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2012 Fantasy outlooks: New York Mets

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The Sandy Alderson regime officially closed the book on the Omar Minaya era with the deal that sent Carlos Beltran to the Giants for prospect Zack Wheeler last July, opting to cut bait rather than fish with the roster it had inherited.

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When homegrown mainstay Jose Reyes then departed via free agency this offseason, the team's next step became all too clear: Let the long and painful rebuilding process begin.

Fortunately for Fantasy owners, a bare cupboard means new opportunity for previous unknowns -- in other words, sleepers galore. Unfortunately for Fantasy owners, the Mets are still wading through so many bad contracts that the new blood might have to wait.

And so, we face another year of wondering whether 33-year-old Jason Bay will ever regain his All-Star form (fat chance) and hoping that 33-year-old Johan Santana can recapture his ace stuff in his return from 2010 shoulder surgery (don't hold your breath).

But if nothing else, Fantasy owners can count on continued steps forward for the up-and-comers already in place. Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy have each toyed with Fantasy greatness and should benefit from the team's decision to move in and lower the fences at the previously oversized Citi Field. So should David Wright -- the team's lone holdover from its former days of glory. In theory, everyone should, though Ruben Tejada and Josh Thole probably lack the wallop to take advantage.

The pitching staff obviously doesn't benefit, but it's not such a highlight anyway. A return to form for Santana would obviously change that, but with shoulder injuries, you have to assume the worst. For what they lack in upside, R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese are at least competent, but otherwise, Fantasy owners have little choice but to count down the days until prospects Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia arrive.

Breakout ... Ike Davis, 1B

Everything was going as planned for Davis in 2011. He followed up an encouraging rookie season with a killer April, hitting .337 with five homers and a 1.014 OPS to close in on elite status at the deepest position in Fantasy. But the breakout was never complete because his season lasted only two more weeks. On May 10, he suffered the slowest-healing ankle sprain in the history of modern medicine, missing the rest of the season because of it. That's both good news and bad news in Fantasy. On the one hand, it gives you another opportunity to draft the 24-year-old at a discounted rate, but on the other hand, it makes you leery of drafting him at all. But remember: His performance isn't in question, just his availability. He already delivered on his promise and now, a year closer to his prime and with a reduced right-field fence, he could do even more. If Davis is as healthy as he claims he is, you won't regret drafting him.

Bust ... David Wright, 3B

Wright still has the reputation of a five-category stud even though he has fallen short of those numbers twice in the last three seasons. Last year, his issue was a stress fracture in his lower back, but even when he returned, he hit only .272 with a .789 OPS in 243 at-bats. Over the last three seasons, he has a .284 batting average and .828 OPS, which are solid numbers but less than elite even for a third baseman. True, his struggles began the same year the Mets moved to spacious Citi Field, but that doesn't explain why his numbers have lagged on the road during that time. Thus, you can't assume the team's decision to move in the fences this year will be Wright's miracle cure. It'll help, but it won't eliminate the injuries, the perpetually rising strikeout rate and the curious home-road splits. With high-upside third basemen like Brett Lawrie and Emilio Bonifacio available later in the draft, you're better off passing on Wright in the second round.

Sleeper ... Lucas Duda, OF

Though the Mets' decision to move in the fences at Citi Field this season helps, Duda's success in the majors late last year should have made him a Fantasy sleeper already. But for some reason, a certain percentage of the Fantasy-playing population tunes out around the All-Star break, making any breakouts that happen beyond that point somehow less valid. Fortunately for us more attentive types, that means players like Duda get overlooked. From July 15 (about the time he took over for a departed Carlos Beltran) to the end of the season, Duda hit .322 with 10 homers and a .957 OPS -- numbers that jive with his minor-league track record. And that was at old Citi Field, complete with its big gaps, tall fences and ability to crush David Wright's spirit. Granted, Duda is no guarantee to continue those numbers over a full season, but if you don't see the potential for him to outperform the late-round pick you'd use to get him, don't ever get into real estate.

