Ranking the Mets' Most Exciting Players Heading into 2014
The New York Mets will actually be an interesting team to watch this upcoming season. With some new faces joining the team, namely Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon, the Mets will look for these veterans to help out their young team.
I always seem to start the season with a sense of hope. Hope that they aren't completely out of it by mid-August, that is. Considering the Mets haven’t finished a season within 18 games of the division winner since 2008, it has been a struggle for Mets fans.
Personally the most recent problems really started with Beltran infamously staring at the Wainwright curveball in 2006. That, followed up by the legendary collapse of 2007 and the equally devastating breakdown in 2008, has made it very tough for all Mets followers.
However, with some new signings, a few promising young players and a possible trade or two still in the works, this could be the year that the Mets finally play some meaningful games towards the end of the summer.
The Mets will boast one of the most intriguing young pitching staffs in all of baseball, even without their ace Matt Harvey. The staff will be comprised of Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and newly-signed veteran, Bartolo Colon. Those aren’t the only pitchers though; the Mets also have plenty of young arms looking to get a chance this season.
The team will also have a few position battles that will be important to keep an eye on. Guys like Ike Davis, Wilmer Flores, Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares will all be battling for a spot in the starting lineup.
This piece will feature the Mets’ most exciting players for the upcoming season. The rankings are based on the players’ possible impact on the team, the players’ excitement factor and the chance they have at taking their game to the next level.
The roster will still change before the season gets under way, but until that happens here are the top 10 Mets players to watch heading into 2014.
Harvey's has reached the point where every night that he goes out, I expect him to not give up a hit. I know it’s a ridiculous assumption, yet every time he gives up that first hit, it is shocking to me. Being on the Mets however, it seems as if he has become “Mr. No Decision” thanks to their awful hitting.
Harvey would obviously be at the top of my list if it were not for his elbow injury. Due to the injury and the fact he may miss the entire season, Harvey missed out on the top 10. I couldn’t not make him at least an honorable mention, though.
I don’t understand the rationale behind the Chris Young signing, not one bit. After a 2013 season where the Mets batted an abysmal .237 as a team, they go out and give $7.2 million to someone who hasn’t bettered that mark since 2010 (Young’s career high is a whopping .257!).
I could go on about how much I hate this signing, but that’s not what this is about. The thing is, Young is a new face and has some—yet mostly overrated—power and because of those things he could possibly—but probably not—bring some excitement to the team this season.
Montero was in my top 10 until the Bartolo Colon signing. I really wanted him on the list, but he'll have to settle for the No. 11 slot.
I saw Rafael Montero pitch a game against the Nationals in Spring Training last year and he was downright filthy. My dad and I stood at the wall next to the bullpen at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie and watched Montero warm up. Multiple of Montero's teammates walked away from the bullpen session literally shaking their heads, wowed by the pitches they were seeing.
The 23-year-old threw 4.2 scoreless innings on that day and had my dad and I demanding for Montero to be on the opening day roster. Obviously Montero never pitched in the majors in 2012, as he spent the season dominating Double A and Triple A.
Montero was literally unfair last season when he was in Double A. He started 11 games for Binghamton and finished with a 2.43 ERA. The most impressive part though, was his strikeout-to-walk ratio. In 66.2 innings in Double A, Montero struck out 72 batters and walked just 10.
After toying with Double A hitters, he was promoted to Triple A and though he looked human, he still looked really good. In 16 starts with Las Vegas, Montero posted a 3.05 ERA, striking out 78 batters and walking 25.
Though it is a bit of a long shot, Montero is a dark horse to crack the rotation at the start of the season. While Noah Syndergaard has the higher ceiling than Montero, many believe Montero is more ready at this moment. Hopefully Montero can get a chance to pitch in the big leagues in 2014, because he could definitely be something special.
10. Bobby Parnell
Bobby Parnell had a very good year as the Mets’ closer last season. Parnell finished the year converting on 22-of-26 save opportunities and had an ERA of just 2.16.
