Mets 2010 Depth Chart: Beyond Ridiculous

Over the off-season the Mets have managed to vaguely address several needs that were exploited in the previous season and/or opened by players leaving. Jason Bay was signed for 4 years to watch Citifield gobble up his HR opportunities and waddle around in the OF. So LF was addressed. Beyond that the Mets signed a plethora of other players (mainly catchers) to Major and Minor contracts, none of which surpassed $1.25 million for the 2010 season (although some do have incentives). Let’s check out the bizarre madhouse that is the Mets’ depth chart:

Catcher

What a GIS for 'six headed monster' yields.

Brian Schneider left to become a back-up and the enormo-faced Ramon Castro was traded during the season because the much-worse Omir Santos was deemed better (he also had that one HR off Papelbon, which is the only thing people remember). So, returnees are Omir Santos and Josh Thole (TOE-lee, but I prefer the pronunciation that sounds like ‘soul’ with a lithp…much like Chone /= Shawn). Additions are Henry Blanco, Chris Coste, Shawn Riggans, and Rod Barajas. It should be noted that none of these six catchers are currently starter worthy. There are rumors of Omir Santos being traded since there is apparently a short list of teams dumb enough to desire him (probably for not much in return, but at least we get rid of a catcher). Henry Blanco is pretty much locked in for the backup catcher role since he is capable defensively and his career OBP is higher than that of Rod Barajas, who is the favorite to win the starting job. The consensus is for Coste to mentor Thole down in AAA leaving Santos and Riggans to…? So if Santos is indeed traded then Shawn Riggans gets to enjoy limited appearances at competitive levels. And hope that the training staff sucks as much as it did last year.

First Base
Another problem spot plague by a lack of hitting prowess at a position where it is really damn easy to get a feared hitter. Daniel Murphy is almost a lock to take most of the starts here and despite a down year at the plate he has displayed a beyond average range at the bag (with some mental lapses). He just received some training with the mustachioed Keith Hernandez (MLB’s greatest defensive 1b?) and if he can do a tad better than last season’s offensive numbers he’ll be the Mets’ version of Casey Kotchman (not ideal, but better than the no improvement). Behind Murphy there appears to be another backlog of MLB back-ups. Fernando Tatis is a great bench bat and can fill in at a number of fielding positions, but could nab some starts vs certain types of pitchers (lefties). Of course some seem to think that Mike Jacobs will challenge for the position, which is a bit concerning, because besides power he offers way below average defense and even worse splits against LHPs. Then, in no particular order, there is Nick Evans, who can fill in in the OF also, but is at best a bench player; Chris Carter, the prototypical quad-A guy (power, average), also an OF fill in, but has the fielding prowess of a amputated rhino; Ike Davis, the prospect for 2011, who is still sanding down the edges to perfect his game; and finally Mike Hessman, a career minors masher, who will likely see no time in the Majors with the Mets (once again, pending injuries). Every Met fan and their mother wanted the Mets to go after Russell Branyan (who was magnetized to Cleveland for the 4th time).
An interesting thought is that if the Mets falter too much and Ike Davis breaks out, the Mets will have a variety of serviceable backups to trade to postseason hopefuls. Daniel Murphy could bring a decent return.

Second Base
Who wants Luis Castillo? This was the theme of the off-season. Unfortunately nobody was biting and once again the Mets go into a season with a less than satisfactory 2B. Castillo has steadily gotten slower both on running the bases and guarding them, but he managed to be something of a surprise at the plate (good average, great OBP, still no power). Next in line are Alex Cora and Anderson Hernandez. Cora has better power (marginally, but no starter) and Hernandez is a slightly worse version of Castillo. Alex Cintron was just signed to a minor league contract and is also pretty much useless. There are a variety of minor league utility guys and prospects that could get a sniff of action because I can almost guarantee that one or more of these guys will miss significant time due to injury (oddly, Castillo was one of the healthier Mets in 2009).
A problem with Castillo is his undesirable contract which gives him $6 million the next two years, which presented major issues with the Mets seeking Orlando Hudson. Felipe Lopez is still available (nope, he was just signed in the middle of my writing this to a deal worth less than Cora’s, but incentivized) and at this point his wage demands should have dropped quite a bit and he is an upgrade over Castillo on defense and power (plate discipline is a slight downgrade) not to mention he can take up SS, 3B, and OF. A shrewd deal to bring him in (the Mets have been strangely shrewd lately with small contracts for players seeking more) would make moving Castillo not as urgent and the Mets’ gain in depth is a win for a future trade (plenty of teams have question marks at 2B, even the Phillies who have no set backup for Utley).

