The New York Mets are coming off of an improbable 87-75 2016 campaign that ended at the hands of Madison Bumgarner and Conor Motherfucking Gillaspie in the NL Wild Card Game. The Mets defied all odds and snuck into the playoffs despite season-ending injuries to Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, David Wright, Neil Walker, Lucas Duda, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and seemingly anybody else that donned an orange and blue uniform. I mean the Mets had T.J. Rivera batting 5th in their WC game lineup. I’m not going to knock him, though. Rivera’s first career homer in Washington ignited the Mets’ late-season push to the playoffs. Never forget:

Now, the Mets are going into 2017 (mostly) healthy with their eyes set on a return to the postseason. This team has a lot of familiar faces, as the front office focused on resigning their own guys, which is a good sign that they think that they have all the tools necessary to make another postseason run. Key guys such as Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Reyes, Lucas Duda, and Neil Walker will be back this year.

Gone But Not Forgotten:

Bartolo Colon

Big Sexy signed a 1-year, $12.5 million deal with the Atlanta Braves. I would’ve loved to have the Mets retain Colon for a plethora of reasons, but 12.5 million is a hefty price tag for a 43 year old. Colon will join R.A. Dickey as former Mets starters in the Braves rotation.

Colon averaged nearly 200 innings a year during his 3-year tenure as a Met. With the Mets’ issues with their starting pitchers staying healthy, Bartolo was a reliable rubber armed veteran that could eat up innings and be ready to take the mound every 5 (or fewer) days. He also was an integral part of the 2015 team’s playoff run by agreeing to come out of the bullpen. Despite being the oldest guy on the team by a wide margin, he brought an electricity into Queens that Mets fans hadn’t seen since the early days of Jose Reyes. Whether it was swinging the bat so hard that his helmet fell off, carrying his bat down the baseline, throwing ground balls behind his back, or catching infield pop-ups Willie Mays style, Bartolo Colon made New York Mets baseball fun again and helped loosen up the locker room during some tense times. Once again, never forget:

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Jon Niese

Jon Niese never contributed much to the Mets besides giving us the knowledge of what his wife was wearing during games in which he pitched. He was once a somewhat coveted prospect, but he suffered a season ending leg injury in 2009 (I was at that game, btw). Niese had a solid 2012 season, when he went 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA, and continued being decent for 2 more seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA. However, his overall performance as a Met was pretty forgettable, as he went 61-62 over 9 years. Niese was recently released by the Yankees in Spring Training.

Alejandro De Aza

Thank. God. In a crowded outfield platoon, De Aza never found his stroke in New York. Half of the Mets pitching staff were tougher outs at the plate.

James Loney

I liked James Loney, but his skill set is not what teams look for as a corner infielder. Loney was a great placeholder for Lucas Duda at 1st Base. And I’m not just saying that because my Grandpa plays golf with his Uncle. Loney batted .265 and had a fielding percentage of .989 in 100 games. The knock against Loney was that he isn’t the power hitter that teams look for, especially as a first baseman. His best statistical season at the plate was in 2007, when Loney hit .331 with 15 HRs in only 96 games. He hasn’t hit more than 13 home runs in a season since. Lucas Duda is a career .246 hitter, but has proven that he can mash and bash home runs all over the Coca-Cola Corner unlike James Loney. If Duda can stay healthy, then it definitely was a good idea for the Mets to let Loney go.

 

Starting Rotation:

When healthy, the Mets boast one of the top rotations in all of baseball. The issue is……..they don’t stay very healthy. We are negative 6 days into the regular season and Steven Matz and Zach Wheeler have already had some arm trouble. The front office has talked down both cases and have called their limited throwing ‘precautionary,’ but we’ve had that thrown at us for years only to have their situations get worse. But, until any of that happens, enjoy this commercial for MLB.com featuring the four horsemen of New York.

