2016 Fantasy Baseball: New York Mets Team Preview
2015 Season in Review
No one picked the New York Mets to be the National League representatives in the 2015 World Series when the season began. But after sweeping a pair of series against the division-favorite Nationals in early August and September and then clinching the NL East about two weeks later, they had to like their chances in the playoffs with that dominant starting rotation.
Throughout the course of 2015 the Mets were building the type of narrative for a team destined to reach the big stage and thrive there, facing adversity countless times, but always managing to come out stronger on the other end. The Mets got off to a hot start going 15-5 through their first 20 along with a franchise record 11-game winning streak before losing team captain David Wright to injury. Injuries to Wright, and later to Travis d’Arnaud spurred the infusion of young talent which brought prized pitching prospects Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz to the big leagues. The star-studded pitching shone, but the offense faltered, making the Mets the worst hitting team in baseball heading into the All-Star break.
Mets fans were all too familiar with their ownership’s refusal to spend money, but in the truly magical season that was 2015 for the Amazin’s, that part of the culture changed. The front office went out and acquired veterans Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson to be key role players and seemed to have also made a deal for All-Star centerfielder Carlos Gomez that would send Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler to Milwaukee.
The news of that apparent trade broke mid-game visibly bringing Flores to tears out at shortstop as he was devastated to be leaving the only organization he’s known since the age of 16. However, the deal fell through and the Mets ended up with a superstar by the name of Yoenis Cespedes instead. Yo would go on to carry the offense on his broad shoulders for the final two-month push of the regular season by slugging .604 with 17 homers in those final 57 games.
But that was not before Flores became a folk hero in the Mets community by hitting a walk-off homer against the division rival Nats just days after the crying incident. Flores tossed his helmet on his way to home plate, pounding the “Mets” logo on his chest that to this day still send chills down the spines of Mets fans everywhere. That singular moment was when the entire mindset of the fanbase changed. Mets fans stopped expecting disappointment and started to truly believe in the organization and the group of guys that took the field everyday wearing the orange and blue. Although they ended up falling to a superior team in the World Series, the defending AL Champion Kansas City Royals, the 2015 season has changed so much in Flushing, and Mets fans can finally feel excited thinking about “next year.”
2016 Projected Lineup
Curtis Granderson RF
David Wright 3B
Yoenis Cespedes CF
Lucas Duda 1B
Neil Walker 2B
Travis d’Arnaud C
Michael Conforto LF
Asdrubal Cabrera SS
2015 was a tale of two halves for the New York Mets offense. After losing the notable bats of David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud early on, the Mets were absolutely abysmal at the plate, ranking 20th in the MLB in offensive WAR. The second half saw the return of both players along with immediate contributions from new-comers Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, and of course, there was the Cespedes effect. The offense jumped from 20th in the first half to 2nd overall in the second half and was the best in all of baseball after Cespedes joined at the trade deadline.
Yo’s sheer presence in this lineup makes the guys around him better by giving them more pitches to hit going forward, and offseason acquisitions Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker give the Mets an above league-average bat at every position. Both Cabrera and Walker were brought in more so to upgrade the defense behind the club’s stellar pitching staff, but both men are switch hitters that ranked in the top-10 at their respective positions for their bats.
Beyond those new faces, Wright showed that he is still an extremely productive third baseman when healthy in limited time last season, posting an OPS+ of 128 with an elite OBP of .379. Obviously the spinal stenosis will need to be heavily monitored, but as a career .298 hitter, there is no doubt that Wright will make an impact even if he only plays around 125 games, or four to five times a week.
A couple sleepers in this Mets lineup include sophomore Michael Conforto and catcher Travis d’Arnaud. Conforto showed that his bat is for real last season by slugging .506 in 194 plate appearances with a very solid 8.8% walk rate and 20.7 K% for a rookie. The 22 year-old will go into this coming season as the team’s starting leftfielder, playing against both right-handed and left-handed pitching. D’Arnaud on the other hand has been in the show for three years now but has yet to exceed 400 ABs in a season. However, his 131 wRC+ put him right up there with Buster Posey who posted a 138 wRC+, and he could easily surpass the 20 home run plateau if he can stay on the field for a full season.
