February 2013

Projecting the Opening Day roster, 2/12

No changes from last week as players continue filtering into camp. We should get a better sense of things over the next week, when everyone has reported and the team begins ramping up its workouts. Until then, we’re looking at a roster of:

C : John Buck
1B: Ike Davis
2B: Daniel Murphy
SS: Ruben Tejada
3B: David Wright
OF: Lucas Duda
OF: Kirk Nieuwenhuis
OF: Mike Baxter
Bench: Collin Cowgill
Bench: Andrew Brown
Bench: Justin Turner
Bench: Brandon Hicks
Bench: Anthony Recker

SP: Johan Santana
SP: Jon Niese
SP: Matt Harvey
SP: Dillon Gee
SP: Shaun Marcum
RP: Frank Francisco
RP: Bobby Parnell
RP: Brandon Lyon
RP: Scott Atchison
RP: LaTroy Hawkins
RP: Pedro Feliciano
RP: Josh Edgin

In the running: C Landon Powell, 1B Josh Satin, INF Zach Lutz, INF Brian Bixler, INF/OF Jordany Valdespin, OF Matt den Dekker, RHP Greg Burke, RHP Jenrry Mejia, RHP Jeurys Familia, RHP Jeremy Hefner, RHP Collin McHugh, RHP Elvis Ramirez, RHP Carlos Torres, LHP Aaron Laffey, LHP Robert Carson, LHP Darin Gorski.

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Bourn signs Indians while Mets keep their cursed first-round pick

If you haven’t heard, Michael Bourn signed a four-year deal with the Indians today, putting an abrupt end to the Mets’ pursuit of him. With Bourn off the table, the Mets will likely proceed with an Opening Day outfield of Lucas Duda in left, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill platooning in center, and Mike Baxter in right.

General manager Sandy Alderson did have an offer on the table for Bourn, but the two-time All-Star selected Cleveland because it was a sure thing. New York was not willing to sign him if it meant forfeiting its first-round Draft pick, 11th overall, and Bourn was not willing to wait out the grievance process to try to reinterpret that rule.

So what exactly did the Mets fight to keep? The 11th overall Draft pick has a bizarre history of busts relative to the picks around it. Of the 48 players in history taken 11th overall, only five have amassed more than 10 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference (though two of them, Andrew McCutchen and Max Scherzer, are active and in their primes).

Seventeen of the 48 players never made the Majors, while 10 of those who did crack the big leagues finished with negative career WAR.

That means nothing, of course, in terms of how the Mets might fare with the 11th overall pick (not to mention all the lost slot money had they forfeited it). But it is interesting to look at this oddly undistinguished list of the 11 best 11th picks in history:

11th Overall Picks:luzinski
1. Greg Luzinski, PHI, 1968 (23.6 WAR)
2. Shane Mack, SD, 1984 (20.4)
3. Andrew McCutchen, PIT, 2005 (18.1)
4. Walt Weiss, OAK, 1985 (14.6)
5. Max Scherzer, ARI, 2006 (10.5)
6. Shawn Estes, SEA, 1991 (9.1)
7. Neil Walker, PIT, 2004 (6.1)
8. Rod Scurry, PIT, 1974 (5.1)
9. Adam Eaton, PHI, 1996 (3.8)
10. Calvin Murray, CLE, 1989 (1.9)
11. Jeremy Hermida, FLA, 2002 (1.8)

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Pitchers and catchers report; 58 players expected in camp

Mets pitchers and catchers are officially required to report to camp by the end of day Monday. Position players, by Saturday.

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Here’s a list of the 58 players expected at Port St. Lucie, Fla., listed by uniform number:

1. Jordany Valdespin, if/of
2. Justin Turner, if/of
3. Omar Quintanilla, ss
4. Collin Cowgill, of
5. David Wright, 3b
6. Marlon Byrd, of
9. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, of
11. Ruben Tejada, ss
12. Brandon Hicks, if
15. Travid d’Arnaud, c
16. Brian Bixler, if/of
19. Zach Lutz, if/of
20. Anthony Recker, c
21. Lucas Duda, lf
22. Landon Powell, c
23. Mike Baxter, of
27. Jeurys Familia, rhp
28. Daniel Murphy, 2b
29. Ike Davis, 1b
30. LaTroy Hawkins, rhp
32. Jenrry Mejia, rhp
33. Matt Harvey, rhp
34. Brandon Lyon, rhp
35. Dillon Gee, rhp
36. Collin McHugh, rhp
38. Shaun Marcum, rhp
39. Bobby Parnell, rhp
40. Tim Byrdak, lhp
44. John Buck, c
46. Greg Burke, rhp
47. Aaron Laffey, lhp
48. Frank Francisco, rhp
49. Jonathon Niese, lhp
50. Scott Atchison, rhp
52. Carlos Torres, rhp
53. Jeremy Hefner, rhp
55. Pedro Feliciano, lhp
56. Scott Rice, lhp
57. Johan Santana, lhp
58. Cesar Puello, of
60. Darin Gorski, lhp
61. Wilmer Flores, 3b/2b
62. Elvin Ramirez, rhp
63. Juan Lagares, of
64. Reese Havens, 2b
65. Zack Wheeler, rhp
66. Josh Edgin, lhp
67. Hansel Robles, rhp
68. Matt den Dekker, cf
70. Wilfredo Tovar, ss
71. Gonzalez German, rhp
72. Juan Centeno, c
73. Robert Carson, lhp
74. Rafael Montero, rhp
75. Cory Mazzoni, rhp
76. Josh Satin, if
77. Andrew Brown, of
80. Jamie Hoffmann, of

