Season Preview: With Harvey Healthy, Can Mets Compete?

The New York Mets are ready to start the 2015 season and fans have plenty to be excited about.

They have a core of young, exciting players mixed with popular veterans who have long, successful careers. Their cross-town rivals, the New York Yankees, have forever dominated the public eye, but the Mets are ready to take over this town like it’s 1986.

The roster is pretty much set, but it’s in many ways different from how we thought it would look like, when they first arrived in Port St. Lucie for Spring Training. Here’s how it’s shaking up:

Starting Rotation (Projected Slash Line in Parenthesis)

Bartolo Colon (13-9, 4.02 ERA, 155 Ks, 199.2 IP, 31 Starts)

Colon is getting Opening Day whether people like it or not, so I start with him. These numbers go pretty much with what Colon did last year. I think he’ll do much of the same: great in his wins, disastrous in his losses, but as a whole, not too shabby. I’m not a big Colon fan, mostly due to his PED history and unpredictability. But when a guy wins 15 games on a team like the 2014 Mets, you have to give him some credit. I think he’ll get about the same number of wins with an improved lineup, but will have his ERA inflated by bad starts again. He’ll be dependable, but dominant, like most of his career.

Jacob deGrom ( 12-7, 3.12 ERA, 184 Ks, 193 IP, 30 Starts)

It’s unfair to think deGrom will be just as dominant as last year’s Rookie of the Year campaign. The league will have a better look at him and he’ll have to adjust. I think he’ll still be very good, but he won’t be as untouchable. He’ll show more signs of why he wasn’t a very highly regarded prospect, mixed with signs he’s the real deal, not just a fluke. As a whole, I think deGrom will go through some “Sophomore Slump” periods, but will also flash signs of dominance, and will make the required adjustments.

Matt Harvey (11-6, 3.01 ERA, 176Ks, 160 IP,26 Starts)

I seem to be one of the few who doesn’t seem to think Harvey’s going to burst onto the scene again and take over New York. Remember, he just had major reconstructive surgery on his elbow. He’ll be very, very good, but not quite amazing, just yet. I think he’ll eventually return to his former self, just as many Tommy John recipients do. But, just because Tommy John is fairly common, doesn’t mean it’s nothing. He missed a year and a half for a reason. Give Harvey some time. He’ll get back to normal. It just won’t be as quickly as Mets fans would like.

Jonathan Niese (9-7 , 3.92 ERA, 122 Ks, 141 IP, 22 Starts)

Niese is the only lefty in the rotation and sometimes I feel like that’s the only reason he’s in the rotation. He’s a very serviceable pitcher, yes, but Niese is maybe their most frustrating pitcher. He seems to have so much talent, has a reasonable contract, but he never seems to work out. His injuries have become common enough to predict they’ll happen. I think mid-year we’ll hear the same arm soreness issue and hear from him on-and-off for the rest of the year. Either that, or he’ll kill Terry Collins, or vice-versa. It’s just always something with Niese. I hope I’m wrong, but he doesn’t give many reasons for optimism.

Dillon Gee (5-3, 4.03 ERA, 91 Ks, 68 IP, 11 Starts)

These are my projections for Gee’s season with the Mets, or at least his time in their rotation. Eventually, Noah Syndergaard is going to need a spot. Rafael Montero, too. Maybe you can add Steven Matz to that list. The Mets have more pitching than they know what to do with. And honestly, Dillon Gee isn’t good enough to be taking up a spot. He’ll be fine as a stop-gap, but he won’t last long.

Bullpen

Right-Handers: Jenrry Mejia (closer), Jeurys Familia (set-up), Vic Black (will start on DL), Carlos Torres, Rafael Montero, Buddy Carlyle

Left-Handers: Jerry Blevins, Alex Torres, Sean Gilmartin

The bullpen was actually pretty good last year. Well once, Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth were gone, that is. It got the job done, and had young fire-ballers doing it. Buddy Carlyle is an option here too, as he did great last year and had a nice spring, but the Mets’ recent trades probably knock him out.

Sean Gilmartin has had a decent spring, but he’s Rule 5 pick and needs to stay in the big leagues for the Mets to keep him. Terry Collins has already said he’s all but made the team.

