As I said this morning, this is a talented group of players who seem to only be getting better, more confident, and more reinforced as time goes on.
This is a 95-win pitching staff to me, and if they make the playoffs, they can be extremely dangerous. Their starting rotation is as deep as anyone’s in the game right now short of maybe Washington’s, and that’s without Zack Wheeler, and their top shelf pitching prospects still on the way. Matt Harvey makes that happen, but Jacob deGrom is also an ace on paper, and Jon Niese help to form a very formidable 1-2-3 punch. I don’t think the rotation as we see it today will be the way it is on game 162, but that’s not a bad thing, either. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching this rotation evolve and grow as the season moves along.
The bullpen went from a strength, to a question mark and back to a strength in a matter of two weeks in camp, again with help on the way in Vic Black and Bobby Parnell. They are deep with options on the left side, and they have a plethora of power arms on the right side once they’re healthy. Today’s game depends so much on a strong bullpen that misses bats, and if Black and Parnell are healthy and Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia remain consistent, they’ll have four very powerful and formidible late inning relievers, all vital to their success this season.
The offense is a little bit more of a mystery, considering there are question marks about whether or not they have a leadoff hitter, David Wright and whether or not he’s declining, Curtis Granderson and his ability to bounce back, and whether or not Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores and Travis d’Arnaud will continue to mature at the plate. However, they’re deeper and more versatile than they have been in a long time. The lineup is well balanced with a good mix of left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters. Very blue-collar, if you will. They’ve acquired some pop in Michael Cuddyer, and they have insurance with Cuddyer and John Mayberry Jr. for Duda in case he doesn’t hit left-handed hitters. Ultimately, I expect the offense to be vastly improved this year. Hopefully, the approach and some of the production from Spring Training carries into the regular season.
With four players on the bench, the Mets are a little thin at the moment, but I expect that to change sooner rather than later. Assuming they recall Eric Campbell, they’ll have more versatility at their disposal and more power from the right side thanks to Mayberry. They really struggled against left-handed pitching off the bench last year, but Mayberry – and later Campbell – should go a long way towards improving their marks against southpaws.
All of this sounds great, right? Well, hold on a minute.
This is an era of baseball being defined by pitching, defense, and speed. The Mets have the first part, but might be lacking the last two parts.
They certainly lack speed in general, and I’m not talking specifically about stolen bases. I am talking about general speed on the bases and speed on defense.
Speaking of their defense, it’s legitimate concern and their most glaring weakness, as I wrote on Sunday. Outside of Wright and Juan Lagares, there are serious holes here, especially up the middle with d’Arnaud, Flores and Daniel Murphy. The fact I don’t think Duda’s defense will be a major problem for them speaks volumes to this problem. Simply put, Murphy, Flores, and probably both Cuddyer and Granderson will have to outhit their defensive problems this season, but their poor range on the infield, inability to turn double plays (which was a major issue in 2014), the weak throwing arms in the corner outfield spots, and d’Arnaud’s ability to throw and catch the ball might water this club down.
If the defense overachieves, this is a postseason team. But, it’s difficult for defense to overachieve, especially when there are so many areas which have to improve a lot. In comparison, the Nationals defense is just better, as is the Cardinals and the other perennial contenders in the National League. They might match a lot of these teams pound-for-pound in other areas, but they could get killed on the little things behind their pitching.
In the end, I see this Mets team – as constructed on Opening Day – winning 85 games. However, if they’re in a race at the All-Star break, I reserve the right to alter my prediction should they augment the roster.