Unfortunately the Mets new uniforms were rejected by MLB.

Shortstop
This is an easy one. Jose! Reyes! And his tricky hamstrings! The line of backups is the same as it is for 2B. I should point out that Alex Cora is no where near as bad as he appeared to be last year. Cora suffered from torn ligaments in one of his thumbs, but played through it before he tore ligaments in the other thumb (seriously…freaking training staff). Granted, he isn’t worth the $2 million per year the Mets like to have him for, but it isn’t the worst deal (Castillo!). If Jose remains healthy for the entire season that offers the Mets a full 2-4 WAR over anyone else the Mets currently have.

Third Base
David Wright. He has yet to miss a large chunk of a season during his career, so there is a chance that that could happen (David is slow to pick up on what the rest of the team does). Fernando Tatis actually filled in following Wright’s beaning in the head, but beyond him there are few options providing MLB experience. Russ Adams, Shane Bowman, Andy Green, and Mike Cervenak are the next names in line, but barring a renaissance in offensive abilities, are less than desirable.

Outfield
The easiest segment of the Mets to plot with Jason Bay in left, Jeff Francoeur in right, and Carlos Beltran in center. Well, a month into the season Beltran should be back. Angel Pagan should be the starter in his place and can actually do quite a good job of it as he showed last season. For some strange reason, Pagan’s appearance in the future lineup has Jerry Manuel contemplating Pagan leading off and Reyes hitting second. Chances are this isn’t the greatest idea. Gary Matthews Jr. was picked up with the Angels so desirous of removing him that they agreed to pay for a little more than 90% of his salary. Unfortunately he had only one good season that was coupled with one phenomenal catch and it translated into the worst contract in recent history. That all means that the Mets have a below average fielder and hitter and will likely give him too much opportunity to show how bad he is. Frank Catalanotto was signed to provide extra depth and can field at a variety of positions, but his best years are behind him and I really wish the Mets had tried to sign him 7 ago. Fernando Martinez should get more seasoning in AAA, but will probably see some time in the MLB before the season ends. At some point in the next couple years he should progress far enough that Bay, Francoeur, or Beltran will be seen as expendable. Nick Evans and Chris Carter can also pop up for appearances along with Jason Pridie and Val Pascucci.

Starting Rotation
Johan Santana is the ace and then it kind of drops off. John Maine and Mike Pelfrey make up the next two spots in no particular order, but they’re more like good options for back end starters on a good team. Oliver Perez can be a #2 when he is on, but that happens less and less and he is more likely to completely blow a game than keep the Mets in it. Jonathan Niese and Fernando Nieve are the favorites to claim the 5th spot and Nieve, in my mind, has the stuff and experience to start the season there. Niese can do with a little more time in AAA and he has the ability to be a very good mid-rotation pitcher. Other hopefuls for that last spot and first call-up when Ollie blows out are Hisanori Takahashi, Pat Misch, Bobby Parnell, Nelson Figueroa, Josh Fogg, and R.A. Dickey. Takahashi came over from Japan and is seen as a bullpen addition, but if he makes the rotation then that points to him succeeding during the pre-season against MLBers. Misch had some success last year, but is more likely slated for long relief. Parnell is better off in the bullpen as he was beyond awful as a starter (in the more than necessary opportunities he was given). Figueroa is another dark horse with decent stuff to get the job done and should be the next option behind Nieve and Niese. I have no idea why the Mets signed Fogg, he has been terrible ever since I can remember. Dickey is a knuckleballer who will likely be called upon if only to confuse an opposing team.

