After being doomed by injuries in 2017, the New York Mets have essentially hit the reset button. Much of last year’s roster remains intact, most notably the team’s starting rotation, which has been stellar when they’ve managed to stay healthy, although that’s rarely been the case. Will the Mets have better luck in the injury department in 2018 and will that be enough to challenge for a playoff spot?
New York’s rotation figures to be led by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom in 2018. For deGrom, health hasn’t been a huge issue, and while his ERA was up a little last year, he still won 15 games for the Mets in 2017. Syndergaard, meanwhile, was limited to just seven starts last year because of injury. However, the injury wasn’t arm related, so there’s reason to believe he’ll pick up where he left off. If those two can stay healthy and start 30 games each, the Mets should be in decent shape.
Of course, outside of deGrom and Syndergaard, New York’s rotation is full of wild cars. Matt Harvey had a disastrous 2017 after coming back from thoracic outlet surgery. However, he’s in a contract year and is further removed from both thoracic outlet and Tommy John, so perhaps he can surprise some people. Steven Matz also had a troubling 2017 campaign. He managed just 13 starts and posted a 6.08 ERA. On the other hand, he made 22 starts in 2016 and posted a 3.40 ERA, so his upside is high if he’s healthy. The same is true for Zack Wheeler, who missed two full seasons after Tommy John surgery and only made 17 starts last season.
With so many injury question marks, the Mets need to have plenty of depth in their rotation. The team signed Jason Vargas late in the offseason, giving them a veteran who should provide stability in the backend of their rotation. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo are also rotation options if needed. Both were extraordinary down the stretch in 2016 to help get the Mets into the playoffs, but both were far more ordinary last season.
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The Mets had the worst bullpen in the National League last year, but again, injuries played a part in that. If Jeurys Familia is back to full health, the Mets should have a frontline closer. Former Miami closer A.J. Ramos provides the Mets with some protection for Familia and a talented setup man. The Mets also added Anthony Swarzak this offseason and have the always-steady Jerry Blevins, giving them a strong contingent of four relievers in the back end of their bullpen.
However, outside of that quartet, there are questions in New York’s bullpen. Hansel Robles has been an effective bullpen arm at times, but he’s not always reliable in high-leverage situations. If the Mets don’t need Gsellman or Lugo in the rotation, they could be used in relief roles to help add depth to the bullpen. If not, bullpen depth beyond Familia, Ramos, Swarzak, and Blevins is a question the Mets will have to answer this season.
The Mets were middle of the pack offensively last season, which is respectable considering all of their injuries and all the veterans they traded the second half of the season. This season, the Mets figure to have plenty of power and an adequate amount of depth. They won’t have Michael Conforto the first month of the season, but the presence of Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce in the lineup should help make up for it. Cespedes was victimized by the injury bug last year, but he’s an impact player if he can stay healthy. The Mets also signed Todd Frazier over the winter, giving their lineup more power and depth.
Of course, there are quite a few wild cards in New York’s lineup. For starters, the Mets took a chance on Adrian Gonzalez. If he can stay healthy and replicate his numbers from a couple years ago, he could make a difference. If not, the Mets have Dominic Smith waiting in the wings at first base.
Young shortstop Amed Rosario is another wild-card. He has a ton of upside but has less than 200 big league at-bats under his belt. Finally, the Mets have a couple catchers in Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki who are capable of making an impact offensively but have struggled to perform consistently. If one of both finally figures things out, the Mets could a significant boost from behind the plate.
Barring more health issues, the Mets should be far better than the 70-92 team they were a year ago. If everything comes together and they stay healthy, the Mets have a high upside and could be surprising World Series contenders. However, it’s more realistic that they finish 86-76, which may be enough to sneak into the playoffs.