NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 18: Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the New York Mets bats against the New York Yankees during their Pre Season game at Citi Field on July 18, 2020 in New York City.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

What will the New York Mets look like in a shortened 2020 season? Are the playoffs possible? Will Jacob deGrom win a third straight Cy Young?

Kyle Newman

2020 is going to be the strangest season in MLB history. Teams are only going to play 60 games, only play division rivals and their opposites in the opposing league, plus a number of rule changes have been added.

Everything from the universal DH, to the three batter minimum, to new extra-innings rules has been added to speed up the game. It’s going to seem like a whole new game this year. That could be a good thing for the New York Mets.

The Mets may be one of the teams that most benefit from the new rules added. The DH gives Yoenis Cespedes a role, and the Mets speed on the bench finally has a role with the new extra innings rule.

There’s a very real chance the Mets are going to be real contenders in 2020. That all starts with Opening Day and the hope that their offense is as dominant as it could be.

Opening Day Lineup

Opening Day is just a few days away. That should make plotting this lineup easy, but the Mets have made that anything but. Wilson Ramos was a huge question mark, but has returned to camp and seems to be fine. There’s no who will play left field — Cespedes or J.D. Davis? Most importantly, where is Robinson Cano going to hit?

Since there are so many questions makes I’m going to give two lineups here. The first is going to be what I would do if I were the manager. The second will be the lineup I believe Luis Rojas will write out for Opening Day.

CF Brandon Nimmo
3B Jeff McNeil
1B Pete Alonso
RF Michael Conforto
DH Yoenis Cespedes
LF J.D. Davis
C Wilson Ramos
2B Robinson Cano
SS Amed Rosario

My lineup isn’t the most well balanced. I don’t believe in mixing lefties and righties to make this difficult on relievers. With the new rule, they have to face three batters anyway. Instead, I focused on getting the most at-bats possible for the Mets’ best hitters.

Brandon Nimmo hits leadoff due to his absurd on-base ability. Jeff McNeil follows him because of his contact ability, which could create nightmares for opposing pitchers. Pete Alonso hits third to get as many RBI opportunities as possible. Michael Conforto adds a power lefty bat to follow behind Alonso, which should put pressure on opposing pitchers. Cespedes hits fifth because of his lack of strikeouts. Davis hits sixth because he’s the last reliable bat in the lineup.

The bottom third is a little bit of an issue. Ramos hitting seventh is a strong start. He’s one of the best offensive catchers in baseball even with his, at times, lackluster power. Cano could be good, but he’s struggled mightily and further dropoff could come at any moment. Batting him any higher seems too risky. Amed Rosario hits ninth due to his speed and familiarity at the bottom of the lineup.

3B Jeff McNeil
1B Pete Alonso
2B Robinson Cano
DH Yoenis Cespedes
RF Michael Conforto
LF J.D. Davis
C Wilson Ramos
CF Brandon Nimmo
SS Amed Rosario

This lineup is very similar to the one the Mets used against the New York Yankees on Sunday. There are only two differences. The first being Nimmo hitting eighth instead of seventh. That gives Rojas a more even distribution of lefties and righties. The other being Ramos’ inclusion in the lineup.

There are a number of problems with this lineup. The first being Nimmo, who had a .430 OBP in the second half of 2019, hitting at the bottom of the order. The Mets are putting themselves in a corner by looking to alternating lefty/righty and hitting Robinson Cano third. Two things that make little sense, but things that will likely happen on Opening Day.

In a recent press conference, Luis Rojas told reporters that he expects Cano to be hitting in the middle of the lineup for the majority of the season. That forces Nimmo down in the order, creating a suboptimal lineup.

The Mets have made a lot of strides to become more analytic based, but this is one place where they seem to disregard analytics completely. It could be the thing that renders their offense inept early in the season.

Offensive leaders

This section will provide predictions for who will lead the Mets in batting average, on-base percentage, home runs, runs batted in, and WAR.

Batting Average: Jeff McNeil

This one seems easy enough. McNeil led the Mets in batting average in 2019 and he’s likely to do it again in 2019. With his contact-oriented approach, McNeil could be one of the few players who come close to hitting .400 in a 60 game season.

On-Base Percentage: Brandon Nimmo

Nimmo is an on-base machine. When he’s healthy and at his best, there are few in the league who get on base at the same clip he does. His walk rate is up there with the likes of Mike Trout. That shows how great an eye he has and it could lead to an OBP over .400 just like it did in 2018.