Bullpen
Francisco Rodriguez has the closer role safely taken care of, but the Mets have made a variety of signings that have given them the experience and depth to bridge the gap between starters and F-Rod-o to a more successful degree than last year. Kelvim Escobar has some shoulder issues, but if and when he returns he can be a great 8th inning guy with experience as a starter and a closer. Ryota Igarashi is also an excellent choice for late inning work and appears to be free of Escobar’s injury troubles. Pedro Feliciano is under-appreciated and is a lefty specialist who can turn the most capable of hitters (assuming they bat left) into a worse version of a Mets backup catcher. Bobby Parnell is a good bet to make the pen along with Sean Green who lowered his point of delivery and while neither of them were overly impressive they certainly aren’t the worst options. Hisanori Takahashi, Pat Misch, and Elmer Dessens will hope to gain the long reliever spot. Waiver claim Jay Marshall was a contender for a spot, but due to a pre-existing condition (injury!) the Mets are seeking to void that. Other arms are Jack Egbert, Clint Everts, Travis Blackley, Bobby Livingston, and prospect Eric Niesen.

Manager
Jerry Manuel is on thin ice for this season. There are a few guys below him who could step in. Ken Oberkfell manages the AAA Buffalo Bisons and Tim Teufel manages the AA Binghampton Mets. The most appealing in-house candidate is Wally Backman who manages the short season A Brooklyn Cyclones. Backman was in line for the Diamondbacks job in 2004, but a string of financial and legal troubles caused Arizona to push him out. With any luck he’s been able to put all that behind him and fixed all his previous troubles, but if Manuel does go the Mets will probably use one of the coaches (Howard Johnson, David Jauss) as an interim manager before hiring some outside candidate. Bob Melvin, former manager of the Diamondbacks and Mariners, is currently a scout with the Mets.
Incidentally, I just found out that Julio Franco is still with the Mets as he manages their rookie level team in the Gulf Coast League.

General Manager

A Nerd with a Francoeur fetish

Omar Minaya also happens to be on thin ice this season (big surprise). There aren’t too many impressive in-house options should (when?) Minaya be told to go, but Wayne Krivsky, former two year Reds GM, is currently a special assistant to Minaya and no doubt had some influence in the bullpen retooling. The one real up-and-comer is John Ricco, the Assistant GM, and mouth of the team when the whole Beltran knee incident occurred and Minaya was hiding in a closet somewhere. He is apparently a stats and financials guy (yet pushed for the Francoeur trade, weird) and also looks like a nerd. Ricco is the likely option as the Mets won’t want to go through firing a GM and having to eat his salary and refill the front office. There are even rumors of promoting Ricco to GM and “promoting” Minaya to a personnel or player evaluation position.

And there you have it. Muddled? Yes. Deep? More than most. Full of talent? Meh.
Their AAA affiliate, Buffalo Bisons, are going to be loaded though. So winning baseball in Buffalo! Hooray!
How does the rest of the NL East compare? Somewhat better:
The Phillies depth chart is set at each position and there should be a couple worthy candidates for the 5th starter, but you can basically see how the bullpen will pan out. Their weakest hitter is the pitcher and then Carlos Ruiz (unless you face him in the postseason where he becomes other-worldly). Depth could become an issue if they suffer too many injuries, but when has that ever happened?
The Braves are more or less set in the field, but have a few guys who could run through the OF including Baseball America’s #1 prospect, Jason Heyward. Chipper is likely to miss some time and the best bet behind him is Eric Hinske. The starters are more or less set even if Jair Jurrjens misses some time, but the real weak point could be the bullpen. Don’t get me wrong, the Wagner, Saito, Moylan back end is enviable, but the first two are in their late 30s and after those three the skill an/or experience level drops off…severely.
The Marlins have an opening for 1B that will be resolved during the pre-season, but that could mean some growing pains during the season that could hinder them (then again, it’s the Marlins, when has a rookie not succeeded). The rotation can be spotty after ace Josh Johnson, but the ace may be the one to worry about. Last season saw a massive uptick in innings pitched (almost 100 more than the season before in the minors and majors) and could point to a burn-out or injury. The bullpen isn’t completely set and that includes the closer, but there are a variety of options here that they can switch out easily and should they find the right mix it could be dangerous.
Poor Washington. It just doesn’t look good for the Nationals. They have a couple feared hitters (Zimmerman, Dunn) and a few other good ones (Morgan, Willingham, Dukes), but their catching situation is just awful (Pudge has been way past his prime for some time now) and their depth is almost non-existent. Meanwhile, they seem set to go into the season with a group of pitchers who are unable to get many strikeouts (a lot of balls in play points to hoping for good defense) and Stephen Strasburg might be asked to start the season in AAA (until they realize that he is way better than anyone they have). The bullpen has Matt Capps at closer, who I can tell you from last year’s fantasy team, was less than decent the previous year. Beyond Capps there are a few serviceable guys and there are plenty of options, but none of the upside comparable to the Marlins ‘pen.

