5 Bold Predictions for the New York Mets 2014 Season
While 2015 and the return of Matt Harvey will likely be the realistic time to start discussing playoff odds for the New York Mets, this team has plenty of exciting individuals that should keep fans watching throughout the season.
Through the rest of this slideshow, I have made five bold predictions about the Mets 2014 season. Some of these predictions you might agree with, while others you may find absurd, but that is what makes them bold predictions.
Also, as these are bold predictions, I don’t necessarily think they will come to fruition, I am just arguing why they are within the realm of possibility.
So, without further ado, here are five bold predictions for the 2014 Mets.
Travis D'Arnaud Will Be an All-Star
Travis d’Arnaud struggled upon reaching the big leagues last season and has been unspectacular during spring training. However, he has both the physical tools and the makeup to become an all-star.
At the plate, d’Arnaud has plus-bat speed and opposite-field power, but he often over-swings and is aggressive at pitches outside of the zone. If he can hone down his approach, he has the power and natural hitting ability to be among the best offensive catchers in baseball.
Defensively, d’Arnaud has the ability to change the game drastically as well. Via Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, both Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler saw the great potential in d’Arnaud’s pitch-framing ability after just a few weeks in the majors. Harvey stated that he felt d’Arnaud had Molina-like qualities behind the plate, while Wheeler said, “when the balls are down, he does something that makes them look like they’re strikes. It’s ridiculous.”
D’Arnaud is also effective at controlling the running game. Baseball Prospectus’ Mark Anderson wrote upon d’Arnaud’s call-up to the big leagues, that he consistently recorded a pop-time of under 2.0 seconds, a very good time that should continue to improve as d’Arnaud works on his footwork.
The two biggest things standing between d’Arnaud and an all-star appearance are his health and his competition around the league.
D’Arnaud has struggled with injuries throughout his minor league career. Despite being a top prospect since being drafted out of high school, he didn’t make his major league debut until his age-24 season. As a rookie, if d’Arnaud misses any amount of time due to injury he will definitely not make the all-star team.
Even if d’Arnaud is healthy and performs like a stud with the bat and the glove, making the team will still be difficult. Players like the St. Louis Cardinals Yadier Molina and the San Francisco Giants Buster Posey are household names and will almost definitely be on the roster.
Last year, the National League had three catchers on the roster, with former Atlanta Brave Brian McCann as the third choice after Molina and Posey. McCann is now in the American League, so that third catching spot on the roster is up for grabs.
With catcher is a weak position across baseball, and d’Arnaud having elite tools while playing in a big market, a productive first half could propel him to his first all-star appearance.
Chris Young Will Be Among Top 10 National League Home Run Hitters
Last season, Marlon Byrd was a bright spot on the lowly Mets offense, hitting 24 home runs in 2013 while playing in New York and for the Pittsburgh Pirates, which was just one home run shy of making the National League top 10.
This season, the Mets took a chance on former All-Star Chris Young by signing him to a one-year, $7.25 million contract. Young has performed poorly in recent seasons, yet his career trajectory has been inconsistent and he could be in store for a bounce-back season, a topic I explored earlier this spring.
Last season, the Mets offense was among the worst in baseball, despite Byrd’s unexpected production. New York hopes that Curtis Granderson can replicate (and hopefully exceed) Byrd’s 2013 numbers, but if the Mets want to take a step forward, they’ll need Young to supply power as well.
Young will likely bat below .250, but he definitely has the natural raw power to exceed Byrd’s 24 home runs and make the National League Top 10 leaderboard. Via Mark Simon of ESPN, hittrackeronline.com recorded that six of Young’s 12 home runs last season were “no doubters,” meaning they cleared the fence by 20 feet vertically and 50 feet horizontally.
Young will be given the opportunity to play every day this season and has performed well this spring, hitting .347 with a .958 OPS. While these numbers are unsustainable, Young has exhibited a solid approach at the plate and has driven the ball the other way consistently. If this approach continues into the season, he should be able to tap into his raw power and help replace the void left by Byrd this offseason.
Young could easily flop and be a non-factor for the Mets, but a big season from him could either propel the Mets into wild-card contention, or give the team a valuable trade-chip prior to the July 31 trade deadline.