Noah Syndergaard

Just as everyone expected, Terry Collins announced that Thor will be taking the hill on Opening Day and will continue his duties as the ace of this staff. Noah suffered a bone spur last year but toughed through it to finish the year at 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA and 218 Ks in 183 2/3 innings. He also hit 3 HRs, including two in one game against the Dodgers. Thor brings the hammer both on the mound and at the plate, and is among the favorites to win the NL Cy Young Award this season.

Syndergaard apparently went to the JJ Watt school of hard knocks this offseason and spent his time working out at a log cabin eating venison. I’m not kidding. Despite battling the flu for a portion of spring training, Noah was routinely hitting 100 MPH on his fastball and low-mid 90’s on his slider. I’m going to say that again, Noah Syndergaard’s slider is as fast as an average pitcher’s fastest fastball. Syndergaard has reached celebrity status in New York and he is only 24 years old. A healthy Noah Syndergaard combined with some RUN SUPPORT could equal 250+ Ks and 18+ wins.

Jacob deGrom

Coming off of elbow surgery, there were concerns that deGrom would lose his velocity and stamina similar to Matt Harvey last year. Well, so far in spring training, he has been phenomenal. His fastball was reaching 97 MPH during his last start. DeGrom said himself that his rehabilitation was a blessing in disguise because he was able to work on his off-speed stuff more often than usual. Similar to Syndergaard, deGrom’s slider has been absurd. If he stays healthy, deGrom has been saying that he wants to shoot for 200 IP this season. This is a good sign that he can duplicate or even one-up his 2015 campaign, when he went 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA with 205 Ks in 191 innings. This Jacob deGrom is back, ladies and gentlemen.

 

Matt Harvey

Insert everything I said about Jacob deGrom here. I honestly fell out of love with the Dark Knight last year. I thought that he gallivanted around New York City a little too much and came into spring training overweight, which in turn caused the arm troubles that agonized him all year. If 2012-2014 Matt Harvey was Batman Begins, 2017 Matt Harvey will be The Dark Knight Rises. He has yet to make 30 starts in a season or pitch 190+ innings, but is now about 8 months removed from his rib removal (seriously) and seems to have his fastball back in more ways than one.

Steven Matz

The Southpaw of the core four was shut down last year after sustaining a bone spur and was scratched from a start this week due to elbow tenderness. For a 25 year old pitcher with only 28 regular season appearances, Matz’s rap sheet of injuries is definitely concerning. Team doctors have been talking down this injury and Matz has continued baseball activities such as long toss and throwing off of a flat mound, but he may not be available until the season is a couple of weeks in just to stay safe. Before this flare-up, Matz looked good in a couple of starts, and he revealed his new pickoff move that he learned from fellow lefty reliever Scott Rice in a game against the Cardinals. The Mets allowed 135 stolen bases last season, which led the MLB, and Matz allowed 20 of them. Obviously it is much harder for a baserunner to read a left-handed pitcher because they can be deceptive with their pickoff move as they face first base. Anyways, Matz has a career 3.16 ERA, so the Mets would love to get a left-handed pitcher of his stature back on the field as soon as possible. Also, please get him out of Florida.

***UPDATE***

Steven Matz will not throw for three weeks headed into the regular season. That means by the time he will be green lighted to resume baseball activities, the Mets will be at least 15 games into the season. Not at all what the Mets wanted to hear, but it certainly could be worse. The first 16 games are also all against either Atlanta, Miami, or Philadelphia.

Zack Wheeler

The forgotten man of the rotation. Zack Wheeler hasn’t made an MLB appearance since 2014, but is still only 26. Wheeler underwent Tommy John surgery over two years ago and was setback last year, before ultimately being shut down yet again by the Mets. Finally, he has proven to the organization that he is back and can return to being a solid mid to end of rotation guy. In 49 career starts, Wheeler is 18-16 with a 3.50 ERA, and 271 Ks in 285 1/3 innings. His innings limit for this season is around 110-125 which means that he could be good for about 20 starts. Given the depth that the Mets have with about 7 Major League caliber starters, I don’t think that Zack Wheeler will be rushed into anything this season. He left one hanging to Bryce Harper about two weeks ago, but besides that, Wheeler has looked solid this spring as he tries to get his velocity back.