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Necessary Big Lebowski References

Jayson Werth is apparently more awesome than his over-productive 2009.

That rug really tied the room together.
“That rug really tied the room together.”

Snark In Brief: Cole Hamels

The Inquirer today ran an article by Matt Gelb about Hamels’ off-season preparation.  It’s the standard spring training stuff, about what Hamels learned from last season’s frustrations and how everybody is expecting great things from him.

One line stuck out to me which I can’t help but mock:

On the suggestion of Mark Prior, the former Cubs pitcher and a close family friend, Hamels began a long-tossing program right after the 2009 season ended.

Isn’t asking Mark Prior for arm conditioning tips sort of like asking Al Gore for presidential election tips?  This is, of course, ignoring the fact that it’s mostly Dusty Baker’s fault Prior’s arm fell off.

Coping with Mediocrity: The Golden Age of Humor

Ok, so the Mets haven’t been mediocre these past few years, but they have been the wrong side of good. And last season was just a long reminder of WHO THE HELL DO WE EMPLOY IN THE TRAINING ROOM? Even now the Mets are stockpiling backups for First Base and Catcher without a true starter in place…which is beginning to become something of a joke. And that’s how a large portion of the fan base is coming to cope with an odd stage (and final legs of Minaya regime?) of their team’s existence. I’m sure the Phillies went through such a run from ’94 through the early 2000s. I’m even more sure of the fact that Pirates and Royals fans have passed this phase and are gradually being whittled out of the fan base.

Francouer easing Met fan woes with a spot of comedy.

So, quick rundown: The past year has played out like something out of the first half of Major League (the “Ha-ha, incompetence” thing) with an unremitting string of injuries, re-injuries, and DLing of insanely crappy pitching (Oliver Perez). Tony Bernazard had a remarkable string of incidents that was cut short of a possibly incredible climax by his termination (of contract). Bare-chested brawl offerings, stolen seats, and confronting closers are all part of his repertoire, which may have gotten him a place with Boras Corp. His firing then led to Omar Minaya angrily implying that NY Daily News journalist was aiming for a place in the Mets. I don’t know about you, but working for the NY Daily News is surefire way of pigeonholing yourself into the unskilled labor market. David Wright wore an enormous helmet, Luis Castillo is a horrible fielder, and Omir Santos is extremely overvalued by anyone working for the Mets. The Mets gave Matt-Holliday-money to the less Holliday-ish Jason Bay. K-Rod has a ridiculous final option for a $17 million season. Oliver Perez still has two overpaid seasons left. The Mets gave Billy Wagner up for two prospects who will likely never see the MLB instead of picking up two drafts picks. This is all very funny…even for Met fans. Granted, the first couple incidents will induce groans and forehead slapping, but once it becomes more or less the M.O. all you can do is laugh. “Oh those Mets!”
But there’s more! J.J. Putz never received a physical and it showed. Carlos Beltran went off the grid to get needed surgery. Kelvim Escobar apparently cannot pick up a baseball. Spring Training just freaking started and Escobar is already injured. That is quick work. I mean, there has to be something really weird going on if you are unable to grip a baseball (maybe he has really, really tiny hands?).

