Sunday, March 17, 2019

New York Mets 2019 season preview


Seth Lugo. Photo from NJ.com

          After back to back seasons well over .500 from 2015-16, including a National League pennant, the New York Mets have failed to get back over .500 since. Sandy Alderson stepped down as GM due to cancer treatments, then got better and joined the A's. The Mets decided to be different. They went a different route than other teams, hiring player agent Brody Van Wagenen. Van Wagenen then brought two former clients in Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie. His biggest challenge is to sign another former client, Jacob deGrom, to an extension. The Mets are trying to go for it this year, but a strong division could set them back.

            Offseason additions: RHP Edwin Diaz, 2B Robinson Cano, C Wilson Ramos, INF Jed Lowrie, RHP Jeurys Familia, LHP Justin Wilson, OF Keon Broxton, INF JD Davis, OF Carlos Gomez, OF Rajai Davis, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, OF Gregor Blanco, LHP Luis Avilan, LHP Hector Santiago, INF Danny Espinosa, RHP Walker Lockett

              Offseason subtractions: OF Jay Bruce, LHP Jerry Blevins, RHP Anthony Swarzak, INF Wilmer Flores, OF Austin Jackson, C Kevin Plawecki, RHP AJ Ramos, INF Jose Reyes, INF TJ Rivera

              Rotation
The Mets have arguably the league's best rotation. It all starts with Jacob deGrom. deGrom had one of the best seasons in the modern era, with a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts in 217 innings, winning the NL Cy Young award. Noah Syndergaard had a second season shortened by injuries, making just 25 starts, but with a 3.03. He made five less starts than Steven Matz, who averaged just over five innings a start. Zack Wheeler had a career season, with a 3.31 ERA in 182.1 innings. The fifth starter is Jason Vargas, who made just twenty starts, but pitched in 92 innings in his Mets' debut. The starting depth is Corey Oswalt and Walker Lockett.

                Bullpen
In a major trade with the Mariners, the Mets acquired Edwin Diaz from the Mariners. Diaz is 25, and is coming off an insane season, setting the Mariners' saves record with 57, with a 1.97 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 73.1 innings. The Mets' closer since 2015, Jeurys Familia, was traded last deadline to the A's, but re-signed in the offseason for the set-up role. Justin Wilson, who closed for the Tigers in 2017, also was signed. Seth Lugo pitched over 100 innings as a reliever, and made five starts as well. He had a 2.66 ERA as well. Robert Gsellman, another reliever that can go multiple innings, closed out games after Familia was traded. Righty Tyler Bashlor had a 4.22 ERA in 32 innings, fourth best of Mets relievers last year, behind Familia and Lugo. The other player with a better ERA than Bashlor, Drew Smith, will miss 2019 because of Tommy John surgery. Rule 5 pick Kyle Dowdy is an option, despite bad AA numbers last year. Lefty Daniel Zamora is the favorite for the final spot.

                 Catching
The Mets' catching was doomed from the start. Starting catcher Travis d'Arnaud had his season lost to Tommy John surgery after game four. Backup Kevin Plawecki wasn't good enough to be a starter, and will now backup up in Cleveland. The team signed Wilson Ramos to a two year deal. Ramos has a career .756 OPS. d'Arnaud returns as the backup.

                 Infield
The Mets have a very, very crowded infield. The only lock is at shortstop. Former top prospect Amed Rosario led the team with 24 stolen bases, but his power and on base numbers aren't great. Robinson Cano comes from Seattle to play 2B, though we could see him at first because of his defensive limitations. Cano hit .303 after coming back from a PED suspension last year, and is a six time 25 home run hitter. One of their top prospects, Pete Alonso, has raked at the minors and Spring Training, but is unlikely to start the season with the team because of his service time. Former 40 home run hitter Todd Frazier disappointed in his first season as a Met, hitting just 18 home runs and sporting a  .213 average. He can play both corner infield positions. Jed Lowrie, who can play second, short and third, had a career season with 23 home runs with Oakland. First baseman Dom Smith has been a disappointment, and 2019 could be his last chance. Jeff McNeil, who is pretty much Lowrie lite, had a .329 batting average with a .381 OBP in 63 games last season. He can also play outfield. That is seven infielders. JD Davis will likely not get much time this year, but the Mets always seem to get hurt. In fact, Lowrie could miss the start of the season due to an injury.

                     Outfield
Brandon Nimmo, a rookie in 2018, had a .404 OBP, second in the league. Nimmo also hit 17 home runs and finished with a .886 OPS. Michael Conforto started off weak, but ended strong and finished with 28 home runs and a .797 OPS. Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes hasn't showed signs of returning soon. Center field is between Keon Broxton and Juan Lagares, who both are great defenders.

                     Bench
d'Arnaud is the backup catcher and either Broxton or Lagares is the fourth outfielder. That much is settled. The final two spots (or three), or between their many infielders. Since Alonso will likely start the season in AAA, which for now settles things out. Assuming Cano starts the season at first base, with Lowrie at second and Frazier at third, then Smith and McNeil get the final bench spots.

                     Lineup
LF Brandon Nimmo
1B Robinson Cano
RF Michael Conforto
C Wilson Ramos
2B Jed Lowrie
3B Todd Frazier
SS Amed Rosario
CF Juan Lagares

                     Rotation
Jacob deGrom (R)
Noah Syndergaard (R)
Zack Wheeler (R)
Steven Matz (L)
Jason Vargas (L)

                     Bullpen
Edwin Diaz (R)
Jeurys Familia (R)
Justin Wilson (L)
Seth Lugo (R)
Robert Gsellman (R)
Tyler Bashlor (R)
Kyle Dowdy (R)
Daniel Zamora (L)

                      Bench
C Travis d'Arnaud
OF Keon Broxton
UT Jeff McNeil
1B Dom Smith

                       Additional Information
Ballpark: Citi Field
Manager: Mickey Callaway
GM: Brody Van Wagenen
World Series Championships: 2
2018 record: 77-85

                       Steal of the Decade
Knuckleballer RA Dickey was 38 years old and had never received Cy Young votes in his career. That is, until 2012, when he made his only career all-star appearance and won the award. Dickey had had two previous good seasons with the Mets, but his best was 2012, when he had a 2.73 ERA and led the league in strikeouts with 230 and innings pitched with 233.2 innings. The Mets were smart and sold high on Dickey. Dickey was traded to Toronto along with catcher Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas for catchers Travis d'Arnaud and John Buck, pitcher Noah Syndergaard and Wuilmer Becerra. Dickey had four non-spectacular seasons for Toronto, pitched in 2017 for Atlanta, then retired. Thole spent four seasons as Jays' backup, hitting .200 with two home runs. Nickeas played one game for Toronto in 2013, didn't have a plate appearance, and would never return to the big leagues. d'Arnaud was the highly coveted prospect of this trade, and he is still on the Mets, but has never had more than 421 plate appearances in a season, but did hit 16 home runs in 2017. Buck hit 15 home runs for the Mets in 2013, but was traded to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline. Becerra never played in the MLB. But, Sydergaard was the main steal. He has become one of baseball's best young pitchers. In parts of four seasons, Syndergaard has a 2.93 ERA, with 573 strikeouts in 518.1 innings.

                        Prediction
The Mets have a good team. But, they don't have a great team. A very strong NL East has them primed for another 4th place finish.

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