The Mets have not added a starting OF yet this off-season, unless you count Collin Cowgill, and with options dwindling, it looks like the Mets will have to look inwards for a lead off hitter, especially if the Mets bring in an OF that is a slugger not an on-baser. That means the Mets realistic options for lead off hitters for 2013 are:

– Ruben Tejada
– Kirk Nieuwenhuis
– Collin Cowgill
– Matt Den Dekker
– Jordany Valdespin

Tejada should really hit second. It’s not only where his game is his strongest, it seems to be where he is the most confident. Showing this statistically is interesting. Last year he hit .293 batting first in the lineup and he hist .292 batting second. His OBP batting leadoff was .334, his OBP batting second was .333. His SLG batting leadoff was .358, .333 batting second. So, it looks like from that perspective Tejada should bat leadoff, or that there isn’t a difference. However, when Tejada leads off a game (his first AB as the leadoff hitter), he hit .243 last season. He hits .303 when he leads off an inning. His OBP split is .282/.336 in favor of leading off an inning. Also in his career he has a .328 OBP batting lead off vs a .338 OBP batting second.

The same reason a lot of people discount Jordany Valdespin on the major roster, he didn’t prove himself last year, could really be applied to Kirk Nieuwenhuis as well.

I would have never really considered Valdespin to lead off if I didn’t see his Winter Numbers so far:

93 AB’s,  16 R, 26 H, 2 2B, 3 HR, 2 SB, 18 BB, .280 BA, .402 OBP, .800 OPS

Last year in the minors Jordany had 10 BB’s over 151 AB’s. Last year in the majors Jordany had 10 BB’s over 191 AB’s. Taking his small sample size from this winter, if he played the full 151+191 AB’s, he would have 66 BB’s instead of 20. That’s a large difference. That shows that he is developing the patience part of his game.

And for a comparison, these were his Winter Numbers in 2011:

107 AB’s, 11 R, 27 H, 3 2B, 3 3B, 0 HR, 10 SB, 7 BB, .252 BA, .304 OBP, .641 OPS

I recognize trepidation using Winter Numbers to project a player’s caliber, but comparing winter numbers to winter numbers is at least a statistical way of showing improvement, and Valdespin looks like a much better winter player in 2012 then he did in 2011.

Jordany’s impatience at the plate really held him back, however if he continues this winter show patience, getting on base, etc and continues that through the Spring, he has to be considered for the Major League Roster! Right now the OF is Duda/Kirk/(Baxter/Cowgill).

Compared to Kirk, Jordany’s walk rate last year was just 3% worse. They both stunk at getting on base. Kirk had moderate success last year batting lead off with a .303 OBP. However his OBP batting second was considerably higher at .351. Kirk also lacks that spunk/spark faster at the top of the lineup. I guess I still compare all lead off hitters to Reyes but I feel like Valdespin has more of a chance of doing something exciting leading off a game than Kirk only because of Valdespin’s streak of hitting pinch hit homers.

 

If the Mets are looking towards 2014 and 2015, then in 2013 they need to take a look at what they have. Valdespin has made an effort to up his walk game, and he should be given a chance to lead off. For Center and Left field, there should be an open competition between Kirk, Valdespin and Den Dekker. Den Dekker, if we really are taking stock in the future, should be on deck in May if Kirk or Valdespin don’t work out.

 

In short:
– The Mets don’t have a lead off hitter
– The Mets are really lacking in the OF this year
– The Mets are not spending money on an OF this year
– Valdespin has made improvements to his walk game this offseason
– Valdespin should be given a chance to lead off