With a division record in 2015 of 47–29 (11-8 against WSH,ATL,MIA & 14-5 vs PHI) expect that record to only improve with the Mets fielding a better and more complete team and PHI & ATL likely to be competing for the worst record in baseball. This may be the race to 100 losses. The Marlins are an incomplete team that projects to finish below .500. That’s 57 games against three weak division rivals. The NL East will be a 2-horse race, with the Mets starting out in front.
With the rotation of Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and Colon (until Wheeler’s return), don’t expect this team to go on many losing streaks. This rotation is poised to have one of the best seasons in MLB history. With the lowest K/9 of the Mets top 4 starters from 2015 being 8.58, this rotation may for the first time ever feature 4 starters who eclipse 200ks on the season. If Matz continues his pace from last year, he will need roughly 210 innings pitched to hit 200 Ks. deGrom finished 2015 with over 205 strikeouts. Harvey fell 12 short but expects to be stronger and better this season another year removed from Tommy John surgery and with the ability to throw his devastating slider and a fastball with a little more “umph”. Syndergaard hit 166ks in only 24 starts. Matz, however, finished the 2015 season with a combined 141 Ks between AAA and the bigs. He would be the longshot to hit 200ks, but even so, only 3 teams in MLB history have featured 3 starters with 200ks in a single season:
§ 1967 Minnesota Twins: Dean Chance (220 Ks), Jim Kaat (211), Dave Boswell (204).
§ 1969 Astros: Don Wilson (235), Larry Dierker (222), Tom Griffin (200).
§ 2013 Tigers: Max Scherzer (240), Justin Verlander (217), Anibel Sanchez (202)
Look for this Mets rotation to become number 4.
The Mets dominated baseball with pitches thrown at 95+ mph, coming in at 21.13 percent of the time, which is 7.7 percent better than the next closest team, Cleveland. To make the number of pitches thrown 95+ mph by the Mets even more ridiculous, Colorado came in at number 24, 7.7 percent behind the Indians. The Mets percentage over number two Cleveland, is the same as Cleveland’s percentage over a team twenty-two spots beneath them in Colorado. Where is all of this fire power coming from? In 2015, the Mets had four of the twenty pitchers who threw the most pitches over 95 mph; Syndergaard (2), Harvey (4), deGrom (12) Familia (18). No other team had more than two pitchers on the list. When Wheeler returns, the Mets, front to back in their rotation, will have a pitcher everyday who can hit 95mph with ease, with Syndergaard hitting 100mph often. And the reason this staff may be the best of all time isn’t just because of their heat… they have some of the best secondary pitches in all of baseball. Don’t be surprised when you see Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard all in the Cy Young conversation.
With all the hype surrounding the Mets pitching, it has been lost how much they have improved on offense.
The Mets immediately replaced Murphy’s production by shipping Niese to PIT for Neil Walker. Expect Walker to be a similar offensive player to Murphy just less consistant and with a bit more pop. They signed Asdrubal Cabrera to a 2 year deal shifting Wilmer Flores to a super utility role. Don’t expect Cabrera to put up the 25hr and 92rbis he did in 2011, but if he puts up similar numbers as he did last year in Tampa Bay, he will be a nice addition to the Mets lineup. Flores will provide good offensive production as a bench player likely to still have right around 500 at-bats, especially with Wright requiring extra time off during his first full season since his spinal stenosis diagnosis. Wright enters the season as a big question mark. It’s hard to project how effective David’s play will be this season. Wright hasn’t been putting up the offensive numbers he once did, and his offensive production will be an even bigger question mark with uncertainty of how often Wright will need to rest. De Aza is a good fourth outfielder, which was the Mets intention when signing him, to platoon with Juan Lagares, but with the unexpected signing of Yoenis Cespedes, this shifts De Aza to the fifth outfielder. Juan Lagares is also healthy for the first time in two years, free of his nagging elbow problems. In camp he looks strong and is hitting the ball with authority. The Mets also have a phenomenal young catching duo of Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. Injuries have plagued d’Arnaud in the past so