Mets vs Marlins, Position by Position

There’s been some talk lately about the moves made in the NL East, and how this impacts the Mets’ chances in the division. Does the Heyward trade tell us that the Braves are rebuilding? Does the Marlins’ signing of Stanton signal a sustained push on their part? This got me thinking about the gap between the Mets and Marlins – how big is it, in whose favor, and what would it take to bridge it? To that end, here’s a positional comparison of the two teams going into opening day:

Travis d’Arnaud vs Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Salty is a dead lowball hitter with power who can get hot and contribute some big HRs. That’s about it, though. A low-average K machine with slightly below average defense. D’Arnaud’s ceiling is much higher, and he may already be the better overall hitter, but his defense was so bad in 2014 that there was no edge here. I figure Travis will improve his pitch blocking and change that.
Edge: Mets

Lucas Duda vs Mike Morse. Morse doesn’t walk, and was terrible in 2013, but he’s also generally hit for higher averages than Duda, and shares Lucas’s power. I think Duda’s improvement in 2014 was real, but I’m not expecting him to go 30-92 again, so unless Morse falls apart at age 33, I think they’re similar players.
Edge: even

Daniel Murphy vs Dee Gordon. Just like at 1B, the Marlins started the offseason way behind the Mets at this position, but then acted to make up ground. Donovan Solano always seemed to excel against the Mets, but his overall .623 OPS was awful, so Gordon’s best-in-MLB basestealing constitutes a big offensive improvement. The metrics didn’t love Dee’s D, but one season’s numbers mean little, and observers were impressed. That combo probably beats Murphy’s package of singles, doubles, and horrible defense… unless Gordon’s second-half .300 OBP was the real Dee. I’ll split the difference.
Edge: even

David Wright vs Martin Prado. If David can take the field as any semblance of his old self, he blows Casey McGehee away, so this is yet another position where the Fish improved their competitive odds. Prado, for his part, is no prime David Wright, but is a well above average MLB player, much better than the Mets’ 3B back-ups. So this comparison is all about Wright’s health. I’ll predict that David spends just enough of the year on the field and effective to warrant the edge. Footnote: Sandy Alderson could learn something from Brian Cashman about adding value to a roster. Prado’s Yankees tenure was ultimately irrelevant, but he cost them nothing and netted them Eovaldi.
Edge: Mets

Wilmer Flores / Ruben Tejada vs Adeiny Hechavarria. Adeiny has no HR power and rarely walks, but as an excellent defensive SS with solid contact skills, he’s head and shoulders above anything the Mets can throw out there.
Edge: Marlins

Curtis Granderson vs Christian Yelich. Yelich is on the edge of stardom at 23. Granderson is trying to keep his production above replacement level for a few more years. Yelich leads him in hitting, speed, defense, and baserunning. Curtis has a bit more pop.
Edge: Marlins

Michael Cuddyer vs Giancarlo Stanton. Hopefully Cuddyer will be a big contributor to the Mets’ lineup, but there’s no comparison here. Stanton and Goldschmidt are probably the best two hitters in the NL, and Giancarlo’s defense is better than Cuddyer’s.
Edge: Marlins

Juan Lagares vs Marcell Ozuna. I have no idea. Playing his home games in Miami, Ozuna hit 23 HRs at age 23, after entering the season with 80 career games above A ball. That’s the sign of a likely elite hitter, though having more Ks than games might be a warning sign. In the field, he’s good, though he doesn’t compare to Lagares. Juan might be the best defensive OF in the game, but it’s weird to still be talking about his upside with the bat after 9 years in pro ball. If both players improve as projected (i.e., Ozuna a lot, Lagares a little), Ozuna’s offensive edge will surpass Lagares’ defensive edge eventually. I’ll guess that doesn’t quite happen in 2015, though.
Edge: even

#1 starter:
Matt Harvey vs Jose Fernandez. Fernandez has one thing Harvey doesn’t, which is an out pitch that’s literally unhittable. Harvey has better control, but Jose’s younger and still improving. Long-term, I’d take Fernandez, but he won’t pitch a full season in 2015.
Edge: Mets

#2 starter:

Jacob deGrom vs Henderson Alvarez. Very difficult comparison here. Both pitchers walked fewer batters in 2014 than ever before in their careers. deGrom’s HR and K rates were bests as well. Statisticians would probably predict serious regression for deGrom, and give the edge to the sinkerballer Alvarez, whose low HR rate should be sustainable. Having watched deGrom pitch, though, it’s impossible for me to bet against him. I’ll guess a slightly lower ERA for deGrom and more innings for Alvarez.
Edge: none

#3 starter:
Bartolo Colon vs Mat Latos. I wanted to compare Zack Wheeler vs Nathan Eovaldi, since they’re very similar pitchers (great velocity, poor command, awful change-up) with opposite approaches (Wheeler nibbled and allowed too many walks, while Eovaldi threw it down the middle and gave up too many hits). But oh well. Colon alternates pinpoint and piñata performances, while Latos alternates dominance with injury. A return to form from Latos would win this for the Marlins, as would an injury to Bart. I’ll guess that one of those happens. It’s a shame – I would have taken Wheeler over Eovaldi.
Edge: Marlins

