Q&A with Amazin' Avenue, Mets series preview: April 21-24

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The 11-8 Cardinals visit Citi Field to take on the 9-9 Mets. Steve Schreiber of Mets SBN site Amazin' Avenue tells us about the team he roots for as we open a 4 game set.

Starters and Schedule

  • Tyler Lyons gets his first start of 2014 against Jenrry Mejia tonight at 6:10 (all times Central). Here's a terrific piece by VEB's Joe Schwarz about what to expect from Tyler Lyons: link
  • Adam Wainwright, master pitcher, takes on Dillon Gee in game 2 tomorrow evening, also at 6:10
  • Wednesday evening's 6:10 game features Michael Wacha and Jon Niese
  • The series wraps up Thursday with a 12:10 game as Lance Lynn faces Bartolo Colon. In 4 tries, the Cardinals have never won a game Bartolo Colon started. He first faced El Birdos in 1997, when the outfield was manned by Willie McGee, Ray Lankford, and Ron Gant.

Notes

  • The Mets just added Bobby Abreu to the roster from AAA. His career in the majors began in 1996, a year before Colon's. Look for him to pinch-hit.
  • After Jose Valverde fulfilled expectations by being terrible, Kyle Farnsworth is now the Mets' closer. His career also began in the 90's.
  • Center-fielder extraordinaire Juan Lagares is on the DL with a hamstring injury, so Eric Young, Jr. will be playing every day.
  • Chris Young missed most of April with a groin injury, but he's back in the lineup for now.

The Q&A

What do you think about the job Sandy Alderson has done, both overall and this last off-season specifically?

Overall, I think he's done respectable work, considering the state of the organization when he got here and all of the financial limitations he's had to face since then. He certainly hasn't been perfect by any means but the Mets farm system has improved immensely in recent years, especially on the pitching side, and the Carlos Beltran, R.A. Dickey, and Marlon Byrd trades have panned out quite well so far. There's still plenty of work to be done, particularly at the big league level (getting an upgrade at shortstop is a pressing need), but at least the Mets finally have some tradable depth like they haven't had in decades and may be able to address those issues in the coming year.

I read Anthony DiComo's article about the Mets' unusual system for getting players to adopt what sounds like a highly standardized hitting approach. What are your thoughts about it?

(The article can be found here. It's very interesting)

Most of what was written in that article shouldn't come as much of a surprise to Mets fans. Since Sandy Alderson's crew took over, we've heard all about their approach to offense and you can actually see the results of their teachings from players in the Mets minor league system. The most interesting part about that article, for me, was the nuts and bolts of how they go about teaching that philosophy (basically bribery with incentives) and the idea of their internal Bases Per Out metric, which they use to monitor the progress of their players. Obviously, the Mets aren't the only organization using proprietary metrics to value their players but it's nice to get a little insight into how the Mets do it. I always appreciate that sort of thing. Ultimately, I think it'll be a few years before we see the results of this system, as Alderson drafted/signed hitters who've been in this system from the beginning start slowly bubbling up to the big league club.

What's holding Ike Davis back? Do you think he'll get his career turned around?

It's anybody's guess, really, but I think it mostly comes down to his somewhat complicated swing mechanics. When he gets out of whack, he starts his swing too early and gets out in front of the ball. When he's out in front, he has trouble recognizing off speed stuff and he becomes incredibly vulnerable to curveballs. For what it's worth, his swing looked much better this spring and early in the season. However, the Mets have made the choice to give Lucas Duda the starting first base job, so Ike hasn't gotten a whole lot of playing time to get in a groove.

After news of the trade broke, I asked him what he thought of the move:

Moving one of Davis or Lucas Duda was long overdue and I think the Mets made the right choice in moving Ike. There's certainly still some upside there considering his age and the pop in his bat but it probably wasn't going to happen in New York. If the Pirates can fix his swing and get him on the right track, kudos to them. Meanwhile, the Mets get an interesting reliever in Zack Thornton who could see some big league time this year, along with the player to be named later, which sounds like it could be a pretty good prospect in its own right.

It sounds like Noah Syndergaard is expected to join Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler in a young high-ceiling rotation next season. When do you think Syndergaard gets called up and what do you expect out of him?

The Mets will definitely handle Syndergaard (or Thor, as he's known among Mets fans) just like they did with Harvey and Wheeler, and that means they'll wait until after the Super Two deadline to promote him to the big leagues. The Super Two deadline is usually in mid-June, so a late June or early-July callup seems likely. With Syndergaard's sheer dominance of the minor leagues at a young age than both Harvey and Wheeler, it's easy to dream on another Harvey situation where he comes up and dominates right out of the shoot. I think, however, Mets fans would all be happy if he comes up and gets his feet wet like Wheeler did last year. I'll be happy just as long as he stays healthy, keeps improving his curveball and changeup, and gives the Mets some quality starts down the stretch. That's all we can ask for with a young pitcher. Don't get me wrong, though: we're very, very excited for his debut.

Sticking with the rotation, what should we know about Jenrry Mejia?

Jenrry Mejia has incredible stuff, top of the rotation stuff in his own right. Between the Mets screwing him over in 2010 and some arm injuries, he's lost some development time but Mejia's stuff is better than ever. His cutter is nasty and he came back last year featuring a brand new slider, which has been a huge weapon for him. He's had some issues with walks early on but most of those came in his first start, where he had to deal with rainy conditions. On talent alone, Mejia is right up there with Zack Wheeler. He just needs to find a way to stay on the mound and get reps. He's also got some awesome Pedro Martinez hair.

Steve has a full piece on Mejia and his slider here

Other than Syndergaard, what other prospects do you expect to make a splash in the next 18 months?

There are a bunch of prospects on the Mets AAA pitching staff who should make their big league debuts sometime this season. Rafael Montero has dominated the minor leagues and is basically big league ready. He pairs a low to mid-90's fastball with pinpoint control. Jacob deGrom is also in the Vegas rotation and though he's a bit older (he was a late convert to pitching), he's got a chance to stick as a backend starter or reliever with a mid-90's fastball and power sinker. Cory Mazzoni, Logan Verrett, Jeff Walters, and Erik Goeddel all have big league caliber arms and are likely relievers in the majors. The offensive side is less interesting but Cesar Puello is at AAA and could see big league time soon if he starts hitting. Wilmer Flores has spent some time in the majors and at AA Binghamton, catcher Kevin Plawecki has been a fast mover.

When do you expect the Mets to return to contention, and what's the most likely way they get there?

Since Sandy Alderson took over, the hope (and promise) has been a 2014 return to contention. It's early and the Mets are off to a decent start at 8-7, but it still seems somewhat slim at the moment that this club has the depth to compete, especially on the offensive side. I think in an "everything goes right" situation, they could compete now but that's not terribly likely at the moment, so the view shifts to 2015 when Matt Harvey returns, Syndergaard and Montero are big league ready, and guys like Wheeler and Travis d'Arnaud have a year of big league time under their belts.

The key for the Mets is going to be pitching, pitching, and more pitching. Seeing Harvey successfully return from Tommy John surgery and Wheeler and Syndergaard develop into rotation stalwarts is key. Beyond that, they'll have to find some more offense at shortstop, first base, and probably an outfield corner, and that'll mean turning some pitching into position players via trade (it seems almost a given that a pitcher or two from the Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Montero, deGrom, and Bartolo Colon group will be moved, assuming the team isn't suddenly devastated by injury). It's an interesting time to be a Mets fan, for sure. I'm excited to see how it'll all work out. I don't think they're terribly far off from competing, if some things break their way.

We thank Steve for his time. My answers to his questions can be found at Amazin' Avenue

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