Jacobs vs. Carter but Not Davis

All signs are pointing toward Mike Jacobs starting at 1B while Daniel Murphy is on the mend. Is that the way it should be?

Let’s get one thing out of the way: I have been, and remain, a HUGE Mike Jacobs fan — to the point where I lose some objectivity. Why, I’m not entirely sure, but it has something to do with the fact he was a catcher, I’m sure, and his first impression as a Met back in 2005 was impressive to me — and first impressions are lasting, right? I know he does a lot of swinging and missing, he’s not the greatest defensively, and he could have a better OBP. But I like him, and I was thrilled to see him back with the Mets.

Nonetheless, I believe that the starting first baseman on Opening Day should be Chris Carter.

Why? Because “The Animal” clearly outhit Jacobs. The first base job — before Murphy was injured — was supposedly an “open competition” (though, it depended on the day and Jerry Manuel’s mood). If indeed it was an open competition, then Carter’s 4 HR and .393 AVG in 28 ABs should have won the job, no?

You may ask, if it’s all about the stats, then why isn’t Ike Davis the winner? After all, Davis hit .480 with 3 dingers and 10 RBI in only 25 ABs.

Here’s my argument. Davis did tear the cover off the ball in the spring. However, prior to spring training, he didn’t show any reason to be promoted to MLB. His monstrous homeruns made the mouths of Mets fans water, but let’s not forget he did what he did early in spring training, against pitchers who weren’t necessarily throwing their best stuff, weren’t necessarily at the top of their game, and weren’t necessarily big league pitchers. The great hitting could have been a combination of Ike being in a hot streak and the opposing pitching not being up to snuff.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not down on Davis by any means. In fact I’m excited to see what he can do in 2010. He had a very strong 2009 in terms of development, zipping through high-A and making a fine transition to AA. His plate discipline improved slightly and his power numbers shot up considerably. If there was a negative, he struck out quite a bit. All in all, an excellent year and about the best the Mets could have hoped for. But was it proof that he’s ready for MLB? Not yet. In AA a hitter can feast on fastballs, because the pitchers who have good command of both a hard fastball and good breaking stuff rarely spend much time at that level — they’re in AAA or the bigs. As good as Ike Davis looked this spring, his one strikeout per every 3 ABs showed a need to further develop pitch recognition and discipline. I’d rather see him hone that in AAA, in the no-pressure environment of Buffalo, than under the spotlight of NYC. If he were to begin this season in Flushing and was even remotely successful, MLB scouts would find the holes in his swing in no time and pitchers would adjust accordingly; I’m not convinced he’s ready for that right now, and if he isn’t, it could retard his development. Let the kid work just a bit more on his skills in AAA, and if he’s dominating, bring him up in June.

Carter, on the other hand, has proven he can hit through over 3100 plate appearances in the minors. He also could have been lucky this spring — a combo of his hot streak and poor pitching — but he has a longer resume of success than Davis to support his argument. He’s a career .306 hitter with a .380 OBP and .890 OPS in 6 years as a pro. He never broke through with the Bosox because of people named David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis. His situation is not unlike that of Travis Hafner, who had nothing more to prove in the Rangers’ organization but was stuck behind Rafael Palmeiro. At age 27, Carter’s time is now, and like Hafner, he has nothing left to prove in the minors. I’m not saying he’s guaranteed to blossom in 2010 and be an All-Star, but his minor league numbers suggest he could be at least as good, and probably better, than Mike Jacobs.

Further, what was the point of trading Billy Wagner and the #1 draft pick that went with him, if the Mets didn’t think Carter could help them in 2010? We would really like to believe the Wagner deal was not a straight salary dump. We’d like to think there was the belief on the Mets’ side that they were getting something of value in Carter — something that was at least as valuable as a first-round pick in the 2010 draft. That trade alone should be reason enough to give Carter 2-3 weeks to show what he can do.

But something tells me there’s more to the Mike Jacobs signing than meets the eye. Perhaps a handshake agreement that Jacobs would get the job if something happened to Murphy, or a similar “guarantee” that he’d make the team. Again, I’m happy to see Jacobs back with the Mets, but under the current circumstances, I’d be much happier seeing Chris Carter starting at first base in Flushing on Monday afternoon.

2010 Spring Training

About the Author

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.

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