The Future of the Field

Jon Niese has potential to become a solid starter for the Mets in the future, as shown by his four wins in June last year.

With the Winter Meetings right around the corner, the baseball world may soon be in a flurry. Free agents will sign with different teams and more than likely a blockbuster trade no one saw coming will steal headlines. Teams will give their fans early Christmas presents wrapped with the promise of a better future. For many baseball fans this is the best time of the year, and December and January are a winter wonderland.

However, for the Mets it will be a cold and bleak winter as payroll commitments will all but cripple the team financially until next offseason.  Instead of opening a present containing Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford, Mets fans will potentially see small packages with the likes of Chris Young inside.

Sandy Alderson and our newly revamped front office will be forced to work with a minimal amount of money to fill in some of the glaring holes our team has – likely meaning any real chance of contending in 2011 is all based on luck and ‘what –if’s.’
But all hope should not be lost.

The Mets can use this year as a stepping stone towards a brighter future. Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese, Ike Davis and Josh Thole will have another year to develop and become the players that the Mets need them to be.

Pelfrey in particular made great strides towards becoming the top of the line starter many Mets fans envisioned him to be.  “Big Pelf” started off the 2010 campaign as a potential Cy Young candidate, going 10-2 with a 2.93 ERA heading into July.  Despite a horrendous July, Pelfrey finished the season 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA and was the anchor the Mets rotation needed. Pelfrey’s nervousness and ineffectiveness that plagued him in the beginning of the year seemed to vanish, and his pitches had a commanding sink to them that demolished batters.  If “Pelf” is able to harness the strong points of his 2010 season, and continue to grow in this coming year, there is no reason to think that he won’t become a perennial No. 2  starter for the Mets for years to come.

Niese is another pitcher who surprised many people last year and became a strong candidate for a middle of the rotation southpaw.  While Niese will never lead a rotation to greatness, he could become a complimentary piece that many teams lack. His cutter is sharp and with finer tuning could have a strong pitch that is reminiscent of Andy Pettitte’s signature pitch. Niese seemed to burn out late last year, throwing 173.2 innings over the course of his rookie year, but showed glimpses of becoming a steady pitcher. If he is able to continue his steady hand while improving his pitches, Niese represents another strong arm that could round out future Mets’ rotations.

Everyone’s favorite Mets rookie, Davis, had a strong first season at first base in 2010. Many believe that Davis has Adam Dunn like power, and could become a strong presence in the middle of the Mets’ lineup while also fielding his position comparable to the best in the game.  Still, this transformation is going to take time. Davis showed flashes of being a steady threat last year, finishing the season with 19 homeruns and 71 RBIs, but also showed that he is still raw. Another year of batting fourth in the Mets lineup will allow Davis to blossom. I think he is going to have a breakout year next year, and will be a driving force for the Mets looking to 2012 and beyond.

Finally, the newly anointed catcher of the future, Thole, will have a chance to prove if he is the real deal.  Thole has impressed, in his time, on the big league club last year, and was eventually named the starting catcher by Jerry Manuel.  Thole started his call up on fire, and was hitting around .300 until the middle of September and showed that he has the ability to slap singles and get on base.  In terms of hitting, Thole reminds me a lot of former Met Paul LoDuca, and I think Thole should mold into a strong No.2 hitter after another season of being the regular backstop.

Besides these players growing next season, the Mets will also be able to bring up players like Jennry Mejia, Ruben Tejada, Fernando Martinez, Dillon Gee and maybe even Kirk Nieuwenhuis throughout the season – furthering the homegrown movement that Alderson seems to be pressing.

While 2011 seems like it will be a season of mediocrity, it will be an important year looking forward.  Many of the Mets key players are very raw and need a year to become the full fledged major leaguers they should become. Another year of experience, coupled with the financial flexibility the team will have next offseason (say goodbye to Carlos Beltran, Ollie Perez and Luis Castillo), should be a perfect mixture for a competitive Mets ballclub in the future.