Pitchers and catchers is just a few days away, and as the season approaches, the Mets will have a lot of questions that need answering. How will David Wright perform, will Johan Santana be effective coming off surgery and how will Lucas Duda perform in right field are some of the more obvious questions which will be answered, but there are some other issues that will be addressed as well. Here are five potential under-the-radar questions about the Mets that should be answered during the season:
Can Jon Niese hold up for an entire season?
Niese is a valuable commodity for the Amazins. He is just 25 years old, has two, mostly fully big league seasons under his belt and is under team control through 2015 (he’s also a lefty). That being said, I have a couple of concerns about his durability. He’s spent time on the disabled list each of the past three seasons, although he still managed to make 30 starts in 2010. But I also have questions about Niese growing fatigued in the later months of the season. Over his last seven starts in 2010, Niese pitched 35.2 innings, allowing 30 earned runs on 51 hits and 19 walks, a 7.57 ERA and 1.963 WHIP. Last season during July and August (11 appearances), Niese yielded 37 earned runs on 78 hits and 12 walks in 59.1 innings (5.61 ERA and 1.512 WHIP). In both of these seasons, the southpaw seemed to run out of gas toward the season’s end and he surrendered more hits. Niese has the stuff to be a front of the rotation starter, but he needs to prove that he can finish the season on a high note in addition to starting off that way.
Is R.A. Dickey a valuable trade chip?
It’s almost blasphemous to think that Dickey could be traded, but realistically, no Met is safe from the trading block. After a breakthrough 2010 season, Dickey enjoyed a successful 2011, demonstrating remarkable consistency for a knuckleball pitcher. He’s also under contract this season on the cheap ($4.75 million) and the Mets hold an equally affordable $5 million club option for 2013. For a contending club in need of starting pitching help, Dickey could be an attractive buy.
Is Josh Thole the catcher of the future?
Thole is just 25 years of age and faces no immediate competition for his job, at both the Major League level (sorry Mike Nickeas) or minor league level (Alberto Cordero is still a couple of years away at least). Still, 2012 is an important year for Thole, seeing as he’s already had significant big league experience. He’s already committed to improving his defense and will hopefully continue to make strides in his offensive game. Thole will never be Mike Piazza, but if he can get on base at a high rate, through a combination of walks and hitting for average, while exhibiting solid defensive skills, he could carve out a role for himself in the organization for years to come.
Can Dillon Gee cement his role as a back of the rotation starter?
Most of the time, teams look to acquire aces for their rotation, but since most can’t afford to have five number one starters on their staff (excluding the 2011 Phillies who had four), number four and five starters are a necessity. And that is the role which Dillon Gee will likely fill for the duration of his career. After five solid starts in 2010, Gee was red hot through his first 13 appearances in 2011, posting a 2.86 ERA and 1.076 WHIP in addition to a spotless 7-0 record. The rest of the season, however, wasn’t so smooth. Over his final 17 starts, Gee owned a 5.51 ERA and 1.585 WHIP. Furthermore, Gee is supposed to be a control pitcher, yet his BB/9 last year was 4.0. Gee doesn’t have to be lights out, but he does need to be more consistent in order to stick around the rotation for years to come.
Which prospects will debut in Flushing this season?
Whether the Mets are in or out of the postseason picture, there are bound to be some new faces arriving on the scene. Middle infielder Jordany Valdespin and outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (assuming he recovers from last year’s shoulder injury) are the most likely to be promoted, perhaps by mid-season for Captain Kirk if Andres Torres struggles. Top pitching prospects Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia also have a strong chance of debuting, although they would likely be September call-ups (Zack Wheeler probably won’t debut unless he is lights out at double-A and earns a quick promotion to Buffalo). There’s also an outside chance that Matt Den Dekker arrives on the scene if he improves rapidly as well. And while he’s pitched in the Majors before, it’s not out of the question to potentially see Jenrry Mejia, assuming his rehab from Tommy John proceeds quickly.