By Mike Steffanos
I promise to get to the conclusions for the 2009 Mets previews series, but I wanted to weigh in on some of the weekend's news.
The biggest news was Jerry Manuel's pronouncement that Daniel Murphy was the Mets everyday LF and Ryan Church could find himself in a platoon in RF.
Joel Sherman weighs in on this in his blog:
The beauty Manuel laid on the media on Sunday was that Daniel Murphy was a full-time player in left, but Ryan Church is on notice that he has to perform to avoid Fernando Tatis eating into his at-bats against lefties, in particular.
Forget about Manny Ramirez for a moment (as hard as that might be to do), but if the Mets were this worried about Church didn't they have to protect themselves better than with Fernando Tatis as the righty-hitting option/replacement? Right now the next level for a righty bat in right field is Bobby Kielty or Nick Evans, neither of which is overly appealing. Both Jerry Hairston Jr. and Gabe Kapler were low-priced free agents this winter who might have offered up a greater level of depth as at least a righty-hitting platoon partner for Church.
But what this also says to me is that Fernando Martinez is on the clock from the outset of the season and if the touted prospect ever stays healthy long enough to prove he is the real deal then Church's day as a Met are going to move toward extinction. And if Martinez is not ready and Church fails to fulfill Manuel's vision then it will not be very deep into the season that you are going to hear the Mets linked to some expensive right field option from a team looking to dump salary in a bad economy. My early-line favorites are: Detroit's Magglio Ordonez, the White Sox's Jermaine Dye and Kansas City's Jose Guillen.
I'm sorry, but I think Sherman takes a few leaps here. First of all, we're not sure how serious Manuel is about this until we see how it goes. My initial reaction to hearing this was that Manuel was dangling a carrot in front of Murphy while giving Church a little kick in the ass.
Everyone, including me, was just assuming that Church would be the everyday RF because he has more of a track record than Murphy and Tatis. In fairness, though, the sum of what Church did last year doesn't warrant an automatic job. Certainly he might have been able to earn that had he not suffered the concussions and the resulting effects, but we'll never know.
Church came into camp last spring needing to prove that he can hit lefties consistently to win a full-time job, and this is a reminder that he will need to do that all over again. That makes sense to me.
Murphy has a lot to prove, too. Given his approach to hitting there is no reason why he shouldn't be able to hit lefties but, on the other hand, there is no reason to accept on faith that he is a major league hitter until he proves it over the long haul.
The track record is somewhat mixed on Murphy vs. lefties. Last year in the minors, mostly at AA Binghamton, Murphy hit .315/.378/.495 overall, .320/.385/.502 in 240 AB vs. righties and .305/.363/.481 in 131 AB against lefties. The year before in High-A ball at St. Lucie he went .287/.342/.429 overall in 513 AB, and struggle somewhat with a .257/.314/.362 line against southpaws in 152 AB.
You could argue that it's a real good sign that he did so much better last year. The truth, though, is that Murphy doesn't have much of a track record with less than 1,000 total minor league AB, which is the equivalent of not quite 2 full seasons. We're all learning about Murphy on the fly, and that includes Murphy himself and the Mets organization. I like him a lot, but I'm not ready to anoint him as a star. I doubt that Jerry Manuel really is, either.
The Fernando Martinez talk is nothing but baseless speculation at this point, since Martinez himself still has something to prove.
Citi Field will have a large OF area to be patrolled, and if we do see Murphy and Tatis play together very often I will whisper a quiet prayer for Carlos Beltran, who will be forced to cover more ground than any other CF in baseball. You can get by with two weak corner OF in a bandbox, but that's a lot tougher in a big park like the Mets new digs.
Summing up my opinion on this one, I'd advise folks not to take everything Jerry Manuel says to heart this early on. I like Daniel Murphy, and believe he will be a solid major leaguer, even possibly a very good player, but I need more than 150 major league AB to form a real opinion.
John Maine and Mike Pelfrey are going back to the curveballs they used to throw
When John Maine came over to the Mets, his second pitch was a curveball with a pretty big break. Before his first emergency start he hurt himself, and was unable to use that curve. After that, Peterson talked him into scrapping it, supposedly because he had trouble throwing it for strikes.
Maine's slider has looked decent at times, but he struggles to throw it for strikes at other times. It will be interesting to see if he throws both breaking pitches and, if so, which one is used more.
Meanwhile, I remember when Pelfrey was drafted his curve was described as more of a slurve than a real sharp breaker. Pelfrey is happy to go back to it because he feels he can throw it for strikes more often than his slider.
I remember games last year where Pelfrey was consistently missing with the slider and didn't throw it much. If he has a breaking pitch he can get over, I'm in favor of his using spring to work on it.
Parnell and Muniz add splitter
There's been a lot of buzz about prospect Bobby Parnell working on a splitter, with J.J. Putz providing some instruction.
Parnell has a live sinking fastball, and the addition of a splitter would give him enough of a repertoire to be a solid major league reliever. The problem, as I see it, is that Parnell doesn't always throw his fastball for strikes. He has a BB/9 rate of 3.9 over 470 minor league innings.
You need to set up a splitter by getting ahead with the fastball, which then gets hitters chasing those nasty splits. Parnell is going to have to throw strikes more consistently to make it to the majors. If he can do that and master the splitter, he could be a very good major league reliever.
On the other hand, Carlos Muniz is a reliever with fairly ordinary stuff, but he throws more strikes than Parnell. Although there hasn't been a ton of buzz, he's been working on adding a splitter, too.
Muniz has no chance to be a closer at the major league level, but if he can get more swings and misses he has a chance to be a pretty good middle reliever. He probably bears a little more watching this spring than I originally thought.
I'll be back tomorrow with a conclusion to that preview series. Later on today I will posting NostraDennis' first contribution of the spring. Also, if you missed it yesterday, please check out or newest contributor, MetsFanSZ, and his entertaining piece on being tossed from Shea Stadium.