2016 Projected Rotation
#1 Jacob deGrom
#2 Matt Harvey
#3 Noah Syndergaard
#4 Steven Matz
#5 Bartolo Colon
It is no secret that the Mets have a good pitching staff. In reality, it is actually a historically good pitching staff. Dubbed “The Billion-Dollar Rotation” by New York Post baseball columnist and MLB Network insider Joel Sherman, the Mets ranked in the top-10 in every pitching category across the board according to Fangraphs, and could very well see improvements as a whole with full seasons from Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Zack Wheeler will also be returning to this already deep rotation some time around the All-Star break from his Tommy John recovery, and had been taking tremendous strides forward in the 2014 season with 13-straight starts of allowing three or fewer runs before going down with the injury. Most teams are lucky to have one or two guys at the top of their rotation with ace-type stuff, but the Mets could potentially feature a starting rotation with five pitchers that have the makeup of a frontline starter.
Thanks to the addition of Statcast in Major League Baseball, we can see just how nasty the Mets rotation is without getting caught up in the more results-based evaluations. Pitch-to-pitch, no other group of starters light up the radar gun quite like the Mets. Excluding Matz and Wheeler, the three-headed monster of Syndergaard, deGrom and Harvey bring some of the most fearsome heat in the game. Among starters with at least 400 four-seam fastballs thrown, Syndergaard, deGrom, and Harvey rank 1st, 6th and 12th respectively in average pitch velocity, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for two-seamers. Also, deGrom and Harvey rank 1st and 4th respectively for their slider PV. As a team, the Mets threw more pitches 95+MPH than any other team in the regular season with 5,346 which is nearly 1,000 more than 2nd place Indians at 4,455, and nearly double 14 MLB teams.
2016 Projected Bullpen
CL Jeurys Familia
RHP Addison Reed
LHP Antonio Bastardo
RHP Hansel Robles
LHP Sean GIlmartin
LHP Jerry Blevins
Simply put, no one taking Jeurys Familia’s job in 2016. In his first season as the Mets closer, Familia converted 43 of 48 save opportunities, and posted a 9.92 K/9, 0.69 HR/9, and 58.3% ground ball rate. He’s a hard thrower with a devastating slider and even was added a split-finger fastball into the mix late in the 2015 season. Though many won’t be able to get Familia’s three blown saves in the World Series out of their minds, it’s worth noting that he was misused, and only gave up one earned run in those three games. Addison Reed and Antonio Bastardo will likely split time setting Familia up depending on the situation, but it’s hard to foresee either of those guys picking up more than a circumstantial save or two as long as long as Familia able to pitch.
2016 Projected Prospects
There is not a whole lot to say on the prospect front for the Mets this coming season. Steven Matz is technically still considered a prospect having not exceeding his rookie limit in 2015, but we are already well aware of just how good he could be based on his 2.27 ERA in 35.2 IP last year.
First base prospect Dominic Smith won the Florida State League MVP award in 2015 and profiles to be an impact player on both sides of the ball; however, he is still just 20 years-old and will likely not to debut until the 2017 season. Maybe he gets a cup of coffee in the big leagues around the time of September call-ups, but he needs some more time to develope in the minors.
2016 Season Outlook
A healthy Nationals club could definitely make some noise in the NL East, but the Mets still have to be the division favorites. The club would have likely been contenders had they standpat thanks to the starting rotation, but front office really did a fantastic job in addressing some of the weaknesses that plagued the team last season. This should be a much better offensive ballclub from the start of the season, and bringing Yoenis Cespedes back gives them a legitimate force in the middle of their lineup to build around. The defending National League Champions will try and follow in the Royals footsteps, and get back to the postseason to finish what they started in 2015.