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Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

New York Mets 2017 Season Preview

Opening Day is right around the corner and the team in Queens is primed for another postseason berth.

March 13, 2017

Following a playoff appearance in 2016, the New York Mets are primed for another playoff push. The Mets feature arguably the best pitching rotation in baseball and a veteran heavy lineup. Although injuries derailed the Mets rotation last season, a healthy group could mean big things as they plan to battle the Washington Nationals for the NL East crown.

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5 Burning Questions

What should be expected from David Wright?

Retirement? Disabled List? A healthy season?

The only question regarding Wright is health. Over the past two seasons, Wright has only played in 75 games and hasn’t been much of a factor. The Mets have been successful without the captain and having Jose Reyes to play in Wright’s absence isn’t a bad option.

It would still be nice to see Wright have a good year. The Mets should find success again in 2017 and Wright deserves to be a part of it.

 Where does Michael Conforto fit in?

The Mets outfield is full of talent. Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson are going to be the guys starting most nights. Throw in Juan Lagares as the main defensive replacement, at-bats are going to be at a premium for Conforto.

After a terrible 2016, Conforto was unable to prove that he is a starting outfielder. Conforto hit .220 last season and was a major disappointment as the Mets gave him a chance to become the everyday left fielder.

He has gotten off to a hot start in spring and is only 24, but it is uncertain if he will be able to take at-bats away from Bruce.

Can This Rotation Remain Healthy?

Last season, the New York pitching staff was decimated by injuries. Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler missed at least a portion of last season, if not all of it, due to injuries.

Many slated the Mets to have the best staff in all of baseball, injuries made it almost impossible to live up to the hype.  Looking forward to the 2017 season, the durability of these pitchers has to be a concern. All of them have some sort of injury history and with the Mets relying on them to win games, disaster could strike yet again.

Can the Bullpen Survive Without Jeurys Familia?

With a possible suspension looming, New York’s bullpen is looking for answers. Familia was one of the elite closers in all of baseball last season, and without him, the Mets bullpen is weak.

Of course, Addison Reed is a tremendous set up man and did a phenomenal job in 2016. The rest of the pen however, isn’t as reliable. If Familia misses time with the suspension, or goes down with an injury at some point, the Mets will be in trouble.

Yes, the starters can go late into ballgames, but it may not make a difference without the record-breaking closer to finish games.

The Dark Knight Returns?

The most controversial player in the entire organization, Matt Harvey needs a big 2017. Not only to return to all-star form, but to get into the good graces with the fans.

Harvey has been known to have a big ego, which isn’t a problem when he is pitching well. When he isn’t, problems arise. Harvey only appeared in 17 games last season and had a 4.86 ERA. With a big contract on the horizon, Harvey needs to return to form as the “Dark Knight”.

Starting Rotation

It would be a crime to preview the 2017 Mets season without starting with their rotation. Led by Noah “Thor” Syndergaard, the Mets rotation will carry them through the long season.

At only 24-years-old, Syndergaard is already one of the MLB’s elite pitchers. With a fastball that hovers around 100 mph, Syndergaard is a dominant force on the mound. In his short career, “Thor” has a 2.89 career ERA and with the added muscle he put on in the offseason, there may not be a more imposing force in the majors.

As good as Syndergaard is, there isn’t a major drop-off in talent behind him. The trio of Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey will fill in the next three spots in the rotation in some form.

For deGrom, 2017 is a major year. At 28, he is looking to cash-in and sign a major contract sooner rather than later. If he can stay healthy and pitch like he did in 2015, he may force the Mets’ hand and make the Wilpon family hand over major dough.

If there is a pitcher in this rotation that can fly under the radar, it’s Steven Matz. The New York native is the forgotten cog for this Mets rotation with personalities like Syndergaard and Harvey in the mix. At 25, Matz needs to remain healthy and prove that his name belongs with the rest of the staff.

Enter the “Dark Knight”.

Harvey had a brutal 2016 campaign and needs a big season to get the critics off of his back. After winning over the hearts of Mets nation, Harvey took the brunt of the criticism last year. With a big-money contract looming, Harvey needs to return to form and lead the Mets back into the playoffs.

The fifth and final spot in the Mets rotation may not be decided until well into spring training. Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Zack Wheeler are all in the hunt for the final starting spot.

Bullpen

The star of the New York bullpen is Jeurys Familia. However, a suspension may be looming for a domestic violence incident this offseason. Although Addison Reed was tremendous in the set-up role last season, the rest of the Mets bullpen is far from a sure thing.

Behind Familia and Reed is right-hander Fernando Salas. The Mets acquired Salas in a deadline deal and fans didn’t have any high expectations for the veteran reliever. In 17 appearances for the Amazins’, Salas had a 2.08 and 19 strikeouts. There may be some younger options in the pen, but Salas may be the safest option to be answer for the Mets in the 7th inning.