Recent acquisitions Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres were great pickups and bring much-needed left-handed depth to the bullpen. Buddy Carlyle will provide insurance and eat innings when needed. Vic Black will be out for a little while and it will be interesting who he knocks out when he returns. All this while it seems Torres and Montero will handle long-relief/spot-starting duties. The bullpen is poised to build off last year’s success.

Catcher

Travis d’Arnaud

Travis d’Arnaud is key to a successful 2015 season for the Mets. He’s not getting any younger and he needs to start producing for the entire season. I, for one, think he can do it. Especially, after the way he bounced back last year, my faith was restored. But with Kevin Plawecki waiting in the wings, d’Arnaud has to step up all aspects of his game. That means defense too. Before last year, defense was never seen as an issue for d’Arnaud. But it definitely became one. Passed ball after passed ball happened, and it became clear that d’Arnaud was more worried about framing pitches than actually catching them. Maybe with his new number, Travis d’Arnaud can show what the hype is all about

First Base

Lucas Duda

Duda was one of the most overlooked players in baseball last year, along with having one of the biggest breakout campaigns. You’d think a guy with 30 homers and 92 RBIs would get more attention, especially with baseball’s recent power outage. But he didn’t and I don’t think he has an issue with that. Duda has a very quiet personality that has turned from being a huge weakness at first, to working for him now. It was controversial when Sandy Alderson picked him over Ike Davis, but boy did it work out. Now it’s up to Duda to prove he can do it again. This time he’ll actually play in April too.

Second Base

Daniel Murphy

Murphy is probably on his last go around with the Mets. He’s got an expiring contract, but with young talent in the minors, it’s very unlikely he’s still in Queens next Opening Day. He’s also one of the most predictable players on the Mets. We all know how it goes: he’ll get close to 200 hits or so, but they’ll all be doubles or singles, making them not as valuable as they seem. He might hit 10 or so home runs, but not much more than that. And his defense will be TERRIBLE. I like Murphy, but he’s hard to watch in the field sometimes. Overall, there’s a reason Murphy was an All-Star last year. But, honestly, as much as I like him, I can’t wait to be able to stop praying the ball stays away from him every night.

Third Base

David Wright

Wright had a rough year last season. Anybody who watches baseball knows that. But, I’m getting the feeling that everybody in baseball seems to forget why he had such a rough year. A shoulder injury bugged him just about all year and got worse every day. It became tough to watch, and he mercifully benched himself at the end of the year. But, now he’s back. He’s healthy and had a huge Spring. All the signs seem to things going back to normal for Wright. At this point in his career, its unreasonable to think Wright will be the huge power threat he was back in the Shea years. But you can expect a return to what he did the couple of years before last year. High average, 15-20 home runs, and a nice amount of RBIs. He’ll return to being the very dependable three hitter he was.

Shortstop

Wilmer Flores

This is a touchy position to most fans, including myself. I was one of those who was clamoring for Tulowitzki, or at the very least, ANYBODY. Anybody, but Wilmer Flores. The rap sheet was that he couldn’t field if his life depended on it, and his hitting was good, but not enough to make up for the defense. Everyone was dreading a double-play duo of him and Daniel Murphy. But, so far this spring, Flores has proved plenty of people wrong. His defense has been serviceable, and he’s hit very well, as have all of his teammates. Flores is going to have to keep this up. Sandy Alderson has taken a lot of heat for not finding a new shortstop. It’s up to Flores to prove him right, and all the nay-sayers wrong.

Left Field

Michael Cuddyer

Cuddyer was one of only two Major League signings made by the Mets this offseason. It was a controversial one too. Cuddyer is 36, was injured almost all of last year, and has had his offensive numbers inflated by a couple of years in Coors Field. Oh, the Mets gave up a first round pick for him too. Now, Cuddyer has a track record of success, stemming from his Minnesota Twins days, and had a great Spring Training. He led the Grapefruit League in home runs and overall had a really nice spring. Now, it’s up to him to translate that into regular season success. He was signed in no small part due to his friendship with David Wright and his veteran leadership abilities. But games are won on the field, and Cuddyer is going need to perform at a top level.

