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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

MLB 2014 Team Preview: New York Mets

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MLB 2014 Team Preview: New York Mets
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman


2013 Overview: 
Incremental improvements don’t amount to much as the Mets wait for money to come off the books and for prospects to debut in Queens, but another consecutive 74-win season doesn’t tell the whole story. Buoyed by ace Matt Harvey and the arrival of Zack Wheeler in the rotation, the Mets go 29-27 in July and August before some injuries hit and Marlon Byrd is traded for prospects. But is it a sign of things to come from a rotation which might be able to break in a new ace for three straight seasons (this year it’s Noah Syndergaard’s turn)?

Winter Grade: B-
Coming: Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon, Chris Young
Going: Johan Santana, Jason Bay’s $$$

The disappointing John Santana era is finally over. This winter was supposed to be one in which the Mets were ‘free’ to spend, but they really just replace what is coming off the books, and it’s not enough to go after any of the top tier guys like Sin-Soo Choo or even a new shortstop, to date. How much did Matt Harvey’s tommy john surgery impact GM Sandy Alderson’s ability to spend? We’ll never know. The Mets’ overhaul of the outfield looks reasonable, as Granderson is one year removed from being an above-average regular, and Chris Young is still, well, young. But Bartolo Colon is a gamble for a team that still is a long-shot to contend, and Colon turns 41 in May. Maybe the Mets see him as a good veteran to round out a rotation full of young flamethrowers? Maybe they think they’re closer to contention now?

Whatever the case, Colon’s contract is preferable to some of the nutso money given to mediocrities like Ricky Nolasco or Jason Vargas. The Mets still need a shortstop, and they still need to figure out what do to with Ike Davis. Both of these issues could be resolved later in the spring.

Wild Card(s):
Chris Young was awful last year for Oakland, hitting an even .200, but once upon a time he was a 30/30 threat and his plate discipline is solid enough that if he hits even .230, as he did in 2012, he will provide enough on offense to be an asset. Still, the Mets are probably hoping for something more, and as he’s ‘just’ 30, Young could potentially repeat something along the lines of his 2011 season (.236 with 20 HR, 22 SB and 80 BB), the last one in which he was fully healthy. Complicating matters is the fact that he’s expected to play right field, not center, putting more pressure on his offensive output.

If he’s not traded before April, Ike Davis is also a bounceback candidate; his power potential and disappointing career to date looks superficially like Chris Davis’ of the Orioles. Don’t hold your breath waiting for 50 Home Runs, but somewhere within lies a more reliable version of Adam LaRoche; the question is whether or not it comes in New York. Two years in a row of miserable April-Mays makes one wonder whether Davis lets slumps get to his head…or pitchers know the book on him too well.
Key Contract Years: Chris Young is a free agent no matter what this year. If he’s any good, the Mets might be able to command a draft pick for his departure…or they could trade him if they’re not contending this year.

Rookies: 
Noah Syndergaard’s nickname is “Thor” and it’s not just because he drops a hammer curve that complements his tremendous fastball. Syndergaard is a consensus top ten pitching prospect and definitely has the potential to become an ace. He’ll join the Mets in the middle of the year, a la Wheeler and Harvey in years past. Arriving will be Rafael Montero, whose stuff isn’t quite as electric but the righty has tremendous command of his arsenal and will either be a solid rotation arm or an excellent weapon coming out of the bullpen. He’s ready now but the Mets might want to keep him in the minors in April for service time reasons. Finally, catcher Travis D’Arnaud is still a “prospect” even though he spent more time in New York than down on the minors last year. If he can avoid injuries, he should at least be an average everyday catcher, providing some pop and throwing out runners. If he could develop into more than that, the Mets
would be very pleased.

Key Questions: 
Who rounds out the rotation? The Mets have many candidates right now including “Dice-K”, John Lannan and the aforementioned rookies. Will Jon Niese’s shoulder woes make this a moot point? Who plays first, Ike Davis or Lucas Duda? Can Ruben Tejada bounce back from a terrible 2013 and hold down the fort at shortstop? Can Juan Lagares hit enough to play everyday in center? Speaking of which, where is the offense on this team going to come from beyond David Wright and Granderson?

Farm System Overview: GREEN (above average) 
The Mets are deep with right-handed pitching prospects, most of whom could at least be power arms in the bullpen as soon as this year, but have higher ceilings. They have several impact players ready to play in the majors, and tools-heavy drafts have loaded the bottom of the system with athletic breakout candidates, like first-rounders Dominic Smith (1b) and Brandon Nimmo (of). Well-timed trades have given the Mets solid depth as well.

2014 Prognosis: Unlikely Contenders
There is genuine talent on this team, and David Wright may actually be underrated now that he’s played so long for an underperforming franchise. But the gaping holes at shortstop and first base are huge, and overall the Mets have too many question marks and don’t look threatening on offense. However, their pitching surplus means they might finally be able to trade from depth to bolster their roster. A splashy acquisition like Asdrubal Cabrera or even Ryan Braun, if you dare to dream, could go a long way towards convincing fans that ownership finally has financial flexibility.

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