5 Things We Want to See from the New York Mets in 2014
On the surface, 2013 was another disappointing season for the New York Mets. Terry Collins watched his squad play to a 74-88 record for the second straight year. The organization hasn’t put together a winning record since 2008.
As we get ready to flip the calendar to 2014, there is some renewed optimism throughout the organization. New York played .500 baseball over their last 100 games of the season.
It's a far cry from the playoffs, but it's the best stretch they've experienced in a few years. They’ve also acquired players such as Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young via free agency to bolster the roster.
The 2014 season has been the benchmark since Sandy Alderson arrived in Flushing.
Being patient was preached at numerous times as the front office worked toward this season. This would be the start of consistently competitive teams in Flushing. The farm system would be reinvigorated with some young talent, and they would have a strong grasp on the payroll and what they want to do with it.
After enduring five years of losing teams and rosters without a lot of productive players, fans are ready to see the “Amazins” take a step forward in 2014. Here are five things fans would love to see in Flushing for the upcoming season.
Noah Syndergaard's MLB Debut
Noah Syndergaard was a crucial piece of last winter’s trade between the Mets and Toronto Blue Jays. After seeing his 2013 performance, Alderson’s ability to include him in the deal could make this trade a tremendous one for New York.
The big right-hander started 2013 in High-A with the St. Lucie Mets. After putting together a 3-3 record, 3.11 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 64 strikeouts in 63.2 innings pitched, he was promoted to Double-A Binghamton. He didn’t need much of a learning curve upon entering Eastern League play.
Syndergaard went 6-1 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 69 strikeouts in 54 innings pitched for the B-Mets. Before allowing nine runs in his final regular-season start of the year, Syndergaard allowed just one run over a span of 21 innings. He struck out 26 hitters while allowing just six hits and two walks during that dominant stretch.
After finishing the season in Double-A, it’s virtually a lock he’ll begin 2014 in Triple-A with the Las Vegas 51s. If all goes well against Pacific Coast League hitters, Mets fans will watch a top pitching prospect make his MLB debut for the Amazins for the third consecutive year.
New York is planning on taking the same route with Syndergaard as they did with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler—he will first prove himself in Triple-A before being promoted to the big leagues. Fans should expect to see Syndergaard in the majors by June or July.
Key Players Remaining Healthy
To put together their first winning record since 2008, key players must stay healthy for the Mets. That has been a huge issue for the organization in recent years.
Last year’s starting rotation took a hit when they lost Johan Santana for the year due to a second shoulder capsule surgery. Matt Harvey took over the role as ace, but he was shut down in August and will be out until 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Bobby Parnell’s status for Opening Day is currently questionable, as well.
David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud are all expected to be playing every day in 2014, but each spent significant time on the disabled list in 2013.
Teams that clinch playoff berths are able to play consistently because key players don’t get injured for prolonged periods of time. If they do get hurt, there is enough organizational depth to fill that hole until the star player returns.
The Mets have depth on the pitching mound if someone goes down with an injury, but that’s about it. If a key position player gets hurt, it will be hard to make up the production lost while they’re on the shelf.
New York hasn’t had most of their key players stay healthy for several years. To be a consistently competitive team, they must buck that trend this season and stay on the field more than they have in the past.
It's a simple concept, but it's also something that's been difficult for the Mets.
A Consistent Bullpen
After watching the Mets bullpen post a 16-29 record with a 4.66 ERA and 1.39 WHIP while converting just 36 of 55 save opportunities in 2012, it wasn’t hard to be better in 2013.
Alderson had to almost completely rebuild his bullpen prior to last season, but there was marked improvement. The relief corps went 26-31 with a 3.98 ERA and 1.32 WHIP while converting 40 of 58 save opportunities.
New York is currently searching for a veteran reliever with experience closing games to join their staff, as noted by MLB.com's Anthony DiComo. Outside of that potential addition, the bullpen will mostly consist of young arms, including hurlers like Bobby Parnell, Victor Black and Jeurys Familia. To take advantage of what should be a strong starting rotation, the bullpen needs to be more consistent throughout the entire season.
The 2013 version of the ‘pen was much better than 2012, but they were rarely consistent from month to month. July and August were the only two months that the bullpen posted back-to-back ERAs under 4.00 (2.19 ERA in July, 3.97 ERA in August).
It will be challenging for a young group of relievers without much major league experience to stay consistent throughout an entire season. They will have to prove themselves while learning on the fly. The presence of Parnell and that unnamed veteran will be crucial in keeping the young pitchers on an even keel.
More Power at the Plate
Since the Mets moved into Citi Field, they’ve experienced a power outage at the plate. There was an improvement with regard to their power numbers once the fences were moved in prior to 2012, but not by much.
In 2013, the Mets ranked among the National League’s worst when it came to power. Their team slugging percentage of .366 was 14th in the NL, only better than the Miami Marlins. They also hit 263 doubles (9th), 130 home runs (tied for 11th) and 593 RBI (11th).
Terry Collins looked to Ike Davis and Lucas Duda to support David Wright and Daniel Murphy in the lineup. That didn’t happen, with both Davis and Duda spending time in the minor leagues. They combined to hit just 24 home runs last season.
To rectify the power outage, Alderson acquired Young and Granderson to man the outfield and provide some punch in the middle of the order. These signings will allow Wright and Murphy to get more protection and give the lineup some much-needed depth.
Young has hit 10 or more home runs in a season seven times. Before he signed his one-year, $7.25 million deal, Young's new teammate Wright was the only position player on the roster who could say the same. Granderson has also accomplished this feat, including two seasons of at least 40 home runs.
With the moves made so far this winter, a lot of potential production has been infused into the lineup. Alderson is hoping these acquisitions will help increase the team’s power numbers in 2014. In comparison to past lineups, the 2014 Mets have a legitimate shot at improvement.
Playing Meaningful Games in September
It was sad when the 2006 Mets fell one game short of reaching the World Series, but there was hope for the future. A core of Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran meant this team would be back to the playoffs in 2007 and beyond.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Since Shea Stadium closed, Mets fans haven’t seen any meaningful games played in September.
For the last five years, New York hasn't won more than 79 games in a season. Fans are thirsty for a competitive team through the dog days of August and into the chilly nights of autumn.
The rebuilding process the organization has undergone since the start of Sandy Alderson’s tenure is nearing its completion. It has taken three years, but the farm system has improved and ownership has started to show they're once again willing to hand out multi-year deals to impact free agents.
If the Mets can put together a record above .500, it will show fans they're visibly moving in the right direction. If they can reach the 85- to 90-win range, New York could be included in conversations for the second wild-card spot in the National League.
That would lead to them playing meaningful games into September—a nice change of pace considering what’s happened over the last five seasons.
Matt's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, Yahoo! Sports, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue and Mets Merized Online. To keep up with Matt, you can follow him on Twitter.