- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
It might seem like a cruel April Fool's joke to discuss yet another New York Mets malady, but it's true that starting first baseman Daniel Murphy has a sprained MCL in his right knee, and could miss between two and six weeks. Despite leading the Mets in home runs last season, Murphy possesses moderate (at best) power, so the Mets lineup shouldn't miss him much. Hey, I selected Murphy in our 20-team mixed office auction Tuesday night/Wednesday morning for $2, and I can say I won't miss him much.
However, you've probably heard us in the ESPN Fantasy group preach that when one player goes down, it creates opportunity for another, so let's welcome Mike Jacobs back to relevance! Here's a fellow with legitimate power, though obvious holes in his swing will likely prevent him from ever being a complete hitter. Jacobs is in Mets camp on a minor-league contract and Wednesday he hit cleanup between David Wright and Jason Bay, which certainly piqued my interest. Talk about an opportunity!
Murphy is a better overall hitter than Jacobs, someone who the Mets believe -- and I concur, to a degree -- can hit a load of doubles, bat near .300 and knock in runs that way. His bat really doesn't fit well for first base, but there's no room for him at third base, where he played in the minor leagues, or left field, which he really butchered in brief attempts the past two seasons. Jacobs is a terrible first baseman, by the way, but he can hit home runs, and should be employed.
In fact, Jacobs hit 32 home runs with the 2008 Florida Marlins, and it wasn't viewed as that much of a fluke. These Mets covet power. Murphy led the team with all of 12 home runs in their brutal 2009 campaign. Melky Cabrera hit 13, ranking him ninth for the 2009 New York Yankees. Jacobs, even in his own difficult season with the Kansas City Royals, after being acquired for Leo Nunez, managed to hit 19 home runs, and it wouldn't be shocking to see him do it again. Sure, he might bat .230 in the process, but at least the Mets know what they are getting. I'd say the same thing for fantasy owners, with the caveat that Jacobs could do better. He has a career .254 batting average, after all, and he made a nice impression coming up in 2005 as a Met, when he hit .310 with 11 home runs in 30 late-season contests. The Mets will need to sit him against left-handed pitching -- Jacobs hit .178 against southpaws in 2009 -- but that's what Fernando Tatis is for. I see this as an interesting platoon, one which fantasy owners can exploit.
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It might be assumed that Murphy simply gets his job back when healthy, but if Jacobs gets off to a good start and hits for power, a team missing Carlos Beltran and possibly Jose Reyes isn't going to sit him. In 20-team leagues and basic NL-only formats, guys like Jacobs are owned. And yes, he was taken in our office auction! Overall, I'd expect Jacobs to swing for the fences as he always does, and certainly his home ballpark isn't going to do him any favors, but he can hit 12 home runs in half a season with regular playing time. I'd think last year's Mets would have liked that.
While I'm talking Mets, here are five other thoughts I have about the team:
• Fantasy owners can whine that prospect Ike Davis isn't getting his chance to start at first base, but this is someone who hasn't played any Triple-A ball. I don't see him playing regularly for the Mets until 2011. If Jacobs and Murphy fail or get hurt, that would change things. By the way, if you own Murphy in a deep league, don't cut him. Two weeks is not a long time, and if you liked Murphy a week ago, one injury shouldn't change that. He just needs Jacobs to struggle.
• The news that shortstop Reyes will likely be placed on the DL changes nothing for me in terms of either 2010 expectations or draft-day value this weekend. Reyes is running, and reports are good. As I wrote in the Lance Berkman blog Wednesday, a short DL stint protecting a player from further and more serious injury is a good thing. Welcome it.
• Beltran was officially placed on the DL, so fantasy owners chomping at the bit to fill their DL slots and pick up another outfielder can feel free to act. Note that teams don't need to place injured folks officially on the DL until this weekend, so the Mets did fantasy owners a favor. I expect Beltran to play in May.
• Wright has hit five home runs this spring. Sure, none of them have come at Citi Field, but I really believe it's all about his approach at the plate. He's going to hit at least 20 home runs this season, and it wouldn't shock me if he tops 25, just like the "old" days. This is a first-round fantasy pick.
• On the pitching side, which is the real reason preventing the Mets from contending this season, not all the injuries to hitters, Jon Niese was named the third starter over Mike Pelfrey. A week ago it wasn't assured that Niese would make the roster. Niese is a control lefty with some strikeout potential, but this announcement is really an indictment on Pelfrey. At this point, the only Mets pitchers I would roster in a standard 10-team league are Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez. Really, that's it.
Eric Karabell discusses the first base situation for the New York Mets.