Image by afagen via FlickrWhile basically every player on the 25-man roster will have to play well for the Mets to be competitive, five players in particular will hold major keys to the team's success in 2011.
In no particular order, Jose Reyes, Jon Niese, Jason Bay, Ike Davis and Frankie Rodriguez will need to bring their A-game to the ballpark every night.
Of course, players like David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Mike Pelfrey, Bobby Parnell, R.A. Dickey, Angel Pagan and Josh Thole will also have to contribute for the team to be successful. However, I feel that the five I mentioned will either make or break the Mets' season.
I will lead off the discussion with none other than the Mets leadoff hitter, Jose Reyes. Looking at Reyes' numbers from last year (133 games, .282 BA, 30 SB), you would think that Reyes had a decent year. But looking at some of the important numbers for a leadoff man, Reyes actually had a sub-par year.
He had a .321 OBP, which is way too low for a leadoff man. Good leadoff hitters are usually in the .350-.375 range. Reyes also only drew 31 walks in over 600 plate appearances, which needs to improve.
As Terry Collins has said, Reyes is the most dynamic leadoff man in the game. He has the ability to turn doubles into triples and even has some pop.
If Reyes can come out of the gate hot in 2011, it will set up his teammates with plenty of scoring chances. With many of the question marks of this season focused on the starting pitching, scoring runs early and often could be a perfect cure for that problem.
I'm expecting big things out of Reyes in his contract year. I hope he plays so well that the Mets can't let him sign elsewhere, and they lock him up long-term.
Heading into his second full season, Jon Niese appears ready to take the next step. He started 30 games last year and even threw a complete-game one-hit shutout.
Naturally, we can't expect Niese to throw one-hitters every time out. But I would like to see a little more consistency out of the youngster. He finished 9-10 last year with a 4.39 ERA. Though he pitched better than these numbers suggest, there were a few starts where he looked lost.
If he keeps that curveball working and continues to develop his cutter, Niese could win 15 games this year.
After speaking with him at the Holiday Party, Jason Bay is healthy and ready for action following an injury plagued 2010 campaign.
Regardless of the lucrative deal he signed, Bay wants to show this team he can be a productive member for the next four years. It starts this year for Bay. The Mets will need a thumper in the middle of the order.
Carlos Beltran isn't exactly a thumper, so Bay will need to step up in big situations. That doesn't necessarily mean hitting home runs all the time. It means driving in clutch runs with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Though he only hit .259 last year, he went through streaks where you simply could not get him out. He drew a fair amount of walks and even hit six triples. He will need to stay healthy and productive for this team to have a shot.
Like Niese, Ike Davis heads into his sophomore season as a major key to success. His power is still developing so it will be interesting to see what happens with him this year.
He will start the season hitting sixth instead of last year, when he hit fourth for much of the year. He should not have the pressure of having to do it all himself, assuming Beltran and Bay are producing.
He needs to be more selective at the plate and cut down on the strikeouts. Also, he should be careful of showing up umpires when a call goes against him.
These are all things though that he can correct. I'm very exciting to see Ike have a huge year in 2011. He has the potential to hit 25 HR and drive in 90-100 runs.
Finally, my discussion of K-Rod will "close" out this post. Plain and simple, K-Rod needs to let his play on the field dictate how he is received by the fans.
Right now, he is still in the doghouse, but if he comes out and dominates the ninth inning, I'm sure the fans will forgive him. Granted, his actions were atrocious, and his punishment probably should have been worse.
But if he can reestablish himself as one of the top closers in the game, K-Rod will regain the support of the Mets' fan base.
So overall, these five players in particular will be major pieces to the Mets success or (God forbid) failure in 2011.
Originally featured at Mets Merized Online.