10 Reasons to Be Optimistic for Mets' 2015 Season

Shale BriskinContributor IIIMarch 31, 2015

10 Reasons to Be Optimistic for Mets' 2015 Season

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Mets' 2015 season is just about here and there is a lot to look forward to, as the Mets attempt to get into the postseason for the first time since 2006.

    After rebuilding for much of the decade thus far, most of the Mets' young pieces are now on the major league roster, which means the team is that much closer to competing and having winning seasons.

    Here are 10 reasons to be optimistic about the Mets this year.

1. Matt Harvey Is Back

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Any concerns regarding Matt Harvey's arm after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2013 should be put to rest. The Mets ace is back and should pick up right where he left off before the injury, when he went 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA and struck out 191 batters in the 2013 season.

    In 18.2 innings pitched in spring training, Harvey has a 1.45 ERA and has allowed three earned runs, while striking out 17. According to Tim Rohan of The New York Times, Harvey has regained his velocity, which consistently blew away hitters in 2013, and has exhibited the same control he had when he allowed only 31 walks in 178.1 innings that year.

    It's critical for the Mets that Harvey is healthy and back to his old self, because they will need a huge season from him in order to contend for the playoffs. He is scheduled to pitch in the Mets' third game of the season against the Washington Nationals in his first start since 2013.

2. Jacob DeGrom Should Continue to Improve

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Fresh off his 2014 season in which he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award, Jacob deGrom should continue to improve on the mound in the future.

    DeGrom was 9-6 last year with a 2.69 ERA that led all Mets starting pitchers, and there is ever reason to believe he can do even better this season. With Harvey now healthy, there will be less pressure on deGrom to carry the Mets' pitching staff all season.

    DeGrom is one of the most exciting players on the Mets, and fans should look for another great season out of him this year.

3. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz Will Be Called Up Soon

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    The Mets' top two pitching prospects Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz both have a great shot at making the major league roster this season. Exactly when this will happen is unknown, but both pitchers have shown over time that they are almost ready.

    Syndergaard is coming off a 2014 season that included a 9-7 record, a 4.60 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 26 starts and 133.0 innings pitched with Triple-A Las Vegas. Matz split last season with Single-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton. He had a combined 10-9 record, 2.24 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 24 starts and 140.2 innings pitched.

    In three spring training appearances, Syndergaard has a 4.91 ERA and has allowed four earned runs and three walks, while striking out nine in 7.1 innings. Matz has a solid 2.08 ERA in four appearances, two earned runs and two walks allowed to go along with four strikeouts in 8.2 innings pitched.

    The loss of Zack Wheeler for the year due to Tommy John surgery was a big blow to the Mets for the upcoming season, but fans can be assured that Syndergaard and Matz could both potentially have a big impact in his absence. Hopefully, they will make the most of their opportunities once they arise.

    The Mets have been building up a great young pitching staff for the long run and Syndergaard and Matz could be the final pieces to what may be the best young rotation in all of baseball.

4. The Mets' Young Bullpen Is Another Strength

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Beyond the starting pitching, the Mets also have a strong bullpen that they should be able to depend on.

    Closer Jenrry Mejia is coming off a 31-save season and Bobby Parnell will return this season after missing nearly all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery. But the best reliever in the Mets' bullpen might be Jeurys Familia.

    Familia had a spectacular rookie season out of the bullpen with a 2.21 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 76 appearances. If he can limit the walks, he has what it takes to be the Mets' closer of the future, and it could happen as soon as this summer if Mejia and/or Parnell don't pitch particularly well.

    The rest of the Mets' bullpen should consist of long reliever Carlos Torres, Vic Black, Rafael Montero and newly acquired southpaws Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres, who were acquired from the Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres, respectively, on Monday, according to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News.

    Since 2006, the Mets have not had strong bullpens, but this could be the year when the Mets' bullpen could shine. There are a lot of young power arms with a ton of potential, and, hopefully, it will show.

5. The Captain Is Healthy

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    David Wright is still the most significant hitter in the Mets' lineup, and his spring training numbers (.268 AVG, .888 OPS, 4 HR, 11 RBI) are a good sign that he has gotten past the shoulder injury that plagued him through much of the 2014 season.

    Wright's 2014 season ended up featuring career lows of eight home runs and a .698 OPS. Those are simply not numbers that one would expect from Wright in any given season.

    Just as Matt Harvey is the key to the Mets' success on the pitching end, Wright is the key to their offense. If he can get back to being the All-Star third baseman he has been for many years, he can carry the Mets into their first postseason appearance since 2006. But if he gets injured again or does not hit well at the plate, the Mets will likely struggle to score runs.

