This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the Mets, who have finally gotten one prized young starter back from Tommy John surgery, only to see another one go under the knife. Such history repeating itself might be a sign that another disappointing season is in store.
Projected Lineup: CF Juan Lagares, 2B Daniel Murphy, 3B David Wright, 1B Lucas Duda, RF Michael Cuddyer*, LF Curtis Granderson, C Travis d’Arnaud, SS Wilmer Flores
Projected Rotation: RHP Matt Harvey, RHP Jacob deGrom, RHP Bartolo Colon, LHP Jon Niese, RHP Dillon Gee
* new additions
Matt Harvey is back, ladies.
And he’s ready to write the next chapter in his up-to-now brilliant career.
He’ll be on a loose innings limit that manager Terry Collins wouldn’t put a number on, but it will probably mean shorter starts, and an overall cap in case the Mets make the playoffs (so, basically it’ll just mean shorter starts).
Harvey, however, has been dominating this spring as if nothing ever happened. Through his first four spring starts, he’s posted a 1.26 ERA with only one walk allowed in 14.1 innings.
What does all this mean for the regular season? You can expect vintage Harvey on the mound, and vintage New York fans expressing their dissent whenever Collins trots out of the dugout to lift Harvey in the sixth inning of a shutout.
Following him, the Mets have Jacob deGrom, the reigning Rookie of the Year. He won the award because he caught fire down the stretch last year, culminating in an absurd September in which he struck out 38 batters in just 27 innings, with a 1.67 ERA to boot. If he picks up anywhere close to where he left off, the Mets are in good shape.
The general rule with pitchers is that you usually want to have more of them than you need, just in case something bad happens. Well, a couple weeks ago, something bad happened.
The Mets lost Zack Wheeler to a torn elbow ligament, and he’ll be out for the season. This was a huge blow for the club, but the silver lining is that the Mets were prepared to withstand such a loss. Having been operating with a surplus of starters, they’re now able to add Dillon Gee to the rotation in Wheeler’s spot, helping mitigate the damage.
It’s not perfect, and they’ll miss Wheeler’s production, but credit the Mets for being proactive. The last thing they wanted was a repeat of last year, when they were forced to use guys like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia in starting roles, which didn’t end well.
If Gee doesn’t pan out, the Mets also have top prospect Noah Syndergaard, who will begin the season in Triple-A, but will soon be knocking on the door to the big leagues.
The bullpen was actually pretty good last season, mostly due to a league-leading 80% inherited runner strand rate, which is an interesting stat—because it could indicate that these guys were really clutch in getting out of jams—or that they were just incredibly lucky. In either case, the Mets have some intriguing arms. Closer Jenrry Mejia, in addition to having the absolute best hair in baseball (deGrom is second), really settled down when they moved him out of the rotation and into the ‘pen last year, putting up a 2.72 ERA as a reliever.
The bullpen will also be adding depth midseason, as they expect to get ex-closer Bobby Parnell back from Tommy John.
Turning to the offense now, the only real acquisition the Mets made this winter was signing Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer should take over in right field, pushing Curtis Granderson over to left. Cuddyer has a better arm than Grandy, so putting him in right gives the Mets a slightly better outfield alignment. But the importance of the corner guys is relative anyway, since center fielder Juan Lagares will catch literally everything between the foul lines.
The only question about Cuddyer is whether he can bounce back from an injury-riddled 2014. The Mets are counting on him for a full season, because any missed time means that John Mayberry Jr. will become an everyday player, which is one of the seven signs of the apocalypse.
As always, the success of the offense centers on David Wright. He might not be the player he once was, but he needs to do better than he did last year, when he posted career lows in just about everything.
Hopefully 2015 will be different. Now that the league knows Lucas Duda is a genuine power threat, Wright will see a lot more fastballs batting ahead of him. He needs to capitalize on those opportunities.
The Mets should see slightly more success than they have in recent years, but I don’t think they’re quite there yet. It will take another year or two of maturation for their young pitchers, and a year in which their ace is not on a strict innings limit. Once Wheeler recovers and the gang is back together, the world will finally get to see what these kids are made of.
Projected Finish: 79-83, Third place in NL East