The 2014 season will be better than 2013's version for New York Mets fans because the team will be showcasing its young, promising talent while taking one step closer to completing its plan of becoming a championship contender once again.
2013 was not without its high points for Mets fans, however. New Yorkers reveled in the greatness that was Matt Harvey, as he asserted himself as one of baseball’s most dominant forces (and Jon Rauch’s worst nightmare). A late-season UCL tear has stripped fans of Harvey for the 2014 season, making the prospect of an improved 2014 a tall task.
But the Mets have hope on the horizon beyond Matt Harvey, with young players ready to blossom or make their major league debut in 2014.
The chance to watch the Mets’ young pitchers blossom along with their improved chances of making the playoffs will help fans get over the loss of Harvey and enjoy 2014 even more.
Watching the Growth of Young Players
2013’s high points occurred every fifth day when Harvey took the mound. Because of the Mets’ talented young pitchers that should blossom this season, fans will have reason to get excited more than just one day out of every five.
Last season fans caught a glimpse of Zack Wheeler’s potential, but he still has plenty to prove in 2014. In 100 innings at the major league level, Wheeler struck out 84 batters but walked 46. He averaged 4.14 walks per nine innings, a figure he will need to decrease significantly if he wants to become a major league stud.
Despite Wheeler’s high walk rate and command trouble, he displayed great promise as well. He pitched to an impressive 3.42 ERA and showed off the electric fastball that made him such a highly touted prospect. His incredible promise is evident in the video below, where he dominated Miami hitters while controlling all of his offerings.
Wheeler’s secondary pitches and command need work, but watching him grow into his potential will be an exciting storyline for fans in the 2014 season.
Beyond Wheeler, the Mets have a number of other young guns that should make 2014 an exciting year for fans. Pitchers like Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom should make themselves important at the major league level early on, whether as replacement starters or impact relievers.
Noah Syndergaard, the righty prospect acquired in the R.A. Dickey trade, could be even more exciting (and potentially better) than Wheeler by the end of the 2014 season. The burly Texan powers a mid- to high-90s fastball and a much-improved breaking ball, having made big strides with the secondary pitch in 2013.
Last season pitching at both High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, Syndergaard pitched 117.2 innings and struck out 133. There are also little concerns about his command (like there are with Wheeler), as he walked just 28 batters in 2013.
Syndergaard should begin his season in Triple-A Las Vegas, and if he progresses as expected, he should come up to the majors in either June or July. When Syndergaard is called up he will be Mets fans’ shiny new toy, as the combination of his overpowering fastball and great control should make him successful in the short term while giving fans hopes of long-term success.
Mets fans also got a taste of the other major piece of the R.A. Dickey trade at the end of 2013 with Travis d’Arnaud. The young catcher struggled in his debut; he hit just .202 with one home run in 99 at-bats. Despite the underwhelming start, d’Arnaud has All-Star potential.
I wrote extensively here earlier this offseason on why d’Arnaud’s improvement in 2014 is key to the Mets’ playoff chances. If d’Arnaud reaches his ceiling as a prospect and becomes a force behind the plate, the 2014 Mets will be much more exciting than the 2013 squad.
New Organizational Approach
2014 will also be better for Mets fans because of the shifting approach of the organization onto winning now versus building for the future.
The Mets have been rebuilding since Sandy Alderson took over as general manager, which is why the team has so many of the young players that will help make 2014 exciting. However, this offseason, after it signed veterans like Curtis Granderson, Chris Young and Bartolo Colon, fans can no longer complain about the team only being concerned with the future.
Signing Granderson and Young gives the Mets an established outfield that the team lacked in 2013. Both players are flawed but have impact potential. Adding these two players with Juan Lagares in center field should give the Mets impressive outfield defense in 2014, which beyond being fun to watch should also help the entire pitching staff.
Colon will not be able to replicate Matt Harvey’s tremendous 2013, but he should help fill some of the void caused by his absence.
Despite the fact it is unlikely Colon will repeat his amazing 2013 statistics (2.65 ERA, just 29 walks in 190.1 innings), his impeccable fastball command (as seen in the below video) should make him effective in 2014.
Also, even if Colon doesn’t come close to his 2013 numbers, getting to watch a pitcher so awkwardly athletic and rotund should be fun for Mets fans.
The Mets’ signings so far this offseason do not make them a legitimate championship contender yet, but it puts them in the playoff conversation. They also show Mets fans that the team is willing to spend money and is trying to win now, something that should give fans hope for contention in the near future (even if it doesn’t occur in 2014).
2013 was far from perfect for Mets fans as the team failed to compete for a playoff spot, but Harvey’s amazing season made it worth watching.
The Mets’ young talent that will be showcased in 2014 along with the organization's new approach to winning now will make 2014 better than 2013 for Mets fans.
Contending for a championship is the final goal, but the process of reaching contention is fun in itself. 2014 will not be perfect, but it will be a step in the right direction for the Mets—something fans should enjoy.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.
You can follow me on Twitter at @S_CunninghamBR.