Projected Division Finish
1. Washington Nationals
2. Miami Marlins
3. New York Mets
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Philadelphia Phillies
New York Mets
2014 Finish: 79-83 (Tied for Second in NL East)
Projected Batting Order My Batting Order
RF Curtis Granderson CF Juan Lagares
3B David Wright 2B Daniel Murphy
1B Lucas Duda 3B David Wright
LF Michael Cuddyer 1B Lucas Duda
2B Daniel Murphy LF Michael Cuddyer
C Travis d’Arnaud RF Curtis Granderson
CF Juan Lagares C Travis d’Arnaud
SS Wilmer Flores SS Wilmer Flores
Projected Starting Rotation/Closer
RHP Matt Harvey
RHP Jacob deGrom
RHP Bartolo Colon
LHP Jonathon Niese
RHP Dillon Gee
CLOSER Jeurys Familia
The Mets are in a similar position to the Marlins. Both teams are up and coming. Both teams have good long-term outlooks. They also have similar expectations. By that I mean, that if you are a fan of one of these teams you tend to think they are ready to compete now and the re-build fell behind schedule. If you aren’t a fan of one of these teams, you realize that they seem to be right on track in terms of being a contender and should be ready soon, perhaps even a wildcard threat this year. But you also know that they are not one of the top teams in the league at this point. The Mets are in a tough spot. They have witnessed the rest of their division deal with some success (Atlanta’s long run of division championships, Philly’s shorter but more recent run and Washington’s current emergence as a division power). Even the Marlins at least have a few World Series titles in the recent past (1997, 2003), while the Mets haven’t won one since 1986. The Mets also haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006 and haven’t had a winning season since 2008. Add to that the issues the Wilpons had with Bernie Madoff and the Mets becoming a mid market salary club with big market expectations and it’s clear that this franchise is ready for some good news. So while it is likely too early for Mets fans to think they are ready to be a serious contender, you can understand why they want to believe they are. The good news is they got off to a good start and look to have a bright future ahead of them.
The Mets offense struggled last year. They ranked near the bottom half of the league in every single major offensive category, looking especially thin in the Hits category, with the third fewest. What’s more troubling, is that this offense doesn’t look to be much better this year. They added Michael Cuddyer to play left field, and he should help some. But he’s 34 years old and moving to a park that stifles offense. Outside of that, the Mets are pretty much going with the same crew banking on renewed health from David Wright and continued growth from the rest of the team. That’s not the surest bet for success.
David Wright continues to be the focal point for this offense. But at 32, the former All Star is constantly injured and hasn’t played at an All Star level since 2012. He played well in 2013, but only in 112 games as injury shortened that season. In fact, Wright has missed 144 games due to injury since 2011, which almost amounts to a full season. He’s only played in 8 games this year after heading to the DL with a back injury. He’s been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which means no one knows when he’ll get better and how long he’ll be out. Knowing his injury history, I didn’t expect much from him. Last year he hit only 269 with 8 HR and 43 RBI. In past seasons when he hasn’t been a power threat, he’s tried to steal more bases to make up for it. But after going 8 for 13 on the bases last year, I suspect that won’t be an option for him anymore. I had him at 270 with 10 HR, 55 RBI and 5 SB in 115 games. Even those low totals look like a stretch now.
With Wright’s injury, a lot more will be needed from the newest acquisition, Michael Cuddyer. From the beginning, the Mets planned on having Cuddyer be the cleanup man. I think he’s better suited to hit 5th or 2nd. I have him hitting 5th in my lineup, but with the injuries the Mets have dealt with, they have used a number of different lineups and Cuddyer has responded admirably filling in all over. The former batting champ expected to see his numbers drop moving from Coors Field (one of the best offensive parks in baseball) to Citi Field (one of the worst, even with the fences brought in). I was thinking he’d hit 280 with around 12-15 HR in 120 games. That seems to be a good estimation based on what he’s done so far this year as he is one of the few Mets acquitting himself well at the plate.
First baseman Lucas Duda had a great season last year ranking third in the NL with 30 HR. He also chipped in 92 RBI and a 349 OBP. His 253 AVG is perfectly acceptable as a slugger. He’s put the whole Duda vs. Ike Davis debate in the past and looks to be one of the few bright spots on the offense this year. I don’t think he’s a number three hitter, as the Mets decided he was to start the season. Terry Collins fiddled with the lineup a lot since then and Duda is back hitting 4th or 5th, both good spots for him on this team. If he can hit 30 HR in last year’s Citi Field, there is a thought he could hit more this year. But now that he’s a more established threat, pitchers may deal with him more carefully. I’ll put him down for 250 with 30 HR and 90 RBI again.