his biggest battle this season besides improving on throwing out base runners, is staying healthy. D’Arnaud hit an impressive 12 HRs in only 268 At-bats. If he can find a way to to get around 500 at-bats, look for his hr total be above 20. Plawecki has been prone to the strikeout in the majors and may even start the season in AAA. Plawecki showed promise offensively 2 years ago hitting .309 with 35 extra base hits between AA and AAA. His production fell off last season but the talent is clearly there. There is a possibility that Plawecki starts the season in AAA so he can get more at-bats, but even if this is the case, Johnny Monell with not be taking his roster spot for too long. Plawecki and d’Arnaud are learning to play some left field so the time may one day be able to feature their two bats in the same lineup. Let’s not forget about Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson who both put up 25+hr and 70+ RBIS last season. Granderson has reinvented his game and became the leadoff hitter that the Mets desperately needed. He walked nearly 100 times and posted an OBP over .100 point above his batting average. At a time where 1B production seems to be hard to find, the burly Lucas Duda shows immense power, although he is one of the streakiest hitters in the game. In 2015, he hit 9 home runs in his first 48 games, 3 in his next 46, and then followed this with 8 in 7 games, to start the season. If Kevin Long can help Duda can avoid his cold streaks, look for him to become one of the most dangerous first basemen in baseball. The bench featuring Flores, Plawecki, Lagares, De Aza, and a question for the last spot, this Mets team seems to be able to have enough offensive talent where teams will be concerned about facing them. I’m not saying this team with put up production to keep up with the Blue Jays, whose lineup features Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion . This was the game’s best offense last year and expect it to only get better with a full season of Tulowitzki and one of the game’s best hitter catchers, Russell Martin, to be hitting as low as in the 7 or 8 hole.
For the first time since Reyes and Castillio, the Mets have a SS and 2B combo that knows how to play their positions. Although they have average range, their experience at their positions will prove to be important throughout the season. Double-plays not turned may not show up in the box score, but over the course of the season, it definitely shows up in the win and loss column. When Wright returned late last season, his defense, particularly his throwing, took a hit due to his spinal stenosis. It’s not clear what to expect from Wright at defense anymore but just know he isn’t the gold-glover he once was. Cespedes’ defense in centerfield is a question mark. Defensively he rates fantastic in leftfield. In centerfield however, he rates as a major defensive liability to his team. His inexperience manning the middle of the outfield was seen by Lorenzo Cain’s inside the park homerun, which was on a misplayed ball, to lead off the World Series. Remember though, Cespedes has minimal experience in centerfield and has never entered a season as the everyday centerfielder. He will have spring training to work on his becoming better acclimated to his new everyday position. Expect Terry Collins to make late game defensive changes; Cespedes to LF and Lagares to CF, pushing Conforto to the bench. This may become problematic due to the fact that I see Conforto being the number 3 hitter by the season’s end. Terry Collins will have a difficult decision on his hands, and let’s not forget about De Aza. Duda has more than held his own at first base, excluding his throw that cost the Mets Game 5 of the World Series. While throwing is being discussed, look for Travis d’Arnaud to improve on throwing baserunners out this year. Don’t look for him to win a Gold Glove anytime soon, but expect him to help stop the opponents running game. Plawecki is considered to be better defensively than d’Arnaud, so the Mets will be solid behind the plate and let this duo possibly split more playing time. Duda who used to be a defensively liability in the outfield, has turned into a decent defensive first baseman and excluding his throw that lost the Mets Game 5, he has been solid fielding his position. Flores will provided below average to average defense as the infield utility-man. With many question marks on defense, the Mets hope to rely on their hard throwing pitchers to keep the ball out of play.
