2018 Season Preview: New York Mets

This piece is part of the Replacement Level 2018 Team Preview Series. An introduction to the series, as well as a brief explanation of the projections used, can be found here.

2017 Review

Record

Pythag Record

BaseRuns Record

Runs Scored

Runs Against

70-92

69-93

71-91

735

863

Could something have gone wrong for the Mets in 2017? Then it probably did. While the team actually slightly outperformed the playoff squad from 2016 on the position-player side, a drop of over 14 WAR from the pitching staff sunk the little brother of New York baseball. Nothing Jacob deGrom could do matztered as the wheelers came off with a rash of harvey-ble injuries, leaving only burnt syndergaarding the remains of the previous season’s top staff.

Offseason in Review:

Key Additions – Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Jason Vargas, Anthony Swarzak

The Mets have been easily the most active team in free agency, signing – get this – more than one free agent to deals of multiple seasons! Crazy, right? Apparently enamored with Jay Bruce after his two half-seasons in New York, they snatched him up on a questionable three-year deal. Bruce could easily be worth the $39M, but New York has four 1B/OF incumbents in Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Nimmo, and Dom Smith. While Bruce is a fine insurance plan, the Mets might have been better served targeting another starter. The same could be said of the Vargas signing, as he is coming off 180 well-chewed innings, but doesn’t offer the upside of a Lance Lynn or below-market priced Jake Arrieta. Frazier ended up signing a bargain at two years and $17M, considering he’s been above-average for the last two years and the Mets have to think David Wright is never coming back. Also, Swarzak is fine (Swarzak was super good last year! -editor).

Key Losses – None

The Mets’ top losses after 2017 were likely Jon Niese and Desmond Jennings, neither of whom warrant more words than they’ve already gotten.

2018 Projections

ZiPS

Steamer

Pecota

 82-80

79-83

81-81

The Mets certainly aren’t a bad team, and they could easily be a good one. If they can get even half-seasons from arms like Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, or Zack Wheeler, they could reasonably threaten a playoff position. Steps forward among their just-graduating offensive core could make them buyers at the deadline.

Key Players:

More realistically, the Mets will end the season with Jacob deGrom as their WAR leader once again, as he’s led the staff in three of the last four years (finishing 2nd in 2016). If things go horribly, a trade could be on the horizon, but if Noah Syndergaard stays healthy then the Mets have to be considered dangerous. Even more so if Michael Conforto’s breakout season is for real; he could be the offensive linchpin the franchise has lacked since Wright and those times when Cespedes is healthy.

Key Minor League 2018 Impacts:

If we get to stretch the definition of “minor league” a bit, first base prospect Dom Smith is one of the few who might put up an average higher than his ISO. After hitting .330 in AAA and not batting under .300 since A-ball in 2014, Smith faceplanted to a sub-.200 average in his MLB debut. Following every misstep closely was top prospect Amed Rosario, who doesn’t really need to hit given the opportunity for above-average defense at short, but should probably walk more than once per 16 strikeouts. Starter Corey Oswalt threw a career-high 134 dominant innings in his first taste of AA, which means he’ll be starting for the Mets by mid-May and out for the season by the end of June.

Future Outlook:

The Mets are definitely fine. Young outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Conforto would have been handed starting jobs by most other organizations by now, but the Mets. A staff of aces will likely be playing more poker than baseball in 2018, because the Mets. And in an offseason where a franchise that’s hampered by a Ponzi scheme settlement could pick up some half-priced free agents, Bruce and Vargas are the Mets. There is the potential for a good team hanging out in Queens, but it’s too difficult to see them realizing that in more ways than one.

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