After the heart of the order, the rest of the offense is up in the air. Curtis Granderson started the year leading off. He makes a better 2, 5 or 6 hitter in my opinion. And with Daniel Murphy around, I love him in the 6th spot. But, like most the other Mets, he’s moved up and down the batting order a lot to try to offset the injures. He’s no longer a 40 home run hitter at his age and playing in any park that isn’t the new Yankee stadium. Last year he struggled hitting 227 with only 20 HR and 66 RBI. I think he’s more of a 25-30 HR guy, though his AVG should come up. Granderson’s issue is that he’s so streaky, which makes him a poor leadoff candidate. He can work a walk, but he’s not an elite on base guy. I’ll put him down to hit in the middle of the order and perhaps go 250 (career 256), 28/80. That’s not bad at all. He could also chip in 10 SB.
I mentioned Daniel Murphy as an ideal number 2 hitter. And I stand by it. One of the most underrated second baseman in the game, Murphy is third among all second baseman in hits since 2012. He had another strong season last year hitting 283 with 9 HR, 57 RBI, 79 R and 13 SB. He’s not an elite hitter and does nothing great. For that reason, a lot of New Yorkers aren’t a big fan of his. But he gets tons of hits, has an above average OBP (career 333 to go with a 289 career AVG) and can be a double digit HR/SB guy. I liked him for 290 with 11 HR, 14 SB, 60 RBI and 75 R. But an injury has recently sent him to the DL. The good news is he shouldn’t be there long and if he keeps playing like he has been, all those totals are within reach with a possibility for more.
With the established players set, the Mets are hoping a young trio of hitters can continue to grow at the plate and help out offensively. Juan Lagares is known more for his glove in center field, but got some chances to leadoff last year. He acquitted himself fairly well hitting 281 with 13 SB and a 321 OBP in 116 games. There was some hesitation to hand the leadoff duties to him to start this year, but I think he is the best option in that spot. He will definitely have some growing pains with only 237 career games under his belt to start this year. But if you are committed to him, you may as well see if he can start learning now and perhaps be a solid to good leadoff man in the near future. I see him struggling, but learning. Think 260 with 5 HR, 20 SB and 65 R. He’s on pace to reach those totals now. While they aren’t great, they are acceptable for a hitter with his experience.
Travis d’Arnaud struggled in the first half of last season, before coming on strong after a demotion to Triple A. He hit 180 before being sent down and then 272 once he came back. He also slugged 13 HRs to lead all NL rookies last season. He has a bright future ahead of him, though he’s not much more than an average hitter at this point. I figured 270 would be another good estimate for him with perhaps 12-15 HR. But he is on pace to hit far better than that in the AVG department, though perhaps a little behind in the power department. Just like Lagares, d’Arnaud is a guy who is still learning the major leagues and needs time to develop and be better for the future.
The last piece of this offense is Wilmer Flores. Flores has played second and third in the minors, but was asked to take over shortstop this year. His bat has gotten him to the majors. But it’s not an elite bat by any means. Add to that the fact that he is playing out of position in one of the toughest positions in baseball, and I see this experiment failing. There is no question he can hit. We know that, even with his limited experience at the major league level. But I think too much is being asked of him. I would bury him in the 8th spot and hope this playing out of position doesn’t hurt his development. He can run into double-digit homers, but if he pushes his AVG will plummet. I figured him to struggle to the tune of 230 with 12 HR and 40 RBI. He’s actually played much better than I thought he would so far this year and think he should surpass all those totals, even if he continues to struggle at short.
That’s the starting lineup. On the bench, the Mets have John Mayberry Jr., who excels at hitting lefties and can play either outfield corner. Anthony Recker was the original backup catcher, but has been displaced by prospect Kevin Plawecki. The only other established major leaguer on the bench is Ruben Tejada, who has struggled in his chances to be a major league shortstop to this point. With Wright hurt, he’ll get more chances to play, but I don’t expect much from him. This bench is not deep or experienced. Even healthy, this lineup was going to struggle to score runs. Without their top guys, things look grim. Luckily they got off to an incredibly hot start. But unless they have another one in them, I see them sinking in the standings quickly.
