The New York Mets are easy targets these days and deservedly so. And I’ve done my share of Fred Wilpon and Sandy Alderson bashing pointing out the disheveled nature of the franchise. But there are the players, some very talented players. And maybe it’s time we turned our attention over to them.
The Mets, when you glance at their roster, have some pretty good ballplayers, all of whom have an upside that could, if all the stars are aligned, translate into a pennant contending team in the National League East.
That bit of wavering is necessary since the Mets happen to play in the same division as the Washington Nationals. (And notice I said pennant contending and not a pennant-winning team.)
Presumably, most Mets would be happy with that, recognizing that the present composition of the team is pretty much the team which will begin the season, with no explosive trades or free agent signings on the way.
The strength of the Mets has always been and continues to be their starting pitching. We all know about the debilitating series of injuries that struck the team over the last two seasons. 2018 is destined to be the year of comebacks for these players.
Matt Harvey takes center stage in what will probably his final act as a New York Met before he reaches free agency next November. Coming into camp, no one should be more motivated than Harvey to have the kind of season that translates into becoming set for life once he turns himself over to his agent, Scott Boras.
Noah Syndergaard is also in a state of atonement with Mets fans. Not only did he embark on an ill-fated and self-generated “bulking up” program last season, but he declined an MRI that many believe would have revealed the potential for injury if he continued to pitch. His minuscule 30.1 innings pitched in 2017 speak volumes about the Met’s season. Syndergaard, as “Thor,” is a New York fan favorite who remains destined for a Cy Young one of these years.
The pitching triangle is completed by Jacob deGrom, who earned his orange and blue in spades last season when the Mets needed him most. deGrom faltered somewhat when it didn’t matter anymore late in the season, finishing over the 200 inning mark for the first time in his career. At 29, he is in what should be the prime of his career, and he would seem ready to better his 15-11 record as the ace of the staff.
After that triumvirate is exhausted is where the problems begin for the Mets. Steven Matz remains a mystery with all the stuff in the world, but nothing to show for it, and Robert Gsellman seems destined to the bullpen where his stuff equates better to one time through the order. Mickey Callaway, the former pitching coach, now piloting the team has his work cut out for him. But hey, ya never know.
Turning to the Mets position players, it’s better to concentrate on what they do have instead of what they lack because of the see-saw tipping to the latter. Michael Conforto is a fledging perennial All-Star in the mold of someone like Ryan Braun. He will hit for average and deliver some much-needed punch in the Mets lineup.
Conforto will not be ready for the start of the season, and that will hurt the Mets who will be anxious to show their fans there is still a reason to show up at Citi Field. Which, in turn, means Yoenis Cespedes needs to earn his eight-figure salary from day one with no hiccups in between.
Cespedes, with his moodiness and tendency to incur minor leg-related injuries, can drive a team up or down all by himself. Once again, it will up to Callaway to get inside the head of Cespedes, propelling him forward.
The other Met worth buying a ticket to see him play is Amed Rosario, the teams wildly hyped young shortstop who will be playing his first full season in the big leagues. Only 21, Rosario is not projected as another one of those power shortstops who populate the big leagues today. And the Mets will need for him to excel in the field, improving on his less than stellar six errors in 107 chances last season. In short, Rosario is a work in progress playing in a major league uniform.
The Mets need more run production capability if they are going to seriously compete this season. Jay Bruce apparently has his sights set on a four-year deal, and the Mets will not give it to him. Dominic Smith is a wild card who can help the team in the power department, but he needs to get his weight under control before the Mets become fully invested in him.
But cheer up everybody. The days are already getting longer again and that only means that baseball is on its way back to New York City. In six or seven weeks, the spotlight will be on the players assembled in Florida for the opening of the Mets Spring Training camp.
It’ll be a relief of sorts and a time to refocus on the players who will make or break the Mets 2018 season.