The Mets starting 5 won’t be able to go the distance every night, and when they don’t the Mets will need their bullpen to show they can hold a lead. Familia was lights out last year, excluding his implosion in the World Series. He tied Armando Benitez’s franchise record for saves in a single season with 43. Many forget he started the season as the 8th inning guy, only to receive the closer job due to Parnell recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Mejia going down early in the season due to his first of three PED suspensions. Familia may have only showed a glimpse of what he is capable of. With the Mets improved offense and once in a lifetime rotation, look for Familia to obliterate the record he tied last season. I’m talking 50 plus saves. The question becomes who will be trusted to get the ball into Familia’s hands. Addison Reed who*, didn’t close for the first time in his career last year, turned his season around when the Mets acquired him from the Diamondbacks last summer. In 17 appearances with the Mets, he had a minuscule 1.17 ERA, but gave up 5 runs in only 7 innings of work during the postseason. Reed has a career ERA of 4.01 so he won’t be the lights out guy the Mets may need, but his track record shows he can get big outs late in games. The other guy you can expect to see in the 8th inning is newly acquired lefty Antonio Bastardo. Bastardo had a great season in 2015 with an ERA under 3.00 in 66 appearances. He held hitters to a low batting average of .188 and isn’t your typical lefty. Bastardo is almost as effective as getting righties out as he is lefties. Don’t expect Terry to use Bastardo for one or two batters on a daily basis. The battle for lefty specialist will come down to Jerry Blevins, who Terry Collins already announced will be the in bullpen, Sean Gilmartin, and Josh Edgin. Gilmartin posted solid numbers in his rookie season, but Niese was the lefthander the Mets turned to in the playoffs. Blevins started last season retiring all 15 batters he faced, 14 lefties, until he fractured his arm, causing him to miss the remainder of the season. Edgin, missed 2015 and is recovering from Tommy John surgery but in 2014, he had a 1.32 E.R.A. in 47 games, holding left-handed batters to a .185 average, while Blevins, who was then playing for the Nationals, held lefties to a .160 AVG. Edgin returns healthy around May first like expected, Gilmartin is the obvious odd man out. There’s a question out there: would the Mets carry 3 lefties? I can see them doing this because of Bastardo’s flexibility and it will give them incredible bullpen depth to mix and match in big spots. The 7th inning is going to be handled by Robles. With an electric fastball, and hopefully his issues of maturity in the past, Robles will be solid in his role once he serves his two game suspension for his quick pitch to Philadelphia’s Cameron Rupp on September 29th. Unless there is significant improvement from performance last year, I expect the Mets to make a late season bullpen acquisition to solidify the late innings. It is a question mark who fills the last two spots in the Mets bullpen but the battle comes down to Jim Henderson, Erik Goeddel, Sean Gilmartin, Logan Verrett, and Rafael Montero who are all positioned to compete for those final two slots. Goeddel, Gilmartin, and Verrett showed big league success in 2015 as rookies, and expect two of them to be in the Met’s pen.
Starting Pitching- A++
The Mets clearly have something special with this young star studded rotation that throws heat and has the secondary pitches to back up their fastballs.
The Mets have a lights out closer in Familia, but Terry Collins may need to mix and match with who gets the ball to him. Look for the hot hand to pitch the 8th often. The Mets have something special in lefty Bastardo who can retire hitters from both sides of the plate, which plays into strategy as almost having an extra arm in the bullpen. There will be bumps in the road, but this is a strong group to start the season.
The days of batting John Mayberry and Eric Campbell 4-5 in the lineup while hitting .170 and .176 are over. Barring injuries, the Mets will field a formidable lineup every night. With bench depth in Flores, De Aza, Lagares, Plawecki, and the last spot yet to be determined, the Mets lineup should produce as one of the top in the National League. The Mets weak spot on offense is speed. They pushed the envelope in the playoffs last year, but the Mets lack any real base stealing threat. While it would be ludicrous to expect Cespedes to produce the same way he did last year with the Mets, he should be good for atleast 25+hrs and 90+rbis. Hopefully Conforto can avoid a sophomore slump and develop into the hitter his organization views him as. In Granderson, Cespedes, d’Arnaud, Walker, Duda, and Conforto, the Mets have 6 players that can legitimately hit at least 20 homeruns in 2016.
The Mets clear cut weakness in 2016. d’Arnaud has struggled throwing out baserunners early in his career, Walker and Cabrera have limited range up the middle, Wright has become a liability at 3rd base, Cespedes has looked lost playing in CF which is where he will be starting almost every day, and Granderson who was once a good fielder is now in right with a weak arm. Conforto impressed in left last season, although he was profiled as being weak defensively. Lagares is the Mets lone defensive star, and even he had his issues last season, but with his lingering elbow problems now gone, he should return to his once gold glove form.
Overall Grade- A-/B+
162 games is a long season and the makeup of this team is expected to change based on performance, call-ups, injuries, and trades. With a starting grade of an A-/B+, the Mets are one of the favorites to win a World Series title in 2016. The Royals broke their 30 year drought in 2015 after losing in 2014’s Fall Classic, and the Mets hope to do the same this year after falling 3 wins short of a title last season.
Projected Record: 101-61
Written by Jamie Rosner