2018 finish: 77-85, Fourth in NL East
SI's 2019 Prediction: 84-78, Third in NL East
Key additions: 2B Robinson Cano, RP Edwin Diaz, INF Jed Lowrie, OF Keon Broxton, INF J.D. Davis
Key departures: OF Jay Bruce, C Kevin Plawecki
Brandon Nimmo, CF
Jeff McNeil, LF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Wilson Ramos, C
Michael Conforto, RF
Todd Frazier, 3B*
Pete Alonso, 1B
Amed Rosario, SS
Keon Broxton, OF
Travis d’Arnaud, C
Juan Lagares, OF
Jed Lowrie, IF*
Devin Mesoraco, C
Jacob deGrom, RHP
Noah Syndergaard, RHP
Zack Wheeler, RHP
Steven Matz, LHP
Jason Vargas, LHP
Edwin Diaz, RHP (closer)
Jeurys Familia, RHP
Robert Gsellman, RHP
Seth Lugo, RHP
Justin Wilson, LHP
Luis Avilan, LHP
Hector Santiago, RHP
Movin' on Up: If he can stay healthy” is the phrase that follows and haunts Michael Conforto like Jacob Marley rattling his chains at Scrooge, but the truth remains: If Conforto can finally duck the injury issues that plague him, he could be the Mets’ best hitter. Case in point: His blistering second half, where he hit .273/.356/.539 with 17 homers as he put his catastrophic 2017 shoulder injury behind him.
Sell: The final two months of the season helped salvage what was an awful 2018 for Amed Rosario, who hit .237/.280/.359 from Opening Day through the end of July before a brief hot streak to finish the year. He’s still just 23 years old, but Rosario is a wildly impatient hitter (just 29 walks in 529 plate appearances last season) whose game is heavily reliant on speed. With top shortstop prospect Andres Gimenez now at Double A and breathing down his neck, he needs to show that he’s more than just a slap hitter.
Appreciate This Man! If Brandon Nimmo isn’t baseball’s happiest player, it’s hard to imagine who is. He greets everything—home runs, fastballs to the back, even the dreaded media—with a big grin on his face. He’s more than just a sunny disposition, though, ranking as one of the majors’ most patient hitters: His .404 on-base percentage was fourth among all qualified hitters last year, and his 15% walk rate was the ninth-highest of that group. He’s a quiet engine for the Mets’ offense, and he does it all with a smile.
A Modest Proposal from Joe Sheehan: Most of the pressure in the Mets’ clubhouse is on the team’s many new acquisitions, from Robinson Cano to Jed Lowrie to Edwin Diaz and an almost entirely rebuilt bullpen. Their most important player, however, may be a holdover from the frustrating 2018 campaign. Amed Rosario was a top-ten prospect two years ago, but in 200 MLB games, he’s hit just .255/.290/.384 with unimpressive defensive numbers. Dig in, though, and you see reasons for hope. Over last season’s final two months, Rosario hit .284 and stole 15 bases while cutting his strikeout rate. You want to be careful about parsing small samples, but with a young player — Rosario played all last year as a 22-year-old — that kind of in-season progress is encouraging. The Mets got much older last winter in an effort to win now; the key to their doing so may end up being the youngest player on the team.
MLB.TV Rating: 7.8
Every Jacob deGrom start is a must-see event, every Noah Syndergaard offering is a GIF in the making, and each Edwin Diaz appearance is full of jaw-dropping heat. But while the Mets should be better in 2019, your viewing pleasure will depend greatly on how long the players can stay off the injured list—that is, unless your idea of fun is watching a lot of Keon Broxton and J.D. Davis at-bats.
Keep an eye on … Pete Alonso is the biggest name (and, as Josh Reddick discovered, biggest man) in the Mets’ slowly improving farm system. The hulking first baseman has torn up the Grapefruit League with his booming homers and will be heading to Queens to start the year. There’s also Gimenez, who reached Double A last year at the tender age of 19 and is on a star track. Oh, and there’s some former football player in the mix there—Tim something or other—who could see some September playing time in Queens.
What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?