The hard-throwing Hansel Robles and the lefty-duo of Jerry Blevins and Josh Edgin highlight the remainder of the bullpen. Robles is probably the most intriguing of the bunch, the 25-year-old struck out 85 batters in 78.2 innings for New York in 2016.

Outfielders

It isn’t always a bad thing to have a plethora of talent, but for the Mets it might be when it comes to their outfielders. The trio of Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce are going to be the ones typically platooning  the outfield.

After signing a 4-year, $110 million deal this past offseason, Cespedes is the best hitter in the Mets lineup. In 2016, Cespedes hit at a .280 clip and hit 31 homers while driving in 86 runs. If Cespedes can put together another all-star caliber season, the Mets shouldn’t have too many issues on the offensive end.

The now 35-year-old (almost 36) Granderson is going to be platooning centerfield. Granderson’s weak arm and lack of mobility at this age is going to hurt the Mets in the field. Still, Granderson provides power as he smashed 30 home runs last season.

Last but not least is Bruce who will be one of the main sources of power for New York. Rumors were swirling this offseason about him being moved but the Mets decided to stick with the veteran slugger.

The backup outfielders are going to have a major role on this team. Michael Conforto and former Gold Glover winner Juan Lagares will get plenty of reps. Lagares will be the main defensive replacement and Conforto is a young bat that needs playing time to develop.

Another name to keep an eye on is prospect Brandon Nimmo. After playing well in his short stint in the majors last season, Nimmo may force the Mets hand with strong play in the minors.

It may not be safe to say that the Mets outfield is “loaded” with talent, but there is certainly depth when injuries hit.

2B, SS & 3B

Veteran Neil Walker will be the starting second baseman for New York this season. Although Walker only played in 113 games, he tied his career high in home runs (23) with a .282 batting average. Walker did elect to have back surgery last September so their is some concern about if he can repeat his strong 2016.

Manning shortstop will be Asdrubal Cabrera. He is another player who had something of a resurgence with the Mets last season. Cabrera is a solid bat with a .269 career average who New York sees as a steady source of production heading into 2017.

This may be the most depressing section of the preview for Metropolitan fans.

Captain and future Hall of Fame candidate David Wright is still dealing with injuries. Last year, he missed essentially the entire season with spinal stenosis and only after a few days of playing catch in spring training, Wright went down with another injury.

There shouldn’t be any expectations for Wright this year, just seeing him on the field at some point should be seen as a victory.

The man who will replace Wright at third will be the familiar face of Jose Reyes. The former shortstop is up their in age but his speed is still a major factor and something the Mets are in desperate need of. It’s important to note that if Wright is healthy, Reyes would be the primary backup infielder for all of the aforementioned positions.

The last infielder on the Mets roster will be Wilmer Flores. He is  fan favorite after the organization’s sloppy  handling of him at the trade deadline in 2015. Flores can play any of the positions in the infield including first base.

Catcher and First Base

Arguably the weakest position on the Mets roster is catcher. Travis d’Arnaud biggest criticism has been his inability to stay healthy. d’Arnaud has only played over 100 games once in his career and this has caused the catcher position to be a revolving door in Queens.

Suiting up behind d’Arnaud will be Rene Rivera, he has been mostly a backup in his career and isn’t someone to rely on night in and night out.

26-year-old Kevin Plawecki is also an option at catcher. He has yet to show he belongs in the majors, but in his third year, there’s still hope for him to be a worthwhile player.

Finally, Lucas Duda has returned and will be starting at first for the Mets. Duda has been very inconsistent at the plate, but he still provides some power and was productive in 2014 and 2015. The backup will be Flores or Bruce, but if Duda goes down for an extended period of time like he did in 2016, the Mets will need to search for another option.

Final Verdict

The New York Mets head into the 2017 season with a tremendous pitching staff and a veteran heavy roster. After back-to-back playoff experiences, the Mets are ready to compete with the National League’s best.

They are one of the two teams battling for the NL East crown as the Washington Nationals are the only team ready to make a playoff push. The Bryce Harper-led Nats were able to take the crown from the Mets last season, but that may all change in 2017.

There aren’t many complaints with this roster on paper. Yes, the front end of the bullpen is weak and the lineup isn’t the prototypical one that most MLB teams send out, but the Mets have talent everywhere. If they can avoid the injury bug, a third straight playoff appearance is in cards for the “Amazins”.

Record: 89-73

Prediction: New York makes the playoffs as the first wild card and makes it to the division series. Then it will be up to their arms to carry them to another World Series appearance.

 

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