Unfortunately the Mets' already thin bullpen took a huge hit when Parnell had to be shut down for the season at the end of July. Parnell underwent surgery on his neck but is expected to be fully healthy and ready to go once the season starts up.
With Parnell locked in as the teams closer, it will be exciting to see if he can continue to improve his game, coming off the best year of his career.
After posting career bests in ERA, WHIP and saves, the Mets would be smart to focus on strengthening other parts of their bullpen to help out Parnell.
The 6’4” hard-throwing right-hander is a guy who can bring the heat to opposing batters. With a fastball that touches the high-90's, watching a reliever really blow it by his opponent is something all fans love to see. When Parnell is at his best it’s a great show to watch.
For Parnell to take his game as a closer to the next level he will need to continue to increase his strikeouts, decrease his walk total and a little help from his defense definitely would not hurt.
It looks like the Mets will have a strong starting rotation, so it will be up to the hitting and middle-relief to make sure Parnell gets the opportunity to flourish in his role. If Parnell steps his game up, it's possible the Mets could have the best ninth inning guy in New York this season (that hasn't been a possibility since I was two years old, so I had to say it).
9. Jenrry Mejia
I love Jenrry Mejia.
Watching Mejia pitch was easily one of the best parts of being a Mets fan last year (not that he had much competition, but still).
If you follow the Mets it probably seems like Mejia should be 30-years-old by now with how long we have been hearing his name, yet he is just 24. Mejia only made five starts for the Mets last season before he had to undergo surgery to end his year.
The five starts he did make though, were exciting and effective. Mejia's record in his five outings did not do him justice, finishing at 1-2. The little-to-no help he received from his teammates at the plate, a story that Mets fans know all too well, is what hurt Mejia’s record. Luckily, his team's poor hitting could not hurt his ERA, which ended the season at a very promising 2.30.
Yes it was only a mere five starts, but I really believe Mejia has proven that he has the ability to be a productive starter in the major leagues. He has some absolutely nasty pitches and if he could ever stay healthy, there is no denying that it would be very fun to see him reach his full potential.
With the signing of Bartolo Colon, Mejia fell in my rankings due to the growing possibility of him not making the rotation. However, I would love to see the 24-year-old begin the season with the chance to be a starter and I think if healthy, he definitely deserves it. With four guys in front of him though and a few prospects waiting in the wings, Mejia may not get his opportunity to start. If he is not one of the starters though, don't rule out the idea of seeing Mejia work as a middle reliever.
8. Noah Syndergaard
It’s no secret that the Mets are building around pitching. The young arms of Harvey, Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard are the three most important ones they have.
Syndergaard was acquired last offseason from the Toronto Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey trade and was extremely impressive in his first year in the Mets’ system. The 21-year-old, stands at a huge 6'6" tall and throws some absolute heat when he’s on the hill.
The former first round pick began the 2013 season in Single A but after 12 starts was promoted to Double A. Once promoted, Syndergaard really showed his potential.
In 11 starts for the Binghamton Mets, Syndergaard recorded a 6-1 record. More impressively, Syndergaard posted an ERA of 3.00 while striking out 69 and walking just 12 in his 54 innings.
The prospect’s name has been in some trade rumors over the past year, however it would be a huge mistake to give up Syndergaard. With his value seemingly always rising, it looks like the Mets absolutely robbed the Blue Jays when they received Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud in exchange for R.A. Dickey.
The fact that the Mets pulled off that trade is a crime, but the bigger crime would be to now give up Syndergaard. Although it is true the Mets could land a big bat in exchange for him, it would hurt the Mets in the future.
The Mets are looking at a rotation with three guys who could all be aces in a few years. Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergaard is a three-headed monster that will be scary good and is too valuable to give up.
