As we begin our 2014 Mets season preview, the Rising Apple staff weighs in on which player is most likely to break out in a big way:
Danny Abriano, Editor -
Jeurys Familia: A 24 year old with an incredibly powerful right arm, Familia started to come into his own a bit in a small sample size in the majors in 2013 (though control issues were still present).
This spring, it appears that something may have clicked for Familia. He’s only walked 1 batter in 6 scoreless innings, has broken a catchers mitt with a 98 MPH fastball, and has flashed a wicked slider that has either missed bats or frozen hitters.
Familia is a lock for the bullpen, and his maturation and repertoire should lead to him being used in late inning situations with regularity. If Familia carries his improved control into the regular season, his fastball that sits around 95 MPH and slider that hovers around 82 MPH will prove to be a handful for opposing hitters.
Mike Lecolant, Staff Writer -
Daniel Murphy: He has already proven himself to be a MLB caliber hitter. During numerous stretches throughout his career, he has in fact, wielded a very hot bat. Daniel Murphy entered the traditional prime years of his career last season, and not incidentally, set personal highs in games, at-bats, hits, home runs, RBI, runs scored, and stolen bases. He will turn 29 in April.
He is still two years away from free agency, but the closer he gets, the better I feel he’ll become. The 2014 season may be when he finally puts his entire offensive repertoire together at the same time. That’s why he gets my vote for player most likely to break out this year.
I considered Daniel Murphy‘s ability to stay healthy last year, and the fact he (and David Wright) should benefit from having more protection in the line-up. I believe that will add to a greater level of season long consistency. Murphy also may have remained privately sensitive over a measure of organizational criticism directed his way, and as a result, may be motivated to put extra effort into drawing more walks, and getting his OBP markedly above his batting average.
If he indeed draws more walks, that should help push his runs scored over 100 for the first time in career. More walks also generally means a raise in his overall OBP. That in turn, can help his OPS climb over .800 for the first time in his career. He will need to increase his slugging first. Last season, he posted a .319 OBP, a .415 slugging average, and a .733 OPS.
I would consider a .305 batting average, 200 hits, 45+ doubles, 15+ home runs, 85 RBI, a .350 OBP, upwards of a .470 slugging mark, and thus eclipsing an .800 OPS, as a break-out season for Murphy. Another 15 to 20 stolen bases would be a fine accompanying stat as well, but not necessary. I’d rather he improve upon last year’s .976 fielding average instead.
Will DeBoer, Staff Writer -
Lest we forget, before Harvey dazzled us last year, Wheeler was seen as the better prospect. After a solid 17-start debut in 2013, Wheeler is back and ready to take the next step in 2014; mainly, to make Mets fans push Harvey’s absence a little further back in their collective mind.
He’s been unhittable in Spring Training and seems to have his control issues hammered down (two walks in nearly 11 innings – that’ll do). At a time when both the front and the backends of the rotation have issues, Zack Wheeler will thrive in the front-to-middle of the pack, making Met fans salivate even more thinking about further attractions to come.
Dan Haefeli, Staff Writer -
Chris Young: I’d be inclined to say Ruben Tejada if I knew he’d be given a legitimate chance, but I’m going to go with Chris Young. In light of Jason Bay, the Mets (and Sandy Alderson in particular) have had a good run with finding underpriced, underappreciated outfield talent. Scott Hairston‘s career 2012, Marlon Byrd‘s career 2013; heck, even Rick Ankiel slashed .323/.364/.713 in his first 9 games as a Met last year. Young will make more than all of them combined, but a disappointing 2013 in Oakland (.200/.280/.379) has led to pessimism regarding the outfielder’s future.
That pessimism allowed Sandy Alderson to snatch Young up for $7.25M, which could prove a bargain in a bounce-back year. His offensive potential and ability to play centerfield could afford Alderson a valuable deadline chip, especially should prospect Cesar Puello perform to his potential in AAA Las Vegas.
Either way, Young should step into a left field that in 2013 aggregated .243/.327/.374 with 14 home runs, numbers he can easily outpace without dramatic improvement over last season. The combination of low expectation and small shoes to fill builds a perfect environment for Chris Young to break out for the Mets in 2014.
Rich Sparago, Staff Writer -
Zack Wheeler: After joining the Mets in June of 2013, Wheeler posted a a 7-5 record with a 3.42 ERA. Wheeler struck out 84 hitters in 100 innings, while walking 46 and compiling a 1.36 WHIP. While his statistics were impressive for a rookie, Wheeler seemed to have even more going for him. He had good command of all of his pitches, and a bulldog mentality with a strong desire to win. His poise and confidence seemed to transcend his age of 23 and status as a major league rookie.
Going into 2014, there’s every reason to believe that Wheeler will continue to develop. He showed his confidence by publicly stating that he’d like to be the opening day starter. He’s prepared to back that up with some big league experience under his belt, a fastball that routinely sits in the mid-90s, along with an effective slider and curve. Wheeler throws about 70% fastballs, and uses his secondary pitches to keep hitters uncomfortable at the plate. As mentioned earlier, the key to Wheeler’s success is the command of all of his pitches, evidenced by his 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio.
In 2014, I would not be surprised to see Wheeler put up a record in the neighborhood of 15-8, with an ERA of about 3.25. Wheeler will probably begin the season as the third starter (due to the limited innings Jonathon Niese has thrown in spring training). However, with his talent and determination, I think Wheeler pitch more like a solid number two starter. And with Matt Harvey set to return in 2015, having Zack Wheeler right behind him sets the Mets up nicely for long-term success.
Andrew Battifarano, Staff Writer -
Chris Young: In 2013 the Mets brought in Marlon Byrd on a minor-league deal. No one thought that the past-his-prime outfielder would have his best season of his career last year, but he indeed did.
Last year, he appeared dominant at times, but was overall somewhat inconsistent. Wheeler’s 7.6/9 strikeout ratio last year was more than solid, and I think he will pitch similarly, if not at a higher rate, this season. He showed some command issues, though, apparent in the 46 walks and 90 hits surrendered in 100 innings that left him with a 1.36 WHIP. As he develops familiarity with d’Arnaud behind the plate, this will be beneficial to his overall performance.
Travis d’Arnaud: This seems to be the trendy pick among fans, and it’s the pick I’m going with. d’Arnaud finally made to the majors last year with the Mets. Although his stay was towards the end of season, he showed a lot of promise and showed why the Mets traded R.A. Dickey to acquire him. His defense excelled last year, so much to the point that it was praised by all the members of the pitching staff. While his defense was something to see, the bat was lacking.
He isn’t going to start in the majors – it was confirmed Tuesday he would start in the minors. Yet he’s still my pick for most likely to break out, even though he won’t be coming up until June or July.
You can say what you want about a 90-win season, optimism and Curtis Granderson, but this year isn’t about the W’s on the scorecard. It’s about the W’s in player development. Matt Harvey gave us an amazing game to watch every fifth time around, Zack Wheeler quietly did it behind him and now Syndergaard is the next rock of hope as we wade through a trench.
He’s big (6-foot-6, 240-pounds), he throws upward of 100 mph fastballs and he hits his mark to the tune of a 2.64 ERA and 10.1 strikeouts per game through four minor league seasons. The 21-year-old is good. Dirty good.
With his appearance in July, the Mets can easily keep the 21-year-old’s innings count down without any hemming and hawing over shutting him before the season is over. He can follow in Harvey and Wheeler’s footsteps, creating a nasty 1-2-3 tandem in 2015.
I’m not sure our “Thor” can really break out any further, but once the Mets break him out, he’s my 2014 breakout star.
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