Mets vs. Astros Notes

The Mets enjoyed a convincing victory over the Astros in Grapefruit League action on Wednesday afternoon. Following are my observations.

I wonder: what if the Astros went to the World Series last year? Would they still be facing their final season playing real baseball? Likely not, but that discussion is for another day.

With their upcoming year more obviously and definitely doomed than the Mets, the Astros appear to be setting the stage for a season-long audition for youngsters. That said, I recognized few names in their starting lineup, other than Carlos Lee. Though, I did vaguely remember Jason Castro as being a former top prospect — or was he on American Idol? Not that I would know …

Of the no-name ‘stros, Jose Altuve looks like a nice little defender. And by “little,” I’m being both figurative and literal. Seriously, though, he seems to have a slick glove.

R.A. Dickey looked great, pitching into the seventh. How lucky and blessed are the Mets to have him solidifying one spot in their rotation? Thank Omar Minaya.

Houston’s lefty “ace” Wandy Rodriguez struggled mightily from the first batter he faced — he allowed a leadoff homer to sudden slugger Ruben Tejada to start the game. Rodriguez looked terribly uncomfortable in the initial two innings before finally settling down in the third frame. If he manages to pitch even adequately in the first three months of the season, he’s guaranteed to be unloaded to a contender. In fact I’d bet he’s among the very first players to be traded in 2012 — in a package that could possibly include Lee and/or Brett Myers as well.

Myers, by the way, is now a closer, after logging 216 innings in 33 starts last year. Hmm … is that really the best way to boost his value? Maybe. As a starter, he’s a back-end innings-eater, and what does a pennant chaser pay for that at the trade deadline? Perhaps not as much as someone who is closing and profiles as a formidable setup man. Putting Myers in the ‘pen also frees the ‘stros to give a youngster more innings in the rotation.

Lucas May: I’m not seeing it. I could, however, see Vinny Rottino, who reminds me of a cross between Brandon Inge and Ty Wigginton. Don’t ask me why, it’s what my gut is telling me.

Rob Johnson I could see as well, but not as the person who usurps Mike Nickeas. Johnson might need an injury to either Nickeas or Josh Thole to make the club.

Jason Bay looked confident, and that’s all I’m hoping for right now. Baby steps.

Dickey laid down a beautiful bunt in the 4th to advance runners on first and second to second and third, despite the fact Houston ran the wheel play. I was surprised that the Astros’ third baseman (whatever his name was) didn’t take a shot at throwing out the slow-footEd Johnson as he encroached the 3B bag. It would have been a close play, but this is spring training — the time to make aggressive mistakes. As it turned out, Johnson was put out minutes later on a grounder to that same third baseman, who initiated a perfectly executed rundown with a throw home.

Daniel Murphy had an RBI single immediately after that, but I have to say I’m mildly concerned about Murph this spring. He’s topping balls instead of driving them, and he often looks like he’s trying to slice the ball instead of making solid contact. Maybe he’s trying to impart backspin on the ball to get more lift and distance? Hard to say. What is definite is Keith Hernandez has a man-crush on Murph — which is nice, since I remember how cynical Keith was the last time the Mets stunk and was complimenting opposing players ad nauseam.

Two former Mets were in Houston uniform — flamethrowing righthander Rhiner Cruz and The Next Alex Escobar, Fernando Martinez.

Josh Edgin had another impressive appearance. If I’m Terry Collins, I want to break camp with Edgin as my LOOGY. However, looking at the decision from both long-term and business perspectives, the Mets may opt to go with one of the veteran lefties (Garret Olson?). We’ll discuss this further another day.

Regarding the relievers who followed, I was once again unimpressed with newcomers Ramon Ramirez and Frank Francisco. Francisco in particular was hit hard, even when getting outs. There’s still a week for them to get their stuff together.

Jordany Valdespin made his centerfield debut and looked like a natural.

That’s all I have for now. What did I miss? What did you see? Post your notes in the comments section.


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.
  1. dan capwell March 23, 2012 at 6:06 am
    Good post Joe, thanks. Maybe, just maybe this team has hit bottom and is now on the way back up. Not expecting much this year, but I have some hope again. We’re stuck with the Wilpons but perhaps the young players can make this lower payroll deal work.

    Lets Go Mets!

  2. Steven March 23, 2012 at 8:54 am
    Does Edgin have the best slider on the whole roster ?
  3. Joe March 23, 2012 at 9:30 am
    You reference “Ed Johnson” at one point. It would be easy to throw him out. He is dead after all.
  4. NormE March 23, 2012 at 11:56 am
    Concerning Lucas May and Rob Johnson, one wonders if the Mets are looking to keep a third catcher on the roster.
    May can play multiple positions. I don’t know about Johnson.
    The issue of a third catcher is due to the fact that teams now usually carry 12 pitchers and the third catcher is often sacrificed. With Nickeas not being much of a pinch-hitting threat, you need a bat on the bench. Johnson and May have to prove they can provide that bat to stick.
  5. Walnutz15 March 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm
    Looks like Fernando Martinez’s road to Cooperstown with the Astros will need to begin at Triple-A.

  6. Timo March 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm
    Nice article Joey. The Mets will be painful to watch this year. Good thing, I’m not going to be upset if I miss a game. Unless we finally throw a no-hitter but with this staff I feel confident that will NOT happen. I’m just going to enjoy my Mets calendar triva. Which shortstop did the Mets choose as the first overall pick in the 1st year player draft in 1968? Clue, we share first names. I enjoyed his play when he was with the Pirates. To young for his play with the Mets.
  7. mic March 23, 2012 at 4:10 pm
    Again this short poor sight from Sandy.
    If Fmart where allowed to picked as a RULE 5 player, the Astros could not send him down. With Torres gone Fmart could have gotten a look again, or if picked in the rule 5 draft we might still have Cruz…..

    Lot of ifs but just as the news article says at just 23 he still has time. alex Escobar…he who once went 4-4 against the Met as a Nat….IF ONLY Fmart could be a healthy version of him.

  8. Lee March 24, 2012 at 1:19 am
    I vote Valdespin CF.