The health of their pitching staff. That seems to be their hiccup every year. I don’t know that it’s one particular thing. It’s typical for hard-throwers to have issues, so maybe this is the year they all stay healthy. It’s a good club to dream about for sure.
Who is the most underrated player on the team?
For that role, I like Brandon Nimmo. He just has a nice, solid approach. It’s not the sexy, New York-type of player, but he puts together good at bats. I think he’s going to continue to get better in the big leagues the longer he stays there, and he’ll do it quietly.
Who is the most overrated player on the team?
I don’t know if Todd Frazier is ever going to come back and be the player he was. And the other guy who hasn’t really done much since he’s been there is Dominic Smith. He’s had some good spring games so far, but it’s spring training.
What young player(s) is/are on the cusp of stardom?
Nimmo, but also Pete Alonso. Alonso is going to be up this year, and he puts together quality at bats already.
What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?
If somebody is going to bust, it will be Dominic Smith.
Who gets the most out of his talent?
Jeff McNeil. I don’t know where he’s going to fit with the club with the acquisitions they made. He quietly sneaks up and gets the job done. He was really good at the end of last year, but they went out and made some deals to get Robinson Cano If you’re getting the Cano that we’re used to seeing, that’s a pretty good player. He is getting older, but still hitting .300.”
Who gets the least out of his talent?
Juan Lagares was once supposed to be a superstar. He did bounce back and play well in a few games last year, but he’s not what he was supposed to be.
Who has the nastiest stuff?
Jacob deGrom knows how to pitch better than Noah Syndergaard, but Syndergaard’s stuff may be equally as good, if not better than deGrom’s.
Who has the best baseball instincts/IQ?
Really, it’s probably Todd Frazier, IQ-wise.He’s a baseball player, he’s a grinder, he’s a leader, he just got hurt and hasn’t turned into what they thought he’d be when he came over.”
Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?
That’s either Alonso or Yoenis Cespedes, but Cespedes has been hurt.
Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for.
I would probably say deGrom and Edwin Diaz. We’d have front and back. In the playoffs, give me deGrom in games 1 and 4 and Diaz to close them all out.
Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?
I’m taking Cano. That’s who I want up there.
Who don’t you want in that situation?
It would probably be Amed Rosario. He’s a good player but he’s still a young hitter, he still gets antsy in clutch situations, and he still punches out a lot.
Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?
I’m sticking with Alonso.
Is the current manager one that you would hire to run your club?
I’m gonna pass on him. I think he got rushed into it as some kind of genius all of the sudden, and I think he’s going to have to live with that stigma for a while. He’s kind of like Gabe Kapler in that he came up with all the answers way too quickly without experience. I think he needs more time. If my team wants to win, I’m not sure he’s the guy. Not yet, at least.
What is the ceiling for the team this year? What about the next three years?
They could get in the playoffs. I think they’re going to be okay for the next three years. They’re built for it. Obviously, the key will be whether they get deGrom signed.
Emptying the notebook:
I’m high on them. Look at what Jacob deGrom did last year, Noah Syndergaard seems healthy. Zack Wheeler is coming back. They’ve got depth with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman if something were to happen.They went out and made a couple good deals picking up Edwin Diaz to close. It’s just a whole new attitude, what Brodie Van Wagenen has brought in there. It’s a breath of fresh air … I like Amed Rosario. I saw him a lot in Japan on that tour they went on this winter. I just think he needs the right supporting cast around him to keep him on the even keel and let him keep maturing as a player. He has all the attributes to be an All-Star, but a lot of times those kids get to the big city and they lose their focus a little bit. The Mets have had their issues with several of their big stars losing their way. … I think Yoenis Céspedes will play this year. If they’ve got a chance to be close, if they’re hunting in the pennant race, I think all of the sudden you’ll see some stuff turn around. Guys like to win, and he’ll want to be a part of it ... Four of the NL East teams are going have a chance to be in it until the end, beating up on each other the whole time. Somebody wrote it the other day, whoever beats up on the Marlins the best is gonna have a chance to win it.… I don’t think they are going to lose 90 games. They made some good acquisitions, but if their pitching staff falls apart, anybody’s pitching staff falls apart you’re in trouble. They may drop out of the playoff race, but I still think they can win 80, 82 games worst-case scenario.