The defense on this club isn’t great. Behind the plate, d’Arnaud does a good job framing pitches but needs to work on blocking balls in the dirt and throwing out runners. He’s young and still learning so he likely will be better, but this year won’t be the year he wins a gold glove. The backups aren’t much better defensively and neither has a proven bat. Duda isn’t terrible at first, but he’s below average. Daniel Murphy has worked hard to become a good second baseman. He’s gotten a lot better. But he’s still below average. Flores is not a shortstop and lacks the skills to play the position. He is currently 3rd in the league with 10 Errors and has shown abysmal range. Michael Cuddyer is fine in left, but lacks range. David Wright is no longer a Gold Glover, and many metrics had him as a suspect Gold Glover in his youth. That being said, he’s an average to above average defensive third baseman at this point, though he’s always injured so he’s played very little. Granderson is fine in right, but lacks an arm. Lagares is the only plus defender on the whole team and luckily is probably the best defensive center fielder in the league. Mayberry Jr. is an upgrade in left and a downgrade in right. No one else on the bench is a proven commodity. So while this offense struggles, they can’t save it with great defense, because they will likely be a subpar defensive team.
The Mets have a fantastic group of young arms. And they hope that they will be the group that leads them back into relevancy and beyond in the near future. However last year their pitching took a hit as Matt Harvey was recovering from Tommy John surgery. This year, before the season even began, Zach Wheeler went down with the same injury. So while they get Harvey back, they lose Wheeler. But there is depth and experience on this pitching staff, even without Wheeler, so there is no reason to believe the Mets can’t continue to pitch near the 3.49 mark they reached last year, good enough for 6th in the league. However it’s important to remember that while the Mets pitching staff looks good, it is not yet elite. While the Mets were third in the league in Ks, they were third to last in BBs allowed. These pitchers are talented, but most are young and still learning.
They are hoping Matt Harvey can re-capture his ace status. While many in NY are sure he can, the fact is, it isn’t a foregone conclusion. We all remember how great he was in 2013, going 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts. He struck out 191 in 178 IP and held hitters to a 209 BAA while sporting a 0.93 WHIP. Those are incredible totals. But he missed all of last year trying to rehab from his Tommy John, so we can’t just assume he will be as good. In fact, it’s usually the second year back from Tommy John that a pitcher regains his top form. Now he’s still got the talent and stuff to be very good, even if he’s not at his best. But I think this will be a bridge year to a much stronger season in 2016. My preseason predictions for him were 12-15 Wins, a 3.30 ERA and 200 Ks in 180 IP. I also thought that at the end of the year, if the Mets were out of it, he might get some additional time off to perhaps only make 30 starts. He’s on track to reach those totals this year and could do better.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom is the de facto number 2 starter now. Even with his inexperience, the Mets love sending him out there. He’s got incredible strikeout stuff as evidenced by his 144 Ks last year in 140 IP. He also pitched to a 2.69 ERA while going 9-6 in 22 starts. That being said, he has only 22 starts under his belt. You would expect hitters to get a book on him, and then force him to make adjustments. That’s something all young players struggle with. I expect him to struggle a bit this year, but only in comparison to his great season in 2014. I think he too can win 12-15 games with an ERA under 3.50 and perhaps 200 Ks in 180+ IP. He’s got a phenomenal 4-pitch arsenal and great swing and miss stuff to keep him successful. Based on his strong numbers right now, my predictions are looking like they are too low.
Veteran lefty Jon Niese is back for another season. Not at all a flashy player, Niese is often overlooked, even by the Mets faithful. But he’s a good, underrated pitcher who can eat innings and win games. He went 9-11 last year with a 3.40 ERA in 30 starts and 187 IP. He’s not a strikeout guy and has fairly pedestrian secondary numbers (1.27 WHIP, 268 BAA). But even though he puts runners on, he limits damage and keeps his team in games. He’s never going to win a Cy Young, but he’s a quality mid-rotation piece. I’m thinking another 180 IP from him and double-digit wins with an ERA around 3.80.
