The start of the baseball season is less than a month away. Every weekday until opening day, we'll be counting down, from No. 20 to No. 1, the most important Mets players for the upcoming 2010 slate. Today, No. 11, first baseman Daniel Murphy.
It's a little strange to think that Daniel Murphy is currently 24 years old: It feels like the Mets have already gone through every life cycle with him. He was an up-and-coming prospect, promising semi-regular, disappointing regular, and now stand-in at first base until something better comes along. The man has played several positions poorly (his "natural" position is third base, pretty much the only spot on the Mets currently taken, though he has improved slightly at first) and was considered a disappointment last season ... yet he led the Mets in home runs. Daniel Murphy is in the way, yet no one wants him to leave, exactly. And still: He's only 24.
Murphy's general problem is that he plays first base. He's a potentially mid-to-high average hitter, one without much power. At first base, a power position, that won't do. When Daniel Murphy is your first baseman, you are starting your lineup with a disadvantage: Murphy might be the worst-hitting first baseman in the National League. (He would not be the worst-hitting third baseman.) If Carlos Delgado had been healthy enough, the Mets would have brought him back on an incentive-laden deal, and Murphy's just holding down a spot for Ike Davis anyway. Murphy is a backup plan rendered active.
Still, he is the Mets' opening day first baseman, though when Davis is ready, it's hard to imagine any spot on the team for him. The problem is not that Daniel Murphy is a terrible player. He's not. It's just that if you want to contend, you need someone better than Daniel Murphy at first base. No offense, Daniel. You are who you are.