Through the years, New York Met players have won numerous individual awards, from Rookie of the Year to the Cy Young Award, but no Met has ever been voted League MVP. The only other Major League clubs who have not yet had a player win MVP are the Miami Marlins, the Arizona D-Backs and Tampa Bay Rays, all established in the 1990s. The Mets, of course, date back to 1962. Could this be the year that a Met finally wins the MVP?
The most likely candidate from this year’s team is undoubtedly five-tool left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. In 2015 his strong finish led the Mets to the World Series and there was even talk of him winning the award that year despite the fact he only arrived from the Tigers at the trade deadline. Then in 2016, he produced a .280/.354/.530 slash line and earned a solid eighth-place finish in the MVP voting.
Cespedes 31, is still around his prime years in baseball terms, although declining years are not far off. As noted, he produced quite well in 2016, although he did have some leg problems. Perhaps off-season rest and playing exclusively in left field will help his health and allow him to play more games than he did last season.
Looking at some stats, Cespedes did improve in some key areas from 2015 to 2016. In 2015 he drew only 33 walks in 159 games compared to last year when he had 51 walks in 132 games. Thus his 2016 OBP increased from .328 in 2015 to .354 last year. In addition, his strikeout total dropped from 141 Ks in 2015 to 108 in 2016. This data shows improvement in plate discipline for Cespedes. From my observation, in the past he has had trouble with the high hard fastball, especially out of the zone, and also chasing the curveball in the dirt, so if his selectivity at the plate continues to trend up in 2017, he will be even more dangerous at the plate and more valuable to the team.
There are some encouraging signs this spring. Cespedes reported early to spring training, definitely a good sign. His contract situation is settled, so he has security, and he seems to enjoy playing for the Mets. It’s still very early in the exhibition season, but as of this writing, he has hit well in a small sample.
In the past several Mets have come close to winning the MVP award, including Tom Seaver‘s second place finish to Willie McCovey in 1969 and Darryl Strawberry‘s second to Kirk Gibson in 1988. The Mets figure to field a good team this year, assuming last year’s injury outbreak is not repeated. The combination of a good team and a big year from Cespedes just might result in an MVP Award for the slugger, and perhaps result in another pennant banner flying at Citi Field.