It's fun to play the what-if game. Like what-if you were President for the day or what-if you won the lottery. How about this, what-if everything went right for the New York Mets this year. I know, I know, highly unlikely and laughable. This franchise might be better off going by New York Mess instead considering all the adversity they're facing. Bad contracts doled out by ex-GM Omar Minaya, the owners scandal and the trickle down effect on the clubhouse, the back-to-back collapses suffered at the end of the season a few years back. Things are bad, but they could turn around...ya know, what-if?
Below are listed the supposed starters at every position and their 2010 stats, along with my analysis of each, and a what-if scenario.
Catcher- Josh Thole
.277/.723, 1.4 WAR in 202 at bats. Makes good contact, but has very little power. Surprised many by gunning down 44% of would be base burglars during his MLB time last year (compared to 18% in Triple-A). Will likely split time with Ronny Paulino, who is a very competent backup. What-if Thole were able to play adequate defense and bat near .300. Helluva bottom of the order threat.
1st Base- Ike Davis
.264/.799, 73 R, 33 2B, 19 HR, 71 RBI, 2.5 WAR. This youngster could have a breakout season in 2011. He has power, plays good D, and hit for a decent average during his brief time in the minors. What-if Ike bumped his average up to the .280ish range and jacked 30+ bombs with 100+ RBI. We'd be saying hello to a top tier 1st baseman.
2nd Base- Ruben Tejada
.213/.588 in 216 plate appearances. It's difficult to get a read on the Mets plans at 2nd, as it could be Tejeda, Luis Castillo, or even Daniel Murphy there. Basically, it's going to be a hodge-podge of ugly. Tejeda has the most upside given his age and athletic ability, but his bat may not be enough to warrant playing time. Minor league line- .273/.696 in 4 seasons. What-if Murphy proves he can handle the defensive rigors of 2nd, takes over there and bats comparable to MLB slash line of .275/.768. That's good for a 2nd baseman.
3rd Base- David Wright
.283/.856, 87 R, 36 2B, 29 HR, 103 RBI, 19 SB, 3.9 WAR. The NL East is home to 2 of the best players at the hot corner in all of baseball. Wright is a perennial All-Star (5 straight years) and is an excellent batter. His defense is overrated, but his skill set is not. What-if at age 28 (typically a prime year for batters) Wright hits his stride and take his performance up another notch. MVP candidate.
Shortstop- Jose Reyes
.282/.749, 83 R, 29 2B, 10 3B, 11 HR, 54 RBI, 30 SB, 2.2 WAR. A great athlete that seemed to peak at age 23. Is a 5 tool player, but continually disappoints. What-if in his contract year Reyes remains healthy and reverts back to his early career success ('06- .300/.844, 122 R, 30 2B, 17 3B, 19 HR, 81 RBI, 64 SB). That's phenomenal!
Left Field- Jason Bay
.259/.749, 48 R, 20 2B, 6 3B, 47 RBI, 10 SB, 1.1 WAR. Something went terribly wrong for Bay in 2010, but he's a better player than that stat line. Expect a bounce back year from this Canadian born former Pirate and Rookie of the Year. What-if Bay is able to produce like he has prior to becoming a Met (first 7 seasons of his career he averaged .280/.885, 83 R, 26 HR, 87 RBI).
Center Field- Carlos Beltran
.255/.768 in 255 plate appearances. His prime years are behind him because he's practically playing with no cartilage in his knees, but his bat continues to be a threat. Should probably move to RF at this stage of his career allowing Pagan to patrol CF, but his pride is getting in the way. What-if Beltran accepted a transfer to RF which put less wear and tear on his hobbled knees and he were able to remain in the lineup on a regular basis.
Right Field- Angel Pagan
.290/.765, 80 R, 31 2B, 7 3B, 11 HR, 69 RBI, 37 SB, 4.8 WAR. Should have won a Gold Glove last season, but ironically didn't hit enough for consideration (figure that one out). This 4th outfielder finally graduated to starter because of opportunity. He's perfect for CF, but for the time being Beltran is stuck there. What-if Pagan reproduces similar #'s to last season.
Near Locks: Ronny Paulino/C, Luis Castillo/2B, Daniel Murphy/2B/OF/1B, Scott Hairston/OF, Chin-lung Hu/UTL.
Backups: Nick Evans/1B, Fernando Martinez/OF, Lucas Duda/OF, Mike Nickeas/C, Justin Turner/2B, Luis Hernandez/UTL, Willie Harris/OF/2B.
Paulino will likely split time with Thole behind the plate. Castillo should just be released. Murphy is an enigma. Hairston seems sorta pointless, as his at bats could be better spent on Duda or Martinez. This bench is lackluster. What-if Murphy becomes starting 2nd baseman, moving Ruben Tejada to a utility role; and Martinez starts living up to the hype and becomes a fantastic 4th outfielder.
Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese, RA Dickey, and Chris Young.
Backup Plans: Chris Capuano, Dillon Gee, and Jenrry Mejia.
48-37, 122 GS, 771 IP, 3.35/1.29, 238:524.
Great earned run average from this group, but, and this is a huge Oprah in her hay-day sized but, they're injured, injury prone, or unproven. Pelfrey is good, the rest are question marks. Santana will start the season on the DL. Young hasn't been healthy since the Bush administration. Dickey could be a 1-hit wonder. Niese is...well, Niese might end up being good too. To be fair/unbiased, this staff has the ability to surprise a lot of people this year and keep the Metropolitans around sea level. What-if Johan comes back quickly and healthy, Dickey proves he's a quality pitcher, Pelfrey and Niese contrinue to progress, and Young remains healthy. That's a very good rotation all of a sudden.
Near Locks: Francisco Rodriguez, DJ Carrasco, Bobby Parnell, Manny Acosta, Pat Misch, Taylor Buchholz, Oliver Perez.
Backups: Chris Capuano, Jenrry Mejia, Boof Bonser, Taylor Tankersley, Tim Byrdak, Ryota Igarashi, Blaine Boyer.
K-Rod has a bad reputation and needs to win back Mets fans' hearts and trust, while the rest of the group is mediocre. Well, Ollie Perez actually sucks, but he's the exception. What-if Carrasco proves to be a dependable middle innings eater, Parnell continues to progress, Perez gains some control, K-Rod stays out of trouble, Buchholz stays healthy, and Acosta shows some of the promise he had while with Atlanta. This bullpen would then be respectable.
So, what-if everything did go right for the Mets. Well, they'd have a formidable offense, very good pitching staff, and a legitimate shot at contention (albeit for a Wild Card spot, Philly has the NL East wrapped up).
Contributions from We Should Be GMs:
1. Ranking NL East Catchers
2. Ranking NL East First Basemen
3. Ranking NL East Second Basemen
4. Ranking NL East Third Basemen
5. Ranking NL East Shortstops
6. Ranking NL East Left Fielders
7. Ranking NL East Center Fielders
8. Ranking NL East Right Fielders
9. Ranking NL East Starting Rotations
10. Ranking NL East Bullpens
11. Ranking NL East Benches
*It should be noted I am not a Mets fan; in fact I hate them because my favorite team is the Philadelphia Phillies. I just thought it would be fun to explore the best possible outcome for them, seeing that they've seemed to hit rock bottom.