by Brian Mandel
After months of waiting, Opening day or should I say Opening Night has finally arrived. Yesterday ended what was one of the craziest MLB offseason ever with a last minute trade that sent Kimbrel and Upton Jr. to the upstart Padres.
This wild offseason brought parity to a league that last season saw some of the most parity the sport has ever seen. Almost every team has chance to make the playoffs, and for the first time in the Sandy Alderson era, the Mets do too.
Last year the Mets ended off with a 79-83 record in what was thought of as a lost season with the absence of Matt Harvey while he was recovering from Tommy John. However, the team showed improvements throughout the season with players like National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom, Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares and the Mets upstart bullpen full of young flamethrowers. Finally, after years of the front office saying next year, it looks like 2015 is the year where the Mets could contend for a playoff spot. Although, some people think the quite offseason will hinder the team this year, the real game changers are the return of Harvey and Wright to all-star form. .
Here are my grades and predictions for the Mets this season:
Starting Rotation: B+
Bartolo Colon R
Jacob Degrom R
Jon Neise L
Matt Harvey R
Dillon Gee R
The rotation is seen as the Mets strength coming into the season and what could possibly carry them to a wild card berth. Every great Met team was centered around the starting pitching. Unfortunately, the rotation took a big hit with the loss of Zach Wheeler to Tommy John during spring training, but the Mets were able to recover slightly because of their immense pitching depth. The Mets were not able to trade Dillon Gee over the offseason and he was going to be an afterthought in the bullpen, but he was able to regain his rotation spot with the Wheeler injury. Look for Gee to be a veteran presence that will once again rely on off speed pitches. Bartolo Colon will be going into his final year of his contract and will keep his role as the underrated veteran innings eater on the team. Furthermore, deGrom hopes to build off of his rookie campaign. The two biggest question marks are Harvey and Neise. Can Harvey return to all-star form? Can Neise go through a full season healthy? If the team lives up to its potential it could be a top five rotation in the MLB. Also, look for the mid-season call ups of Noah Syndergaard (Thor) and Steven Matz, two guys who could be rotation staples of the future.
Closer: Jenry Mejia R
Set-Up: Jeurys Familia R
Carlos Torres R
Sean Gilmartin L
Buddy Carlyle R
Jerry Belvins L
Alex Torres L
The Mets bullpen is coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory. They went off the Cardinal’s mold of converting hard throwing starters in the minors into high leverage relief pitchers. Mejia and Familia look like one of the best young one two punches in baseball. Of course the bullpen did not escape Spring Training without and injury. They lost LOOGY Josh Edgin to Tommy John, but Alderson was able to recover with trades for Belivns and Torres. Look for rule 5 draft pick Gilmartin, long man Carlos Torres and minor league signee Carlyle to be solid role players. The biggest X-Factors of the bullpen with be the return of Bobby Parnell and Vic Black, two flamethrowers that can push the bullpen to an elite level.
Lineup: Ranging from C- to B+…let’s go with a B- for now
Curtis Granderson L
David Wright R
Lucas Duda L
Michael Cuddyer R
Daniel Murphy L
Juan Lagares R
Travis d’Arnaud R
Wilmer Flores R
Why a range? This is the biggest question mark of the whole team. Hopefully, some of the Spring Training hitting and new hitting coach Kevin Long’s philosophy will translate to the regular season. Granderson looks to improve on a shaky first year with the Amazins’. It seems like reuniting him with his old hitting coach allowed him to change his approach using all fields. Coming off his shoulder injury David Wright, the heart and soul of the team, will make or break this line up. Lucas Duda is coming off his first 30 homerun campaign and for the first time will be coming into the season the starting first baseman. If he learns to hit lefties then the Met’s will that much more dangerous. Cuddyer and Murphy are both professional hitters and when healthy should be solid contributors to the lineup. Defense was never a question for Lagares, but his hitting was. Last season he silenced some doubter by hitting .282. However, he had three separate trips to the DL and has to build off last year improving his OBP. The biggest question marks are d’Arnaud and Flores. We saw d’Arnaud’s potential last year in the second half, but he has to do that over a whole season. Flores’s name has been around for years but he hasn’t proven much in the Show yet. With all of the question marks of injury, down years and break out years the Mets offense can be anything form what have see the past five years to a solid line up from 1-9.
Bench: Rueben Tejada, John Mayberry Jr., Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Anthony Recker
The Mets defense has anything from Gold Glovers to well below average defenders. Look for Lagares to anchor down center field catching anything that come his way. He is the first outfielder since Andruw Jones to have two years of 28 defensive runs saved in a row. However, Cuddyer and Granderson are both below league average defender, but Lagares should equalize that out. The captain, David Wright, will command the infield playing Gold Glove caliber defense at third. Although everyone thinks Flores cannot play SS, his arm counteracts his range. You will not see him making any web gems, but he makes all of the easy plays. At the keystone, Murphy will have below average defense. Duda will play above average defense at first. Finally, d’Arnaud did lead the league in past balls last year, but he is one of the best pitch framers in the Show. An important thing for team that will rely on their pitching. All in all the positives out way the negatives in the Mets defense and they will have an above average defense.
Terry Collins will be on the hot seat this year because this is now the time for the Mets to start winning. He is a fiery manger that will get out and argue with the ump. He also prefers veterans starting over the young players which is counter intuitive for a rebuilding team. Furthermore, his bullpen methods are not very good. He tends to pick one arm every year and burn it out. Many Mets fans want change asking for guys like Wally Backman. I’ll give Terry the benefit of the doubt.
Overall Prediction: 85-77
Like I have said before, the season is on the shoulders of David Wright and Matt Harvey. If they have good seasons, then the Mets can contend for a while card spot. The team will have to rely on the starting rotation and the bullpen. They are in the mold of last year’s Royals with a strong rotation and bullpen and solid starting lineup. Let’s Go Mets.