The New York Mets started off the 2012 season as one of the pleasant surprises in baseball. They reached the All-Star break with a 46-40 record, had the NL’s best pitcher in RA Dickey and one of the best hitters in David Wright. Dickey kept rolling all season and ended up claiming the Cy Young Award. However, Wright and the rest of the Mets faltered with a post All-Star break record of 28-48.
The offseason saw the Mets jettison Dickey off to the Blue Jays for a nice bounty of prospects, but it left even more question marks about the pitching staff. They brought in Shawn Marcum to take Dickey’s spot in the rotation. Marcum can be a solid pitcher, but he’s not going to come anywhere near Dickey’s dominating numbers.
The Mets bullpen ranked last in the big leagues, and their outfield was subpar last year. The strength of this team is their infield where Ike Davis is primed for a big season and David Wright just has to be a steady force.
The expectations are low for this team and they are likely headed for yet another 4th place finish. There is hope in the form of several key prospects, but how soon they are producing at the big league level is anybody’s guess.
Best case scenario for 2013: The Mets have finished the last 4 seasons in 4th place. There’s virtually no chance they can overtake the loaded Nationals or Braves at the top of the NL East. They might be able to edge the retooling Phillies out of 3rd place though. If they could do that it would give them some positive momentum heading into the 2014 season, one in which some of their top prospect should be ready to make an impact.
Most important Mets: From June 9th to the end of the 2012 season, Ike Davis posted an OPS of .913 with 27 home runs. The only players to top Davis in those two categories were Ryan Braun and triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera. If Davis can continue on that pace to start the 2013 season it would give the Mets some legitimate thump in their line up. If he ends up suffering through another injury plagued season, it could be a long summer in Queens.
This is still David Wright’s team and his value to the Mets cannot be overstated. He is still one of the best defensive third basemen in the NL and he can still hit. He posted a .306 batting average last season with 21 homers.
Potential breakout players: The centerpiece of the RA Dickey trade for the Mets was catcher Travis d’Arnaud. He is being penciled in as the starting catcher and all eyes will be on the top prospect when the team breaks camp and heads north. d’Arnaud has NL Rookie of the Year potential.
Matt Harvey started 10 games for the Mets last year and posted a 3-5 record with a 2.73 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and most impressively he struck out 70 in 59.1 innings. He will be a key figure in the Mets rotation this year. If he can build off the success he had in 2012 he will most certainly be one of the breakout players for New York this season.
Worst case scenario: Life in the NL East is no picnic and if things start to go wrong the season could unravel in a hurry for the Mets. There are plenty of things that could go wrong; the bullpen could be a mess all summer long, the outfield might not produce at a big league level and the Mets have several players who are well acquainted with the DL. A 5th place finish is not out of the realm of possibility this year.
Areas of concern: The Mets missed out on Michael Bourn leaving them with a projected outfield of Lucas Duda, Kirk Niewenhuis and Mike Baxter. That’s not exactly a dynamic trio there and they will all have to exceed expectations for the Mets to avoid another losing season.
The bullpen was one of the worst in all of baseball last year and the upgrades the Mets made in the offseason have been nominal. Enigmatic closer Frank Francisco seems destined to start the season on the DL. Bobby Parnell has the stuff to close, but might be better suited to a set-up role. Thrusting Parnell into the closers role with Francisco on the shelf further depletes the middle to late inning options for Terry Collins.
Who needs to bounce back from a down 2012: Frank Francisco struggled mightily last year, 5.53 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, and was eventually shut down due to elbow soreness. He enters 2013 with an unsteady grip on the closer’s role. “I don’t know if we can have a lot of confidence in where we are,” manager Terry Colines explained when asked about the closer role. “I hope that Frankie is able to step up.” Things aren’t looking too promising here as Francisco is already suffering from health issues in spring training.
Johan Santana was pitching well last season and on June 1st, perhaps using smoke and mirrors, he hurled a no-hitter. From that point forward, Santana unraveled as he went 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA. He is reportedly healthy this year and if he bounces back to form it will go a long way towards stabilizing the Mets pitching staff. “What’s important right now is to stay healthy,” Santana said at Spring Training. “Being able to go there every five games, that’s what I want to do. And I’m hoping to do it throughout the whole season.”