As I watch the snow pile up outside my window, I am thinking of three of the best words in sports, “pitchers and catchers.’’
The official deadline for the Mets is Monday, but the lockers are already being filled in Port St. Lucie. I am planning to get down there this month and have already started booking my flight, hotel and everything else.
Most of the prognosticators have the Mets fighting the Marlins to stay out of the NL East. Many of them have them losing close to 100 games. I think they’ll finish ahead of Miami and I don’t see them losing that many games. I’d like to see .500, but I’m not ready to go there, yet.
For those thinking the worst, and as Mets fans I know you’ve all done it one time or another, I’d like to give you several things to watch for that could make this an interesting, if not exciting summer.
If you’re already writing off this season, here’s a few things to talk you down off the ledge.
The soundest road to contention is with young pitching. For those lamenting the lack of power and a weak outfield, just remember what the San Francisco Giants did in two of the past three years. Speaking of sparse outfields, was the Mets’ 2000 outfield all that good?
Hardly. It’s all starts with pitching and the Mets have three bright spots they are developing.
Jonathon Niese won a career-high 13 games last season and has the potential, if he stays healthy, to possibly win 17 or more. To reach that level he needs to win four more games in six months. That’s roughly one more every five weeks. That’s not that big a stretch with his stuff.
Niese had a nearly 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and 1.17 WHIP in 2012 while working 190 innings in 30 starts. If he makes four more starts, over 200 innings and maybe 17 wins are possible.
The Mets jumped from habit and signed Niese to a long-term contract way before they needed to because he throws hard, is left-handed, pitches with guile, and has experienced major league success. For those reasons, any team would want him but the Mets continually say no.
Two other rising pitching stars are Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The Mets have brought along Harvey at a good pace and he started ten games last year, showing overpowering stuff and more importantly, composure beyond his years. His is the type of arm franchises are built around.
While Harvey is in the Opening Day rotation, the timetable for Wheeler is later in the summer after more time in Triple A. There’s no rush to promote Wheeler early, but we’ll see him soon enough.
We should also see catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud before the year is out, and I like the idea he’ll get a lot of time with Wheeler. The key to the R.A. Dickey trade from the Mets’ perspective, d’Arnaud has power potential, but he’s also coming off knee and back injuries.
Should he pan out then the Mets can argue success in the trade of their Cy Young Award winner.
Also something to look forward to is Ike Davis’ power. Davis, skillful around the first base bag, clubbed 32 homers last year after a bad start. He’s healthy now and two good halves could make 40 homers a realistic possibility. He could get that, along with more walks and fewer strikeouts, with an improved plate presence.
Then there is David Wright, who played at a MVP clip in the first half before the pressures of carrying the Mets on his back became too great a burden.
I’m looking at .300, 30 and 100 from Wright, and nothing less. He rarely talks about numbers, but he’d probably say the same if pressed.
No, I don’t know how the Mets will do this year. However, if these six players can play to what is expected of them, this has a chance to be an interesting summer.