97-65, first place, NL East Projected batting order
1. SS Jose Reyes:
.300 BA, 19 HR, 81 RBI
2. C Paul Lo Duca:
.318 BA, 5 HR, 49 RBI
3. CF Carlos Beltran:
.275 BA, 41 HR, 116 RBI
4. 1B Carlos Delgado:
.265 BA, 38 HR, 114 RBI
5. 3B David Wright:
.311 BA, 26 HR, 116 RBI
6. LF Moises Alou:
.301 BA, 22 HR, 74 RBI
7. RF Shawn Green:
.277 BA, 15 HR, 66 RBI
8. 2B Jose Valentin:
.271 BA, 18 HR, 62 RBI
Closer: LHP Billy Wagner, 40 saves, 2.24 ERA
RH setup man: Aaron Heilman, 3.62 ERA
RH setup man: Duaner Sanchez, 2.60 ERA
The new guys
RHP Jon Adkins: Acquired with outfielder Ben Johnson from the Padres, Adkins has a place on the 40-man roster, but he may be hard-pressed to find one among the final 25. He isn't a strikeout pitcher, and his record indicates he allows a lot of baserunners.
Alou: Even with the back and hamstring injuries that limited him to 345 at-bats and compromised the at-bats he did have with the Giants last season, Alou, 40, produced home runs (6.4 per 100 at-bats) and RBIs (21.4 per 100 at-bats) at rates comparable to or better than those of Beltran (8.0 and 22.7), Delgado (7.25 and 21.8) and Wright (4.5 and 19.9). He batted .349 against left-handed pitching and .320 with runners in scoring position. He seems to be ideal to provide protection for Wright.
RHP Ambiorix Burgos: The numbers the Mets like so much are these: 137 strikeouts in 136 2/3 big-league innings. The ones they don't particularly care for are these: 222 baserunners -- 68 on walks -- and 19 wild pitches in 136 2/3 innings. General manager Omar Minaya wants late-inning strikeout pitchers, especially in the postseason. Burgos, Perez and Jorge Sosa will test the fix-it skills of pitching coach Rick Peterson and keep him quite busy in camp.
INF/OF Damion Easley: He is the likely successor to Chris Woodward as the all-purpose infielder who can play the outfield as well. Easley has more pop than Woodward, witness his 27 home runs -- nine each year -- in 679 at-bats from 2004-06. He has 48 other extra-base hits in that span. He has played 529 innings at second base, 485 2/3 at shortstop, 230 at third base, 144 1/3 at first and 39 in right field over the past three seasons.
OF Ben Johnson: Acquired with Adkins from the Padres, Johnson is a skills guy with some power. If the Mets carry 11 relievers, he has a chance to be a fifth outfielder. If they carry 12, he has a chance to be a New Orleans Zephyr.
OF David Newhan: With Easley more an infielder than an outfielder, most of Newhan's work is likely to be in the outfield and as a pinch-hitter, though he has merely 28 pinch-hit at-bats in his career. He and Endy Chavez are likely to be the only left-handed pinch-hitters at Willie Randolph's disposal. But the Mets don't pinch-hit that much -- 22 fewer appearances than the league average last season. Newhan, 33, came up as an infielder, but he has played the outfield -- all three positions, mostly center field -- the past three years with the Orioles.
LHP Scott Schoeneweis: He is likely to displace Pedro Feliciano as the primary left-handed specialist and perhaps cost Feliciano a roster spot when Guillermo Mota returns. In his past four seasons, Schoeneweis has allowed one home run to a left-handed batter, Matt Stairs of the Royals in 2005. Left-handed hitters batted .209 with a .264 slugging percentage and .293 on-base percentage in 227 plate appearances against him in 2005-06. Schoeneweis split last season between the Blue Jays and Reds and produced a 4-2 record and 4.88 ERA in 71 appearances and 51 2/3 innings. He allowed one run in 16 appearances (14 1/3 innings) with the Reds.
RHP Jorge Sosa: Another Oliver Perez. A project. Sosa's performance the past two seasons are altogether incongruous -- a 13-3 record and 2.55 ERA in 44 games (20 starts) with the Braves in '05 and a 3-11 record with a 5.42 ERA in 45 appearances (13 starts) with the Braves and Cardinals last season. He is a "go-figure" if ever there was one. He surrendered 30 home runs in 118 innings in 2006. Only 10 big-league pitchers allowed more, and each of the 10 threw at least 62 1/3 innings more than Sosa. Indeed, they averaged 202.6 innings.
LHP Jason Vargas: He has a 6-7 record in 18 big-league starts. He just turned 24. "He's a small guy so he has a poor ball angle," Tom Brown, Vargas' pitching coach with the Marlins' Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate last season, said. "Once he establishes command and finds the ball angle [release point] again, he'll be fine. He's a great athlete, but he's so short in stature that if he makes a mistake, the ball stays in the hitting zone too long. He's a Glavine type and if he gets his command back, he'll be fine."
Prospects to watch
Pelfrey: The club's first-round selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Pelfrey made his big-league debut July 8, won his first two starts, lost his third and pretty much indicated he needed more polish, particularly on his breaking pitches. At age 23, he has pitched merely 117 2/3 innings as a professional -- all last season. He left the Arizona Fall League early because of back pains serious enough to have him examined via MRI. While in the AFL, he improved his changeup and abandoned his curve for a late-breaking slider. The change and slider will keep hitters off his considerable fastball.
