Given all the questions surrounding the Mets – unproven players, key contributors coming back from injuries, etc – it’s not easy to objectively predict what the 2015 season has in store for them. Here are some predictions from three perspectives.
The 2015 Mets – the Rose Colored Glasses Edition
Matt Harvey continues his spring dominance and proves to be even more over powering on the mound than he was two years ago before his elbow injury. He’s a certifiable ace and Cy Young award contender with 18 wins, 225 strikeouts and an ERA among the league leaders. Jacob DeGrom picks up right where he left off, solidifying himself as a bona fide number two, winning 16 games himself. The remainder of the rotation, while in flux due to the injury to Zach Wheeler and a midseason trade of Dillon Gee, gets a massive boost from Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard, who both prove they belong and are in the big league rotation to stay by the All-Star break.
The bullpen, led by Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Vic Black, Carlos Torres, lefty trade addition Brian Matusz and a resurgent Bobby Parnell, does their job of holding leads and keeping games close. The lineup scores far more runs than expected. Captain David Wright bounces back with his best season in years, hitting .315 with 24 homers and 107 r.bi. Curtis Granderson (.248/31/96) and Michael Cuddyer (.296/23/88) enjoy healthy, productive seasons, while Lucas Duda bests his numbers from last season (.272/35/96) to make for a strong middle of the order. Juan Legares (.284 with 32 doubles and 28 stolen bases) and Daniel Murphy (.301/14/82) do a good job setting the table, while Travis d’Arnaud (.273/18/75) and Wilmer Flores (.290/19/81) keep pitchers honest with strong contributions from the bottom of the lineup. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, John Mayberry, Jr., Matt Den Dekker, Ruben Tejada, Eric Campbell and Anthony Recker all contribute off the bench as well, filling in capably where needed and getting key pinch hits in late innings.
By September 1, the Mets are in the wild card fight with a record 10 games over .500. The organization then calls on their secret weapon, an influx of talent from Las Vegas to put them over the top. Steven Matz takes over for a tired Bartolo Colon in the rotation, while Jack Leathersich, who made great strides working with Frank Viola in AAA, fortifies the bullpen. Dilson Herrera and Kevin Plawecki provide some rest for Murphy and d’Arnaud and give the lineup a spark. The team finishes with 92 wins to earn a wild card entry to their first playoffs since 2006.
The 2015 Mets – the Glass Half Empty Edition
The Mets get hit pretty good by the injury bug in 2015, starting with the spring training season enders to Josh Edgin and Wheeler and later by inevitable injuries to at least two more pitchers. Fortunately, they have the organizational depth to overcome pitching injuries, but when a few hitters go down the losses prove insurmountable.
Harvey bounces back well, but management cautiously limits his innings. Meanwhile, deGrom goes through some growing pains before learning to rely on his changeup a bit more. Gee surprises and returns to his 2013 form and pitches solidly all season as one of the teams more dependable hurlers. Montero takes Niese’s place (shoulder) and later Syndergaard takes Colon’s spot (knee). Both have their ups and downs, walking too many and giving up a few too many long balls.
Meanwhile Terry Collins does a disastrous job of handling the bullpen, turning to them too early and often, overworking arms. Mejia spends several stints on the DL and Parnell resumes closer duties, but not without blowing eight saves. The lack of a solid lefty reliever creates problems as the team keeps shuffling marginal candidates back and forth to Las Vegas, including Sean Gilmartin, Leathersich, Dario Alvarez, Duane Below, Darin Gorski and Chase Huchingson. Not one of them proves capable of getting out lefty hitters in key situations and the Mets lose several heart breakers on late inning homers by Freddie Freeman and Ryan Howard.
The lineup proves even more inept than last year. Free agent additions Cuddyer and Mayberry are total busts. Cuddyer spends most of the year on the disabled list while Mayberry looks washed up. Meanwhile, Duda and Nieuwenhuis struggle against left-handed pitching. Wright stays healthy and hits a respectable .290 but seems to have lost his power, settling for just 13 homeruns in a full season. It doesn’t help that he has limited support from a lineup that also features Granderson (.214 with 180 strikeouts) and Legares (.298 OBP from the leadoff spot). d’Arnaud spends time on the DL again, but Plawecki gets the call and fills in admirably. Murphy has a typical season and Flores surprises with his bat (.285/18/74) but it’s not enough to make up for the injuries, poor hitting against lefties, and a porous defense. Flores makes an astounding 37 errors at shortstop, despite being replaced by Tejada late in close games. He and Murphy struggle to turn double plays and cost the Mets several games.
The Mets struggle all season and never reach .500, finishing at a disappointing 74-88. Although Sandy Alderson is clearly to blame for ignoring the bullpen needs and putting all his offensive improvement eggs in one injury-prone basket, Collins pays the price and loses his job at season’s end.
The 2015 Mets – the Realistic View
Realistically, not everyone is going to get injured and not every new player is going to be a bust. And it’s equally doubtful that more than a few guys will have career years or that the team will stay injury free (already too late for that). This team has the depth to overcome injuries and it has the potential to win a lot of games on pitching alone. Realistically, the difference between another disappointing season and a competitive one that has the team at least playing meaningful games in September, if not into October, comes down to Alderson. The onus is on him.
If the team gets off to a slow start, he can’t just wait it out. If Collins continues to mismanage the bullpen and favor fading veterans over promising young players, it may be time for a change. We’ve got two very viable replacements in line with Tim Teufel and Wally Backman. If any player struggles for long, regardless of their stature or salary, there are promising players waiting for the call in Las Vegas. And if the team is in the thick of it in July, Alderson should finally pull the trigger on that big blockbuster to bring in the big bat to put us over the top and propel us into the playoffs.
As much as we all wish Alderson would have done more in the off-season, in-season is where he’ll really need to step it up to keep this Mets team in contention.