2012 New York Mets Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Andres Torres CF 1 Johan Santana LH
2 Daniel Murphy 2B 2 R.A. Dickey RH
3 David Wright 3B 3 Jonathon Niese LH
4 Ike Davis 1B 4 Mike Pelfrey RH
5 Lucas Duda RF 5 Dillon Gee RH
6 Jason Bay LF Alt Chris Schwinden RH
7 Josh Thole C
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Ruben Tejada SS CL Frank Francisco RH
Top bench options SU Jon Rauch RH
R Scott Hairston OF RP Ramon Ramirez RH
R Justin Turner IF RP Bobby Parnell RH
R Adam Loewen OF RP Tim Byrdak LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Zack Wheeler 21 SP Class A Double-A
The system's top prospect after coming over from the Giants in the Carlos Beltran deal, Wheeler is likely still a year away, but he's the Mets' best hope at a true ace.
2 Matt Harvey 23 SP Double-A Triple-A
Harvey still needs to work on his secondary pitches, but his upside is similar to Wheeler's. The problem is, at age 23, he doesn't have as much time to meet it.
3 Jeurys Familia 22 SP Double-A Triple-A
Familia is further along than Wheeler and Harvey, but his control problems make him less of a sure thing. The hard-thrower could make an impact this year, though.
4 Kirk Nieuwenhuis 24 OF Triple-A Triple-A
Some would prefer to see Nieuwenhuis starting over Torres, so perhaps a midseason switch is inevitable. The David Murphy clone could factor in deeper leagues.
5 Wilmer Flores 20 SS Class A Class A
The former elite prospect's star is fading after another down year. He's still a good contact hitter, but he needs to show power soon to justify his keeper slot.
Best of the rest: Chris Schwinden, SP; Reese Havens, 2B; Brandon Nimmo, OF; Cesar Puello, OF; Josh Satin, 1B; Josh Stinson, RP; Jordany Valdespin, 2B; Cory Vaughn, OF; Aderlin Rodriguez, 3B; Zach Lutz, 3B; Armando Rodriguez, SP; Sean Ratliff, OF; Matt den Dekker, OF; Darrell Ceciliani, OF; and Mike Nickeas, C.

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Player News
Rockies' Jon Gray happy to have his velocity back
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:33 pm ET) Rockies pitcher Jon Gray is glad to have his velocity back this spring, according to MLB.com.

Gray dealt with shoulder fatigue last season, which limited his ability to get his fastball up into the triple-digits. That hasn't been a problem during camp. "This is the first time I felt this strong since early [Class A Advanced] Modesto," Gray said. 

Teammate Corey Dickerson came away impressed. "He was one of the best pitchers today because he was painting or barely missing -- one or two inches out of the zone -- and looked smooth, not nervous, but confident," Dickerson said.

Gray believes the added velocity should help his changeup this season. "I developed a really good changeup. It was my strikeout pitch of the year. I'll take that into this year with my fastball. It's going to be awesome."

Gray is expected to compete for a spot in the team's rotation this spring. Though he's likely to start in the minors, he should reach the majors at some point this year.


Nationals' Yunel Escobar gets strong reviews at second
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:15 pm ET) Nationals second baseman Yunel Escobar received strong reviews after taking fielding practice at the position on Thursday, according to MLB.com.

Escobar met with team officials recently to discuss the transition. While he was initially hesitant to move off shortstop, Escobar said he's now committed to being the best second baseman in the league. Escobar spent the past month preparing at second base, but asked that the Nationals be patient as he gets used to his new spot.

Nationals defensive coordinator Mark Weidemaier doesn't think it will take long for Escobar to master the new position. "His athleticism, his agility...his footwork is excellent," Weidemaier said. "I don't think it's going to be a big transition for him."

Escobar, 32, hit .258/.324/.340 over 476 at-bats last year.


Cardinals' John Gast finally feels 100 percent
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:57 pm ET) Cardinals pitcher John Gast finally feels 100 percent recovered after shoulder surgery, according to MLB.com.

Gast had the surgery back in 2013, but said he didn't feel like he was all the way back when he returned to pitch last season. "All around, I felt off," Gast said. "The whole year was tough with every pitch, really."

This spring, though, things seem to be much better. Gast believes his velocity is back to normal, and said his pitches have "more life than last year." Gast will likely open the season in the minors, but general manager John Mozeliak believes he can pitch in the big leagues. 

"I think he's capable of pitching in the big leagues," Mozeliak said. "Now it's going out and showing that he has the durability to compete every fifth day."


Franklin Gutierrez 'doing fine' in bid to make Mariners
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:46 pm ET) Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez said Thursday that he's "doing fine" after missing the 2014 season while dealing with an inflammatory nerve condition called ankylosing spondylitis, MLB.com reports.

"I'm doing fine," Gutierrez said. "After missing a year, I'm very grateful to be back here. I've been here for a long time now. I just want to give it a shot one more time to see if I can do it."

Gutierrez agreed to a minor-league deal with the Mariners and will see where he's at after being invited to spring training. His illness "has a treatment, but not a cure," and he expects to be dealing with it for the remainder of his life.

"We hope that he's healthy and can make it through the camp feeling good about himself and get back to playing baseball," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "There are no big expectations. Do we expect him to be the guy he was two or three years ago? I doubt it. He's been off a long time. He needs to ease himself back into things and it's going to take time. No. 1, we have to make sure he's healthy."

Gutierrez was limited to 81 games in 2012 and 2013 combined due to a virety of injuries, many of which were later attributed to his illness.