Now for an extremely long list of blog posts from a couple Mets blogs who dealt with misery through satire:

Amazin’ Avenue has become a somewhat daily read for me and a personal favorite of mine is the Mets Organizational Flowchart
A run through of the New York Post’s more (depressingly) memorable Met back pages.
Asking readers for a new slogan for the Mets.com banner such as: Come see the Mets at Citi Before Jason Needs an MRI.
An interpretation (or true story) of what Oliver Perez is up to in the offseason.
Also a look into how his daily rehab routine works (lots of cereal and Spongebob).
Brian Stokes developed something of a cult following on Amazin’ Avenue. This helped.
Stokes really didn’t get used enough in relation to others.
Pedro Feliciano was called upon to pitch far too frequently, in part because the starters didn’t go long enough and also because the rest of the bullpen was downright shite.
A FanPost gets recognition for creating Minaya’s UltiMets. Mac from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia makes the cut.
Another FanPost disregards Met commentary (not another loss/injury) in favor of early ball journalism.
A horrifying reminder of the past that was a harbinger of things to come (injuries!).

Metsradamus also likes to pile on the sarcasm when it comes to the Mets.
For some reason Josh Fogg has the nickname Dragon Slayer despite being a superlatively awful pitcher.
The Hate List Hall of Fame has only one Phillie and quite a few Mets. I hate Armando Benitez.
Angel Berroa’s signing and subsequent play signaled the beginning of a new era.

So those are a few favorites and there’s bound to be tons more out there, because there certainly wasn’t any praise for the Mets finding its way onto all of the Internets (ALL OF THEM).

Other things to start/note on:
Fernando Martinez’s nickname should be Fartinez, not F-Mart (especially applicable if he goes the route of every other highly touted Mets OF prospect…and that would be maddeningly inferior crapball).
I’m pretty sure the players should report the training staff to the BBB (Better Business Bureau).
The Mets quickly replaced Ken Takahashi with Hisanori Takahashi, based on this system I believe they will promote Carlos Muniz or make a boneheaded move for Carlos Lee to claim Carlos Delgado’s empty Carlos-Beltran-name-buddy spot.
The Mets are “finished” spending money quite possibly due to the Wilpon’s dupification by Bernie Madoff. This counters all previous claims that the Madoff scandal would not affect payroll. Lesson: when the Mets deny something, they’re probably covering up some massive crapstorm.
Keith Hernandez is helping Daniel Murphy out with his 1B defense, because if there is one thing he needs to work on it certainly isn’t his decline at the plate (hint: NO).

And some random good news. Forbes did a list of top 10 most valuable sports team brands in the world (so Brand Value, which disregards players, stadium, etc.). There are three MLB teams with Yankees at 2nd, Mets at 9th, and Red Sox at 10th. Laugh at us now for creating a Latin American identity! …said the White Blogger.

Now Coming to You From Seattle

I have just spent the past 3 weeks driving leisurely across the USA, passing through 21 states and losing a whopping $1 in Las Vegas, to complete my move to the wonderful city of Seattle…complete with it’s own well managed baseball team, the Mariners (the NY teams aren’t well-managed, chucking large amounts of money at big-name players is…well, you know).
Anyway, if you want proof of intelligence take a look at this recount of a Q&A with Tony Blengino, special assistant to Mariner’s GM Jack Z. Making decisions based on scouting reports and statistical analysis? Madness!

My real reason for posting something is this:
SABR is releasing their “Emerald Guide to Baseball 2010” for free (squeal!).
Assuming you want it in PDF and not hard copy ($24.95).
You can also get the 07, 08, and 09 versions.
Enjoy the free lists of numbers.

Auctioning Off Historic Baseballs

Whenever a fan catches an important home run, there is the push and pull between giving it back to the player, giving it to the Hall of Fame, keeping it, or selling it.  When a ball has sentimental value to the player but not necessarily the Hall of Fame, it’s always a little obnoxious to me when the fan decides he’s going to sell the ball.

Yesterday, someone sold Alex Rodriguez’s 500th home run ball for $103,579.  I have no sympathy for Alex Rodriguez in any facet of his professional life, but it does remind me of an important point.  Why doesn’t the player just buy the ball at the auction? 

Maybe this does happen and they just keep it hush-hush, the way international companies pay ransoms for their kidnapped employees.  Still, I can’t imagine there is a more interested and financially capable bidder for Alex Rodriguez’s 500th home run ball than Alex Rodriguez.