Sunday, July 12, 2020

New York Mets 2020 Season Preview

From CNN

       Mets fans just cannot catch a break. Last year, new GM Brodie van Wagenen dealt top prospect Jarred Kelenic to Seattle for Robinson Cano, and Edwin Diaz, who both under-performed. After campaigning for manager Mickey Callaway to get fired all season long, the supporters were elated when former Met, 20 year MLB veteran and future Hall-of-Famer Carlos Beltran was hired as skipper. Well, then the details of the Astros sign stealing scandal were released. Beltran, who in 2017 was a 40 year old in his last season in the MLB, playing for the World Series winning Astros, was an instrumental piece in Houston's scandal as a player, and lead to the Mets parting ways with Beltran before he managed a single game. The Mets pivoted, hiring Luis Rojas, the son of former player and manager Felipe Alou (in a very confusing way). At age 38, Rojas has already been in the Mets organization for 13 years, and is very respected among the players. To make things better for fans, the much-hated Wilpons, the owners of the team, will likely sell soon, with billionaire Steve Cohen rumored to be the most likely to purchase the club. The Mets are still very talented, but they do have some holes to cover up.

       Offseason additions: RHP Dellin Betances, RHP Rick Porcello, OF Jake Marisnick, RHP Michael Wacha, RHP Jared Hughes, OF Melky Cabrera, IF Eduardo Nunez, 1B Matt Adams, RHP Hunter Strickland, LHP Chasen Shreve, OF Jarrett Parker, OF Ryan Cordell, IF Max Moroff, LHP Stephen Gonsalves.

       Offseason subtractions: RHP Zack Wheeler, IF Todd Frazier, OF Juan Lagares, IF Joe Panik, OF Carlos Gomez, LHP Luis Avilan, RHP Chris Mazza, RHP Drew Gagnon, RHP Jacob Rhame.

       Rotation
Going into 2019, a big question was if Jacob deGrom could match his 1.70 ERA, 269 strikeout 2018 season, when he won his first Cy Young. Did deGrom match his stats? No, that wouldn't be possible. However, deGrom did the next best thing, winning his second consecutive Cy Young award in 2019, with a 2.43 ERA and a National League leading 255 strikeouts in 204 innings, plus a .971 WHIP. deGrom was one of many Mets starters last year with a hard fastball, averaging 96.9 mph last year. However, Zack Wheeler left for the Phillies, and Noah Syndergaard won't play in 2020. "Thor" had Tommy John surgery early into to the shutdown, ending his 2020 before it started. Syndergaard's injury and Wheeler leaving makes the Marcus Stroman deal look better. The Mets acquired Toronto's former ace, who will be a free agent after 2020, at the trade deadline in 2019. Stroman, who at the time had a 2.96 ERA, wasn't as good in Flushing, with a 3.77 ERA in 11 starts. Overall, Stroman struck out 159 batters in 184.1 innings with a 3.22 ERA. Stroman had a career best 4.1 barrel percentage, with a 35.2 hard hit percentage. Steven Matz, who as Mets fans have likely heard millions of times - although not as much as a certain Todd Frazier fact (did you know he won the Little League World Series and stood next to Derek Jeter as a kid?) - is from Long Island, found a way to stay healthy. Matz struggled to start the season, with a 4.95 ERA after 16 starts, which lead to Matz being moved to the bullpen for two outings. Matz did improve, finishing with a respectable 4.21 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 160.1 innings. Thanks to using a sinker over half of the time, Matz has forced grounds balls 50.4% of the time in his career. Rick Porcello, a pitcher with the wildest career (perfect for the Mets), signed a one year deal. Porcello has won a Cy Young award, has lead the league in both wins and losses (in different seasons), allowed the most hits in a season twice, and has nine complete games since the start of 2014. The two constants for Porcello is that he has started at least 30 games in eight of his 11 seasons (the other three seasons saw Porcello start 27, 28 and 29 games) and that he doesn't strike out many batters. In 2019, Porcello had a career worst 5.52 ERA with 143 strikeouts in 174.1 innings. Porcello throws a slow curveball with a spin rate of 2810 rpm. The Mets also brought Michael Wacha on-board. Still only 29, Wacha had a 4.76 ERA with 104 strikeouts in 126.2 innings. Wacha's fastball was crushed, allowing 16 home runs with a .324 average.

