Click here for the Mets’ 2006 depth chart.

Red light C Paul Lo Duca: Lo Duca is a known quantity: a 33-year-old catcher with small, but perpetual, injuries. A way to off-set the injuries incurred by catching is for a team to decrease a backstop’s workload. Given his types of injuries, I’m not sure that better usage would really help in Lo Duca’s case, but I also don’t know why no one’s ever tried.

Green light 1B Carlos Delgado: The THR system and I don’t see eye-to-eye on this light. Delgado is not far removed from serious knee problems, doesn’t have the possibility of moving to DH, and is currently fighting a bout of tendonitis in his left elbow. Plus, at 33, he’s really not that young anymore. He does a good job of staying off the DL, but, given all of his risk factors, I don’t think that’s enough to merit a green light.

Yellow light 2B Kazuo Matsui: Matsui is proof that the move to the U.S. doesn’t always work. Word is that he returned to his Japanese training regimen this year in hopes that what he left behind finally clears customs. The Rangers messed with Chan Ho Park‘s training methods and we all saw what happened there.

Green light 3B David Wright

Yellow light SS Jose Reyes: Do his 60 steals mean his hamstring and lower back injuries are a thing of the past? One season relatively injury-free is good, but Reyes is always one muscle fiber from disaster.

Red light LF Cliff Floyd: Floyd is a good hitter when he’s healthy, but those times are rare. I overuse the Elijah Price line, but if a movie is ever made of Floyd’s life, casting agents will call for Samuel L. Jackson.

Green light CF Carlos Beltran

Yellow light RF Xavier Nady / Green light RF Victor Diaz: Nady has a history of nagging injuries that seem to be the Padres’ signature ailments–Khalil Greene‘s finger, Ryan Klesko‘s back, Ramon Hernandez‘s wrist. Don’t be surprised to see him miss a little bit of time with something small. He’s probably more risky than this light shows.

Red light SP Pedro Martinez: If you’re going to take a risk, you might as well do it with a guy with the stuff and mentality of Martinez. Pedro has a very violent and fast hip turn, and his back (push) foot flips when he delivers the ball. His shoulder is often late, but his hips are so fast that it’s to be expected. We’ll see if his specially designed shoe can prevent his delivery from beginning to break down his body, Sandy Koufax-style.

Yellow light SP Tom Glavine: This light is purely based on age. Glavine is seldom hurt and hasn’t lost his hockey player’s attitude.

Yellow light SP Steve Trachsel: Pitchers with back problems are flat-out risky. His quick comeback and fairly clean bill of health is probably what pushes this light from red to yellow.

Green light SP Victor Zambrano

Yellow light SP Aaron Heilman: This yellow is a bit quirky. Though you might think otherwise, it stays about the same no matter how he’s used. One possible reason is that he hasn’t proven he can handle the workload of a starter, but seems destined for that role.

Yellow light CP Billy Wagner: When you watch Wagner throw, you expect him to spontaneously combust somewhere in his follow through. If he does, he’s taking some hitters with him. His shoulder injury has not come close to turning him into Tom Glavine or Jamie Moyer… yet.

There’s a buzz around Queens: promises of a new stadium, a flame-throwing closer, a left-handed power bat at first, a baseball operations staff that still has that new-front office smell. The optimism in Flushing is palpable and it seems the Mets are trying to field a winning team while they’re still on their honeymoon.

In building a team that can toss and bash with the rest of the NL East, the Mets had to trade away the majority of their top-tier minor league talent. Yusmeiro Petit, Gaby Hernandez, Mike Jacobs, and a few others are gone, and time will tell if they traded away aces or TINSTAAPPs. What presents a more pressing problem to the win-now Mets is how to keep their acquired and existing talent healthy.

The key members of this team have both significant value and significant injury risk. Will Jose Reyes’ health keep him from fulfilling his uber-prospect status? Can Delgado replicate the power he displayed in cavernous Dolphins Stadium in the face of lingering injury issues? Will Carlos Beltran’s quadriceps hamper his production? These are all questions that Mets fans will be asking of the front office–the very same questions the front office will be asking of the training staff.

What’s most striking about the Mets’ injury audit from 2005 is that 12 out of the 14 disabled list trips were due to chronic injuries. Ray Ramirez and his staff subscribe more to the reactionary than proactive school of thought, and both he and assistant trainer Michael Herbst are highly touted. The question needs to be asked, though: is this type of practice effective for this iteration of the Mets? It’s possible that Ramirez, a Jamie Reed disciple and Rangers’ head trainer for 13 seasons before joining the Mets in 2005, hasn’t been using a more preventative approach because he is too busy putting out fires. Furthermore, how much preventative work can be done for a case like Floyd’s? He’s fragile and has a slew of injury issues, and maybe it’s better to triage his most pressing health concerns as they come. Though, in cases like Trachsel or Pedro, where the issues are readily apparent, a more proactive approach could better serve to prevent further complications. In fairness, Ramirez hasn’t had much time to establish his program in Queens, but once he does, it will have a large role in determining if the Mets will succeed or sink.

Michael Groopman is a Researcher with Baseball Prospectus. You can contact Michael by clicking here or click here to see Michael’s other articles.

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