Video: Alderson discusses Bourn, answers fan tweets

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson joined MLB.com for a 21-minute video chat yesterday at Citi Field. Among the topics discussed was free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn, who remains on everyone’s radar:

“I have more of an offensive interest than a defensive interest, but that can be taken to an extreme,” Alderson said. “And, so, you have to make accommodations. You also need to take into account what your specific needs are. And right now our specific need in the outfield is somebody who can cement that outfield defense. His defense becomes a little more important in our circumstance perhaps than it might be in some others.

“He’s also a leadoff guy and brings some speed to a club. Those are areas we’d like to improve as well. For us, he would be a very nice fit. But, at the same time, we have to keep it in perspective. And, frankly, we don’t know what some of the outfielders already in spring training are going to be able to do for us this year.

“But I certainly understand why fans are interested in our position vis-a-vis Michael, and we’d like to get it resolved one way or the other. I think we’re still in the mix, but I couldn’t really predict anything at this point.”

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Reality TV: Finding the next knuckleballer

Check out this R.A. Dickey-inspired new reality show from MLB Network:

Former NCAA Division I FBS quarterbacks John David Booty (USC), Josh Booty (LSU), Doug Flutie (Boston College), David Greene (Georgia) and Ryan Perrilloux (LSU & Jacksonville State), will compete for an invitation to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Spring Training camp in MLB Network’s first-ever reality series competition The Next Knuckler, premiering Wednesday, February 13 at 9:00 p.m. ET. Produced by MLB Productions and co-hosted by World Series champion and former All-Star knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield and MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar, the five former quarterbacks will compete against one another to determine who can throw the best knuckleball.  

dickeyknucklerTaped at Vero Beach Sports Village, the former Spring Training home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, each episode will feature the contestants learning from Wakefield how to throw this baffling pitch before facing challenges to test the effectiveness of their knuckleball.  One contestant will be eliminated from the competition in each episode based on his performance and input from Wakefield and Millar. The winner will earn an invitation to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Spring Training camp and the chance to pitch for the D-backs in a Spring Training game.

 “I’ve dedicated my entire baseball life to the challenging art of throwing the knuckleball,” says Wakefield in the premiere episode. “Now, I’ve embarked on this mission to continue the knuckleball legacy. These guys were great athletes on the gridiron so I wanted to try this experiment out. You don’t have to grip the baseball the way I threw it, but if you want to win, you have to lose the spin.” 

In addition to Wakefield and Millar, The Next Knuckler will feature special guests, including 2012 NL Cy Young Award Winner and knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, former All-Star knuckleball pitcher Charlie Hough and 15-year old knuckleball phenom Chelsea Baker, who threw two perfect games for her Plant City Little League team in 2010.

 “We look forward to being featured on The Next Knuckler and giving an opportunity to one of these top-flight athletes to come to Spring Training with the D-backs,” said D-backs President and CEO Derrick Hall. “With a knuckleball, you never know what kind of success a pitcher will have and that’s part of the intrigue for our franchise to take part in this reality show.”

Following the premiere hour-long elimination episode of the The Next Knuckler on Wednesday, February 13 at 9:00 p.m. ET, the final three episodes will air on February 14, 20 and 21 at 10:00 p.m. ET, with a re-air of the previous episode beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET.

***

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Mets owners reportedly pined for Willets Point casino

Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz reportedly lobbied to bring a Las Vegas-style casino to the Willets Point area around Citi Field. From today’s New York Post:

While team owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz are still having trouble opening their tight pockets for high-priced free agents, that didn’t stop their development arm, Sterling Equities, from betting on a proposal that called for bringing a massive casino with gaming tables and slots, a 500-room, full-service hotel, 1.8 million square feet of retail and other amenities to the Willets Point development site in Queens.

The Southampton-based Shinnecock Indian Nation signed on to operate the casino, and the Wilpons and partners even offered the city $100 million for the 62-acre site, according to the development team’s proposal, which was first obtained by project opponents Willets Point United and NYC Park Advocates.

With live-dealer casino gambling currently illegal in New York, except on tribal lands, the Wilpons and partner Related Companies were awarded a consolation prize.

