It’s been quite the eventful offseason for the Mets both in terms of the players they actually acquired and the numerous others they’ve reportedly been “in on.” Some of the non-moves, like losing out on George Springer to the Blue Jays and the seemingly 11th-hour change of heart (to put it kindly) from Trevor Bauer, have been met with varying degrees of disappointment or relief depending on your viewpoint. Surprise acquisitions like Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco weren’t part of the splashy spending splurge many expected when Steve Cohen officially became owner, yet they brought star power and high-end talent to the team nonetheless.

As Spring Training gets into full swing, there’s little question that Sandy Alderson, Zack Scott, and the rest of the Mets front office have made the requisite moves to build a roster that has more overall talent than in recent years and, despite the uncertainty that remains on the 40-man roster’s fringes, appears to be deeper than in recent memory as well. The actual quality of the depth is an open question, but the chances are high that most of the playing time up and down the roster is apt to go to players that can contribute at the major league level when the inevitable injuries occur.

There’s little doubt that, barring catastrophe, the Mets should contend at the highest levels in 2021. Just how high their peak will be is also an open question, and one that’s reflected in projections that range from the team securing a wild card berth to outright winning the division. The Mets, as it turns out, can be a hard team to peg. What’s becoming abundantly clear, however, is that the team has been quietly building what could be the best offense in all of baseball in 2021 and beyond.

That’s a bold claim to be sure, but the success of the team’s young offensive core in 2019 appeared to foreshadow their scorching 2020 season. The 2019 season saw the monstrous debut of Pete Alonso, but also breakout performances from Jeff McNeil, Dominic Smith, and J.D. Davis, with Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo contributing above average performances if not quite up to par with their previous seasons. The team finished tied for seventh in baseball with a wRC+ of 104. Not bad for a team with bundles of dead weight taking up plate appearances on the roster.

During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Mets’ offense kicked it into high-gear and took their performance into the stratosphere. Their 121 wRC+ was second only to the Dodgers and even set a new franchise record by smashing the 1988 team’s wRC+ of 111. Now, we obviously have to take into account the fact that the shortened season likely played into the team’s ability to put up such gaudy numbers. A schedule consisting of only 60 games could theoretically shield players from prolonged slumps impacting their overall numbers, but the fact that wRC+ is a rate stat is an encouraging sign that their performances weren’t simply flukes of circumstance.

What does the 2021 season project to look like for the Mets’ burgeoning offensive core? While the projection systems don’t believe that any of the hitters will replicate anything close to their best recent seasons, seven of the team’s eight projected starters (led by Conforto’s 124) are tabbed to perform above average by wRC+ according to Steamer. Which starter is the only one projected to be below average? Steamer projects catcher James McCann to significantly underperform when compared to his last two seasons and doesn’t seem to believe in his breakout, mostly due to his fairly underwhelming career before the 2019 season.

I’m of the mind that the projection systems are pessimistic on most of the team’s hitters heading into 2021, particularly McCann. While we can’t expect any given player to match their historical best, it’s become clear that on the whole the Mets’ projected lineup has the potential to be truly elite, particularly with the addition of Lindor and to a lesser extent McCann. While it would be a tall order to outperform the likes of the Dodgers and the Braves, it’s certainly possible that the Mets could find themselves in the top five offensive teams in baseball once again this season.

With the solidification of the team’s rotation, the additions to the bullpen, and the reinforcement of quality depth pieces on the bench, the 2021 season has the potential to be a special one for the Mets and their fans. For a team with a history steeped in pitching, it sure would be fun to watch a veritable murderers row lineup that’s lethal from top to bottom.

8 comments on “Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso projected to lead elite Mets offense

  • Wobbit

    I don’t see why Michael Conforto can’t have his best year offensively. Entering his prime, he has had two season affected by injury and rehab, and if he stays healthy, a more productive lineup around him can give him ample opportunities to see balls in the zone with runners on base. One difference might be cutting short the prolonged cold streaks that have dotted his seasons in the past… management with a keen eye can help with rest in the right spots, before he goes 0-20.

    Also, Jeff McNeil could benefit from having a more defined idea of his role offensively. We watched him vacillate between a high-average guy an a power hitter. Let’s hope he settles in, stays healthy, and gets a chance to make his mark.

    Nimmo too should benefit from a clear commitment from the team of his value… I expect better numbers from him this year.

  • Metsense

    Rob, I liked the way linked Fangraphs for Steamer, foreshadow and record to easily prove your points and your other links in the article make it an enjoyable read.
    If I were projecting wRC+ leaders I would pick Alsonso and McNeil.
    As for “record”, they should better the 1988 team but not last years team because of the “foreshadowing .
    “Winning the division”, PECOTA picks them and so do I but just beating the Braves in a tight race.
    The “question” of depth was answered with the acquisitions of Villar and Pillar for the bench.

    • Rob Rogan

      Thanks! I’m not quite convinced the team can take the division outright, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did either. Should hopefully be a fun season!

  • SiteAdmin

    Maybe the better thing to do with these computer projections is not to compare them to the players’ previous production but rather to the projections for other players. Using Steamer and wRC+, here’s how many players on each team are projected to put up a 120 or above mark:

    Braves – 3
    Marlins – 0
    Mets – 2
    Nats – 1
    Phillies – 2

    • Rob Rogan

      This is a good point, though I do think the projections are a little pessimistic. Lindor, Nimmo, and McNeil are juuuuust on the cusp of a projection at 120+, and I think each of them could very well get there.

      Also, interestingly, the Nationals, Phillies, and Braves project to have a handful of *really* elite performances buoy their overall offense, while the Mets appear to have above-average performances spread throughout the lineup more (i.e. the Mets project with more players in their starting lineup producing a wRC+ over 100).

  • Remember1969

    While the assumed starting eight makes an elite line-up and there is ‘depth’ on the bench and through the 40-man roster, that ‘depth’ is really only good bench players for late game replacement, single games to give the starters a rest, and pinch-hitting.

    What worries me is if any of the starters go down for any amount of time – say a month to six weeks. Nido as a full time catcher for a month and a half doesn’t have the same comfort level as McCann. and then Nido’s bench replacement is even scarier. Lindor doesn’t have a full-time replacement at all. (Before you say Guillorme, I fully expect Guillorme to get a lot of reps at 3rd and 2nd in platoon and late inning replacement situations – if he is playing shortstop, that value is eliminated). Alonso and the outfield are the in the best shape for extended backups, but 2nd, SS, C, and even 3rd are pretty worrisome.

    • Rob Rogan

      Health, as usual, will be a major determining factor in the team’s overall success. That’s scary to think about insomuch that it’s derailed entire seasons for the team in the not-so-distant past. Still, the fact that the bench is (mostly) populated by actual major league players rather than AAAA players, never weres, and past their peak lottery tickets at least positions the team a bit better in case of injury.

      No doubt that catastrophic injury (and let’s not forget COVID protocols) could impact the team, but I do have more faith that the team would make impactful moves via trade to sure things up under Cohen/Alderson than under Wilpon/[Insert GM].

  • Mr_Math

    I have not done a scientific analysis, but my impression is that this is potentially their best hitting team ever. The only comparable would be 1986 and 2006

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