Syndergaard will likely start the season in Las Vegas with the Mets’ Triple A affiliate and could make his way to the big leagues by June, similar to when Zack Wheeler was called up last year. If Syndergaard performs to his potential and is given the chance, he could have a big impact on this team.
7. Juan Lagares
Juan Lagares is an exciting young player with a lot of potential. When Lagares got called up in April of last year, he got off to a bit of a shaky start, but soon enough Lagares began to improve.
Though his play at the plate started to decline towards the end of the season, his true potential showed in the month of June. During that span, the 24-year-old outfielder batted an absurd .353, good for the highest monthly average of any Met player all year.
Lagares also provided the Amazin’s with two things they didn’t have—excitement and fielding.
Juan Lagares is a very good center fielder with an extremely strong arm. He ended the season with 15 outfield assists, which was good for third in the MLB. His 15 assists came in just 116 games, while the two outfielders in front of Lagares each played 155 games—recording 17 assists each.
His fielding was very impressive; Lagares seems to have a great feel for the position and gets a great jump on fly balls just about every time they are hit his way.
To the critics who say that the five errors that Lagares had last season prove he’s not a great fielder, I disagree. It is unfair to say that, considering that errors as a whole are sometimes a misconstrued statistic.
For example, let’s say a ball is hit to the outfield, yet the outfielder comes nowhere near it, the ball falls into the gap for a base hit; no error.
However, lets say that same ball is hit to the outfield and Lagares gets one of his great jumps towards the ball. He somehow gets close enough to almost make a play, yet drops it: error Lagares. It’s almost as if sometimes fielders who can cover more ground, like Lagares, are faulted for doing so.
No matter what, Lagares is an exciting guy to watch and it will be an absolute crime if he is not starting for the Mets every day. If Chris Young is filling the spot of Juan Lagares on an every day basis I honestly don’t know what I’ll do.
Juan Lagares has a high ceiling and is extremely fun to watch. The potential Lagares has is something the Mets need to build on and having him to play every day will do that. Hopefully the Mets give Lagares the opportunity he deserves and if everything works out, it will be him in center field on opening day.
6. Eric Young Jr.
When the Mets acquired Eric Young Jr. from the Rockies in June of last year I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the trade. Fortunately EY actually played well for the Mets and similar to Lagares, brought the Mets a lot of energy and speed, two things they were without.
In the 91 games Eric Young played with the Mets last year he batted .251, with an OBP of .318. While these numbers definitely are not as high as one would like for a leadoff man, it was an upgrade for the Mets who have been in need of a solid guy at the top of the order since the departure of Jose Reyes.
It was refreshing and exciting to see EY get on base and be a serious threat to steal at any given moment. With 46 stolen bases in total last year—38 with the Mets—EY led the National League and having only been caught 11 times, he proved that he is an intelligent runner.
Young’s aggression and effectiveness when on base will be one of the keys to the Mets’ offense this year as it looks like he is going to be the leadoff guy again, at least to start the season. If he can bring up his average and on-base percentage, it would be an unbelievably big boost to the Mets’ offense.
Young’s passion and excitement for the game is not just seen on the basepaths, though. Young, a Gold Glove finalist in 2013, was a fantastic fielder for the Mets. With Young’s speed he can cover a ton of ground in the outfield.
Having Young and Lagares next to one another in the outfield is a formula for success and is hopefully a duo the Mets will feature alongside the newly acquired Curtis Granderson.
Another option the Mets have with Eric Young is to move him to the infield. Young, who is also a second baseman, could possibly move to second base if Daniel Murphy is traded. This would allow the Mets to play an outfield of Chris Young, Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares.
The chances of that are slim however, and are becoming even less likely with reports coming out that Murphy will probably not be traded. Plus, moving such a great fielder from the outfield would not be a smart decision (but it is the Mets so I mean...).