Home Runs: Pete Alonso

This one was tougher than it seems. There’s no telling who could catch fire in a 60-game season. Alonso shattered the Mets franchise record in 2019, but he’ll have real challengers this year. Full seasons from J.D. Davis and Yoenis Cespedes could prove to be real threats to Alonso’s dominance. Michael Conforto is also in the conversation if he heats up at the right time. In the end though, it’s hard to bet against the polar bear.

RBI: Pete Alonso

Alonso is one of the most clutch hitters in baseball. He knocked in 120 RBIs in 2019. It’s unlikely he knocks in runs at such a prodigious rate in 2020, but it’s impossible to bet against Alonso’s ability to create runs.

WAR: Jeff McNeil

Jeff McNeil is in this spot because of his defense. His offensive production will likely be among the best on the team, but even if he doesn’t put up the power numbers, there’s no question he’ll lead the team in WAR. His above-average defense at third base gives him too big an advantage over poor defenders like Brandon Nimmo in centerfield and Pete Alonso at first base.

Defense

The New York Mets had one of the worst defenses in MLB in 2019. The only team worse was the Baltimore Orioles. If that doesn’t change in 2020 it could be what holds them back. The good news is that they’ve made a few defensive changes.

Bringing in the DH will help the Mets defense just as much as it’ll help their offense. It gives them a reason to take Alonso or Cespedes or Ramos off the field on rest days. Getting Tomas Nido, J.D. Davis, and Dom Smith game time should help improve the defense in those scenarios.

Jeff McNeil is the everyday third baseman should be a defensive improvement on the Mets infield. That improvement should in turn help out Amed Rosario improving his defense.

The Mets aren’t likely to put out a good defense in 2020, but it should be good enough.

Pitching leaders

This section will predict the Mets leaders in ERA, FIP, Ks, and WAR.

ERA: Jacob deGrom

This is about as easy as it gets. Jacob deGrom is one of the best pitchers in baseball and it would be a shock if he didn’t lead the team in ERA.

FIP: Jacob deGrom

Jacob deGrom was third in MLB in FIP in 2019. The next closest Met, who is currently slated to be in the rotation, was Marcus Stroman. Stroman’s FIP was over one full run higher. It’s unlikely any Met catches deGrom.

Ks: Jacob deGrom

This would be closer if Noah Syndergaard was healthy. Without him, this is another runaway. Jacob deGrom led the National League in strikeouts in 2019 and no other pitcher in the Mets rotation has great strikeout numbers. This is probably the biggest lock of any of these stats.

WAR: Jacob deGrom

It’s a clean sweep for Jacob deGrom. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise considering he’s the back-to-back Cy Young winner. When a team has the best pitcher in MLB it’s likely they’re going to dominate all the statistical categories.

Standings and Year-End Awards

So, where will the New York Mets end up in the standings? It’s a complicated question. They play in the toughest division in MLB and those opponents will make up 40 of 60 games in their 2020 season. Throwing an even bigger wrench into it is the high probability of ties at the end of the season.

Through the first 60 games of 2019, three divisions would have had ties, including the NL East. It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone if multiple divisions, especially one as tight as the NL East ends with a tie.

With that said, here are my predictions for the 2020 season.

Atlanta Braves: 33-27
New York Mets: 33-27
Philadelphia Phillies: 31-29
Washington Nationals 30-30
Miami Marlins: 15-45

The Mets and Braves are the best teams in the division. They tie at the top. The loser of the tiebreaker game would become a Wild Card team. For the purposes of these predictions, the Braves will be crowned NL East champions and the Mets will be the Wild Card team.

Cy Young: Jacob deGrom

The New York Mets will take home one award this year. It’ll be Jacob deGrom’s third straight Cy Young. His unrivaled health, dominance, and consistency are going to be too much for anyone to handle. It’s possible that someone makes a surprise run in a short 60-game season, but your money should be on deGrom.

Postseason

The New York Mets will once again meet Madison Bumgarner in a Wild Card game. The Mets will host the Arizona Diamondbacks in a game that will feature two of the best big-game pitchers in baseball — MadBum and Jacob deGrom.

The Mets get the edge here given deGrom’s dominance and their offensive firepower. However, that’s as far as they go.

After beating one NL West team, the Mets will fall to another. The Los Angeles Dodgers are on a quest to finally win a World Series. The Mets won’t stand in their way.

Their pitching, offense, defense, and bullpen are going to be too much. The Dodgers are the best team in MLB and the Mets will just be the first step on their run to a World Series victory.

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