Welcome to the last installment of the Rising Apple Roundtable Discussion! This is just one part of an elaborative season preview we have planned for you here at Rising Apple. Today, each of us picks a player in Mets camp that is most likely to have a breakout season in Flushing.
Matt Musico, Senior Editor: Collin Cowgill
Like you’ll see both Danny and Kevin talk about below, Cowgill is the kind of player the Mets need in what is a mostly unproven outfield. I’ve seen his statistics, and I know he hasn’t gotten a full chance to showcase his skills in the Big Leagues yet, but it’s the way he plays that could ultimately land him a starting job in the outfield, and why he’s my breakout player. He’s the type of guy that sees a game as a waste if he doesn’t get his uniform dirty. He’s focused and determined to not only prove he’s worthy, but to help the team as well. He was spraying line drives to each gap during live BP earlier this week, and if he makes a habit of that in games, Terry Collins will be finding a way to get him in the lineup every day. He could also be the missing piece to possibly move Daniel Murphy down in the lineup, giving him more RBI chances.
Michael Lecolant, Senior Staff Writer: Daniel Murphy
In 2010, Murph effectively lost his first base job to a knee injury, and inevitably to Ike Davis. He sustained a knee injury in Spring Training, and then suffered a second one while rehabbing in Buffalo, ending his season. In his first taste of the Bigs in 2008, Murph batted .313 in 131 at-bats. In his first full season, he batted .266 in 508 at-bats. He hit a career high twelve home runs, and drove in sixty three runs. After missing 2010, he returned in 2011 to bat .320 in 391 at-bats. His six home runs and forty nine RBI were promising to see. Last season, his batting dipped to a .291 mark in 571 at-bats. He drove in sixty five runs, while only hitting six home runs. He did hit forty doubles however. In fact, Murph has 106 doubles in his last three campaigns.
My hope is this latest tweak of his intercostal muscle won’t linger or pose a problem. If in the same season Daniel Murphy can get back into double digit home runs, raise his batting average back above .310 again, and show appreciable improvement over last season with the glove, I’ll gladly confuse a breakthrough season with a breakout one.
Danny Abriano, Staff Writer: Collin Cowgill
My choice for the most valuable bench player was Colin Cowgill, who the Mets acquired from the Athletics for Jefry Marte earlier this winter. There’s just something about Cowgill that makes me feel he’s going to be an enormous pickup, which is why he’s also my pick for most likely to breakout. When Cowgill was acquired, I was intrigued. Over the past few months, I’ve analyzed his major league and minor league stats, read numerous profile pieces on him, and heard him describe himself as a player. What struck me more than how Cowgill described himself was the way he expressed his belief in the team.
Cowgill has been described as hard-nosed and down and dirty – the type of guy that will run through a wall. Behind that, though, there appears to be untapped potential. To explain it in simpler terms, I don’t see Cowgill as all grit. I view him as a combination of grit, talent, and determination that’s ready to explode. He’s still only 26 years old, and has never been given a full chance to prove himself. With the Mets this season, it’s likely that Cowgill (who has offensive punch and can hold his own defensively), will start out in a platoon with Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center field. I think he has a chance, however, to enlarge his role as the season goes on. I’m anticipating that by the middle of the year, Cowgill will be a fixture in the lineup, getting time in all three outfield spots. If given that chance, I expect Cowgill to excel and make his mark.
