5 Reasons the Future Is Still Bright for the New York Mets

Jason LempertCorrespondent ISeptember 11, 2013

5 Reasons the Future Is Still Bright for the New York Mets

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    Well Met fans, looks like 2013 will be another lost season for the boys from Queens. With just 19 games left to play this year, and a 64-79 record,  the New York Mets are closing in on their fifth consecutive losing season.

    The only thing really left for them to play for this year is third place (they are currently 1.5 games back of the Phillies for third in the NL East). The Mets have finished in fourth place each of the past four seasons. 

    But, as the saying goes, there's always next year. And while we fans have been hearing that phrase for the past several years, 2014 and beyond seem to at least have the potential to reward the patience their following has shown in recent years.

    Up-and-coming prospects, plus the pending financial flexibility to pursue necessary free agents are just some of the reasons for Mets fans to hold out hope for the near future for their team.

Financial Freedom

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    At the close of the 2013 season, the Mets will have concluded their financial responsibilities stemming from the large contracts handed out to Johan Santana, Frank Francisco and Jason Bay. These contracts have prevented GM Sandy Alderson from acquiring any top-tier players via trade or free agency.

    Alderson has gone on record (via Twitter) indicating that the Mets are prepared to spend money on free agents this offseason now that these financial burdens have dissipated. 

    The Mets could target shortstops, starting pitching and perhaps an outfielder or two. Make no mistake though—Alderson will not be spending money just for the sake of spending money. His task is to acquire the pieces he feels will make this team competitive for several years to come.

Young Arms on the Rise

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    The Mets have endured some pretty bad seasons in terms of pitching over recent years. Their team ERA has been below the league average each of the last two seasons, and that trend is continuing in 2013. 

    But help seems to be on the way. The Mets have a plethora of young arms that are very close to making an impact with the big league club. Of course, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey have already made their footprints on major league mounds, giving fans a glimpse of their future rotation.

    Noah Syndergaard, the team's No. 1 prospect according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, owns a composite 3.06 ERA through 117 innings between High-A and Double-A in 2013. Baseball America ranked him the 54th best prospect in baseball entering this season, and the 21-year-old could make his debut at some point next season.

    Rafael Montero, 22, was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 and has been with in the Mets' farm system ever since. He is currently ranked 98 within MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects in baseball and is the Mets' third best prospect. 

    In 2013, the right-hander owns a 2.78 ERA and 150 strikeouts over 155 innings in Double and Triple-A. His numbers in Las Vegas have been very impressive, going 5-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 16 starts. He owns a lifetime 8.4 K/9 ratio and has only given up 16 home runs in his 64 appearances since 2011. 

    It won't be too long until the Mets rotation includes Harvey, Wheeler, Syndergaard and Montero. Throw in a maturing Jon Niese, and the pitching woes in Queens could soon be by the wayside.

     

Travis d'Arnaud

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    Amazingly, Travis d'Arnaud has been a part of two separate trades, each involving a former Cy Young Award winner. 

    The 24-year-old backstop was originally drafted by the Phillies in 2007. He was later traded to Toronto in the deal that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies. Last winter, the youngster was dealt to the Mets as part of the package that brought R.A. Dickey north of the border.

    But no matter where he has played, his talent has continued to shine. In 2012, while in the Blue Jays organization, he was hitting .333 with 16 home runs for Triple-A before tearing the PCL in his left knee. 

    This year, he fell victim to an injury again, suffering a broken left foot in April. The injury shortened his season significantly, but he was still able to make his major league debut and has looked very impressive in his first 20 games. 

    Offensively, his numbers aren't quite there yet (.159/.239/.238), but he's been very patient at the plate, drawing seven walks in his first 71 plate appearances (just 15 strikeouts). And he looks very comfortable behind the plate. Expect his bat to liven up with a full season in 2014, as the Mets have themselves one of the best young receivers in the game today.

Juan Lagares

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    Juan Lagares, 24, has been very impressive in his first year in the big leagues. The speedy outfielder has taken 330 at-bats and is slashing .264/.301/.385, including four home runs, four triples and 20 doubles. He's also played a great outfield, whether it be center or right. 

    Lagares, who was signed by the Mets as an amateur free agent in 2006, has shown throughout his minor league career that he is a very capable hitter. In 2012, he hit .283 and stole 21 bases for Double-A. He owns a lifetime .285 minor league batting average and only needed 17 Triple-A games in 2013 before the Mets felt he was ready for the show.

    He's been a mainstay in the Mets lineup since his call-up on April 23. And his emergence as an everyday outfielder will help the Mets prioritize their offseason shopping. If Lagares is the real deal, the Mets should only need to go after one (maybe two) outfielders.

Competition

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    As the Mets look to improve themselves, the trend in the National League East division seems to be getting worse for the competition.

    The Washington Nationals took a huge step backwards this year after winning 98 games in 2012. The top players for the Philadelphia Phillies are getting old and have suffered through various physical ailments in recent seasons. 

    The Atlanta Braves still remain a force, but they are likely to lose Brian McCann to free agency this winter. And the Miami Marlins have a bright future as well, but theirs may be more long term than the Mets' outlook. With the overall decline in the division, the Mets should at least be able to remain competitive throughout the 2014 season, as long as everyone stays relatively healthy.

    The present may be dim for the Mets. But the future in Queens definitely looks bright.