbearable! Most of them don’t have a clue about the talent we have built up in our system! It’s a great time to be a mets fan and it’s a shame a lot of these people don’t understand the magic that’s happening in the minors! Ten years ago it was almost impossible to follow all these kids and now with smart phones etc, I can follow every mets minor league team and every at bat! We can see them blossom into future stars and when they do, you appreciate them even more! Sorry for rambling… Keep spreading the Mets love!! Can’t wait till next year!

  • DD

    First off, hang on there; Jose Valentin played like an all star the first three months of the season, and was much more than adequate for the season. Of course he was nothing to build upon for the next year, but that is another matter, he was an important part of that team, as well as being one of the really underrated players of his time.

    I definitely believe that Puello will find his way to Flushing by July, and that he (probably)will help out without too much of an adjustment period.

    What I am loving about these Mets youngsters, Harvey, Wheeler, Lagares and Tovar in particular, is that they don’t have that deer-in-the-headlights look about them; they think they belong in the major leagues, which in turn enables them to do all that their talent allows. It allows ME to hope about the team’s future, without having to assume too many caveats about young players, how they will break your heart, etc.

  • tom

    More on Puello:

    In 2004, David Wright at age 21 was promoted for 114 at bats to AAA, and in AA, he had 223 official at bats. Overall in 406 plate appearances and 337 official at bats, he hit .341, .441 on base %, 35 doubles, 18 HR, 57 RBI, 22 of 32 steals.

    No Met in AA has come close since, (except one guy – see below) until this year: Puello at age 22 had almost as many plate appearances (377 vs. Wright’s 406) and had 21 doubles, 16 HR, .326, .403 on base, 24 of 31 steals.

    Not quite as good. So he is not Wright II – but the #’s are pretty close. I think this guy is not getting the attention he deserves – partially because he lost 40-50 games to really fill out his #’s. I think Puello will be a star, and possible All Star, outfielder within a few years.

    Oh, and the one other guy who excelled at AA since Wright? Murphy, a year older at age 23 when he was in AA, hit almost as well as Puello – little less average (.308), power, and on base % (.374)…and stole about half as much as Puello. If Puello does better than Murphy does now, he is a real keeper.

  • DD

    Nice stuff, Tom.

    I won’t pretend to follow such things on a continual basis, but many seasons, at least, the Eastern League has been a pitcher’s league by minor league standards.

    At least that is the impression I have gotten over the years, as for example 2001, when trying to assess what the Twins had on the farm that might help them, I ran into several under 2.00 era’s, and a team era of 3.00. Typically the league average era falls somewhere between those of the National And American Leagues for that year.

    So, strong offensive numbers from a player should matter, one would think.

  • tom

    I did follow minors pretty closely this year – so I’d like to add one point I did not before when considering Puello’s star potential: Puello had a slow April – but was torrid after that: .336, and all 16 of his homers in 75 games after April. Some guys, like Allan Dykstra, started strong and faded by comparison. Puello’s later surge shows he was clearly ready for AAA, just held back by Bingo being in 1st place, and his impending drug enhancement suspension. Let’s hope his 2013 #’s were not PED related or I am wasting everyone’s time posting this.

  • 3doza33

    Yeah, I’m hoping he’s the real deal too. We desperately need a player like this and it would give the mets a lot of flexibility with the payroll. Hope he was just using them to help with the many injuries he had. He always had the tools. The baseball gods need to give us this one! We’ve suffered long enough!

  • tom

    Hopefully a bunch of guys will pleasantly surprise in the next few years. Especially since there were (and hindsight of course is 20/20) two huge apparent blunders in Mets’ 2011 and 2012 drafts – Mets selected Nimmo and Cecchini, when 2013’s certain Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez and last night’s near-no-hitter Wacha were still available in 2011 and 2012, respectively. That is because of brutal prior drafts leading to mets wanting to draft young hitters, coupled with the Jose departure (we’ll need a SS, what about gavin?) Pick those 2 pitchers instead and a 10 year dynasty would be on our doorsteps. Both Nimmo and Cecchini have under-performed vs. expectations (so did Puello prior to 2013)…let’s hope those 2 are not busts.

  • 3doza33

    The Nimmo draft was loaded with pitchers and we got Fulmer with our 2nd pick. We were already swap with pitchers and we needed hitters in our system badly! I would love to have Fernandez but can’t call it a blunder for not taking pitchers with those two first round picks.. We need balance in our system. That’s why we are ranked in the middle of the pack instead of top 10. I think Nimmo and Cechinni are gonna be solid players for us in a few years. It’s hard to call a 19 and 20 year old a bust. I think Plawecki was a huge pick for us too. He’s gonna be a top 10 rated catcher next year. A couple years ago catcher was a very weak point for us and now we are loaded with them. I think we did a great job getting a lot of young everyday players in the draft this past year too! We have some talented kids coming, we just have to be patient. Hopefully we are winning by then and they keep pumping our roster year in and year out so we have a winner for the next 10+ years!

  • That was the point I was making. No one expected Valentin to be as good as he was, and he was a huge part of the team. His stats were 100% unexpected and there’s no reason to believe other players can’t have similarly good years.

  • These are so really impressive things to note. Honestly, my only fear with Puello is his suspension. Has he been using? What was he using? What was the exact reason for suspension? (I’m obviously not 100% aware if this info is known).

    Regardless, I worry if he’ll continue that great, Wright/Murphy-like production.I really would love for him to. Puello looks great, especially this year, and I wouldn’t doubt we see him very very soon. In fact, I hope we do. And I hope the suspension hasn’t had any negative effects.

  • tom

    If they go big bucks for Choo, who is lousy vs. lefties (no power at all, low average) but does get on base pretty well vs. lefties anyway via walks, but absolutely rocks righties, would he be open to a platoon with Puello, who kills lefties? Huge question.

    Choo probably wants to play every day, but he is sub par vs. lefties and lethal vs. righties. One guy who I think is a dark horse in Met farm system in Muno – bad start to 2013, but from June on, he was awesome. Decent power, and great on base. Only so many starting positions, so I do not see him starting with Mets down the road, but can see him in Justin Turner role by 2015.

  • B-Met Fan

    Puello’s Double-A numbers eclipsed those racked up by the Dodgers Puig during his stay in Double-A before being called up to the big team. Puello is a five-tool prospect the likes Met fans haven’t seen since maybe Strawberry.

  • tom

    Puello best since Straw? Then he’d have to be better than David Wright – I hope that happens, but while Wright is not on the level of some elite guys (Pujols until he started to falter; Trout), he is a possible Hall of Famer, so if Puello exceeds Wright, it will be awesome – but that at this point is a real leap.

  • DD

    Way too early to pencil Cesar Puello in as the next Strawberry, of course of course.

    The time to do that would be late February, when we are all sick of Winter, worn down by bad local football, Jonsing for baseball. At that point — well it’s no more prudent to project that far ahead than it is today, but it doesn’t cost anything either. And by February I’ll be ready to think silly.