This is the latest of our 2017 team previews. Each week during spring training, we’ll preview a division with a team each day (Monday-Friday). Yesterday: Washington Nationals. Up next: Miami Marlins
87-75, second in NL East (lost to San Francisco Giants in NL Wild Card Game)
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Key additions: OF Yoenis Cespedes (who never left but re-signed after opting out of his agreement)
Key subtractions: SP Bartolo Colon (free agent to Braves), 1B James Loney (free agent to Rangers), UTIL Kelly Johnson (free agent), OF Alejandra De Aza (free agent to A’s)
1. Arms will lead the way: The Mets’ (relatively) young pitching core has suffered every injury that can be suffered over the past few years; for example, the thoracic outlet syndrome that brought down Matt Harvey midway into the 2016 season and helped explain his disastrous start. Harvey along with Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and de facto ace Noah Syndergaard, who added some muscle in the offseason to his already Viking-esque frame, may form the most potent starting rotation in baseball if they can avoid prolonged stints on the disabled list.
2. Chicks dig the long ball: Mets hitters lived and died by the home run last season, combining for 218 dingers (second only to St. Louis in the NL), but they scored just 671 runs (4.14 per game), 47 behind the NL average. That doesn’t figure to change much this season as the lineup is still comprised mainly of boom-or-bust veterans with little speed like 2B Neil Walker, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 1B Lucas Duda and OF Curtis Granderson.
3. The rest of the staff must contribute: A team can never have too many effective pitchers to call upon, and no team knows that better than the Mets. After the aforementioned core of Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey and Matz, the Mets will call upon 23-year-old righty Robert Gsellman, who showed some flashes in seven starts in 2016 and righty Seth Lugo, who boasts an impressive curveball and proved a pleasant surprise in spot duty and relief appearances. The beloved Bartolo is gone so the bulk of those innings will fall to Gsellman, Lugo or possibly Zack Wheeler, who remains on a long comeback trail from an elbow injury.
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All or most of the starters remain healthy and a trade-deadline move jolts the lineup like Cespedes once did, solidifying the Mets for the playoffs and a World Series run.
The arms fall apart or flounder, OF Jay Bruce gets thrust into a starting role and can’t crack the Mendoza line, David Wright gets hurt again and Mets fans shower local sports radio talk shows with desperation and depression as the Yankees lock up a playoff spot across town and the Metropolitans miss out on October.
Outfielder Michael Conforto, 23, burst onto the scene early in the 2016 before getting humbled, mainly by lefty pitchers. Conforto batted hopelessly against southpaws with just five hits and 15 strikeouts in 48 at-bats (.104), sinking his overall average to .220.
1. Noah Syndergaard – Draft him if you’re a fan of 3.00-or-lower ERAs, sub-1.20 WHIPs and 10-11 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. The Mets’ offense could do him a favor with better run support in 2017.
2. Jacob deGrom – Prior to season-ending elbow surgery, deGrom boasted a 3.04 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and nearly nine strikeouts per nine innings in 24 starts. He says his elbow is pain-free heading into spring training.
3. Yoenis Cespedes – His 31 homers ranked ninth among fellow outfielders last season. Of the top 15 home run leaders who played the outfield, Cespedes carried the third-lowest strikeout rate (19.9 percent).
4. Jeurys Familia – He converted 51 of 56 saves last season and 94 of 104 (90.3 percent) over the past two seasons. The 94 saves are second-most among closers over the last two years.
5. Matt Harvey – He owns one of the more unique three-year splits. He missed 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery, carried a 2.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and punched out nearly nine batters every nine innings in 2015 (29 starts), and a semi-serious shoulder surgery ended his 2016 campaign early. So, yeah, use caution.