After another disappointing season in 2012, the New York Mets matched their 2012 record of 74-88 in 2013. However, last season was full of much more hope for Mets fans than 2012, as a number of highly touted pitching prospects were on the verge of making a splash in the majors.
According to John Harper of the New York Daily News, general manager Sandy Alderson told his organization that they are capable of reaching 90 wins in 2014, something they haven't done since the 2006 season when they went 97-65.
The Mets should improve in 2014, as they have added integral pieces to both the lineup and starting rotation. However, their first goal should be to finish .500 in 2014, as 90 wins seems like a stretch for a team with a lot of questions to answer.
The biggest hole the Mets will have to fill is the absence of young phenom starting pitcher Matt Harvey, who lit up the stage in 2013. In his first full season, Harvey finished fourth in the National League Cy Young Award race, pitching to a 2.27 ERA with 191 strikeouts in 178.1 innings pitched for New York.
Unfortunately, Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery to repair damage in his right elbow. He is expected to miss at least the majority of 2014, as a return in August or September is not being ruled out, according to Harvey himself. Without Harvey, New York's rotation is incomplete.
Without Harvey, the rotation consists of recently-acquired Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler and Jenrry Mejia. That is a decent rotation, but not the stellar rotation that would typically give a team 90 wins.
Last season, Bartolo Colon had one of the best seasons of his 16-year career, going 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA for the Oakland Athletics. At 40 years old, it would be surprising to see Colon have the same stellar season in 2014, but anything near that is vital for the Mets' success.
Then there is Jon Niese, who has posted a respectable 3.99 ERA over six big-league seasons. However, he will have to prove he is deserving of the second spot in the rotation by bringing that ERA down and his win total from last season (eight) up in 2014.
Dillon Gee is coming off the best season of his still-young career, as he posted a 3.62 ERA and registered 12 wins last season with the Mets. With the revamped lineup of the Mets, Gee is capable of winning 15 wins in 2014 if he can keep the ERA down like he did last season.
Then there is the highly touted prospect Zack Wheeler, who pitched to a 3.42 ERA in 17 games last season with the Mets. He has the potential to be Matt Harvey's sidekick in that rotation if or when Harvey returns to form. Still, without Harvey the Mets will have a very difficult time finding enough wins to get to 90 or even secure a wild-card spot.
As of now, Jenrry Mejia will round out the rotation for New York when the regular season begins. In five starts last season, Mejia went 1-2 with a 2.30 ERA. However, it is too small of a sample size to determine whether he will be effective throughout the season, as he has only started 11 games in three major league seasons and made 32 appearances out of the bullpen.
The most important pitcher to watch in spring training for the Mets is prospect Noah Syndergaard, who will start the season in AAA as Harvey and Wheeler did before they were called up. According to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, managers Terry Collins said last Monday that Syndergaard was "throwing 97 (mph) today with a hook from hell.”
With a rotation packed with potential, there is every reason to be excited about the future of this organization. However, while this season should be an improvement from last season, the Mets will not reach 90 wins in 2014.
Another huge question that must be answered for the Mets to get to 90 wins this season is the production of catcher Travis d'Arnaud. Highly regarded as a stellar offensive catcher, d'Arnaud looked lost at the plate with the Mets in 2013, batting .202 in 99 at-bats while striking out 21 times.
Although he struggled at the plate, d'Arnaud did well in calling games behind the plate last season, and for that the organization should be excited. Still, the offense will have to pick up to add protection to the lineup for guys like Ike Davis and David Wright.
That brings us to the discussion of the lineup the Mets will be putting out there every game in 2014. With the addition of former Yankees slugger and left fielder Curtis Granderson, the Mets added power to their lineup. Now, they have three legitimate sluggers in Wright, Davis and Granderson, the latter of whom hit 43 home runs in 2012, his last full season.
In right field the Mets have Chris Young, who owns a poor career batting average of .235 in eight major league seasons. Center fielder Juan Lagares will enter his first full season in 2014, and he impressed many with his glove when he first came up in 2013. He went on to hit .242 in 121 games with New York, but he would have to improve tremendously if the Mets were to win 90 games this season.
Second baseman Daniel Murphy has been one of the most reliable players for the Mets over the last few seasons. In 2013 he played in all but one game, batting .286 with 13 home runs.
Realistically, Murphy, Wright, Davis and Granderson are the only batters in that lineup who have established themselves as performers at a high level. However, Davis is one of the biggest question marks for the Mets as he attempts to bounce back from a dreadful 2013 in which he batted .205 with only nine home runs in 103 games.
On the bright side, Davis has shown he is capable of hitting for power, as he blasted 32 home runs in 2012. Still, his batting average has spiraled downward over the last three seasons, so he will have to bring his numbers up for the offense to have the production needed to even finish the season at .500.
Now that the internal organizational problems have been addressed, the competition must be considered.
Last season the Nationals disappointed many by failing to reach the playoffs with a great team, but the Braves lived up to expectations, winning 96 games en route to a National League East division title.
The Nationals are expected to bounce back this season, and the Braves will continue to perform. Atlanta's lineup and Washington's starting rotation will prove to be too much for the Mets to compete with them through September.
So, there is no doubt that 2014 will be an exciting season for the Mets as they finally turn the tides and start a new chapter in the organization's history. While the pitching is something that will be considered their greatest strength in the years to come, Harvey's absence will hurt them and the Mets will not reach 90 wins in 2014.
Even if Wheeler comes out strong and Syndergaard is effective when he comes up, the Mets look more like an 80- to 85-win team in 2014. However, that is nothing to be disappointed about, as the organization continues to develop prospects into major league players.
This season will be the first step to dominance as the Mets should hover right around .500 all season, but by this time next year, it will likely be a different story as the Mets will be a legitimate contender in the NL East.
*All Statistics Courtesy of Baseball Reference