Bartolo Colon continues to defy all pitching logic. He’s a 42 year old, overweight starter with a 90 MPH fastball that he throws all the time. He locates it well and it has some movement, but I think calling it a sinker is disingenuous. His arm is hanging onto his shoulder by a stem cell and his at bats are humorous. There is no reason he should be successful as a pitcher. And yet at the time of this writing, he is tied for the league lead in Wins. But despite that, he is not an ace caliber pitcher. We have learned that Wins are somewhat random and the Colon’s secondary numbers greatly support that finding. But he’s still a quality pitcher and can obviously help his team win games. Last year, he went 15-13 with a 4.09 ERA. He logged 202 IP and pitched to a 1.23 WHIP. All those numbers are fairly average except for the Win and IP totals. If you stay healthy and throw a lot of innings, even an average pitcher can win ballgames. And that’s the secret to Colon’s success. He also avoids walks nicely and doesn’t beat himself. He’ll give up hits and runs, but not a ton. And he can stay in games long enough to win. I like him for another 200 IP this year with perhaps 12 Wins and an ERA around 4.25.
With Zach Wheeler gone, the Mets had to move everyone up in the rotation. The Mets planned to start the season with veteran Dillon Gee as the 5th starter. Gee has been a fairly average pitcher over his 4+ seasons in the bigs. He has an ERA around 4 and produces a record close to 500. His best season was in 2013, when he went 12-11 with a 3.62 ERA in 199 IP. However, he was never more than a spot holder for this team. I figured he’d hold the 5th spot for half the year and win 6-8 games (losing another 6-8) with an ERA around 4. However, I suspected that the Mets would eventually move him to the bullpen in favor of Noah Syndergaard. That move already happened and now Gee is the long man and occasional spot starter.
The move happened earlier than many others and I thought it would. It happened because Syndergaard was so good in Triple A that the Mets thought he could boost the team at the major league level. The Mets have dealt with a lot of injuries, but were actually pretty healthy on the mound. So bringing Syndergaard up meant a demotion for Gee, who wasn’t happy about it. But all are doing their jobs and this is a “light” 6 man rotation. That means that while there are 6 starters, the 6th starter is not guaranteed a chance to start when his turn comes up. However, that will make it easier for the Mets to limit Matt Harvey’s innings and deal with any injuries that do arise. I thought Syndergaard would only pitch 2-2 ½ months and maybe get 5 Wins with an ERA around 3.50. But now that he’s with the big club in June, those numbers could be a lot better.
That’s the starting rotation. And it’s pretty good. While it’s not the best, it is deep and has youth and proven commodities. It is definitely a position of strength for the Mets. And that’s good news for New York, because their bullpen is a completely different story.
It started with Bobby Parnell being out. He’s actually re-joined the team, but was gone for over a year and just recently got his first Save. Because of that, Jenrry Mejia was tabbed to be the new closer, but ended up being suspended due to a positive drug test for PEDs. Jeurys Familia was then given the job and has done well thus far. But now the Mets are dealing with injuries to Buddy Carlyle, Jerry Blevins, Josh Edgin, Erik Goeddel and Rafael Montero. So the bullpen is chock full of unproven commodities as their initial wave of arms was devastated by injuries. There are still talented arms in the bullpen, but the Mets can’t continue to lose relief arms if they hope to stay in the division race.
This pitching staff is pretty good. The starters are very good and the closer is solid. But the bridge between them is weak and untested. That will put more pressure on the starters to perform, but luckily the Mets are very deep in their starting rotation and can hopefully deal with the pressure and any injuries down the stretch. This team will be competitive day in and day out. But with this offense, that doesn’t necessarily mean wins.
The Mets are expecting a lot from themselves this year. The Mets fan base is expecting even more. But other baseball people have tempered their expectations for this team. The Mets have had a bright future for a while. That is still the case. But we may not be quite there yet.
They have a very good starting staff. Very good, not great. It’s important to point that out because on paper, the Nationals look better and both the Braves and Marlins look to be very similarly talented, if perhaps a step behind. Even if they had the best rotation in the division, they likely have only the third best offense. That could be enough, but it’s not a sure thing. And with this limited offense, all it takes is an off night for a starter for them to be dead in the water. And the Nationals have 5 arms capable of neutralizing this offense, the Braves have 3, the Marlins have 1 or 2 and the Phillies have 1.
The Mets are not a sure bet this year and for that reason I had them finishing third in the division with 82 Wins. I think this could be the year they get over 500, but don’t see them being a serious threat for a wildcard spot.
Thus far, they have played better than I expected. But I still don’t think they will make the playoffs, though they may finish second with around 85 Wins.