New York Mets: Complete 2017 Season Preview, Predictions
The New York Mets won the the pennant in 2015, but a raft of injuries to their vaunted starting rotation dropped them to a wild-card one-and-done in 2016.
Now, with their arms ostensibly healthy, the Mets will look to climb back atop the National League East and make another deep October run.
As we await Opening Day, let's preview the upcoming season in Queens, examining the likely lineup, pitching staff and bullpen, plus the top prospects marinating in the minors and the club's overall outlook.
Projected Starting Lineup/2016 Stats
1. 3B Jose Reyes (60 G, .267 AVG., .769 OPS, 8 HR, 24 RBI)
2. SS Asdrubal Cabrera (141 G, .280 AVG., .810 OPS, 23 HR, 62 RBI)
3. LF Yoenis Cespedes (132 G, .280 AVG., .884 OPS, 31 HR, 86 RBI)
4. CF Curtis Granderson (150 G, .237 AVG., .799 OPS, 30 HR, 59 RBI)
5. 2B Neil Walker (113 G, .282 AVG., .823 OPS, 23 HR, 55 RBI)
6. RF Jay Bruce (157 G, .250 AVG., .815 OPS, 33 HR, 99 RBI)
7. 1B Lucas Duda (47 G, .229 AVG., .714 OPS, 7 HR, 23 RBI)
8. C Travis d'Arnaud (75 G, .247 AVG., 4 HR, 15 RBI)
Projected Bench/2016 Stats
C Rene Rivera (65 G, .222 AVG., .632 OPS, 6 HR, 26 RBI)
INF Wilmer Flores (103 G, .267 AVG., .788 OPS, 16 HR, 49 RBI)
INF T.J. Rivera (33 G., .333 AVG., .821 OPS, 3 HR, 16 RBI)
UTL Ty Kelly (39 G, .241 AVG., .697 OPS, 1 HR, 7 RBI)
OF Juan Lagares (79 G, .239 AVG., .682 OPS, 3 HR, 9 RBI)
The Mets are hoping for plenty of home runs from their veteran outfield troika to offset the possible defensive liability of Curtis Granderson in center field and Jay Bruce in right.
In the infield, Jose Reyes takes over at third from wounded captain David Wright, while across the diamond at first, Lucas Duda is looking to rebound from an injury-marred 2016.
Up the middle, the Mets are expecting pop from the switch-hitting keystone duo of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker.
The bench appears mostly set, though Juan Lagares' strained left oblique could open the door for Michael Conforto as the fourth outfielder.
There are some creaky vets in key spots, but with the return of Cespedes and full, healthy seasons from the likes of Walker and Duda, this could be a productive offense top to bottom.
Starting Rotation Preview
Starting Rotation/2016 Stats
RHP Noah Syndergaard (2.60 ERA, 183.2 IP, 218 SO, 43 BB)
RHP Jacob deGrom (3.04 ERA, 148 IP, 143 SO, 36 BB)
RHP Matt Harvey (4.86 ERA, 92.2 IP, 76 SO, 25 BB)
RHP Robert Gsellman (2.42 ERA, 44.2 IP, 42 SO, 15 BB)
RHP Seth Lugo (2.67 ERA, 64 IP, 45 SO, 21 BB)
The Mets rotation faced a M.A.S.H. unit's worth of ailments in 2016, with Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz all succumbing to injuries.
Harvey and deGrom are back in action, but Matz is again on the shelf with elbow pain that will keep him off the Opening Day roster, per John Harper of the New York Daily News.
Taking his place could be righty Seth Lugo who, along with Robert Gsellman, impressed with New York last season.
Then there's wild-card Zack Wheeler, who is still on his long road back from Tommy John surgery but has flashed plus stuff this spring.
Oh, did we forget to mention bolt-throwing Norse god Noah Syndergaard, one of the most electric pitchers in baseball and a solid NL Cy Young Award candidate, who is apparently refining his changeup?
As Joel Sherman of the New York Post aptly put it: "For Syndergaard, mastering a changeup would be akin to finding out Tom Brady has learned how to run a 4.3 40 in the offseason..."
Health is the key for this unit. If the Mets' starters can stay off the disabled list and avoid the surgeon's table, New York's chances rise exponentially.
Projected Bullpen/2016 Stats
RHP Addison Reed (1.97 ERA, 77.2 IP, 99 SO, 1 SV)
RHP Fernando Salas (3.91 ERA, 73.2 IP, 64 SO, 6 SV)
RHP Hansel Robles (3.48 ERA, 77.2 IP, 85 SO, 1 SV)
LHP Jerry Blevins (2.79 ERA 42 IP, 52 SO, 2 SV)
RHP Rafael Montero (8.05 ERA, 19 IP, 20 SO)
LHP Josh Edgin (5.23 ERA, 10.1 IP, 11 SO)
LHP Josh Smoker (4.70 ERA, 15.1 IP, 25 SO)
After that, Fernando Salas, Hansel Robles and Jerry Blevins form a capable setup brigade, with the Joshes—Edgin and Smoker—providing left-handed depth.
Rafael Montero has earned a spot with a superlative spring, fanning 23 in 20.1 innings with a 1.77 ERA.
The Mets may try to find a spot for Wheeler, assuming he doesn't crack the rotation, though he could begin the season in extended spring training.
Prospects to Watch
Amed Rosario, SS
The Mets' No.1 overall prospect, according to MLB.com, Amed Rosario showed flashes in his first big league camp, going 8-for-30 with a double and three RBI.
The 21-year-old will begin the season in the minors, but a late-2017 call-up is a distinct possibility.
"He’s got great poise, he plays with energy," manager Terry Collins said of Rosario, per the New York Post's Mike Puma. "He's got tremendous hands, he's got arm strength, batting practice—he didn't show it in the games—but he's got big power."
Gavin Cecchini, INF
Gavin Cecchini is overshadowed among Mets middle infield prospects by Rosario, but he hit .333 with an .898 OPS in 11 games this spring after hitting .325 in 2016 with Triple-A Las Vegas.
The 23-year-old has spent nearly all of his MiLB innings at shortstop, but a move to second base is an option at the big league level.
Brandon Nimmo, OF
Speaking of prospects who raked in the Grapefruit League, Brandon Nimmo hit .476 in 21 at-bats, though the 24-year-old was squeezed out by New York's outfield logjam.
Like Conforto, he'll have to bide his time at Triple-A until an injury or a trade opens up a spot.
If the Mets want to leapfrog the Washington Nationals in the NL East and avoid the wild-card crucible (where San Francisco Giants postseason boss Madison Bumgarner could again be waiting) they need two things.
First, they need their veteran hitters to produce, including Granderson, Bruce, Walker, Reyes and Duda, giving Cespedes protection and support in the lineup.
Second, and most essentially, they need their starting pitchers to avoid injuries and deal like they did in 2015.
A return to form from Harvey and a full season from deGrom next to Syndergaard gives New York one of the best 1-2-3 punches in either league.
If things break right, the Mets could be a legitimate World Series contender. If their older hitters crumble and their prized arms go on the fritz, it could be a long, tough season on Roosevelt Ave.
Prediction: I'll sip the good-health Kool Aide and say the Mets' stable of studs will keep them in a tight race with the Nats, though New York will ultimately settle for another wild-card tussle.