Robert Gsellman

Gsellman has been described as a poor man’s Jacob deGrom but has performed anything but. In 8 games (7 starts) last year, he went 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA. This spring, he has a 1.56 ERA. I actually think that he is the favorite to start out the year in the rotation no matter what happens with Matz, Wheeler, and Lugo. Also, here’s a fun fact about him so you can sound smart at the bar: Robert Gsellman has never swung a bat in an MLB game. Gsellman is only 23 and has some serious breakout potential this season. He is definitely a player to keep an eye on.

Seth Lugo

Seth Lugo was an unsung hero last season. With the Mets pitching staff decimated by injuries, rookies Seth and Robert Gsellman rose to the occasion and helped clinch the Wild Card. Lugo pitched in 17 games, started 8, and went 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA. This spring, he spent most of his time representing Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. He was the ace of their staff, and helped lead Puerto Rico to the championship, where they lost to good ole USA. Besides his bleach blonde hair, Lugo had signs of brilliance throughout the tournament:

He had an impressive tournament, and has a leg up over some of the Mets competition because he was facing all star lineups every night. With Matz’s injury status in the air and Wheeler’s innings limit, Lugo could find himself as high as the #4 starter come opening day.

***UPDATE***

Seth Lugo has “arm fatigue” will start the season on the disabled list, joining  Steven Matz, David Wright, Juan Lagares, and Brandon Nimmo. Lugo was competing for a spot in the bullpen/spot starter role with 26-year old Rafael Montero, who obviously is now the favorite to win that role.

 

With 5 Mets already on the DL, I feel like blasting “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. in my Firebird like Dwight Schrute.

 

Bullpen

Jeurys Familia

The MLB saves leader from 2016 found himself in some trouble this offseason. He was arrested for domestic violence on Halloween and met with Commissioner Rob Manfred in New York on Monday. However, it is understood that Familia will serve a lighter suspension that the one Aroldis Chapman served last year, which was 30 games. The charge was dropped in December, but his actions still warrant a response from the MLB. This offseason, Familia represented the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, and the Mets were unhappy with how much he was being used. It could be a blessing in disguise, however, as he was able to face some top-tier talent before he faces his suspension. Jeurys was topping 100+ MPH, so it looks like he’ll be ready to go this season. He has appeared in over 75 games and pitched more than 75 innings the past three seasons, so taking some time off may actually preserve his arm later in the season.

***UPDATE***

Familia has been suspended 15 games by the MLB. He’ll be eligible to return on April 20th against the Phillies. The Mets have a favorable schedule to begin the season so they may have caught a break by only losing him for 15. Infielder Ty Kelly will most likely take his place on the roster until Familia is eligible to return.

Addison Reed

Addison Reed has been phenomenal in his year and a half with the Mets. In 97 games, he is 5-3 with a 1.84 ERA and 46 holds. He’ll take over closer responsibilities while Jeurys Familia is suspended, which will likely slide Fernando Salas into Reed’s usual 8th inning/set-up role. Reed has had a somewhat disappointing spring as he deals with a ‘delivery flaw’ but has performed much better in his past 5 appearances. While his stuff doesn’t pop like Familia’s, Addison has proven that he can absolutely get the job done, as he tallied 91 K’s in 77 2/3 innings of work.

Fernando Salas

Salas was a midseason acquisition from the Angels that primarily pitched in the 7th inning. He appeared in 17 games, had a 2.08 ERA, and recorded 7 holds. He had a visa issue and was stuck in Mexico for a portion of spring training, but is back in camp now and looks to step up in Jeurys Familia’s absence.

