In the classic movie, Forrest Gump, the title character says, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” To some degree, the same can be said about several spots in the Mets’ 2014 projected lineup. Let’s assume that the opening day lineup looks like this:Sep 24, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; New York Mets third baseman David Wright prepares in the dugout before a game with the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
1. Juan Lagares-CF
2. Daniel Murphy– 2B
3. David Wright– 3B
4. Curtis Granderson– RF
5. Lucas Duda– 1B
6. Chris Young– LF
7. Travis d’Arnaud– C
8. Ruben Tejada– SS
9. Jon Niese– P
The concerning part is that the Mets really don’t know what they’ll get from 4 of the 8 position players, or 50% of the offensive part of the lineup. Here’s a deeper look.
Juan Lagares– Last year, in 392 official at-bats, Lagares hit .242 with a .281 OBP. He struck out 96 times and walked 20 times. Lagares played in the Dominican Winter League after last season, and did very well. However, that’s against sub-major league competition. So, what will Lagares do in 2014? He could hit .275, with 15 home runs and an OBP around .333. But, he could .230, with an OBP of .270 and 5 home runs. His combined Fangraphs projections have Lagares batting around .255, with an approximate OBP of .295 and 6 home runs.
Chris Young– With the Athletics last year, Young hit .200, with a .280 OBP and 12 home runs. Will Young revert to 2010 form, when with Arizona, he hit .257, with a .341 OBP and 27 home runs? His Fangraphs projections have him hitting around .230, with a .300 OBP and approximately 18 home runs. What will the Mets get from Young? There’s no way to know.
Travis d’Arnaud– D’Arnaud made his major-league debut last season with the Mets, posting a .202 average, with a .263 OBP and 1 home run. Fangraphs suggests that d’Arnaud will hit about .250, with a .320 OBP and 15 home runs. These numbers would be acceptable for the second year catcher. But will he be able to realize them?
Ruben Tejada– Tejada had a difficult year in 2013, batting .202 with a .259 OBP. He was demoted after recovering from an injury, then re-injured himself upon being recalled from AAA. Fangraphs projects that Tejada will hit around .245, with a .310 OBP and 2 home runs. This would put Tejada somewhere in between his successful 2012 and abysmal 2013. The Mets would probably sign for those numbers right now. But is Tejada the player who struggled in 2013, or the player who hit .289 in 2012? Again, there’s no way to know.
The point is that as the Mets are currently constructed, there are numerous question marks in their lineup. If everything breaks right, the Mets may have a reasonably successful offense. If everything breaks the wrong way, the Mets may have difficulty scoring runs. This is one reason I advocate signing Stephen Drew. While Drew is not an elite shortstop, it’s likely he’ll bat around .250, with a .333 OBP and approximately 15 home runs. Not stellar numbers, but Drew also does not have the downside risk that comes with Tejada. Drew could help remove 1 of 4 questions marks in the lineup. Time will tell if the Mets go in that direction, and what happens with the other unknowns in their lineup.