New York will need Eric Young to continue to improve his offense game and since EY will be just 29-years-old at the start of the season, it is very possible that he takes his game to another level. As someone who seems to be better fit for the lower part of the batting order, it will be important to watch and see if Young can improve as a leadoff hitter or if the Mets will turn to someone else to fill the spot.
5. Bartolo Colon
Yes, he’s 40-years-old, yes he was suspended for 50 games for a positive testosterone test and yes, he may be a tad out of shape. However, Bartolo Colon can really pitch and I love the signing.
The Mets signed Colon to a two-year, $20 million contract just a day after formally introducing outfielder Curtis Granderson. Colon is the perfect stopgap for Matt Harvey who they will be without this year.
Coming off one of the best seasons of his career and with the Mets in need of an ace, Colon is a perfect fit for this team. Bartolo was reborn over the past two season and especially last year. In 30 starts, Colon posted a career-best 2.65 ERA and had a WHIP of just 1.17. Colon's record ended at 18-6, all very impressive, especially in the much tougher American League
The most amazing part of Colon’s game may be his ability to consistently throw strikes. In his 190.1 innings last year, Colon only walked 29 batters, while having 117 strikeouts. His knack to keep the ball over the plate is an extremely valuable attribute that the Mets will love to have.
With Bartolo turning 41 in May, the concerns over Colon’s age are definitely fair, but if he can produce remotely similarly to last year there will be no one complaining. Without Harvey the Mets needed to go out and get another pitcher and it will be fun to watch Colon in this rotation of young arms.
The best part about this acquisition could be watching Colon trying to bat, though. Having only been a National League pitcher for 17 starts back in 2002, he has rarely had to bat regularly. Colon is 0-17 at the plate since 2006 and seeing the big man often try to hit will be entertaining if nothing else.
4. Travis D'Arnaud
Along with Syndergaard, the Mets acquired catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud in the R.A. Dickey trade. The Mets have not had a promising young catcher for a while now, but the addition of d’Arnaud certainly changed that.
One of the top catching prospects in baseball, d’Arnaud appeared in 31 games for the Mets last season. The 6’2” 24-year-old did not shine in his first stint in the majors, however.
d’Arnaud spent the end of the Mets season as their starting catcher but batted just .202 with only one home run and 5 RBI’s. d’Arnaud especially struggled when facing lefties where he went just 2-for-24, an average of .083.
The good news is it is a very small sample size and d’Arnaud is extremely young. There is no doubt that d’Arnaud will improve; the question is how good can he become?
This season will be an important one for d’Arnaud as he comes into the year as the Mets top catcher, a role he will possibly be in for a very long time. His hitting and fielding will both improve as he continues to grow. While, d’Arnaud is not known for his power, he should be a guy that puts together a good batting average.
In the catcher’s 19 games with the Mets’ Triple A affiliate d’Arnaud put together a .304 average in 78 plate appearances.
Although he did not make a big impact immediately, I expect this year to be very different. It cannot be forgotten that d’Arnaud was coming off a foot injury last year before being promoted.
After a whole summer off and time to improve his game, look for a fully-healthy Travis d’Arnaud to be one of the Mets’ most important players in 2014.
3. David Wright
A list of the Mets’ most exciting players would certainly not be complete without their captain. David Wright is entering his 11th season with the team and will be looking to help his team make a playoff push in 2014.
Every Mets fan loves Wright; it’s impossible to not. Wright decided to stick with the Mets in hopes that he can compete and win in this uniform. It’s been a while since the Mets were in the NLCS, where a 24-year-old David Wright looked like the key piece to a very good team. As long as it's been, one thing that has not changed over the years is Wright’s importance to this team.
Wright is the Mets’ best everyday player and has been for a while now. Though his very best days at the plate may be behind him now, Wright is still a great hitter. Wright batted .307 with 18 home runs and 58 RBI’s last season in the 112 games he played before going down with an injury.