Jerry Blevins

Jerry Blevins is your typical weirdo left-hander. He’s a bit quirky and likes to keep things loose. He also likes to keep right-handed batters under a .200 batting average, .185 to be exact. Lefties batted .255 last season against him, so that is something that Blevins will have to try to improve in this season. He’s a fun guy who is great to have in the locker room, so maybe he’ll fill the void left by Bartolo in that aspect.

Rafael Montero

Montero has jumped between the majors and minors for three years but has progressively gotten worse each year. In 24 career games, he is 1-5 with a 5.15 ERA. Last year, in 9 appearances, Montero surrendered nearly a walk per inning, had a WHIP over 2.00, and an ERA over 8.00. However, he came back strong this spring and was amongst the Grapefruit League leaders in strikeouts per 9 innings.

Montero was battling Seth Lugo for a spot in the bullpen, and Lugo’s injury crowned Montero as the victor. If he is able to hold his own for the duration of Lugo’s injury, it will bring forward a difficult decision for the Mets pertaining to who stays up vs. who goes down.

 

Lineup

Jose Reyes

Jose Reyes definitely has some more left in the tank. More so, in fact, than last year. Reyes said throughout this offseason that he feels much better than he did last year, mainly because he doesn’t have the suspension looming over his head. Playing with the Mets and the Dominican Republic national team this spring has reignited his spark and suddenly it looks like its 2006 again. There is truly nothing like a Jose Reyes triple, and I think he’ll see our fair share this year. The Mets had trouble last year manufacturing runs, and I think that having Jose play everyday will be a great help. Reyes has shown that he has the arm for both 3B and SS, and with David Wright hurt yet again, Reyes may have third base all but locked up for the year.

Asdrubal Cabrera

Asdrubal Cabrera was a very pleasant surprise last year. He had the best fielding percentage at SS in his career and posted his highest batting average (.280) since 2009. He even hit 23 home runs. He’s had a productive spring but his best moment thus far came in an altercation with umpire Angel Hernandez. Hernandez called a strike that Cabrera didn’t like on 3-1, then Cabrera got a hit. As Cabrera jogged out of the box, he said something over his shoulder and Hernandez ended up ejecting him from the spring training game. Asdrubal responded heroically:

Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes is flirting with .400 this spring and has hit some mammoth HRs. Cespedes missed 30 games last year with a nagging thigh contusion yet still managed to hit 31 HRs and 86 RBIs. He came into camp talking World Series, winning MVP, and hitting long bombs, so it’s safe to say that his head is in the right place. With everybody healthy again so Cespedes no longer has to do all the heavy lifting, we could be looking at 45+ YO bombs. He’s a real treat to watch hit.

Curtis Granderson

Curtis’ stats last year were confusing, to say the least. He hit the most home runs since he abused the Yankee Stadium porch in 2012 with 30, yet he only knocked in 59 runs. That’s a lottttt of solo shots. And, despite batting only .237, his OBP was nearly a whole 100 points higher at .335. While the stats don’t jump off the page, one important stat from Grandy is that he has played at least 150 games in all three seasons as a Met. For this team, durability is important and Curtis has displayed that. However, with Jay Bruce in town, that means that either Cespedes or Granderson has to play CF in order to keep all of their bats in the lineup. Cespedes prefers LF, and Granderson’s arm gets weaker and weaker every year. One situation to monitor this season is how the Mets handle their outfielders and if/when Jay Bruce/Juan Lagares/Curtis Granderson gets traded.

Neil Walker

Despite missing 49 games last season, Neil Walker tied his career high in home runs (23). He hit a crisp .282 and was on pace to set career highs in multiple offensive categories. However, I don’t expect Neil to duplicate his power stroke from last season. With his 23 home runs, Neil only hit 9 doubles. Historically, he is a doubles hitter that gets a hold of one every now and then. Citi Field is also known as more of a pitcher’s park, which means more doubles and less homers. By all means I hope Neil proves me wrong, but I predict more of a .275, 20 HR, 35 doubles season. With a team like this, you don’t necessarily want Neil to be a power hitter either, as Cespedes, Granderson, Duda, and Bruce can all hit 30+ HRs. If Neil has a similar season, the Mets may rely on the long ball yet again this year.