       Bullpen
The Mets' big issue is their bullpen. Only three relievers that pitched in at least five games had an ERA under 4.00. The most-documented issue was with their closer, the newly-acquired Edwin Diaz. After a 1.96 ERA in his final season with Seattle, Diaz's ERA rose up to 5.56. Also, after a league leading 57 saves in 2018, Diaz closed out just 26 games, and blew seven saves. The silver lining was that Diaz struck out 99 batters in 58 innings, for a career high 15.4 K/9. Diaz allowed 15 home runs, an increase of 10 compared to his 20l8 final. One of the three pitchers with an ERA under 4.00 in the pen is Seth Lugo. Lugo, in his second season as a reliever, struck out a career high 104 batters in 80 innings, with a 2.70 ERA. Lugo has a ridiculous 3285 rpm spin rate on his curveball. He also had a .183 xBA against. Lefty Justin Wilson, who has closed out games before, had a 2.54 ERA with four saves and 44 strikeouts in 39 innings. Wilson's cutter had a slugging against of .246. Another former Yankee, Dellin Betances, embodied the 2019 Yankees pretty well, as he was hurt up until September, and tore his achillies in his first game of the season. In 2018, Betances struck out 115 batters in 66.2 innings with a 2.70 ERA in 2018. Betances struck out at least 100 batters in each year from 2014 to 2018. Jeurys Familia returned after being dealt to Oakland midway through 2018. He was even worse than Diaz, with a 5.70 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 60 innings. The guy who saved 94 games between 2015 and 2016 for the Mets walked 42 batters for an insane 6.3 BB/9. Robert Gsellman, who was the team's closer when Familia was gone in 2018, saving 13 games, had a 4.66 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 63.2 innings. Gsellman allowed an average exit velocity of just 85.3 mph. Brad Brach, the third and final pitcher with an ERA of under 4.00 in New York, only got there because of his awful season with the Cubs. Brach had a 6.13 ERA in Chicago before joining the Mets. Overall, Brach had a 5.47 ERA with 60 Ks in 54.1 innings. Brach mantained his 4% barrel percentage. The Mets signed Jared Hughes after Houston released him. He appeared in 72 games for the Reds and Phillies last year, with a 4.04 ERA, but just 54 strikeouts. He has recorded a save in four consecutive seasons, but has only 12 in his career. With a career 2.88 ERA, Hughes' curveball has a very low 2074 rpm spin rate. Stephen Gonsalves, once a top-100 prospect, was claimed off of waivers from the Twins. He missed most of last year with an elbow injury. In seven minor league seasons, Gonsalves has a 2.50 ERA with 655 strikeouts in 612 innings over 121 games (114 starts). Paul Sewald has had a middle relief role for the Mets over the last three seasons. In 19.2 innings last year, Sewald had a 4.58 ERA with 22 strikeouts. Sewald's fastball had a .200 average against last year. Hunter Strickland has a chance to win out a spot from swingman Walker Lockett. A two-time World Series champ, including last year with the Nationals, Strickland is a non-roster invitee. He has a 3.16 ERA with 21 saves in his six year career. Strickland's fastball averaged 95.9 miles per hour.

      Catchers
Wilson "Buffalo" Ramos signed a two year deal before 2019. In his first year for the Mets, Ramos hit .288 with 14 home runs for a .768 OPS. Ramos' K rate was slashed by six percent, down to 13.2% last year. He had an average exit velocity of 90.0 mph last year. Tomas Nido took over the back-up catcher job after Travis d'Arnaud was cut early in the year. Nido hit four home runs with a .191 average last year. Nido is quick to second base, with an average pop time of 1.93 seconds.