#4 starter:
Jon Niese vs Tom Koehler. Niese has a longer track record, but both men pitched similarly in 2014, and Koehler threw hard for 32 starts while Niese dodged the DL at 88 mph. I don’t see anything fluky about Koehler’s 2014, and I worry about Niese’s arm.
Edge: Marlins

#5 starter:
Dillon Gee vs Jarred Cosart / Brad Hand. It’s hard to judge from 10 starts, but Jared Cosart is certainly the most promising pitcher here. 24-year-old lefty Hand has some upside left as well. Gee still hasn’t figured out how to fix his mechanics once they get out of whack.
Edge: Marlins

Rotation depth:
Noah Syndergaard / Rafael Montero vs… uh… Andrew Heaney and Jacob Turner are gone, and the Fish may need Hand in the bullpen. Syndergaard has elite stuff, and Montero is MLB-ready. No contest.
Edge: Mets

Jenrry Mejia vs Steve Cishek. Mejia can look dominant at times, but so can Cishek, and every single number you can find favors Steve. Hits, Ks, BBs, HRs, durability, track record, you name it.
Edge: Marlins

Jeurys Familia vs A.J. Ramos. Familia threw some unhittable pitches, but generally produced grounders, which is risky with the Mets’ infield D. Ramos got a lot more Ks and proved impossible to square up (.164 AVG, .236 SLG allowed), but had some utter meltdowns where he couldn’t find the plate. Both guys produced ERAs just over 2 and both have plenty of room to improve. Familia throws harder but Ramos has a more complete arsenal.
Edge: none

Bullpen mainstays:
Black/Torres vs Dunn/Morris. Morris, Hatcher and Jennings all had great 2014 seasons, but two of them are gone now, and Morris’s year looks maybe a bit lucky. Dunn is valuable, and Black isn’t yet reliable, but Torres led MLB relievers in innings while keeping his ERA near 3 – a huge asset if his arm doesn’t blow out.
Edge: Mets

Bullpen depth:
Parnell/Carlyle/Gilmartin vs Dyson/Capps/TBD. Capps throws sidearm at 99, and Dyson has a Kevin Brown sinker that chews up righties. Parnell has barely been on a mound since mid-2013.
Edge: Marlins

Recker/den Dekker/Nieuwenhuis/Campbell/Mayberry vs Mathis/Ichiro/Valdespin/Kelly/Johnson. I’d like to say that the Mets have the slightly better collection of spare parts, but there’s too much uncertainty here for me to call.
Edge: even

So, summing it up, as things currently stand, the 2015 Marlins and Mets compare as follows:

First base
Second base
Center field
#2 starter
Set-up guy

Marlins edge:
Left field
Right field
#3 starter
#4 starter
#5 starter
Bullpen depth

Mets edge:

Third base
#1 starter
Rotation depth
Bullpen mainstays

Before the Marlins’ offseason moves (and Wheeler’s injury), I had a 9-7 edge for the Mets. Now I see an 8-5 edge for the Marlins, with a ton of close calls on either side, the biggest positional edges to the Marlins (hi, Giancarlo), and the biggest pitching edge to the Mets (full season of Harvey vs half season of Fernandez).

How do you think these teams stack up?

David Berg has been following the Mets since 1990, and counts himself as a "die hard fan" -- the agonies have been numerous and arduous, but he's still watching every game he can, determined to "earn" the satisfaction when the Mets eventually win it all. In his non-spare time, David is a designer of graphics, web sites, and games. See his work at Shrike Design
  1. argonbunnies April 4, 2015 at 3:48 pm
    The Mets’ bullpen has improved a little with Blevins and Alex Torres, but so has the Marlins’ by moving Hand there. As for the back of the Marlins’ rotation, it looks like Dan Haren isn’t retiring, which adds stability but reduces upside. Koehler got destroyed during spring training, while Niese looked pretty good. Maybe the #4/5 spots are about even.

    We know Mike Morse, and after a decade in the bigs, he still isn’t an established everyday player. It might seem a little pessimistic to not rate Duda higher than that, but really, until Duda repeats his 2014, both guys’ careers have a lot of similarities.

    I’d say the Marlins are a little more volatile than the Mets — we have some idea what to expect from Murphy and Lagares, while Gordon might or might not be a bust and Ozuna might or might not be a superstar.

    Should be a close race!

  2. Bat April 4, 2015 at 4:00 pm
    I can remember when the question used to be whether to have 9 or 10 pitchers on the roster.

    Then 11 man pitching staffs became common.

    A few teams started employing 12 man pitching staffs in the last decade or so.

    Now the news today that the Mets will go with four bench players and utilize a 13 man pitching staff.

    Yes, 8 relievers, and only 4 bench players even though the month of April always has the most off days so pitchers presumably have more recovery time in April than any other month.

    Mets fans can looking forward to even more pitching changes (and hence even more awful bullpen management) by Terry Collins given this new 13 man pitching staff.


  3. Bat April 5, 2015 at 1:17 pm
    David, thank you. This was an interesting post.

    My only minor comment is that MDD is gone – traded to the Nationals.

    • Joe Janish April 6, 2015 at 12:25 am
      The MDD inclusion is my fault — Dave submitted this piece prior to the MDD trade and I forgot to edit it out. My bad!