Zack Wheeler Will Have the Lowest Win-Percentage Among Mets Starters
Zack Wheeler has as much talent as any pitcher in the big leagues, but due to his command issues and inability to pitch deep into games, he will have the lowest win-percentage among Mets starters.
Unfortunately not all the predictions on this list are positive, although this one is less negative than it first appears, as it does not necessarily mean that Wheeler will have a bad season. Wins are being recognized as an overrated stat across baseball, evidenced by Matt Harvey finishing 2013 with nine wins, despite being among the best pitchers in the major leagues.
Wheeler has better stuff than any other Mets starter, but, as I have written about extensively, he still has command issues he needs to work out before he can tap into his potential. There will be days this season in which Wheeler dominates and gets an easy win; on others, he will labor through five innings as his pitch count builds up, due to his mechanics getting out of sync.
If Wheeler still has his command inconsistencies from start-to-start this season, there will be many outings in which he goes just five innings because of his pitch count, and he will risk losing a lead to the bullpen.
Compared to the other Mets starters who should be able to attack the strike zone and, theoretically, work deeper into games, Wheeler will get less wins just because he wont be able to defend leads into the sixth and seventh innings as often.
Wheeler is an important part of the Mets future and should perform well this season, but because of his command flare-ups he wont be able to pitch as many innings as others, and it will be reflected in his win-percentage.
Daniel Murphy Will Finish in the Top 5 for the National League Batting Title
Daniel Murphy is one of the longest-tenured Mets currently on the roster, and has been a streaky hitter who finishes every season with consistently solid numbers.
Murphy will never be a power hitter, but his natural hitting ability makes him one of the toughest outs in the league when he’s hot. When he’s in a groove, he can spray line drives across the diamond while barreling up doubles into the gaps and down both foul lines.
However, there are stretches every season when Mets fans call for his head because of his approach at the plate. Despite having a very good eye, Murphy doesn’t walk often. When he gets into a funk at the plate and isn’t walking either, he can flail at pitches in hitter’s counts, resulting in weaker contact and periods of time when he can’t buy a base hit.
Despite these stretches, Murphy has finished the last three seasons with batting averages of .320, .291 and .286. His .320 mark in 2011 would have landed him among the top five hitters in 2013, and it is a mark he is absolutely capable of for a whole season if he limits his cold stretches.
Murphy has become a forgotten man this spring, as he has dealt with injuries, and he had to deal with trade rumors all offseason that could persist into the season if the team struggles. These distractions and aches could result in him turning in another typical (and solid) Murphy-season, hitting around .290 with 10 home runs with a mediocre OBP.
However, Murphy has been around the block plenty of times. If he can get over the mental hurdles that are presented to him this season and cut down on his cold stretches, he has the natural hitting ability to contend for a batting title, especially with established power threats in David Wright and Curtis Granderson hitting behind him.
If Murphy has a big season, he could help propel the Mets into wild-card contention; and even if they are out of contention, he could be a highly valuable trade asset come July.
Juan Lagares Will Win a Gold Glove Award
This is the least bold prediction on this list, as people who have watched Juan Lagares play every day have seen him perform magical acts in the outfield on a regular basis.
Lagares arguably should have won a Gold Glove last season, as he finished with the fifth-best defensive WAR in the National League (3.5), despite playing in just 121 games. He was at a disadvantage in the competition, however, as Gold Gloves are often won based on reputation, giving the advantage to veteran players.
Coming into this season, Lagares now has the reputation as an absolute stud in center field. If he stays healthy and plays every day, winning a Gold Glove should almost be expected.
The biggest thing standing in Lagares’ way is that manager Terry Collins insists on having Eric Young Jr. in the lineup because of his speed at the top of the order. While Collins stated publicly that he will find ways to have both players in the lineup, it is not a completely realistic possibility unless somebody gets hurt.
Chris Young signed with the Mets largely because they presented him a chance to play every day, and Granderson isn’t sitting for either Young Jr. or Lagares. Without an injury, that means that Young Jr. and Lagares will be splitting time in the lineup and, therefore, preventing Lagares from getting as much playing time as the other Gold Glove candidates.
In the end, I believe the Mets upper management will overrule Collins and insist that Lagares play in center every day, as his defense in the outfield helps the team much more than Young Jr.’s speed.
If Lagares plays every day, he now has the reputation to go along with his defensive chops that should make him a shoe-in for a Gold Glove award.