Angels' Matt Joyce to see ample work against lefties this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:39 pm ET) Angels outfielder Matt Joyce will see plenty of opportunities against left-handed pitching during spring training as well as extra work in the cage and against the breaking-ball machine as the team primes him for a potential everyday role, MLB.com reports.

"I don't want him looking over his shoulder every time a lefty comes in, thinking he's going to get pinch-hit for," hitting coach Don Baylor said. "I'm trying to get him out of that mentality. He's on a new ballclub now."

Just 323 of Joyce's 2,182 career at-bats have come against left-handers, against whom he has hit .189/.258/.316 with nine home runs and 50 RBI.

"This is something that I've wanted and asked for for a while," Joyce said. "I really don't feel there's a lot of pressure on me. I've done it in the minor leagues. I feel it's something I'm going to have to put some time and extra effort into, but, without a doubt, I know I can do it."

Joyce will have the opportunity to serve as the team's everyday left fielder with Josh Hamilton recovering from injury and dealing with a potential disciplinary issue.


Indians' Francona disagrees with metrics on Brantley's defense
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:28 pm ET) Indians outfielder Michael Brantley was ranked 13th in FanGraphs' overall defensive rating out of 15 players who logged at least 800 innings in left field in 2014, a ranking manager Terry Francona "can't understand," Cleveland.com reports.

"For the life of me, I can't understand it," Francona said. "I really don't. That's something that perplexes me to no end. He is one of the better left fielders in the game. I don't get it. I don't know if I ever will."

Brantley was one of three finalists for the American League Golden Glove Award last year for his position despite finishing the season with a minus-6.3 UZR/150. His minus-10.4 overall defensive rating marked his second season with a mark worse than minus-10 in the category.

"I think the [advanced] stats are deceiving," Francona said. "We see him every time. We see Brantley for 162 games and he does it over and over and over and over and over. He's so consistent and his arm is such a factor. I don't know where they came up with that. I don't care."

Brantley committed just one error in 2014 while racking up a career-high 12 outfield assists. He also delivered his finest season at the plate, hitting .327/.385/.506 with 20 home runs, 97 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 611 at-bats.


Braves' Markakis apologizes for comments about the Orioles
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:27 pm ET) Braves outfielder Nick Markakis apologized for calling out the Orioles organization, according to MASN.

Markakis was recently quoted saying the Orioles organization couldn't be trusted after he felt they were disingenuous about why contract negotiations broke down. "Don't believe a word they say," Markakis said. "It was all because of my neck. They can say what they want to make them look good."

He backpedaled from those comments on Thursday. "What I said wasn't directed at any way to the Orioles organization or ownership. It's just one of those things where I kind of said sarcastically, 'B.S., I wouldn't believe everything you hear. Don't believe them.'" he said. "I just want to put it behind me and I apologize for what I did, but there's a reason why it came out of my mouth." 

The 31-year-old hit .276/.342/.386 over 642 at-bats last year.


Blue Jays agree to a deal with Johan Santana
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:04 pm ET) The Blue Jays have agreed to sign pitcher Johan Santana, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Santana, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2012 due to various arm injuries, is attempting to make a come back this season. He pitched in the Venezuelan Winter League, but was shut down after having some shoulder discomfort. Santana resumed throwing in late February. 

The 34-year-old posted a 4.85 ERA in 117 innings back in 2012. 


Reds' Jon Moscot standing out early in camp
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:02 pm ET) Reds pitching prospect Jon Moscot stood out during the team's live batting practice Wednesday, drawing praise from manager Bryan Price, MLB.com reports.

"He throws efficiently," Price said. "He throws plenty hard enough. He's an 89-92 [mph], maybe a touch better at times. It's command. It's bottom-of-the-zone command, side to side. A very, very good slider. His changeup has made great strides over the last season. As I tell the starters, if you're going to start, you need that offspeed pitch, some kind of change-of-pace pitch, but primarily a changeup, if you're going to be really good."

Moscot wasn't aware that the Reds manager, who caught three or four minutes of his session while roving around, was watching the prospect.

"They're all walking around. We've got three fields going on," Moscot said. "Everyone is trying to make an impression, so I just know that any moment, you can turn a head. Keep your head down and work hard."

Moscot spent most of his 2014 season with Double-A Pensacola, going 7-10 with a 3.13 ERA and 111:43 K:BB ratio in 149 1/3 innings over 25 starts.


Rangers' Michael Kirkman progressing after having soreness
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:00 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Michael Kirkman has made progress after experiencing shoulder soreness early in camp, according to MLB.com.

Kirkman was able to play cath for the second straight day on Thursday. He'll attempt to take part in long toss on Friday. The 28-year-old posted a 1.59 ERA in 12 games last year. 


 
 
 
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