It’s almost baseball season, which means it’s time for two months of wild assertions, random criticism, and wacky rumors. You may even have heard some of this discussed on episode 52 of Amazin’ Avenue Audio. Let’s take a look at what we've heard so far and theorize on some others. We can call this the "Luis Hernandez is the second baseman" post.
Lucas Duda will still get a chance in the outfield. This one’s not that far-fetched since Duda did in fact play the outfield as recently as last year, but it’s also one of the crazier ones because it didn't take a professional scout to see that Duda was not a good fielder. Duda's offensive value was pretty much negated by his defensive woes in left field. This rumor has a lot more to do with having no obvious solution to first base or left field. The Mets have a lot of guys in the running for playing time at first base, but Duda’s bat is the steadiest of all of them. It’s unlikely that he will actually play the outfield unless something goes horribly wrong in spring training.
Eric Young Jr will bat leadoff. Young isn’t a bad player, but he’s not a particularly good one, either. He’s certainly not the guy you want getting the most at bats on your team, nor is his on base percentage high enough to really justify hitting him leadoff. Speed doesn't matter when you don’t get on base. Additionally, Young leading off means he’s playing regularly which means Juan Lagares probably isn't. Lagares has lots of work to do to be a major league hitter, but he still has some upside and plays defense much much better than Young does. The Mets don’t really have a perfect answer for leadoff, which is why this is still a question that will spark a dozen rumors, but it seems unlikely that Eric Young Jr is the best option.
Wilmer Flores can play shortstop. Between the Stephen Drew rumors and comments about Ruben Tejada, the Mets are desperately searching for other options at shortstop. Like many professional baseball players, Flores used to play shortstop. Like many professional baseball players, he turned out not to be good enough to do so at higher levels. It looks like Flores can hit, and for a team that’s struggled to score runs, that’s something you try to get into your lineup any way you can. But much like playing Duda in the outfield, playing Flores at shortstop would negate much of the value he'd add with his bat.
Daniel Murphy is one of the candidates to get the first baseman’s job. The Mets seem to like to move Murphy around every so often, and he’s overdue for a position change. Perhaps he can be the backup catcher and maybe a spare lefty reliever for long games. You could use him as a sideline reporter with Kevin Burkhardt is out, and it’s not out of the question that he could take over as the team chef. Clearly the Mets aren't locking a first baseman into the position with any certainty, but they have a lot of other options besides Murphy. A rash of trades, injuries, or a creative rearranging of the infield to maximize the lineup could change that, but in all likelihood, it’s time to leave Daniel Murphy alone at second base. He’s comfortably above average at the position overall, and the Mets have plenty of other places more worthy of their attention.
The Mets might move Jenrry Mejia to the bullpen. Jerry Manuel is gone but not forgotten and his dream of Jenrry Mejia in the bullpen is one that will continue to resurface. Mejia has dealt with a couple of injuries in his short career, and it’s started to create some doubts about whether he can stay healthy for a whole season. If Mejia can’t manage a 200-inning workload, using him out of the bullpen in some capacity is feasible, but starters are much more valuable. The Mets do have pitching depth, at least right now, and you can expect this debate to ramp up even if Mejia stays healthy, as prospects like Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero start to knock on major league door.
Jack Leathersich could make the team as the lefty reliever. This one isn't really as wild as it might have been last year since Leathersich pitched 29 innings in Triple-A, but they were bad innings. He averaged a walk per inning and struck out 14.6 hitters per nine innings, yet he still managed to allow 9.9 hits per nine. Lefty relievers that strike out that many guys are always going to be appealing, but he’s probably not ready to face major league hitters just yet. Leathersich's platoon splits are also reversed; he hasn't had much success against lefties at all. Fellow lefty Adam Kolarek was also invited to camp, and while he doesn't have as gaudy strikeout rates, his overall numbers are much better
Matt Harvey will pitch this season. This one's courtesy of Matt Harvey himself, who's determined to start pitching the very moment the doctors clear him to do so. It would be great to see Harvey again before 2015, but it's certainly not something we should be expecting. If he's at the point where he can safely pitch off a mound, and he's put in the requisite minor league appearances to get up to speed, then it can't hurt to let him get some time in in 2014, but there are a lot of hurdles to get past before that happens. No matter what position the Mets are in in the standings, Harvey pitching late in this season will be a decision based solely on his own rehab and nothing else.
These are just some of the crazy rumors circulating around the Mets as spring training begins. As writers need to fill columns and Terry Collins gets asked more questions, I'm sure we'll get a bunch more.