Francisco Lindor mets
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Mets Spring Training is fast approaching, folks. The equipment truck will be making its way down to Port St. Lucie starting on January 30th, and we’re less than three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting. After a busy — and expensive — offseason, expectations are high for New York heading into 2023.

What about individual players? They all have to come together and row in the same direction to get back to October. There need to be contributions from the entire roster, but some players are more critical to the Mets’ eventual fate than others.

Essentially, the stars and above-average players need to perform that way. As we wait for actual baseball to be played again, we’re just stuck with projections. The four below players all have a very good chance of exceeding certain expectations that are being put on them by projection systems.

The barometer will be FanGraphs’ Steamer projections, and obviously, we’ll be assuming general health for each of these dudes.

Francisco Lindor

After what was viewed as an underwhelming first year in Queens, Francisco Lindor came all the way back in 2022. He set franchise shortstop records for home runs (26), RBI (107), and fWAR (6.8) while posting a 127 wRC+ and .788 OPS. Four shortstops produced an fWAR above 6.0 last season, but none finished higher than Lindor.

The shortstop’s 2023 Steamer projections include a .249/.322/.430 line with 24 home runs, 86 RBI, 82 runs scored, a 117 wRC+, and 4.6 fWAR.

If the Mets’ lineup is as productive as it was last year — they were the third-best unit in 2022 — it’ll be easier for Lindor to accumulate those counting stats again. He’s collected five years of 20-plus homers and owns a career triple slash of .277/.342/.474.

Lindor debuted in 2015. The only time he’s finished with an fWAR below 4.0 was in 2020. He posted 1.9 fWAR in the pandemic-shortened season. Even in his “rough” first year with the Mets, he finished with 4.2 fWAR. Chances are Lindor will exceed several of these projections, especially since his career numbers/averages are above many of them.

Jose Quintana

New York’s signing of Jose Quintana wasn’t as flashy as the ones for Justin Verlander or Kodai Senga. However, this two-year, $26 million contract could very well be a steal for the Mets.

The 2022 campaign was a huge bounce-back for the southpaw. His 4.0 fWAR was his highest since 2017, while his 2.93 ERA was a new career-best mark. Looking ahead to this season, Steamer is projecting Quintana for a 10-9 record with a 3.81 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP, a 21.7% strikeout rate, a 7.6% walk rate, and 1.9 fWAR in 158 innings.

We’ve been around long enough to know a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t totally up to them, so we can toss that out. Those strikeout and walk rates are in line with his career norms, as are his ERA and WHIP projections.

However, Quintana will find some way to exceed the innings and fWAR projections. He debuted in the big leagues in 2012, so he’s got 11 MLB seasons under his belt. The lefty has tossed more than 160 innings eight times and has surpassed 2.0 fWAR on seven occasions.

Jeff McNeil

Like his new teammate, Jeff McNeil also experienced a bounce-back campaign in 2022. It was rewarding, as he finished with MLB’s highest batting average (.326). His overall numbers were mostly in line with what he did before 2021, too.

McNeil slashed .326/.382/.454 with nine homers, 62 RBI, 73 runs scored, a 143 wRC+, and a 5.9 fWAR.

Outside of 2021, McNeil has never finished with a batting average below .311, a wRC+ worse than 131, or an OPS lower than .836. Steamer is projecting him for a .290/.348/.423 triple slash with 12 homers, 68 RBI, 67 runs scored, a 124 wRC+, and 3.6 fWAR.

Projection systems can’t just forget about one bad year, but McNeil’s resurgence is proof this was just a bump in the road. Out of his three full big-league seasons, he’s finished with at least 4.0 fWAR twice. He may not win another batting title, but the second baseman will probably be in the conversation each year. And he’ll probably outperform

Drew Smith

Entering the offseason, Drew Smith was the only reliever with significant big-league experience guaranteed to return to the Mets’ bullpen. Then, of course, Billy Eppler and Co. brought in plenty of reinforcements.

Smith took some nice steps forward while pitching a career-high 46 innings in 2022. He accumulated just -0.1 fWAR. But, it was accompanied by a 3.33 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, a 28.3% strikeout rate (a career-high), and an 8.0% walk rate. His 3.72 xFIP and 3.12 SIERA show his actual results were legit. However, the right-hander was burned by the long ball (again).

He’s tossed 40-plus innings in a season twice (2021 and 2022). In both instances, Smith’s homers allowed per nine innings rate has been above 1.50 (it was 1.76 last year). That happened despite allowing hard contact at a career-low rate (29.4%). So, I’m thinking he can start putting it all together and outperform his projections. Steamer is pegging him for a 3.90 ERA, a 1.23 HR/9, a 25.1% strikeout rate, an 8.7% walk rate, and 0.2 fWAR in 59 innings.

Matt Musico can be reached at and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.

Matt Musico is an editor for ESNY. He’s been writing about baseball and the Mets for the past decade. His work has been featured on numberFire, MetsMerized Online, Bleacher Report, and Yahoo! Sports.