Despite finishing with fewer than 80 wins for the sixth straight season, the New York Mets did next to nothing this off-season and will rely heavily on their crop of former top prospects to develop into MLB-caliber starters.
The Mets are off to a good start with a mostly homegrown pitching rotation filled with promising arms and even more on the way. Their offense remains suspect, however, after the team added only Michael Cuddyer this offseason to improve a lineup that put up the fifth-worst On-Base Plus Slugging percentage in the league last season.
With the Nats and Marlins both significantly improving, can the Mets contend this year without significantly improving any one need in the offseason?
Batting Average: 28th
Notable Additions: Michael Cuddyer, John Mayberry
1B: Lucas Duda
After three seasons of mediocre production, Duda finally reached the next level in 2014 as he hit a career-high 30 home runs while adding a career-best 92 RBI, 74 R, and 27 2B. Duda is a good on-base guy with good pop but strikeouts have long been his Achilles’ heel. Duda certainly has the ability to produce 30-90 on a regular basis but he also has a high risk of reverting to the .223 hitter with 15 home runs and 33 RBI we saw in 2013. He’s a lot like the guy he replaced in that way, Ike Davis.
2B: Daniel Murphy
Murph has been very consistent over the last three seasons, batting .286-.291 with a .733-.735 OPS and 37-40 2B. He doesn’t have much pop but is good for 60+ RBI and double-digit steals. He doesn’t strike out a lot but could use a few more walks as well. He doesn’t have a great glove at second but he’s one of the better bats at his position.
3B: David Wright
Wright hit a career-low eight home runs in 2014 despite playing 134 games. His average fell from .307 to .269, his OPS plummeted from .904 to .698, and his steals fell from 17 to 8. Some of that can be written off on injuries but Wright getting hurt is pretty much an inevitable annual event these days. He still has a strong glove at third but he’s going to need to stay healthy and show more at the plate.
Flores is expected to start at short but at this point it’s unclear if the 23-year-old is an upgrade over Tejada. In 78 games last season, Flores put up a .251/.286/.378 line with 6 HR, 29 RBI, 28 R, and 13 2B while putting forth a passable effort in the field. In the minors, the former top-50 prospect batted .292 in his career while hitting as many as 18 home runs and 36 doubles in a season while limiting his strikeouts. We’ll need to see some of that for him to stick, but at his age he still has time to pan out.
Tejada is pretty bad at the plate but has a decent glove. The guy to watch as the season moves along is Matt Reynolds, the Mets’ second-round pick in 2012. He put up impressive numbers in Double-A and Triple-A last season posting a combined .343/.405/.454 line with 6 HR, 61 RBI, 87 R, 34 XBH, and 20 SB. Reynolds should be on speed dial if Flores struggles or gets injured.
C: Travis d’Arnaud, Anthony Recker
The Mets desperately need d’Arnaud to develop this season if they hope to put forth a serviceable lineup. He showed significant improvement as the season went along last season, batting .217 with 6 HR, 19 RBI, 18 R, and 8 2B in his first 55 games and then batting .265 with 7 HR, 22 RBI, 30 R, and 14 2B in his last 53 games. In the minors, the former top-10 prospect batted a career .290 with as many as 21 home runs and 38 2B in a single season. If his bat comes along this year, he could be one of the better hitting catchers in the league, though his work behind the plate still leaves a bit to be desired.
Recker doesn’t offer much at the plate except the occasional home run but he gives the Mets better defense at backstop than d’Arnaud.
Michael Cuddyer is still a great bat, the only question is how many games the Mets will get out of him. The 35-year-old played just 49 games last season after playing in 130 in 2013 and 101 in 2012. Injury seems like an inevitability but the Mets will take what they can get with their lineup. Even in a shortened season, Cuddyer batted .332 with 10 HR, 31 RBI, and 15 2B in just 190 at-bats in 2014. The previous season he hit an NL-best .331 with 20 HR and 84 RBI. Of course, hitting in Citi is nothing like hitting in Coors but Cuddy gives the Mets a very good bat for (hopefully) most of the season.
Juan Lagares improved his stats at the plate considerably last year, batting .281 with 31 extra-base hits, 47 RBI, 46 R, and 13 SB. Of course, his real value is in center where he is arguably the best defensive player in the league. Lagares led all outfielders in Defensive WAR, and finished second among all players, only behind Andrelton Simmons. He also led all centerfielders in RngR (measures how well a player covers his position) and finished only behind Billy Hamilton is Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) which determines how well a player is able to get to balls in various areas of the field. Lagares is a defensive phenom and a highly underrated star.