Jay Bruce

Bruce is the best Met that nobody seems to like. To be fair, he kind of stunk in his 50 games with the Mets. Before the trade, he was batting .265 with 25 HRs and 80 RBIs with the Reds. After, .219 with 8 HRs and 19 RBIs. He did, however, hit homers in 3 straight games to finish off September to help the Mets win the Wild Card. New York isn’t an easy place to play, especially when you’re a pretty big name that starts playing poorly. Jay Bruce got caught in the crosshairs of the NY faithful, but has had a productive spring and I think he’ll be a valuable asset this year. With Lucas Duda’s health being a question mark over the past year and a half, Bruce has started to take some reps at first base as a safety net. If the Mets are comfortable with him playing there, that would open up the outfield and allow either former Gold Glove Award winner Juan Lagares or Michael Conforto the opportunity to play centerfield.

Lucas Duda

Ducas Luda can hit balls where not too many others can. He also goes on incredible home run tears. I was at this game on August 1, 2015, when the Mets began to show the Washington Nationals that they meant business.

Duda’s go-ahead double broke an 8-hit home run streak. That’s right, his previous 8 hits over a 7 game span were all home runs (he hit another one the next night). Before going down with an injury and only playing 47 games last year, Duda hit 57 in 2014 and 2015 combined. If he remains healthy, he is one of the most dangerous sluggers on this Met team.

Travis d’Arnaud

Travis d’Arnaud has the worst luck. It seems that whenever he’s about to get hot, he goes down with an injury. This spring, he adjusted his batting stance by dropping his hands more and shortening his swing. The results have been better.

Travis really has to figure it out on offense if he wants to be a factor on this team. He is a defensive liability behind the plate and there is nowhere else for him to play on the field. Noah Syndergaard straight up refuses to pitch to him because base runners are able to basically waltz to the next base. d’Arnaud right now is Mike Piazza minus the pop at the plate. The Mets took a bullet with Piazza’s arm behind the plate because they knew that they would get a .300 35 HR 95 RBI season out of him. Travis has never hit more than .268, 13 HRs or 41 RBIs in a season. He and Rene Rivera are very weak hitters and I wouldn’t be surprised if Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom bat 8th sometimes when they’re slated to start.

 

Bench

Michael Conforto

Michael Conforto burst onto the scene his rookie year in 2015 as a 22 year old to bat .270 in 56 games. He continued to play the entire postseason which of course included a 2-HR performance in Game 4 of the World Series. Last year, he hit the sophomore slump, batting only .220 in 109 games. Conforto didn’t lose hope, however. Knowing that his primary position at left field was locked up by Yoenis Cespedes, Conforto did speed and agility training all winter to compete for the 4th outfield/centerfield spot this season. With Juan Lagares’ oblique injury combined with Conforto’s excellence this spring, he appears to be a lock to make the opening day roster.

Wilmer Flores

The lefty specialist. In 100 ABs vs left-handed pitchers last season, Wilmer hit .340 with 11 HRs and 28 RBIs. Ever since a false report leaked to Wilmer that he was about to be traded and he started to tear up on the field, he has become a fan favorite and his dominance of lefties only solidifies that. Also worth noting, Wilmer confirmed that he will continue playing the “Friends” theme song as his walk-up music.

Rene Rivera

Rene Rivera is the exact opposite of Travis d’Arnaud. He’s a defensive stud who can’t hit very well. He has thrown out 36% of potential base stealers throughout his career, which is 3rd best amongst active catchers. If d’Arnaud struggles at the plate, I’d expect more starts for Rivera, since this pitching staff allowed the most base stealers in the league last year.

