By Scott Engel, RotoExperts.com Managing Director
With regular access to the New York Mets clubhouse and players, there are a lot of insights that can be uniquely provided from the Fantasy perspective. Having rubbed shoulders with a number of the regular beat guys for much of this season, I have gained a view much different than those of many other Fantasy experts. No disrespect to those guys, but being around the team, you get to view the dynamics and intangibles that go beyond statistical crunching.
The first thing that concerns me is how Francisco Rodriguez will fare in Milwaukee as a possible setup man. Talking to Rodriguez throughout the first half of the season, he made it very clear that he has a lot of pride in being a closer. He wanted to save more than 40 games this season, he told me early in the year. His incentive bonus would have kicked in had he done so. Rodriguez has a pure closer mentality. He wants to go in for the kill, and when he has appeared in non-save situations this season, he has often looked shaky.
Still, going to a team with a real chance of winning a pennant can help ease some of the pain of losing an opportunity to convert saves regularly. Yet Rodriguez should not be used in Fantasy during the early stages of his Brewers stint. Sure, he can ultimately help your ERA and WHIP, and could boost your team in terms of holds if you use that statistic in your league. But the adjustment period could be significantly extensive and marked by erratic statistical lines. You must hold onto him, though, because you never know when an injury could strike.
The Mets will now turn to Bobby Parnell to take the first shot at the closer’s job. Parnell certainly has the stuff, but it remains questionable whether he actually has a closer’s mentality. Rodriguez and Parnell had lockers near each other in the Citi Field clubhouse, but Parnell could often be seen interacting with other relievers and players. It did not appear K-Rod took Parnell “under his wing,” as some have suggested. Rodriguez became a better teammate this year, and said all the right things about anyone you asked him about. But his praise of Parnell did not necessarily mean the two shared many intense informational sessions.
Of course, the media never has access to the player’s lounge or dugout during a game, so Parnell and Rodriguez could have been buddying up at other times. I get to observe a lot of player-to-player interactions, and you can somewhat tell which guys gravitate toward each other. There’s no doubt that Mike Pelfrey and Jonathan Niese have a fine friendship, and it seems David Wright gets along quite well with both of them. I could be speculating here and I don’t see these guys on an hourly basis, but the bottom line is, Parnell has looked vulnerable before, and now he is heading into a much larger role. I never saw anything that led me to believe that Rodriguez helped groom him for the role.
Fortunately, Parnell can now talk to Jason Isringhausen, who was a very successful closer in the past, and will do anything to stay in New York this time. “Izzy” appears to thank the baseball gods every day that he has not only resurrected his career, but the fact that he has done so in New York. I will be sure to watch the situation closely. Isringhausen still may be able to think like a closer, but he no longer has the stuff to finish games consistently. He can act as a player/coach for Parnell, and could be a key figure in Parnell’s season and career.
Parnell probably is not a free agent in many leagues now, and if you picked him up, don’t make him a lock for your lineup just yet if you have the luxury of benching him. His initial forays into closing could be rocky. Also, if Parnell cannot handle the role, you cannot overlook Pedro Beato. The rookie has the right demeanor and approach on the mound to succeed in the role, if needed.
Terry Collins has indicated all three could get a shot to close, and none of these guys are anything near a certainty, even Parnell. If Isringhausen gets traded, Parnell could be mentally naked out there on the mound, and Beato could step in and do the job. For now, Parnell is the clear-cut No. 1 choice, but I’d take Beato as a No. 2. Beato would sometimes be an adventure, but he can keep the ball in the park even though he does not get enough strikeouts. Izzy may not stay in town, and even if he does get some chances to finish, it could be to showcase him.
The K-Rod trade, however, clears salary cap room for the Mets to possibly retain Jose Reyes. He has done a terrific job of staying focused on his game and keeping a smile on his face despite hearing the same questions every day. Now, with the chances of staying in a town he loves to play in, Reyes could approach the second-half of the season with a more unbridled zest, which makes him a great buy-low trade target before he is activated from the DL late next week.
It has been abundantly clear that the 2011 Mets are Reyes’ team. Whenever he enters the clubhouse, all eyes are on him, and the energy levels are clearly pointed in his direction. He revels in the attention, and you get the feeling that teammates such as Scott Hairston would run through a wall for him. Reyes seems to be at his happiest when he is sitting in his corner of the clubhouse, joking with teammates or singing along to his favourite songs. A happy Reyes will continue to be a Fantasy superstar during the second-half of the season.
The 2011 Mets have admirably overachieved to this point, but they will get both Reyes and Wright back next week. Wright is also a great buy-low candidate in Fantasy Baseball. Nothing will inspire him more than just to take the field again. He recently admitted that he misses the simple daily routines of preparing for games these days. Baseball is not just a game of numbers. It is also a game of confidence and intangibles. Wright’s yearning to get back in the batter’s box speaks of a player ready to rake when he returns. The Mets have remained respectable and now Wright still has something to play for when he returns. The Mets may not be a true playoff contender, but Reyes and Wright should shine while they still remain very much alive in the mathematical sense.
If you are looking for stability down the stretch at a corner infield spot, or a sub because of injury, Daniel Murphy is your man. He has made a nearly unheralded return from obscurity and injuries, and has retained a reputation as a great pure hitter. One of his teammates said Murphy has a future as a hitting coach, because “all he does is talk about hitting.” One beat guy called Murphy “a butcher” in the field, but no one doubts his bat. He will give you a fine second-half batting average, decent RBI production, and the occasional homer.
Carlos Beltran never runs from the spotlight, and will continue to produce well even as rumours persist. Keep in mind that he has a very close bond with Angel Pagan, who has assumed Beltran’s work ethic and approach to the game as a versatile player. Pagan remains underrated in Fantasy circles. Jason Bay owns up to all his mistakes, and keep him on your bench while he fights through the seemingly endless fog. A recent two-HR game was nice, but no true sign of a big turnaround yet. Niese is a thinker, and will continue to give you some quality outings.
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