Curtis Granderson looked nothing like the player we saw hit 40+ home runs in back-to-back seasons with the Yankees in 2011 and 2012 but still finished behind only Lucas Duda on the team in homers. He batted a career-low .227 with 20 HR, 66 RBI, 73 R, and 27 2B, though about two thirds of that production came before the All-Star break. The power isn’t there like it used to be, the speed is all but gone, the defense is shaky, and he certainly isn’t worth his $15M per year price tag but he offers the Mets solid-though-inconsistent offensive production which has been hard to come by for the Amazin’s.
John Mayberry was brought in because… well, it’s hard to say. He doesn’t have a good bat, doesn’t have a good glove, strikes out too much, and doesn’t walk. He’s capable of producing 20 doubles and double-digit home runs in a full season but it’s not pretty.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis isn’t any better than Mayberry at the plate but his defensive is solid and he plays outfield fearlessly.
Matt Harvey is coming off of Tommy John surgery after a Cy Young-caliber season in 2013. In 26 starts, Harvey posted a 2.27 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP, and 191 K to 31 BB in 178.1 innings while giving up the fewest home runs per nine innings in the league. He’s an exceptional pitcher who could be as good as Clayton Kershaw for years to come. Of course, he’ll first need to prove his arm is healthy and he can stay healthy.
Bartolo Colon had great year with the A’s in 2013, going 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 117 K to 29 BB. He wasn’t quite as good with the Mets and struggled with his consistency, going 15-13 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. He’ll need to do a better job of keeping the ball in the park and keeping hitters off base but, at 41, it’s hard to see him improving, even just two seasons after an All-Star year.
Zack Wheeler has now posted a very solid 3.50 ERA in 49 career starts but continues to struggle with walks. He did a good job of keeping the ball in the park and posted excellent strikeout numbers in his first full season, putting up 187 K in 185 IP, but he’ll need to get his 3.8 K/9 down to reach the next level.
Jacob deGrom was a great surprise for the Mets last season. Rarely mentioned in favor of highly touted prospects like Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, deGrom was an instant success after getting the call to the Bigs, putting up a 2.69 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 144 K to 43 BB in 140 innings, en route to a Rookie of the Year award. deGrom does a stellar job of keeping the ball in the park and rarely walks anyone. If he can keep his strikeouts up, he’ll be a steal in fantasy drafts once again this season.
Jon Niese posted a 3.40 ERA and 1.27 WHIP last season, while striking out 138 and walking 45. He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys but he does just about everything well. It’s quite impressive the rotation is so stacked their former ace is now their fifth starter.
Dillon Gee likely won’t start the season in the rotation after posting a 4.00 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 22 starts last season. The Mets were unable to trade Gee as they’d hoped and he’ll likely be in the bullpen barring an injury. He gives up too many home runs to be successful so the Mets would be best suited to part ways.
Jenrry Mejia was stellar in his first stint at closer after Bobby Parnell went down, saving 28 games in 31 opportunities. After posting a 5.06 ERA in seven starts, Mejia found his calling as he put up a 2.72 ERA and 60 K to 21 BB in 56 innings out of the pen. He’ll need to get his skyhigh WHIP down to be successful long term but he has a live arm and a lot of promise.
Jeurys Familia was nasty coming out of the pen last season, posting a 2.21 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 76 appearances. The former top prospect is finally making good on his potential and, like Mejia, he’s found his niche in the pen.
Vic Black was acquired in 2013 from the Pirates and looked very strong in his first full season in Queens as he posted a 2.60 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 41 appearances. The big righty has a live arm but he’ll definitely need to get his 4.9 BB/9 down is he’s going to be successful longterm.
Josh Edgin looked fairly mediocre in his first two seasons with the Mets but looked good in limited time last season. He posted a 1.32 ERA and 0.915 WHIP while striking out 9.2 per nine innings. He only played 27 innings and is already struggling with an arm injury in spring training but if he’s healthy he’ll certainly help this already impressive pen.
Carlos Torres has really found himself in two seasons with the Mets and looked terrific as the team’s long man in 2014, going 8-6 with a 3.06 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and 92 K to 38 BB. He’ll need to keep the baserunners down but he’s a good long option to have.
Bobby Parnell will likely get his closer job back once he’s fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery that ended his season after just one inning last year and why not? In 2013, he saved 22 games in 26 opportunities and posted a 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 44 K to 12 BB in 50 innings. The Mets have long struggled with their bullpen but finally have one of the better pens in the league.
Starting Pitching: B+ to A-