In June, the Bloomberg administration handed them 23 of the 62 acres of city-owned land they sought in the September 2011 casino proposal — most of which is now used for parking — to build a $3 billion retail and entertainment complex without a casino.

citifieldrendering

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Projecting the Opening Day roster, 2/5

For the first time this offseason, let us present a roster projection that should actually closely resemble what the Mets deploy on Opening Day. The bullpen has undergone a major overhaul, and I’ve included Brandon Lyon below despite the fact that he has yet to sign an actual contract. That appears little more than a formality at this point.

Once a point of complete speculation, the bullpen, with Lyon and friends in tow, now seems relatively straightforward. Though 40-man roster limitations may prevent all of the veterans listed below from making the team, most of them should be there come April 1. And outside of the bullpen, there really are very few position battles in camp.

The only major change that could occur between now and Opening Day would be if the Mets sign free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn. But that remains a long-shot.

C : John Buckbrandonlyonastros
1B: Ike Davis
2B: Daniel Murphy
SS: Ruben Tejada
3B: David Wright
OF: Lucas Duda
OF: Kirk Nieuwenhuis
OF: Mike Baxter
Bench: Collin Cowgill
Bench: Andrew Brown
Bench: Justin Turner
Bench: Brandon Hicks
Bench: Anthony Recker

SP: Johan Santana
SP: Jon Niese
SP: Matt Harvey
SP: Dillon Gee
SP: Shaun Marcum
RP: Frank Francisco
RP: Bobby Parnell
RP: Brandon Lyon
RP: Scott Atchison
RP: LaTroy Hawkins
RP: Pedro Feliciano
RP: Josh Edgin

In the running: C Landon Powell, 1B Josh Satin, INF Zach Lutz, INF Brian Bixler, INF/OF Jordany Valdespin, OF Matt den Dekker, RHP Greg Burke, RHP Jenrry Mejia, RHP Jeurys Familia, RHP Jeremy Hefner, RHP Collin McHugh, RHP Elvis Ramirez, RHP Carlos Torres, LHP Aaron Laffey, LHP Robert Carson, LHP Darin Gorski.

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Santana eyes WBC while Mets remain cautious

Johan Santana has been working out recently with the intention of being in good enough shape to join Team Venezuela for next month’s World Baseball Classic. Now nearly two-and-a-half years removed from shoulder surgery, he is healthy and the Mets plan to treat him like any other pitcher this spring.

santanavenezuelaBut insurance obstacles could prove prohibitive in his quest to compete on an international stage. Because Santana finished last season on the disabled list, the Classic must be willing to insure the $31 million remaining on his contract for him to compete.

Even if Santana clears that hurdle, the Mets could ask him not to participate, as many teams do for older players — particularly for pitchers, and certainly for pitchers with his recent history of arm trouble.

Asked directly about the situation, general manager Sandy Alderson said he would not open that can of worms unless Santana approached the Mets asking to play. So far, the left-hander has not done so. But a second tour of duty for Venezuela — Santana played in 2006, but sat out 2009 while recovering from knee surgery — seems unlikely.

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Ruben hoping to be more like Jose

Ruben Tejada stopped by Flushing today in good shape and good spirits, eager to get going for the season. He took batting practice at Citi Field and plans to report to Spring Training on Saturday, eight days early, which should please Terry Collins just fine.

tejadajoggingSpending the past week and a half working out on Long Island with a group of local big leaguers and prospects, Tejada spent time with Jose Reyes, who helped his former teammate tweak his baserunning technique. Though Tejada said he is willing to bat anywhere in the lineup this season, he hopes to lead off — and believes stealing more bases may be the ticket to doing so.

“We talked about everything,” Tejada said. “In practice, I tried to learn a lot about running the bases, stealing more bases.”

Leadoff or not, Tejada has no competition this spring for the starting shortstop job. The Mets hope only that he proves strong and well-conditioned enough to give them upwards of 150 games at the position.

Tejada hit .289 with a .333 on-base percentage in 114 games last season, missing significant time early in the year with a right quad strain. Still just 23, he has two career homers and 11 stolen bases in 1,132 plate appearances.

Unlike Reyes, Tejada does not possess elite foot speed. But scouts do laud his baseball instincts, which can be every bit as important as speed when it comes to stealing bases.

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Mets offer up their Super Bowl picks

The Mets were kind enough to pass along Super Bowl picks from some of their players and personnel. The list:

Sandy Alderson – 49ers
Daniel Murphy – 49ers
Ike Davis – 49ers
Lucas Duda – 49ers
Josh Edgin – 49ers
Dillon Gee – 49ers
Bobby Parnell – Ravens
Mike Baxter – Ravens
Ruben Tejada – Ravens
David Wright – Ravens
Johan Santana – Ravens
Kirk Niewenhuis – Ravens
Travis d’Arnaud – Ravens

As for me, I’m sticking with my original pick from September: Texans over 49ers.

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

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