4 Reasons to Be Optimistic for New York Mets' 2014 Season
The New York Mets have had little reason to be optimistic for the past few years, but this year has the potential be different.
Mets fans have been conditioned to be pessimistic through years of disappointment, and this wasn’t helped following a devastating loss on Opening Day. Bobby Parnell will miss significant time due to injury after just one game, a huge blow to an already shaky bullpen.
Fans can also be pessimistic due to the fact that the Mets still don't know who is the long-term starter at first base and because Matt Harvey will miss the season after being New York’s biggest star in 2013.
Despite these reasons to be pessimistic, fans trying to find the bright side shouldn’t have to look too hard.
Next season may be a more realistic time to discuss contending for a playoff spot, but playing in October is definitely possible this year. The Mets will need a number of breaks to go their way, but they have the pieces in place to at least be in the conversation for a wild-card spot.
Few fanbases need reasons to be optimistic more than the Mets, so presented on the following slides are four reasons to be optimistic about the team’s 2014 season.
All statistics courtesy Baseball-Reference.
The Mets starting rotation entering this season has the ability to be one of the best in baseball.
New York has assembled a combination of reliable veterans, high-ceiling young arms and minor league depth that gives it a legitimate chance of winning every time it steps out on the field.
While losing Matt Harvey hurts, Bartolo Colon was among the best pitchers in the American League last season while dominating a division full of loaded lineups.
Dillon Gee and Jonathon Niese are also both consistent presences in the rotation who give the Mets a chance to win every outing despite their lack of overpowering stuff.
Zack Wheeler and Jenrry Mejia both have the physical ability to be among the best pitchers in baseball. They have dominant stuff, and when they are commanding all of their offerings they can mow down lineups with ease.
Niese has struggled with his health this spring, and Mejia and Colon have had health problems in the past, but the Mets have solid options as replacements if any injuries occur.
Daisuke Matsuzaka nearly beat out Mejia for the No. 5 starter spot and is an option most teams around baseball would love to have to slide in the back of their rotation. The Mets also have elite pitching prospects on the cusp of making the major leagues who could become impact starters at the big league level by summer.
If the starters play up to their ability and keep the Mets competitive on a day-to-day basis, they can definitely compete for a wild-card spot late in the season.
The Rest of the Division Is Down
The Mets have plenty of holes, but so do the other teams in the National League East, especially with their starting rotations. The pitching staffs across the division (outside of Washington) are weaker than the Mets, as some have been hurt by injuries while others lack consistency.
The defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves rotation is rather unimpressive after losing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to injury during spring training. Julio Teheran is an exciting young starter at the front of their rotation, but the rest of their staff is patched together. They made a necessary signing in Ervin Santana, but Alex Wood is a lefty with flawed mechanics likely destined for the bullpen long term, David Hale is an unknown entity and Aaron Harang is well past his prime.
The Miami Marlins rotation is blessed with the best pitcher in the division in Jose Fernandez, but the rest of the staff is composed of young pitchers with talent who lack both the pedigree or high upside of the Mets starters.
The Philadelphia Phillies starters outside of Cliff Lee are also mediocre. AJ Burnett has been solid in recent years for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he nearly retired this offseason and should be no more than a solid mid-rotation starter. Pitchers like Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez are solid depth options but have less ability than each of the Mets starting five.
The Washington Nationals rotation is better than that of the Mets with studs Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann leading it, and that is a major reason why I believe they are the division favorites this season. However, in terms of depth, the Mets have the edge.
Once Doug Fister joins the Nationals staff it will be even more formidable, but beyond their top four starters, Washington lacks the depth to handle any significant injuries.
Considering that the Mets starting rotation is better than or can stack up with the rest of the teams in their division, it is definitely a reason to be optimistic heading into this season. Finishing ahead of a team like the Nationals is hard to imagine, but competing for second place and a wild-card spot is definitely within the realm of possibility.
The Future Is Now
One of the most frustrating parts of being a fan of a rebuilding team is that the prospects who the organization swears will lead to future success usually are spread across the minors.
For the 2014 Mets, the future is now, as the roster will be composed of prospects who will impact the current success of the organization, not just the future.
Travis d’Arnaud is the biggest prospect to start the season on the Mets roster, and his health and progress this season is key to the Mets’ future. He is old for a prospect at 25, but he has the ability to be an impact player at a premium position for a long time despite struggling in the majors at the end of last season.
While D’Arnaud was the only one in the majors to begin the season, a number of high-ceiling prospects should contribute in 2014 as well.
Wilmer Flores just joined the team, but he will likely be sent down once Daniel Murphy returns from paternity leave. Once the Mets find a position for Flores and give him the opportunity to play every day, he will immediately become one of the more reliable bats in the Mets lineup.
Rafael Montero is major league ready and could be given an opportunity in the near future, but he is being blocked by an already full starting rotation in Queens. However, once given the opportunity, Montero should become a consistent force in the Mets rotation, using his elite command and above-average offerings to keep hitters off-balance.
While Montero is more major league ready, Noah Syndergaard is the name Mets fans are (and should) more excited about this season. If all goes well for him in Triple-A Las Vegas, he should make his debut this summer. Syndergaard has the potential to become an elite pitcher as soon as he reaches the big leagues, and just the possibility of this should give fans a reason to be optimistic.
A Legitimate Outfield
Heading into last season, the Mets outfield was a joke, but this year the outfield may instead be one of the team’s strengths.
Despite the Mets' 2013 outfield performing better than expected, it was still one of the weakest aspects of the team.
The Mets were lucky to get such a stellar season from Marlon Byrd prior to trading him, and realizing that Juan Lagares plays defense like a young Andruw Jones was great news for the franchise. Even though they exceeded expectations, the outfield was still below average as a whole.
While there is still some debate as to whether Lagares or Eric Young Jr. should be in the outfield, having Lagares out there with Chris Young and Curtis Granderson could be an outstanding crew. All three are center fielders (or have played center field significantly during their career), and having all of them out there with Lagares in the middle would give the Mets one of the best defensive outfields in the majors.
Granderson and Young should also be an offensive upgrade over last season. Granderson strikes out more than one would like, but he has been a successful power hitter throughout his career. If he can replicate any of his prior career success, the Mets lineup will be remarkably improved.
Young is coming off a few down seasons, but he has been a productive power hitter in the past. If he can find a way to make consistent contact so he can utilize his power, his bat would help lengthen the Mets lineup and allow the team to provide the pitching staff with run support on a more consistent basis.
Although the outfield still has some question marks, fans should still be optimistic about the potential it has both offensively and defensively.