Fantasy baseball 2014 team previews: New York Mets
There seemed to be little joy in Metsville long before the 2014 season. That's because the team announced last October that phenom Matt Harvey would undergo Tommy John surgery, thus robbing Mets fans and the baseball world of one of the most exciting players in the league for an entire year. Without Harvey, the team will not only have to be content with being third, at best, in the National League East and likely out of playoff contention sometime in August, but it will do so with a roster that won't exactly thrill you when they play in your city this year.
David Wright is the one top-flight fantasy player on the team. After him, there are a lot of question marks. Can Bartolo Colon recreate the 2013 magic he had in Oakland? Will Curtis Granderson still be serious power threat now that he doesn't call Yankee Stadium home? Will Zack Wheeler remind the baseball world why he, and not Harvey, was the original future ace of the Mets? Can Ike Davis put the last year's dreadful campaign behind him? Is Travis d'Arnaud a legitimate offensive threat behind the plate?
We'll get our answers to those questions in due time. Until then, understand that there simply isn't a whole lot of fantasy value in Queens this year.
MORE TEAM PREVIEWS:
1. Eric Young Jr., LF/Juan Lagares, CF
2. Daniel Murphy, 2B
3. David Wright, 3B
4. Curtis Granderson, RF
5. Chris Young, CF/LF
6. Ike Davis, 1B
7. Travis d'Arnaud, C
8. Ruben Tejada, SS
1. Bartolo Colon
2. Jonathon Niese
3. Zack Wheeler
4. Dillon Gee
5. Jenrry Mejia
Bullpen: Bobby Parnell (closer), Jeurys Familia, Josh Edgin, Gonzalez Germen, Kyle Farnsworth, Vic Black, Scott Rice
Can Bartolo Colon continue his career resurgence? Known fondly, at least by me, as His Rotundity (tweet me @MBeller if you know who originally bore that nickname for the Internet version of a hearty handshake), Colon was an unlikely star for the AL West Champion A's last year. He made 30 starts for the first time since 2005, going 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA, 3.23 FIP and 1.17 WHIP. He struck out barely more than five batters per nine innings, but he also issued just 29 walks in 190.1 innings. He took advantage of the spacious confines of O.co Coliseum, allowing 0.66 homers per nine innings. Just 10 pitchers who threw at least as many innings as did Colon gave up fewer roundtrippers.
On the surface, it would seem Colon is a good bet to at least approach last year's numbers. After all, he's making the oft-discussed AL-to-NL transition, usually quite lucrative for a pitcher. However, Colon's skill set was ideally suited to the Coliseum. He will not find Citi Field nearly as friendly.
Colon has always been an extreme fly-ball pitcher. He has a career 38.6-percent fly-ball rate, and his 37.9-percent rate of fly balls last year was the 20th highest in the majors. In Oakland, there was nothing wrong with that. The O.co Coliseum was the sixth-hardest stadium in which to leave the yard last year. Despite a fly-ball rate in line with his career average, Colon's 6-percent HR/FB ratio was the best in his career by more than two percentage points, and that previous career-best was in 2002, his rookie year. In fact, his 9.1-percent HR/FB ratio in his first year with the A's was the third-best of his career. In 2011 with the Yankees, it was 11.4 percent. In his one season with the White Sox in 2009, it was 15.4 percent.
Citi Field was the 10th-best field for home runs last year, trailing only some of the most notorious hitter's parks in the majors. Colon will have a ton more trouble keeping the ball in the park this year. Given his total lack of strikeouts, he's a prime regression candidate this year.
How much will Curtis Granderson miss Yankee Stadium? Granderson became an unlikely elite power hitter in his four years with the Yankees, especially in 2011 and 2012, when he surpassed 40 home runs. Granderson has always been an extreme pull hitter, and that shows up in his spray charts during his Yankee tenure.
Granderson hit 115 home runs with the Yankees. Just eight of those went to center or left field. Of the 107 that went to his pull side, 70 were between straightaway right field and the right-field line. Yankee Stadium is one of the coziest parks for left-handed pull hitters. The right field corner is just 314 feet from home plate, while a hitter only needs to hit a ball 353 feet to clear the fence in straightaway right field. At Citi Field, those numbers are 330 feet and 378 feet, respectively. Granderson hit 37 homers to right-center while with the Yankees. That part of the park is 385 feet deep at Yankee Stadium. It takes another 13 feet to clear the fence at Citi.
