Mets Position by Position Thoughts

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!

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Mets Offseason Wish List

Another Mets season is behind us, and another offseason is here in which us faithful fans of the orange and blue sit and wonder what it’ll take to finally get it right next year. As for the main needs to get back to the postseason in 2018, here is my wish list.

  1. A young analytical-minded manager (accomplished):  Terry Collins has without a doubt served the game honorably for decades, and his seven-year tenure as Mets skipper in which New York won a pennant will always be appreciated. But the time is here for NYM to bring on a leader who can think in the mindset of the modern manager, and bring a change of ideology to a clubhouse in dire need of a shakeup. Former Indians pitching coach and newly hired manager Mickey Callaway seems like a good fit to do that on paper, so hopefully Sandy Alderson hit a home run with this one.
  2. Strengthen the middle of the bullpen: If I had to pick one key moment in which things really began to crumble for the Mets in 2017, it would have to be the injury of closer Jeurys Familia. Addison Reed held down the closer role solidly until being traded to Boston, but the rest of the pen seemed unable to handle being shifted into new roles. The Mets must bolster their pen and lockdown the innings leading up to Familia time.
  3. Bring on a legitimate offensive threat: Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes definitely are some pretty solid cornerstones in building a strong lineup, but outside of this outfield pair New York has a ton of question marks. Youngsters Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario can’t quite be expected to carry the lineup just yet. Neither Juan Lagares or Travis d’Arnaud have shown any sign that they can stay healthy and hit consistently. If his option is picked up, Asdrubal Cabrera is nothing beyond a quality utility player. The Mets must bring on another veteran bat who can hit for average and power if they intend to be serious contenders next season.
  4. A reliable veteran starting pitcher: As all of the young arms fell like flies and the Mets struggled to fill the holes in their rotation, New York learned the importance of having a veteran starter like Bartolo Colon to make 30 quality starts over the course of a season. The Mets need to find a way to pickup a piece of Colon’s ilk so we aren’t forced to suffer through another 18 starts of Rafael Montero, who went 5-11 and walked 67 in 119 innings. Could we possibly see the return of R.A. Dickey? A man can dream…

Baseball is Nigh…

Finally. Finally. FINALLY! We are less than a week away from baseball and I cannot wait. Spring training is usually the hardest part of the off-season to get through because of the meaningless baseball on TV that just taunts and teases, reminding you how much you missed the game.

Luckily for me, I will be attending my first ever Opening Day as the Mets take on the Braves at Citi Field and I am pumped up. Noah Syndergaard takes the mound, most of the lineup is healthy (minus poor David Wright) and it’s going to be a great day-off from work.

As for the 2017 season for the Mets, I really don’t know what to expect. Last year was an injury plagued season and I’m having trouble believing this year will  be any different. We’ve already seen Steven Matz go through his usual elbow issues. On top of that, who knows how Matt Harvey, Jack deGrom and Zack Wheeler will bounce back, and how much of a workload they each can take on.

When it comes to the offense, I feel we have a pretty solid squad 1-8, provided everybody stays healthy. I don’t really feel there is any major plus in the lineup outside of Yoenis Cespedes, but I also don’t think there’s a major weak link in the chain. Cespedes had a fantastic spring and I think he’s ready to show he deserved that big contract extension.

I’m definitely not one to make predictions, so I’m just going to hope for the best and enjoy the ride. Let’s go Mets and thank God baseball is almost back!

Spring Time for Baseball Fans in Florida

Oh, baseball how I missed thee. I know it’s only an exhibition game in February, but it was quite refreshing to spend my Sunday afternoon watching Mets baseball.

When it comes to sports, baseball and football are by far my two favorites. But the thing is, when it’s baseball season I don’t miss football, and when it’s football season I long for baseball.

There’s something about he game that just captures my heart in a way no other game possibly could. The sounds, the smells, the feeling of summer glory. Just stepping on a baseball field or watching a game instantly rushes me back to my childhood and reminds me of when I first learned to love the greatest sport ever played.

There was a time in my life that I watched baseball with too much emotion. Seeing the Mets lose a game could ruin my day. But as you mature as a fan, you learn that you don’t need to see your team win it all to enjoy the game (though I imagine it would be amazing, still waiting for a Mets’ World Series win in my lifetime.)

You learn to respect the beauty of baseball, win or lose. You learn to savor those hot nights in the stands, or on your couch taking in the sound of fastballs blasting off of bats. You learn to relish just listening to the commentary and finding out something new every night about the thing you thought you already knew every possible thing about, or seeing something that has never been done before.

Yes, it’s only a game. But it’s the best game, and I can’t wait for the season to start. Let’s go Mets, and thank God for baseball.