       Infielders
It did not take Pete Alonso long to become the face of the Mets, even over Jacob deGrom. Alonso was so good in Spring that the Mets decided to not wait until six weeks in to the season for Alonso to be called up, and had him on the team on Opening Day. Playing in all but one game, Alonso hit a league leading 53 home runs, breaking Aaron Judge's rookie record by one to snag Rookie of the Year. Alonso had a .941 OPS, with a 90.6 miles per hour average exit velocity. He isn't a great defender, with -7 outs above average. The Mets acquired Robinson Cano with Edwin Diaz, and he still has four years left on his deal. Now 37, Cano hit 13 home runs with a .256 average and a .736 OPS. The eight time all-star has an .843 career OPS. Cano had a 90.8 mph exit velocity. Cano will either play second base or DH, depending on if Yoenis Cespedes plays or not. If Cano is the designated hitter, then Jeff McNeil will play second. The "Flying Squirrel" had a great first full season, with a .318 average, 23 home runs and five stolen bases, plus a .916 OPS and appearances at second and third base, plus both corner outfield spots. McNeil could start at third. McNeil struck out just 13.2% of the time. Shortstop and former top prospect Amed Rosario had a progressive season. Although he was caught stealing a league leading 10 times, Rosario hit 15 home runs with 19 steals, a .287 average and a .755 OPS. Rosario had a 29.2 ft/s sprint speed. Dominic Smith can play the corner outfield spots, but is mainly a first baseman. Smith hit 11 home runs with a .282 average and an .881 OPS in 89 games. Smith had a .582 slugging versus fastballs. While it is the sad reality, Jed Lowrie should probably start the season on the bench. After playing just nine games (and going 0-for-7), Lowrie has a lot of pressure on him to be healthy. He was an all-star in 2018, with an .801 OPS and a career high 23 home runs and 99 RBIs for Oakland.

       Outfielders
The Mets' entire lineup depends on Yoenis Cespedes' health. Cepedes missed all of 2019, and played in just 38 games in 2018, plus 81 in 2017. In his career, Cespedes has a .274 average with an OPS of .821, plus a 162 game average of 32 home runs. Cespedes will likely only DH. Former 10th overall pick Michael Conforto hit a career high 33 home runs with an .856 OPS, plus seven stolen bases. Conforto had seven outs above average in right field. After a great 2018 where he posted a .404 OBP, Brandon Nimmo was limited to just 69 games last year. Nimmo hit eight home runs with a .783 OPS. Nimmo had an inflated walk rate of 18.1%. The Mets moved JD Davis, normally a third baseman, to left field. Davis broke out, with 22 home runs, a .307 average and an OPS of .895. Davis hit the ball hard, with a 91.4 mph average exit velocity. The Mets acquired Jake Marisnick from the Astros, the same team that JD Davis used to play for. Marisnick is a great defender and pinch runner, with eight outs above average and a 29.2 ft/s sprint speed last year. At the plate, Marisnick is okay, hitting 10 home runs with a .233 average and a .700 OPS last year. Melky Cabrera has an outside chance at the Opening Day roster. Cabrera had a .280 average and a .285 career average, and could reach 2000 hits this if he makes the team.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
3B Jeff McNeil (L)
CF Brandon Nimmo (L)
1B Pete Alonso (R)
RF Michael Conforto (L)
DH Yoenis Cespedes (R)
LF JD Davis (R)
2B Robinson Cano (L)
C Wilson Ramos (R)
SS Amed Rosario (R)

       Projected Rotation
Jacob deGrom (R)
Marcus Stroman (R)
Steven Matz (L)
Rick Porcello (R)
Michael Wacha (R)

       Projected Bullpen
Edwin Diaz, closer (R)
Seth Lugo (R)
Dellin Betances (R)
Justin Wilson (L)
Jeurys Familia (R)
Robert Gsellman (R)
Brad Brach (R)
Jared Hughes (R)
Stephen Gonsalves (L)
Paul Sewald (R)
Hunter Strickland (R)

       Projected Bench
C Tomas Nido (R)
1B Dominic Smith (L)
IF Jed Lowrie (S)
OF Jake Marisnick (R)
OF Melky Cabrera (S)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
43-53 record, 4th in NL East
Most home runs: Pete Alonso (31)
Highest batting average: Jeff McNeil (.279)
Highest OPS: Pete Alonso (.884)
Best ERA, starters: Jacob deGrom (3.07)
Best ERA, relievers: Edwin Diaz (1.72)
Most innings: Jacob deGrom (132.0)
Most strikeouts: Jacob deGrom (160)
Best K/9: Edwin Diaz (13.0)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 28-32
2018: 27-33
2017: 27-33
2016: 34-26
2015: 31-29

       Prediction
The Mets have a really good lineup. Alonso, McNeil, Davis and Ramos brought fresh faces to the lineup last year, to aid Nimmo, Conforto, and hopefully now Cespedes. Their old strongpoint, their rotation, is worse, with just deGrom and Stroman really worthy of their spots. The bullpen is weak, but guys like Betances and a bounce back for Diaz and Familia could really rejuvenate the squad. However, playing tough teams like the Braves, Nationals, Yankees, Rays and Phillies will hurt the Mets. I predict they will miss the playoffs, but no more than 1.5 games out of the 2nd Wild Card spot.

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