T.J. Rivera

Now this Rivera can hit. In 33 games last year as a rookie, T.J. hit .333 with 3 HRs and 16 RBIs. He spent this spring representing Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and was one of their best offensive weapons. I’d imagine T.J. would get a lot of late inning pinch hit opportunities against right-handers while Wilmer gets opportunities against the lefties.

Juan Lagares

Juanny Beisbol is a former Gold Glove Award winner from 2014 that is stuck in the clogged up drain of Mets outfielders. He’s battled injuries throughout his career (including currently) but seems to get better the more he plays. He seems to be the type of player that needs to play everyday in order to get in and stay in a groove. Unfortunately, the Mets barely used him last year and a half, and his stats have trended downward. He batted .281 in his 2014 Gold Glove season, and batted .348 when he played everyday during the 2015 postseason. The Mets have a ton of talented outfielders, but it’s a shame to see one like Juan Lagares get lost in all the excitement.

Ty Kelly

Ty Kelly is a switch-hitting utility guy that will most likely start off the season on the roster due to Jeurys Familia’s suspension. Kelly had a somewhat underwhelming rookie campaign, batting .241 with only 14 hits in 39 games. However, he did play in 6 different defensive positions and was error-free which can be very useful down the line with a team full of veterans and potential fatigue/injuries. Kelly spent most of the spring representing Israel in the World Baseball Classic and was one of their main offensive threats along with former Mets 1B Ike Davis. He’s a handyman that will probably find his way up and down between the MLB and AAA multiple times this season.

 

The Future

These are some guys that are an injury away from being called up that are worth remembering:

SS Amed Rosario (future STUD), OF Brandon Nimmo, 1B Dominic Smith, SS Gavin Cecchini, LHP Josh Smoker, RHP Marcos Molina, C Kevin Plawecki.

 

Others

David Wright

I’m gonna say it. I’ve been saying it for years but now I really mean it. It’s time to hang them up. When David Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis I knew he would never be the same. This was the last prominent New York athlete that was diagnosed with spinal stenosis.

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That backflipping running back is David Wilson, and he never played another down in his career. Wright hasn’t played a full season since 2012, and has only played 75 games the past two years combined. I love his presence in the locker room and as Captain America, but I think that his ship has sailed and that Jose Reyes will be much better at third base. David Wright deserves a Mike Piazza-esk ceremony, and it would be awesome if he stayed in the organization as a coach, consultant, or anything.

Tim Tebow

The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Tebow’s spring training went pretty much as expected, I think. Maybe even better. He faced both the NL and AL Cy Young Award winners and looked overmatched. The Internet made fun of him for it, but I’m sure the 300+ combined hitters that struck out against Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello last season are nodding their heads knowing that they’ll look like that not too far from now. Tebow got a couple solid base knocks and a couple of dribblers that went through the hole and has a respectable batting average. He went up against some of the best talents in the MLB and looked halfway decent. Decent enough, at least, to be sent to the Mets single-A affiliate, the Colombia Fireflies. I don’t think Tim Tebow even sniffs the MLB this year, or the next, but making it this far is an achievement nonetheless.

 

Bottom Line

Sports books are currently sitting around 88 wins for the Mets next year. They went 87-75 last year and 90-72 the year before. It truly comes down to how healthy the Mets stay, especially their starting pitchers. If Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, Matz, and Gsellman average 29 starts between the 5 of them, and Lugo and Wheeler pick up the other 17, the Mets will be in very good shape. The NL East will be more competitive this year, with the Nationals being the team to beat. The Nationals look as good as always, the Braves added some assets, the Phillies young guys are getting more experienced, and the Marlins have some of the biggest offensive threats in the league. The Mets will have their hands full, but with all hands on deck, they can win 90+ games and square off with the Cubbies in the NLCS to see who takes on the Red Sox.

 

This post was a marathon, and I commend those of you who stuck with me until the end. Baseball is back. First pitch is April 3rd at 1:00 vs. the Atlanta Braves on ESPN. Noah Syndergaard vs. Julio Teheran.

Until then, sing us a song, you’re the piano man.