The ups and downs of a young team

D-Backs LHP Wade Miley was named National League Rookie of the Month for April, going 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in 5 starts, during which he struck out 15 batters in 21 innings.

Meanwhile, Mets rookie OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit .310 with a .375 OBP, 4 doubles, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 11 runs scored and one stolen base.

Last week, the Mets had an all home-grown lineup for the first time since 1971.

The average age of the team is 29.1 years old, though four of their eight regulars are 25 years old or younger. Jason Bay (who is currently on the disabled list) is the only starting position player over 30 years old.

The Mets started the year 7-3, but have since gone 6-9.

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Frank Catalanatto: When a player first comes up to the big leagues, there is ton of pressure – and that can reflect on his performance. From experience, I can tell you it’s exciting to finally realize a dream. However, you’re nervous about what lies ahead. Even though you may have performed well in the minors, there’s an unsteadiness about whether your skills will translate to the big leagues. And if you don’t produce, you know you’ll be headed back to the farm as quickly as you left. That sense of urgency causes some players to press when they finally get playing time. Whether it’s not being able to make the adjustments, handle the failure, or fit in with your teammates in the clubhouse, some players just lack that mental make up.

A great example of a player who has the right approach on this young Mets team is Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Coming up in a big market, he has handled the pressure wonderfully. In fact, he looks like he’s been in the league for years. I’ve been impressed with his maturity and poise. And while it’s only been one month, his approach at the plate looks very strong. There will come a time where he will slump, and how he handles it will be very telling. But if he is able to make the physical and mental adjustments, which I think he will, Kirk will wind up being a big leaguer for a long time.

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Brian Erni: I totally agree with Frank on Nieuwenhuis. As I wrote earlier this week, I think Kirk is a young player who goes about his business the right way. In fact, I think the Mets have more than one player like this (such as Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and Josh Thole), all of whom have an extremely professional approach and have stayed within themselves now that they’ve been given starting roles. That should help them avoid the pitfalls that can plague a young team.

Still, this type of club comes with a certain level of volatility. Some days, they’ll make you jump out of your seat in excitement, while other days they’ll make you want to scream in frustration. We saw that a lot on the recent road trip through Denver and Houston, as two big wins against the Rockies were followed by three disappointing losses to the Astros. However, how a team responds in the face of adversity is what defines their character.

I find this team to be very like-minded, and I think that’s a product of many of these players coming up through the system together. Players who have formed a bond in the minors are more likely to have a vested interest in their teammates success, and more easily develop a chemistry and comfort level with one another. As Frank explained, young players are going to go through peaks and valleys, but from what I’ve seen thus far, I think the Mets are on their way to developing a ‘team.’

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Frank Catalanotto is a special contributor to MetsBlog.com. He played 14 seasons in the big leagues and will be offering insight from a player’s perspective.

To learn more about his new book, Heart & Hustle, click here.