Rich Sparago, Staff Writer: Matt Harvey
Last year, Matt Harvey burst onto the New York Mets scene. He made his debut against Arizona on July 26th, at a time when things were not going well. The Mets were coming off of a home stand where they did not win a game, and they needed a spark. Harvey provided that spark, and never looked back. In 10 starts with the Mets, Harvey posted an ERA of 2.73, striking out 70 in 59.1 innings. Harvey’s K/BB ratio was almost 3:1, and his WHIP was a sparkling 1.15. Harvey is a traditional power pitcher with a determined attitude. It’s this that should serve him well in 2013, as he has already made it clear he’s in New York to win, and win now. Some say that he may be poised for a sophomore slump. I’ve always felt that early in their careers, pitchers have the advantage over hitters. The league must adjust to the pitcher. Harvey has enough “stuff” and enough pitching savvy to stay ahead of the hitters. With the veteran John Buck behind the plate and guiding Harvey through his starts, it’s reasonable to expect big things from Matt this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Harvey win 15 games, and position himself as a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Dan Haefeli, Staff Writer: Dillon Gee
Of the 142 pitchers who threw more than 100 innings in 2012, 47 of them struck out more than 21% of the batters they faced. 57 walked fewer than 6.5% of batters faced. Of the 142 pitchers who threw more than 100 innings last year, only 14 of them did both of those things and averaged more than 6 1/3 IP/start. Those 14 pitchers were just under 29, on average, and collectively averaged 6.88 IP/start and a 3.10 ERA. Gee’s 6.45 IP/start was the lowest on that list, and his 4.10 ERA the only one above 3.52. Dillon, 26, has been victim to the occasional disaster game fitting the pitcher in his second season in the majors. However, he’s been excellent, more often than not. Gee gave up more than 4 earned runs in a start twice last year; in his other 15 starts he averaged 6.51 IP and a much lower 3.31 ERA. Because Gee lacks high heat, he depends on his versatile stuff to constantly change speeds and locations on hitters, and an excellent change up increases the effectiveness of his fastball. As Gee continues to mature physically and refine his pitches, he should continue to improve. Much in the way Jonathon Niese established himself in 2012, Dillon Gee should establish himself as one of baseball’s better pitchers this season. He’s an excellent candidate to top 200 innings, and with a little luck and maturity should end up with an ERA much closer to that 3.31 mark than the 4.29 he’s posted the past two seasons.
No, I don’t think Cowgill will have an All-Star year, but I do think he will win over fans with his high intensity play. In my opinion, Cowgill has the potential to be what Xavier Nady and Ty Wigginton were during their tenure with the Mets. Earlier this month, Sandy Alderson chatted with fans via Twitter on Mets.com and had some strong words to describe Cowgill’s game. When asked what he wanted him to bring to the mix in the Mets’ outfield, Alderson replied:
“He’s a right-handed hitter who’s a pretty good defensive outfielder. He’s a hard-nosed player, someone who has that reputation. I’m excited to see him.”
Although not the most skilled in the outfield, being a heads-up player who gives it his all on a daily basis will not go unnoticed in the eyes of Mets fans. If anything, I think having a guy like Cowgill, who sounds to be a nitty-gritty ball player, can greatly impact this club beyond the numbers seen in a box score.
Will DeBoer, Staff Writer: Zack Wheeler
One of Sandy Alderson’s biggest victories as a general manager was the deal that brought Zack Wheeler to the Mets’ organization in 2011. In the same vain as Matt Harvey, Wheeler was named as a future cornerstone in the starting rotation, and much like Harvey, Wheeler’s much-anticipated arrival in the big show will send shockwaves through the NL East. As unlikely as it seems, New York’s new Triple-A deal with the Las Vegas 51s will actually help Wheeler’s development into a big-league pitcher. Because Vegas is a hitter’s paradise, he will learn to be smarter with his pitches, delivering them with better precision and conviction in the face of increased power threats. When he does get called up, most likely in June (earlier than Harvey did last year), that “advanced desert degree” will follow him all the way to Citi Field, and he’ll begin his (hopefully) long and successful major-league career on strong footing. While he’s already come to Port St. Lucie strong, the Mets should not feel the need to rush him. In a season like this, better to break him out mid-season and keep him fresh through September than risk running him ragged by mid-August. But if he does get those desert smarts and isn’t rushed up, expect Zack Wheeler to be the most likely to breakout for the Mets in 2013.
Sam Maxwell, Staff Writer: Jonathon Niese
It seems Niese has already done this breaking out we speak of, but the sky is still the limit for the kid from Ohio. Jon broke out in every statistical category last year, and seems primed for yet another burst of productivity in 2013. Two factors involved in this thought process: the absence of R.A. Dickey and Niese’s age (26. 27 on October 27, 2013.) One could argue the R.A. factor might lead to more pressure, causing Jon to crash and burn, but couple that with his age, experience (and another year chatting it up with a certain no-hitting lefty) and I see Niese anchoring the front of a generally young Mets rotation.
So, there you have it; our picks for the player with the best chance to breakout this season. Let us know your picks in the comments section below.
Did you miss the other features of the Rising Apple Roundtable Discussion and want to catch up? Look no further: