On August 7th the Mets seemingly began transitioning into a ‘rebuilding phase’, of sorts, when they promoted prospects Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada. Along with the promotions came announcements that both players would get the majority of starts at their respective positions. Veterans Jeff Francoeur and Luis Castillo did what all under performing veterans on this ball club do, they whined, all but requested a trade, and made it clear that despite their less than mediocre output they believed they deserved a full time job. That’s right, they were being benched by a team with one of the worst offenses in baseball but these guys know the market like Goldman Sachs and believe the Mets are holding them back from living up to their outlandish contracts.
Aside from the people who promote ‘Crest White Strips’, nobody on the outside was too hurt by seeing Frenchy take a seat on the bench. Similarly, perhaps the only person happier that Castillo was no longer swinging a bat in the starting line-up was the guy he nailed in the face with a broken piece of maple a few years back (click here for story). The bottom line is that a somewhat rejuvenated fan base was excited to see what these young players could do. We weren’t foolish enough to be believe that by playing invisible at the trade deadline while the Braves and Phillies bulked up their rosters that we would magically turn into contenders. So the ‘youth movement’ made sense and moves that make sense from this regime are few and hard to come by. Well such logical navigation was short lived, because with Fernando Martinez reportedly now heading back to the DL, guess who replaces him in the starting line-up.
Let’s make this fun, we can filter through some choices, but before doing so let’s take a look at F-Mart’s numbers in Triple-A and remember that this is a kid the team deemed worthy of a shot when they called him up. I know the lure of the F-Mart goes far beyond numbers but just for giggles, here was his card for the Buffalo Bison’s:
Sure the ~1:4 BB:K ratio is a bit alarming but 12 homers in 257 at-bats is nothing to sneeze at and nobody can argue that the team needed power. So hey, I was all for giving Martinez a shot in about as low pressure situation as you could see in Queens in August. Though ABBA called, Fernando did not hear the drums, hitting only.167 in 18 at-bats before being optioned back to Buffalo to make room for the recently departed Rod Barajas.
So with a forward thinking mentality laid out and the course set for 2011 and beyond, the question now becomes, which youngster will addition alongside Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan in the outfield? This brings us back to our choices (in no particular order):
*Chris Carter– Lets look right on the big league roster and ask, what about giving ‘The Animal’ a shot at some big time at-bats? Jerry Manuel obviously thinks highly enough of him to give him a few cracks at the clean-up slot and his .310 average in August is encouraging. Well, since getting the start and going 2-4 with a HR, 2 RBI, and 2 runs back on August 2oth, the 27-year-old has gotten a total of 4 at bats in 5 games. O.K., I get it, Carter is not exactly Roberto Clemente in the outfield, so maybe there are others more deserving of the opportunity.
*Lucas Duda– The Hefty Lefty out of USC currently leads Buffalo (now that Mike Hessman is with the big league club) with 17 home runs in only 238 at-bats. At 24 years of age Duda has also hit for a decent average (.310), managed a .392 OB%, and his .639 slugging % would lead the international league if he had the AB’s to qualify.
So there’s your answer, Lucas Duda should get the call. The team is going young, needs a powerful bat, and simply put Duda is both. But the 6’5″ outfielder is a bit of a brick wall in the field so maybe there’s a better direction to go.
*Kirk Nieuwenhuis– The Mets 3rd round pick in 2008 has advanced quickly through the system and was rated the teams best defensive prospect by Baseball America entering this season. After hitting 16 HRs with Binghamton, however, the 23-year-old has struggled to adapt to pitchers in the International League.
All of the above options have their downsides, as did F-Mart, but they follow suit with the idea of getting a glimpse into the future. These are guys who have played with Josh Thole and Ike Davis and could be a big part of the teams plans moving forward. With that being said, management has decided to go a different route, choosing to go back to the very player they were looking to pass over when they promoted Martinez a few weeks back. That’s right, the man with the smile that goes for miles, Frenchy.
*Jeff Francoeur– So the team has turned back to Frenchy and hey, why shouldn’t they? I mean if Jeff’s .132 avg in July wasn’t enough for them to cut bait then they have to be thrilled with his monstrous .203 avg. this month. While Francoeur is 4 for 14 (.285 AVG) over his 4 starts with a great catch last night, it does not change the fact that we know how this movie will end in the long run. Frenchy smiling, us fans wanting more, only to have the next 1 for 20 stretch creep back up.
I just can’t see the logic in moving past Francoeur, but ONLY if the job can lay in the uber-capable hands of Fernando Martinez? I’m not sure if F-Mart was ever a better option than Duda or Nieuwenhuis but he made sense with what I mistakenly thought the team was trying to accomplish. I think Joel Sherman may have summarized this mess up the best in a recent column for the New York Post (click here to read):
….I don’t know if Martinez, Duda, Ratliff or Nieuwenhuis are major leaguers. What I do know is the Mets are not making the playoffs in 2010, Francoeur is not on the team in 2011 and — even if he is retained — Takahashi is not the long-term closer.A good organization would know this, as well, and be using what is left of another discouraging year to plot a better future, not letting a lame-duck manager make choices to try to get to 84 wins.”
As Matt Cerrone pointed out on Metsblog.com, Sherman has seriously become the voice of reason in New York. Matt isn’t far behind, saying this in reaction to Sherman’s post (click here to read):
Also, I’d LOVE to see Duda in the lineup. The kid hits monster home runs, and he’s on fire in Triple-A these days. I know, I know, he is a DH-in-Waiting. Who cares? Let him hit in Citi Field and let’s see what happens… if for no other reason than it’d be entertaining to see him work.”
How is it that this team seems to consistently make decisions that routinely go against the consensus? I’ve never seen a season in which fans, players, and the front office seem more disconnected than they do at this point. Yet just when I think the parties involved can get any further apart, the calendar turns and I’m surprised all over again.
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