The New York Mets are getting ready to kick off their home opener as part of the first full weekend of MLB play, against the Washington Nationals. The Amazin’s have always had exciting first games, from Johan Santana’s return in April 2012 to Kazuo Matsui’s annual opening day homers to Tom Seaver’s shutout in 1977. The team is good for, if nothing else, providing everyone with a glimmer of hope with a strong start just as Spring blooms.
The Mets have been steadily mediocre since their last winning season in 2008. Though they are faced with the possibility of another season between 75 and 80 wins, the team is finally offering fans a glimmer of hope that they can return to the successes they had not too long ago. The Mets have already benefited this season from the problems other teams are having, particularly the Braves’ injuries to their pitching staff. That may allow the Mets to hang around the playoff race, mostly thanks to the existence of the second wild card. Here’s how their units stack up.
New York’s middle bats are good, but their lineup is not deep. Chris Young is an excellent addition, but he should really only be playing against lefties. If the team had another everyday option for the outfield a Young/Curtis Granders platoon would probably put up an MVP caliber line. David Wright is an underpaid star, and Travis d’Arnaud still has promise. Ike Davis could hit 30 homers, but is just as likely to be designated for assignment by June. The top of the order lacks an ideal high on-base skill player, and the bottom of the order just won’t hit between Ruben Tejeda and Juan Lagares. The Nationals can hit and are improving, and the Braves have a lot of upside. The Mets hitting is middle of the road in their division, close to the Phillies, and better than Miami. New York sorely needs another bad.
Fielding should be one strength of the team. The outfield has quality defenders even including the bench. The infield has solid gloves in Wright, Davis and Murphy. At shortstop, Ruben Tejeda is adequate at best, though probably closer to the bottom ten in terms of starters around MLB. While still young, d’Arnaud hasn’t shown a big arm or any incredible skills behind the plate.
In spite of ace Matt Harvey being shelved for most of, if not all, of the upcoming season, the Mets’ starting pitching is solid. Harvey’s loss will be somewhat offset by the addition of Bartolo Colon, who has been steadily great the past several seasons. beyond that the team has a lot of upside in its rotation, with Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia, Jon Niese, and opening day starter Dillon Gee all under 28 years old. Gee had a very good season last year, especially once summer came. Niese, who was originally slated for opening day, will start the season on the disabled list but will return in time for the fifth spot in the rotation on April 6th.
The Mets relief crew is not as strong as it could be. Bobby Parnell did an excellent job closing last year and should once again be valuable in the ninth inning, but having to count on Jose Valverde is a dangerous proposition. Even in his dominant years, Valverde always seemed to teeter on the edge of disaster. He is now coming off of a terrible playoff in 2012 and a bad season in 2013, not to mention he is 36. The group behind them, including Scott Rice, John Lannan and Jeurys Familia, are serviceable but nothing special.
Terry Collins, the Mets manager, has done great work with what he has been given, and the same can be said for General Manager Sandy Alderson. The latter is one of MLB’s most brilliant baseball minds, and with limited resources has set the team up with an actual direction and focus. Opening Day has typically been a great day for the Mets, and hopefully they can carry that forward throughout the season.
Commentary by Brian Moore
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer Covering New York Baseball