It may be snowing in NYC today, but 2018 New York Mets Opening Day is finally just over a week away. I of course will be there decked out in my orange and blue gear, ready to leave the ugly 2017 season in the past and hope maybe this could finally be the year…
Looking at the team on paper, it’s far from a perfect squad. But if the black plague doesn’t strike the locker room again this year, it should be a competitive one. FanGraphs has the Mets winning 84 games and taking the second NL Wildcard, but with current group of players there’s reason to believe they can beat that 84-win mark, providing the expected starters can stay on the field. Let’s have a look at each position.
Starting Pitcher: This is where the Mets HAVE TO stay healthy and step-up. In 2015 they had the MLB’s fourth best team ERA at 3.43, they won 90 games. In 2016 they third at 3.58 and won 87. Last year they were in 28th at 5.01, the second worst in franchise history, and won 70. Yes the bullpen had it’s share of injury issues last year too, but the starting rotation is what really creates the domino effect. We know we can expect double-digit wins, 200 strikeouts, and All-Star level ERA’s from Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. So it’s the combination of what we get from Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Jason Vargas, and Zack Wheeler that is going to be the largest factor in determining how far this team will go. Harvey is at a huge crossroad entering his walk year, so hopefully he has the deep determination to step up and be at least a shade of the pitcher he once was. If so, all we need is mid-four ERA level pitching from the rest of the guys in order to have a successful starting rotation.
Bullpen: Many consider Jeurys Familia’s blood clot last season to be the beginning of the end for New York, making his success the number one requirement for the pen in 2018. Behind him we have the reliable AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, and newbie Anthony Swarzak to round out the late innings. Robert Gsellman will likely grab a spot as the long man, so beyond him we have 2-3 openings to determine. Hansel Robles has had an awful spring, and Montero is likely destined to be DFA, so the rest of the pen looks to be a bit of a mystery. I wouldn’t be surprised to see NYM go after a low-cost signing like Ubaldo Jimenez, and eventually bring up Irish-born prospect P.J. Conlon to act as second lefty option to Blevins. Overall, this group has a shot to be pretty solid.
Catcher: Not a position I honestly think much about with the Mets these days. Former top prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki are projected to split time behind the plate, and I refuse to allow myself to think one of them will finally breakout this year. d’Arnaud has been great this spring but we have seen flashes of brilliance from him many times before. Overall, I expect the two to hit for a combine .250 with about 20 long balls and 70 runs driven in. Plug them into the number eight hole and we’ll take what we can get.
First Base: Lucas Duda was streaky to the point it drove us all insane, but given what we’re currently rostering we’ll all miss him in about five weeks. Adrian Gonzalez is old, has looked awful this spring at the plate, and seems to have no power left. Dominic Smith sealed his fate when he showed up late very early in camp and will be heading to AAA Las Vegas, not that he did much last year to warrant giving him the starting job anyway. It could be a rough start at first base and I fully expect the Mets to eventually cut Gonzalez and either make an acquisition or hand the position over to Smith with Wilmer Flores getting ABs against lefties.
Second Base: Welcome back Asdrubal Cabrera. I think we know what to expect from Cabrera at this point. The veteran infielder is going to hit 15-20 bombs, carry a respectable average, and play solid defense. As long as he’s on the field, he’s a solid component to the team and I’m glad he’ll be in the lineup every day.
Short Stop: I’m a little nervous about the highly touted Amed Rosario. Scouts have been building him up to be the next Francisco Lindor, but the cynical Mets fan in me refuses to believe it until I see it. Rosario’s rookie season was nothing but mediocre, though he was only 21-years-old. How the young Dominican fares this season could be a huge determining factor in this lineup’s success. Hopefully with the mentorship of Jose Reyes and more experience as the season progresses will see Rosario blossom into the superstar New York has been building him up to be.
Third Base: It’s sad to enter this season with zero expectation David Wright will ever play again, but it is what it is. I was quite worried about this position until the signing of Todd Frazier. The two-time All-Star is far from a game-changer, but he should fit in pretty nicely. He’s going to play solid defense, draw a lot of walks, hit some homers, and yes, he’s going to his below .250. But at two years $17-million I’m very glad to have his veteran presence and leadership in the clubhouse and I think Frazier will grow to be a fan favorite in Queens.
Left Field: This one is very obvious. Yoenis Cespedes, please PLEASE give us 500 at-bats. When he’s in full form, I truly believe there is no left fielder in the National League that can touch Yoenis. He has swagger, he can play defense, he can hit like a beast, and he’s clutch. When Cespedes is on the field the Mets are simply just better. Yoenis needs to provide that electricity he brought to Citi Field so many summer nights in 2015 and lead us to the promise land. I want to see 30 home runs and a 100 Rib-Eye Steaks in 2018. CESPEDES FOR THE REST OF US! (Check out Cespedes 2015 NLDS Homer in Game 3 below. I’m one of the little dots in left field going insane.)
Center Field: With Michael Conforto still recovering from his dislocated shoulder injury from last year, Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo will be splitting time in Center Field to start us off in 2018. Lagares supposedly is trying to change his approach at the plate in a similar manner we’ve seen from Justin Turner, Daniel Murphy, and J.D. Martinez the last few seasons, and as always we can expect stellar defense from the Gold Glove winner. Nimmo has looked solid this spring, and the Mets obviously think highly of him as they refused to include him in a potential deal to the Pirates for Andrew McCutchen this past winter. Overall I honestly expect complete mediocrity from this pair and just hope to see Conforto back prior to his May 1st ETA. Last year was such an exciting breakout year for Mike as he hit 27 homers in just 373 at-bats while posting an impressive .383 OBP, and I’m really anxious to see him finish what he couldn’t last year.
Right Field: Jay Bruce definitely proved he had the chops to play in the Big Apple last year, and it’s nice to have his bat and calm demeanor back in in the lineup this season. He’s not quite a superstar and his game isn’t perfect, but we can expect him to give us 500 at-bats, 30+ home runs, and close to 100 RBI out of the middle of the lineup, and that’s definitely a positive for the Metropolitans.
Predictions: I’m not a huge fan of making predictions because so many little factors can drastically change the outcome of a baseball season as we’ve definitely seen the last few years, but I’m going to take a crack at it anyway. I think our pitching has the potential to be great and overall has solid depth, and I think this lineup is good enough to give them the support they need to win some ball games. New manager Mickey Callaway has provided a much needed breath of fresh air and an exciting modern philosophy to the ball club. Barring another series of unusual injuries, I think the 2018 Mets have what it takes to win 85-90 games and take one of the National League Wildcards. Here’s to another year of hoping and believing. I’ll see you all at Citi field, and as always, Let’s go Mets!