Given all the questions surrounding the Mets – key contributors coming back from injuries and off seasons, the outfield logjam, etc – it’s not easy to objectively predict what the 2017 season has in store for them. Here are some predictions from three perspectives.
The 2017 Mets – the Rose Colored Glasses Edition
The Mets are led by the best rotation in baseball. Noah Syndergaard continues his dominance, while Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom return to full health, giving the Mets three Cy Young contenders with 30-plus starts, sub-3 ERAs, and 200-plus strikeouts. Number four starter Steven Matz chips in a strong season of his own with 25 starts and an ERA just north of 3.00. The fifth rotation spot gets filled in the short term by Robert Gsellman, while Zack Wheeler spends April and May mowing batters down from middle relief. Gsellman holds his own with an ERA in the high 3s before giving way to Wheeler, who reestablishes himself as an intimidating power pitcher.
The bullpen, led by Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, Fernando Salas, Jerry Blevins and Hansel Robles, does their job of holding leads and keeping games close. Josh Smoker, Josh Edgin, Erik Goeddel, and Seth Lugo shuttle between Las Vegas and Citi Field to keep arms fresh.
The lineup runs hot and cold with power streaks and slumps and a few injuries, but Terry Collins deftly uses his deep bench to keep the runs coming. David Wright plays somewhat sparingly, but stays healthy and surprisingly productive, contributing a .285 average with a fair share of walks and doubles. Jose Reyes plays about half the games at third, while also seeing time at short and second. Overall, he proves his value as a leadoff hitter with a .330 OBP, 28 steals, and 100 runs scored. Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker again provide a smooth double play combo while each smacking 20 home runs. Lucas Duda bounces back with 25 home runs, mostly against right-handed pitchers, while his platoon partner, Wilmer Flores, clobbers the lefties.
Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares both stay healthy and return to form, while the ageless Curtis Granderson enjoys another healthy, productive season. Yoenis Cespedes has an MVP caliber season with 40 home runs and 120 RBI. Hitting behind him in the lineup, Jay Bruce starts off hot, but is traded to make way for Michael Conforto, who after hitting over .400 in Las Vegas, comes back to Citi Field to rip doubles off the wall and play a solid right field. Rene Rivera, Brandon Nimmo, and TJ Rivera provide additional rest and spark off the bench.
By September 1, the Mets are entrenched in first place as the Nationals can’t overcome a weak bullpen, top heavy lineup, and lack of rotation depth to keep it close. Behind stellar pitching, the Mets finish with a league best 105 wins and secure home field advantage in the playoffs. After knocking out the Wild Card winning Giants, and then the Cubs, the Mets face off with the Indians in the World Series in a pitching heavy matchup that harkens back to the late 1960s. The Mets win in five games and New York City throws the team its first ticker tape parade in 31 years.
The 2017 Mets – the Glass Half Empty Edition
While a repeat of last season’s injury epidemic seems implausible, there’s always a possibility that some of the key players don’t in fact bounce back. It’s not hard to imagine at least one, if not two, of the infielders returning from significant back injuries to either miss significant time or struggle to regain their swings. Likewise, its hardly a stretch to imagine injury prone guys like d’Arnaud, Lagares, Matz, and Wheeler spending stretches of the season on the disabled list.
The Mets have better depth to overcome injuries and slumps than they’ve had in years, but there’s always the possibility that Collins doesn’t utilize the bench the right way and stubbornly has veterans playing through slumps and injuries while other guys rot on the bench or down in AAA.
Maybe deGrom’s velocity issue wasn’t a blip and maybe Harvey never again rises as the Dark Knight, and just maybe, it’s Syndergaard’s turn to blow out his arm. The Mets have some depth behind their starting five, but not a lot. Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, Logan Verrett, and Gabriel Ynoa are all gone. Beyond Gsellman and Lugo, the next in line is Rafael Montero, who seems to have lost track of the strike zone. The depth at catcher is similarly unnerving as Kevin Plawecki is yet to show he can hit Major League pitching.
These types of injuries and struggles prove hard enough to overcome, but the nail in the coffin is an injury to Cespedes. Without his bat in the lineup, the team really struggles to score runs.
The Mets struggle to hover around .500 all season and miss the playoffs with a disappointing 79-83 record. Although Sandy Alderson is clearly to blame for ignoring the catching needs and not having enough pitching depth, Collins pays the price and loses his job at season’s end.
The 2017 Mets – the Realistic View
Realistically, not everyone is going to get injured and not every returning player is going to struggle. 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 a disappointing season and a third consecutive playoffs, is a healthy rotation. A huge, but unheralded part of the Cubs success last season was their rotation health. Their starting five each gave them a minimum of 29 starts for a combined total of 152. If the Mets get anywhere near that type of health and production, we’ll be in great shape.
Our fate also relies on the performance of the other contenting National League teams – namely the Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals and Giants, and to a lesser extent, the Pirates, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks. They all have question marks too, but like the Mets, if they stay healthy, get a few career years and lucky breaks along the way, they’ve got a shot to go all the way. As the saying goes, hope springs eternal.