Center Field

Juan Lagares

The Mets recently made a great move locking up Lagares through his arbitration years and having an option for his first year of free agency. Lagares one his first of many Gold Gloves last year and showed the league why he’s the best defensive Center Fielder in baseball. He makes seemingly impossible catches look effortless and has a laser for an arm. The only question with Lagares is if he can hit. He appears to be the leadoff hitter for now, and hopefully that means a higher OBP and more stolen bases for Lagares. He was able to improve both of those as last year went on, but will have to do it consistently all year. Overall, Lagares will do his thing in Center Field. He just needs to do better at the plate.

Right Field

Curtis Granderson

Granderson was last year’s big offseason acquisition and he didn’t 100% live up to his paycheck. He was very streaky and strikeouts were very much an issue, and he left many fans with a sour taste in their mouth. I for one, think this year is going to be a bounce-back year for him. With new walls, his former hitting coach at his side, and a year in the NL under his belt, Curtis Granderson is primed to breakout this year. His spring is evidence to this, too. He was the team MVP for the Grapefruit League and looked like the threat he was in the Bronx. Look for Granderson to not only be a nice clubhouse presence, but a force at the plate this year.

Bench

Anthony Recker (catcher), John Mayberry, JR. (1B/OF), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (OF), Ruben Tejada (SS/2B)

The bench has become more and more clear as the spring goes on. It was unclear if the Mets would have Eric Campbell on Opening Day or if they go with an extra reliever. But, they just recently announced that they were going with an extra reliever in Buddy Carlyle.

Recker unexpectedly had a little competition in Spring with Johnny Monell, who had a breakout camp. I personally would go with Monell, but it seems the Mets are going with Recker. He’ll provide his usual occasional pop, low average, and solid defense. John Mayberry, Jr was the Mets only other major league signing this offseason and will provide late-inning power and an ability to give some veterans occasional days off.

Nieuwenhuis officially got this job when the Mets traded Matt den Dekker and will provide speed and defense off the bench. Tejada will provide defense and light-hitting, as he’ll give Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy days off every once in a while. Overall, the Mets have a solid bench, and we’ll see how much it changes throughout the season.

Projected Lineup

1. Juan Lagares CF

2. Daniel Murphy 2B

3. David Wright 3B

4. Lucas Duda 1B

5. Michael Cuddyer LF

6. Curtis Granderson RF

7. Travis d’Arnaud C

8. Wilmer Flores SS

9. Pitcher

Prospects to Watch

Noah Syndergaard

It seems more than likely that we’ll see Syndergaard at some point this year. He was supposed to be up last year, but AAA struggles held him up. Now, with no Zack Wheeler, we will definitely see Syndergaard at some point. He’ll come up around June, preferably, and take either Dillon Gee’s spot, or that of an injured pitcher. I think he’ll do very well, and show as that “hook from hell” curveball. We’ve been hearing about him forever, it feels like, and it seems we’ll finally see him this year.

Steven Matz

Matz burst onto the scene last year and has become more than a feel-good story. The Long Island native was the Mets first pick in the 2009 draft out of high school, but Tommy John kept him from throwing a big league pitch until 2012. And last year, he proved that he wasn’t a bust quite yet. He’s the only major left-handed pitching prospect the Mets have and look for him to be a late-season call-up.

Matt Reynolds

Reynolds was the Mets second-round pick out of the University of Arkansas in 2012. Originally a third baseman, he’s made a nice transition to SS/2B. After struggling for his first year and a half in the organization, Reynolds burst onto the scene last year in both AA Binghamton and AAA Las Vegas. He also had a really nice spring, making fans wonder if he’d make the team. That’s not the case, but it’s reasonable to think he’ll be in Queens at some point this year.

Predictions for Team Awards

Team MVP: David Wright

Team Cy Young: Matt Harvey

Team Rookie of the Year: Noah Syndergaard

Breakout Player: Travis d’Arnaud

Comeback Player: Curtis Granderson

Final Prediction

85-77, Tied for 2nd in NL East, just miss 2nd Wild Card

I think this is a very positive year for the Mets. The combination of young talent with veteran leadership makes for an exciting team that could surprise the league. But, I think the Mets are still one piece away. They’re that Gary Carter in ’86, or Mike Piazza in ’00, type piece away from contention. They need another star in that lineup, and unless one of these young guys really steps up or Sandy Alderson makes an unexpected splash, I think they just miss out on the playoffs. I don’t see the Marlins making it either, so I think if the Mets can get that big piece, they’ve got the talent to make a run. But, as they sit right now, I think they’ll be in the hunt, but fall just short.

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