    So while it's great to see that Wright's shoulder is not bothering him anymore, he will need to take the next step in the regular season and eliminate any lingering doubts over a potential decline by having a bounce-back season this year.

    If Wright can hit 20-plus home runs and drive in 90-plus RBI, both of which he has done six times in his career, he will prove that he is back to being the David Wright of old—and the Mets will certainly need the David Wright of old if they want to make the playoffs this fall.

6. Lucas Duda's Power Is for Real

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    It took a few years for Lucas Duda to get regular playing time and reach his potential, but after finally securing the starting first base job last season, Duda rewarded the Mets with a breakout season.

    Duda finished third in the National League in home runs last year behind Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo with 30 round-trippers. He also set more career highs with 92 RBI and an .830 OPS.

    Duda is now the Mets' big cleanup-hitting slugger who they will need to hit home runs and drive in runs regularly. There is every reason to believe he can produce similar or better numbers this season, and, like Wright, the Mets need a big season out of Duda to really contend for the playoffs.

7. Juan Lagares Should Continue to Provide Amazing Defense in Center Field

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Arguably the best defensive center fielder in all of baseball, Juan Lagares finally won a well deserving National League Gold Glove Award last season and should continue to provide great defense in center field for the Mets.

    Lagares also had six assists in the outfield last year. They weren't as many as the 15 he had in 2014, but, nonetheless, he still has one of the most feared outfield arms in the National League that most baserunners would be wise to not test.

    Lagares also improved at the plate last year and hit .281 in 416 at-bats, with 24 doubles, four home runs, 47 RBI and a .703 OPS. If he can improve his average and power, plus steal a few more bases than the 13 he had last season, Lagares could turn into a more productive hitter in the Mets' lineup.

8. Travis D'Arnaud Is Due for a Breakout Season

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    If any young Mets hitter is due to break out, it's the young catcher Travis d'Arnaud.

    Despite hitting .242 with 13 home runs and 41 RBI last year, d'Arnaud batted .265 with seven home runs and 22 RBI in the second half of the season. His second-half OPS of .787 was a lot better than his .646 first-half OPS.

    This could be the year that d'Arnaud really breaks out. After hitting 13 home runs during his inconsistent rookie season, it should be very reasonable to expect over 20 home runs this year if he is more consistent at the plate.

    Furthermore, if Duda continues to hit well, Curtis Granderson bounces back and Michael Cuddyer does well at the plate, this could mean that d'Arnaud may get more good pitches to hit depending on where he is in the lineup. Among those four, d'Arnaud is clearly the least proven hitter. This means that some pitchers may prefer to make a mistake against him than one of the veteran hitters.

    His improved second half last season should lead to a much better second full season for d'Arnaud in which he should be able to raise his average at least 15-20 points and hit over 20 home runs.

    D'Arnaud has a lot of offensive potential, and the sooner he reaches it, the better it will be for the Mets.

9. Michael Cuddyer Is a Good Addition to the Lineup

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The free-agent signing of Cuddyer was by far the Mets' biggest move of the offseason. And despite having recently turned 36, Cuddyer, if healthy, should be a big addition to the Mets' lineup.

    In just 190 at-bats in what ended up being an injury-shortened 2014 season for him, Cuddyer hit .331 with 10 home runs, 31 RBI and a .955 OPS. He gives the Mets another right-handed power bat, which they sorely needed.

    Throughout his career, Cuddyer has been a good hitter regarding both contact and power. He won the batting title in 2013 with the Colorado Rockies and has averaged 21 home runs per season. The Mets need all the power they can get in their lineup, and the addition of Cuddyer should certainly help the cause as long as he stays healthy.

10. The Mets Finally Have a Postseason-Contending Team

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    With a strong rotation, an improved bullpen and an up-and-coming lineup, the Mets, for the first time in at least four or five years, finally have a team that can be a real postseason contender.

    The Mets have not had a winning record since 2008 and have not won a division title or been to the playoffs at all since 2006. That drought has gone on long enough, and this could be the year it gets broken.

    While the Nationals may be a heavy favorite to win the NL East again, the Mets should certainly be in the mix for one of the two NL Wild Card spots. The main competitors they'll be facing should include the Marlins, Pirates, Cubs, Giants and Padres, with the Cardinals and Dodgers the likely favorites to win the NL Central and NL West divisions, respectively.

    If most of the Mets' roster stays healthy for the majority of the season and produces either similar or better numbers from 2014, the Mets have the potential to win somewhere between 85-91 games at least and win one of the two wild card spots. Nothing is guaranteed right now, of course, but again, the potential is there and the Mets will need to prove it on the field over 162 games.

    All statistics shown are courtesy of MLB.com. Minor league statistics are courtesy of MiLB.com.


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