RHP Philip Humber: The club's first-round selection choice in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Humber has a chance to reach the big leagues -- for more than a cup of coffee -- as initially anticipated despite missing the second half of the 2005 season and the first 2 1/2 months of last season because of reconstructive surgery on his pitching elbow. The injury interrupted his rapid ascent through the organization that nonetheless put him on the big-league roster for two relief appearances in September. Humber's time in the AFL was interrupted by shoulder tendinitis. He is more likely than Pelfrey to begin the season with the club's new Triple-A New Orleans affiliate.
Returning from injury
Delgado: After a productive season, Delgado required surgery on his right wrist and elbow. He expects to be ready for camp.
Heilman: The right-hander kept his need for elbow surgery quiet. He suffered from tennis elbow last season.
Lo Duca: Torn ligaments in his left thumb affect Lo Duca more as a catcher than as a hitter. They have been surgically repaired.
RHP Pedro Martinez: But not soon. The Mets privately acknowledge they can't rely on Martinez pitching in 2007. It's quite understandable for a now 35-year-old pitcher with 2,645 innings on his odometer, a still-problematic large toe on his right foot and recent problems with his right hip and both calves, who underwent surgery to repair his right rotator cuff in October.
RHP Juan Padilla: Randolph liked Padilla in 2005 and planned last spring to have him in the 'pen until Padilla required reconstructive surgery on his elbow.
LHP Dave Williams: A likely replacement for Darren Oliver as the long reliever, Williams underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck Jan. 31. He may be unavailable until June.
On the rebound
Green: The descent continued last season, and, with one season remaining on his contract and Lastings Milledge waiting, Green probably has one year left with the Mets, whether or not the descent continues.
RHP Brian Bannister: A member of the season-opening 2005 rotation, the "I wanna-be-a-Met" is a Royal by virtue of the trade that imported Burgos.
RHP Heath Bell: After years on the Triple-A shuttle, Bell was moved to the Padres with Royce Ring for Adkins and Johnson.
RHP Chad Bradford: The lure of free agency and a three-year contract from the Orioles cost the Mets a useful and dependable member of their 2006 bullpen.
LF Cliff Floyd: He already is the most-missed Met since Joe McEwing. As popular as any player in the clubhouse for four years, Floyd has moved to the Cubs and the city where he spent his childhood.
RHP Roberto Hernandez: He made a cameo comeback after Sanchez's accident and wasn't used as much as the club envisioned once Mota was acquired. Hernandez signed with the Indians.
LHP Darren Oliver: At age 35, Oliver resurrected his career as a long reliever. He moved on as a free agent to the Angels. He won't be as difficult to replace as Bradford.
LHP Royce Ring: After four years with the organization and cups of coffee in 2005 and last season, Ring was moved to the Padres with Bell in the deal for Adkins and Johnson.
RHP Steve Trachsel: As February began, Trachsel was an unsigned free agent. He may not have been highly regarded by the Mets -- they have made no effort to re-sign him -- but he has won more games, beginning in 2001, than any Met, and the team won 20 of his 30 starts in 2006.
INF Chris Woodward: One of Randolph's favorites as an all-purpose player, Woodward injured his left shoulder last summer, and his performance suffered as a result. After surgery, he signed with the Braves.
2006 batting leaders (min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Lo Duca, .318
OBP: Beltran, .388
SLG: Beltran, .594
Runs: Beltran, 127
RBI: Beltran, Wright, 116
2B: Wright, 40
3B: Reyes, 17
HR: Beltran, 41
SB: Reyes, 64
2006 pitching leaders (min. 30 IP)
IP: Glavine, 198
W: Glavine, Trachsel, 15
L: Hernandez, 9
Win %: Sanchez (5-1) .833
S: Wagner, 40
ERA: Feliciano, 2.09
K: Martinez, 137
K/9: Wagner, 11.70
WHIP: Bradford, 0.56
1. Who, other than Glavine, El Duque and Maine, is in the rotation?
Pelfrey and Perez are the most likely candidates to emerge as the No. 4 and 5 starters. But Randolph prefers to have a starter more predictable than Perez, someone not so likely to pitch seven scoreless innings one day and surrender five in the first inning five days later. So Vargas, Williams (if he has recovered from his neck surgery), Humber, Alay Soler and non-roster invitee Aaron Sele have chances. Sosa is more unpredictable than Perez.
2. Will Sanchez be ready for Opening Day?
The question can't be answered for at least a month, unless it is an absolute no when the exhibition games begin. And even then, who can say? Relievers don't need much time to regain their sufficient arm strength.
3. How will the bullpen work?
If Sanchez is able, he probably will serve as the eighth-inning setup man, the role he filled before his injury July 31, and Heilman probably will handle the seventh. If Sanchez isn't ready, Heilman will have the eighth, and Randolph will chose from among Burgos, Padilla and Adkins, and make more use of left-handed relievers Schoeneweis and Feliciano in the seventh.
The bottom line
The Mets have more offense than a year ago and, it seems, less starting pitching. They can't even think in terms of waiting for the return of Martinez, because there's no guarantee he will return. They need Maine to progress and Pelfrey, Perez or whoever turn out to be the No. 4 and 5 starters to come quickly if they are to be comparable to the 2006 division champion team.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less