The big news for Wright this year is that he will actually have some protection in the lineup. With the Mets bringing in Granderson, the captain will finally have another dangerous bat in his lineup. Having another proven hitter in the lineup with Wright is a piece that the Mets have been missing for far too long now.
Wright is not solely important for the Mets at the plate though, he was also a finalist for a Gold Glove in 2013. Wright’s been an extremely good fielder for the Mets his entire career and seems like he’s always good for a few unbelievably barehanded plays each year.
With Wright returning from his injury this year and finally having some support in the lineup, this has the potential to be a very big season for the soon to be 31-year-old. Wright will try and lead his 2014 Mets team where they haven’t been since 2006; the playoffs.
2. Curtis Granderson
Finally. Finally. Finally. Mets fans have been waiting for years for the Amazin’s to bring in a big bat and with signing Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million contract; it looks like they have done just that.
Granderson is joining a Mets team who needed some serious outfield help and a lot of pop in their batting order. Granderson, who hit 41 home runs in 2012 and 43 in 2013, is a player who can bring both those things.
To put it into perspective, the Mets haven’t had a guy hit over 40 home runs since 2006, when Carlos Beltran did it. In fact, the Mets have had only one guy hit over 30 home runs since 2009, when Ike Davis hit 32 in 2012. So, we don’t even need 40 home runs from Grandy, but if he could get 30 wouldn't that be awesome.
Granderson can without a doubt do that too. Although many people seem to have coined Grandy as “injury-prone” he’s really not at all. He played just 61 games last year due to injuries, but prior to that Granderson had never played less than 136 in a full MLB season.
For right now, the Granderson deal was perfect and it was a move the Mets’ front office had to make. How the deal will look three years from now is up for debate. Grandy will be 33-years-old once the 2014 season gets underway but after not playing much last season, there’s no doubt he will be fresh and ready to go come April.
Granderson is excited to be a Met and the “true New Yorkers” are even more excited to have him. He is exactly was this team needed and was a great signing for New York. The former Yankee will definitely make Mets fans happy that he decided to trade in his pinstripes for blue and orange.
1. Zack Wheeler
The Mets’ most exciting player heading into the 2014 season is Zack Wheeler. The argument that Granderson should be atop the list is fair, but I simply can’t wait for year two of Wheeler.
Since acquiring Wheeler in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to San Francisco, he has been the most talked about prospect the Mets have had. Wheeler made his major league debut in June of last year against the Atlanta Braves. Wheeler set the bar high in his MLB debut, going 6 innings without allowing a run to the Braves.
With the success that Matt Harvey had seen prior to Wheeler being called up, he was facing some unfair expectations before being promoted. Harvey, who sported a 2.73 ERA in 10 starts as a rookie, is someone who’s skill not many can match.
Wheeler seemed to accept it as a challenge however, and put together a very successful rookie season himself. In his 17 starts Wheeler threw 100 innings and posted an ERA of 3.42. His 7-5 record could have been better if not for the Mets’ lack of offense.
Coming into his second season Wheeler is certainly looking to improve. Although I do think it is cruel to keep comparing him to Harvey, it’s hard not to. With the dominance we saw from Harvey in his second season, it is impossible to not have high hopes for Wheeler’s second year.
Unfortunately we will not be able to watch Wheeler and Harvey on back-to-back nights this season but that is no reason to not be excited for 2014.
In 2013 Wheeler proved that he can absolutely be a lights-out pitcher and that he is an ace in the making. There’s no telling the jump that he can make in his second season, but if he can really take his game to the next level, he will be a pitcher no team wants to face.
There are a lot of exciting and interesting things about the Mets team this season, but there is still plenty of time for changes. I have a feeling there are still one or two more moves the Mets will make before winter comes to a close.
Will it finally be the year the Mets make it back to the playoffs? Maybe, maybe not. Will it be the year the Mets play some meaningful September baseball though? I say absolutely.
All stats in this piece obtained from BaseballReference.com.