In 18 days, the New York Mets will open the 2010 regular season against the Florida Marlins. At this point in time, who they arrive north with is anyone’s guess.
The Mets, hoping to redeem themselves following an unfathomable 70-92 season in 2009, have many unanswered questions. The pitching, after ace lefthander Johan Santana, is suspect; the up-the-middle portion of this team -specifically, at catcher, shortstop and centerfielder- is also in doubt. The health of Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes has depleted a once-potent attack, although Beltran has already disclosed that he will be back better [and sooner] than most observers expect.
Yet, there are four more questions which Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel need to answer, as well. These issues result from the unexpected play of four rookies, each with a legitimate shot of making the jump to the big show.
Ike Davis has baseball pedigree, but that doesn’t guarantee a spot on the 45-man roster; the 6’4” first baseman with promise, who will be 23 on Monday, is the son of Ron Davis, who was first the primary set-up man for Rich Gossage before saving 108 games over four-plus seasons with the 1980-something Minnesota Twins.
In 2009, Davis opened with the St. Lucie Mets, for whom he hit .288 -at which point, he was promoted to Binghamton [AA], and promptly finished the season with 13 home runs, 41 runs batted in, and a .309 average in 55 games.
However, with Daniel Murphy and Mike Jacobs already in camp, Davis –even with a stat line of 2/11/.500 through March 19- is a stretch to begin the season in Queens.
At 21, Fernando Martinez has a lot of baseball left. Or does he? Since the ripe old age of 16, the Dominican-born outfielder has been the face of the organization’s future.
“We saw a kid with power, great ability and great character, above everything else,” Minaya said, after Martinez accepted a $1.4 million signing bonus.
Last season, the ‘kid’ hit .290 at Buffalo [AAA] with 28 ribbies and an International League-leading 25 extra-base-hits in 45 games. Then, he was introduced to major-league pitching, and the results were quite different [.176 in 91 at-bats]. Martinez, who required surgery last July for a torn meniscus in his right knee, is also hitting .500 with three home runs and 11 RBI.
Watch Jenrry Mejia. The 20-year-old righty, with the Ron Guidry build [6’0”, 160 pounds], has posted a 1.93 ERA with eight strikeouts in 9-1/3 innings this spring. If he can stick with the team, and prove to be a viable late-game option, his $16,500 signing bonus may prove to be money well spent.
Lastly, it is quite possible that Reyes’ replacement could be 20-year-old Ruben Tejada, who batted .289 with five homers and 46 RBI in 488 at-bats with Binghamton last season. Tejada is hitting .378 through 37 at-bats.
New York’s braintrust can always utilize the Earl Weaver approach to deciding a rookie’s fate. In 1980, the Hall-of-Fame manager demoted Drungo Hazewood, an outfielder of little reknown, who had somehow hit .583 during spring training.
“I had never cut a guy hitting that high,” Weaver affirmed. “But he was making the rest of us look bad with that average.”
These Mets actually have such concerns.