The New York Mets finished 74-88 in 2013, good enough for 3rd place in a top-heavy NL East. Rookies Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler burst onto the scene to provide signs of life for a franchise that has otherwise been stuck in the mud. In fact, the Mets haven’t had a winning record since 2008.
Having worked previously in Oakland and San Diego, GM Sandy Alderson knows the ins and outs of rebuilding a franchise. The Mets are knee deep in their roster makeover.
To help field something resembling a major league roster, Alderson pulled in outfielders Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, who will both hit some homers, steal some bases, and strike out more than you’d care to know. Ageless wonder Bartolo Colon was signed to chew up innings, and most of the food in New York.
Aside from these additions it is a virtual youth movement in Flushing. Can Travis d’Arnaud live up to the hype? Is Zack Wheeler legit? Will Matt Harvey recover on schedule from Tommy John surgery? How close is Noah Syndergaard to making a dent in the rotation? These are the questions that will keep Jerry Seinfeld and friends engaged throughout 2014.
Best Case Scenario for 2014
The Mets appear destined for another 70’something win season in 2014, or possibly worse. But in all reality the best case scenarios for this team have little to do with wins and losses and are more about how well the young bucks are performing and how many of them can start contributing in a major way. Wheeler reminds me of a young AJ Burnett but could be even better than that. With Harvey down and out, the continued emergence of Wheeler and the promotion and subsequent strong play of Syndergaard would crank the hype machine into overdrive next offseason. As important as the young pitching is to this franchise it is equally vital that bats like d’Arnaud, Juan Lagares, and Ruben Tejada begin to realize their potential.
Most Important Mets
David Wright is the only bona fide star that the Mets can claim on the offensive side of the ball. At age 31, Wright is signed through 2020 and will either help see this thing through or eventually become so disgruntled with losing during the prime years of his career that he’ll demand a trade. The Mets absolutely need it to be the former. The best thing the oft-injured Wright could offer this club is 160 games on the diamond. He managed just 112 in 2013 but is still capable of hitting .300 with 25 homers and 100 RBI’s. Somebody has to produce.
It should have been Matt Harvey, he of the perfect mechanics that were met by Tommy John surgery, but for now Zack Wheeler represents the direction of this team. For the Mets to achieve success anytime soon they’ll need their young pitchers to produce at high levels. Today, Wheeler is the only one slated to start the season with the big club. Considering that Colon is 40-years old and Jonathan Niese is already worried about his bulky shoulder, Wheeler has to be strong or the 2014 version of this team could really unravel in a hurry. Wheeler walked 46 batters in just 100 innings in his debut run last year but allowed only 0.9 hits/inning. If he can tame his wild streak then we’re looking at a double-digit winner with a low 3’s ERA and a 160+ K’s.
Potential Breakout Players
Travis d’Arnaud is just 25 and generally considered to be the best catching prospect in the game. He came over in the RA Dickey trade two offseasons ago but really struggled during his brief time with the Mets last year. The 2 for 24 performance against lefties is particularly alarming but you’d have to think the right-handed hitting d’Arnaud will adjust there. He, like David Wright, has had plenty of trouble staying healthy. When he eventually does suit up with regularity he projects as a high teens home run hitter with a .280’s average and solid on-base skills from the catching position. Throw in the fact that New York is attempting to groom some young and promising pitching talent and d’Arnaud will have to be impressive behind the dish as well. If all goes well, he’ll be a solid mentor to the staff and start showing his hitting prowess.
The veteran non-roster invitees for the Mets this spring are a who’s-who of who cares. So in the spirit of rebuilding, let’s see what Jenrry Mejia can do with a bigger workload. Mejia, also no stranger to the disabled list, can ride his fastball up to 94 and features electric stuff when he’s on. In a five start run with the Mets last year he posted a 27:4 K to walk ratio in 27 innings to go with his 2.30 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. If Mejia has truly figured it out after a few rocky seasons of injury and unstable performances then imagine how lethal this rotation could look come Opening Day, 2015. I’ll set the over/under on the number of starts Mejia can get with the Mets this year at around 15. Hope for the over.
Worst Case Scenario
The Mets don’t have much in the cupboard and could end up as the worst team in the National League if they can’t find a way to catch some breaks. Curtis Granderson and Chris Young are as intriguing as they are terrifying. The notion of these guys figuring out how to make consistent contact is merely an illusion, which will ultimately lead to David Wright fighting for his life all by himself once more. And, as it seems to happen to some teams and not others, the Mets just can’t stay out of the operating room. More injuries to their young core will devastate their plans.
Areas of Concern
Health. Uneven performances from their youngsters. A lack of production from their veterans. An uninspiring ballpark. Trying to keep their usually loyal fans at bay while they rebuild. It’s ugly, folks.
Who Needs to Bounce Back From a Down 2013
The list is long and distinguished. One guy who could help turn this thing around in a positive way faster than most though is Curtis Granderson. Grandy enters his age-33 season after spending most of 2013 battling broken bones from being hit by pitches. Since 2006-08 though, easily Granderson’s best stretch of play, he has only hit above .249 once. He strikes out in bunches but can also greet fans in the bleachers via long fly balls with the best of them. The expectation is that his home run power will be depleted in Citi Field but 30+ is still within reach and that type of a number would do wonders for the Mets’ offense.
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