We have yet more evidence that Granderson liberally took advantage of the dimensions at Yankee Stadium. He hit 63 homers in the Bronx in the last four seasons. Seventeen of those traveled less than 370 feet. While most of those would leave Yankee Stadium to right field, he'd have to go right down the line with most of those to get out of Citi.
He may have just switched sides in New York, but it's going to feel like a completely different world for Granderson. Gone is friendly Yankee Stadium, which helped inflate his homer totals. Now that he'll play half his games at Citi Field, he's back to having a 25-homer ceiling.
Where does David Wright slot on the draft board? On a per-game bases, 2013 was one of the best seasons of Wright's career. In just 112 games, he hit .307/.390/.514 with 18 homers, 58 RBI and 17 steals. He was held back by injuries for the second time in three years, but he was wildly productive while healthy. Now 31 years old, there is no shortage of opinions on where the veteran should go in an average draft.
There's little sense in trying to predict health. Before 2011, Wright had played at least 144 games in every season sine becoming a full-time major leaguer. In the last three years, he has played more than 120 games just once. That Wright's batting average, OBP, strikeout rate, walk rate and batted-ball rates last season were all in line with his career numbers should tell fantasy owners much of what they need to know about the quietly productive veteran. He's going to be a guy who is a major plus in batting average and OBP, and likely give his owners floors of 20 homers and 15 steals. If we're being realistic, he should clear those minimum bounds relatively easily. He swiped 17 bats in his age-30 season while getting just 492 plate appearances. Assuming a season of good health, he'll fly past that this year.
Wright has been one of the best players of the last decade, and the fantasy community should trust that he will continue to be in that class again this year. Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre are the easy 1-2 at third base, assuming your league still allows you to deploy Cabrera at the hot corner, but I would take Wright over both Edwin Encarnacion (another potential third baseman depending on your league's rules) and Evan Longoria. He's my No. 3 third baseman, and the No. 19 player on my board.
Chris Young, OF -- He's going to hurt your rates, regardless of which ones you use, but the last two seasons in which he was a regular starter, he had consecutive 20-20 seasons. Owners could do a lot worse than taking a flier on him as your fourth or fifth outfielder.
Bartolo Colon, SP -- As stated earlier, Colon is going to greatly miss pitching about half his games in Oakland. His skill set is simply a bad fit for Citi Field, or for any park that doesn't take it easy on extreme fly-ball pitchers who don't strike out very many batters.
Zack Wheeler, SP -- The Mets really don't have a great breakout candidate, so why not roll the dice on a pitcher who was even more highly touted than Matt Harvey while they were coming through the minors. Wheeler had a 3.42 ERA, 4.17 FIP and 84 strikeouts in 100 innings with the Mets last year. His average fastball was a blazing 94.4 mph, and he fanned 104 batters in 101.2 career innings at Triple-A Buffalo. He'll have every chance to make 30 starts for the Mets this year, and that could at least result in impressive strikeout totals.
NL-only guys to know
Daniel Murphy, 2B -- After putting up just 6.0 total WAR in his first four years in the majors, Murphy amassed half that last year by hitting .286/.319/.415 with 13 homers and 23 steals. He's a fringe starter in most mixed leagues and should be a top-10 second baseman in NL-only formats.
Travis d'Arnaud, C -- He doesn't yet register in mixed leagues, but this could be the last year we say that about d'Arnaud. He hit just .202/.286/.263 in a cup of coffee with the Mets last year, but put up a .286/.420/.514 slash across three levels of the minors before his promotion. He was the No. 6 prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com entering last season.
Jenrry Mejia, SP/RP -- Mejia is in an open competition for the final spot in the rotation with Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan. If Mejia gets it, he could put up solid strikeout numbers. His average fastball sits just under 94 mph, and he whiffed just less than a batter per inning in 27 innings last year.
Juan Lagares, OF -- Lagares cut his teeth at the major league level as a 24-year-old last year, hitting just .242/.281/.352 in 421 at-bats. For now, his fantasy value is tied up in speculative stolen bases. He swiped 21 bags at Double-A Binghamton in 2012.