Yesterday we looked at five reasons to be excited about the 2017 Mets. However, there are certainly some things to be worried about with the current Mets roster, so we must also look at five reasons to be concerned about 2017.
1. 30 Starts Or Bust
It is true that the Mets have five starters capable of putting up All Star numbers, and possibly even Cy Young credentials. The “Fab Five”, consisting of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler, is completely intact going into Spring Training. With the exception of Thor, though, they all have undergone recent surgery.
Harvey just had a rib removed, Wheeler was supposed to come back in July but never saw the light of day, Matz had bone spurs removed, deGrom needed the ulnar nerve in his elbow repaired, and Thor is pitching through bone spurs in his elbow. Over the past few seasons, the Mets remained in contention thanks to the help of Bartolo Colon who filled the void in their absences. This year, they will not have him to eat innings if one or two of the starters miss time, which is entirely possible.
They will, however, have emerging starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. Both pitchers performed admirably down the stretch last season, but neither had particularly laudable Minor League statistics. While it might mean the Mets have seven viable starters, there’s no telling if it might have been a fluke.
The Mets also saw the likes of Rafael Montero, Jon Niese, Logan Verrett, Sean Gilmartin and Gabriel Ynoa make starts in 2016, showing that it takes more than seven starters normally to get through a season.
The Mets starting pitching situation is very unique in that it will either be the Mets biggest strength, or a serious concern.
2. Infirmary In The Infield
The starting pitchers aren’t the only Mets coming off injuries. The entire Mets starting infield dealt with some form of ailment last season.
Lucas Duda had a stress fracture in his back, limiting him to only 47 games in which he hit .229/.302/.412 with seven home runs. Neil Walker was having a stellar season (.282/.347/.476 with 23 HR in 113 games) before it was derailed by season ending back surgery to fix a herniated disc. Asdrubal Cabrera missed some time in the middle of the season due to a strained left patella tendon, but was still able to put up arguably the best numbers in his career. David Wright, already dealing with his spinal stenosis condition, had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck.
The Mets do have Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores, and even T.J. Rivera as plans B, C, and D, however each of those players (with the exception of Reyes) represents a significant drop-off in either offensive or defensive production from the infield depending on the player.
3. Case Closed?
If Jeurys Familia is suspended to begin the season, a decision which is still in limbo, the Mets could be without their star closer for the first 30 games of the season. Last year in April, Familia pitched in 12 games and saved eight of them. He had the help of Addison Reed, as he did all season, however this coming April, Reed might have to close those eight games. If he does, who will be behind him?
Right now, the Mets do not have a clear answer to that question. Hansel Robles comes to mind, but he can either be extremely effective or extremely ineffective and shouldn’t be relied on for the 8th inning. Josh Smoker showed some promise last season, striking out 25 batters in 15.1 innings, however the sample size is still a bit to small to thrust him into that role.
The Mets are still shopping Jay Bruce with the hope that he will bring in a player like the Orioles’ Brad Brach, however absolutely nothing has happened on that front and probably will stay that way until Mark Trumbo and/or Jose Bautista find homes.
It should also be noted that Familia has led baseball in appearances since 2014 with 230 (243 including playoffs) and Reed isn’t that far behind with 197 (207 with playoffs).
4. Center Of Attention
Who is going to play center field? It is fairly obvious that the Mets have all but given up on Juan Lagares, one of the best center fielders in the game. Yoenis Cespedes will play left field every day, but Lagares, Michael Conforto, and Curtis Granderson will have to split time in center and right field.
On one hand, a straight platoon of Lagares and Conforto in center field makes a lot of sense. Conforto, if swinging well, mashes righties and Lagares mashes lefties. This would leave Curtis Granderson to play right field every day. However, many Mets higher-ups have said that they want Conforto to play every day, against both righties and lefties. So, the Mets could platoon Granderson and Lagares in center, but will they?
There are two big “if’s” that concern me. The first and biggest “if” is the possibility that Michael Conforto just can’t find his swing and is banished to AAA once again. If that happens, the outfield would be pretty clear with Cespedes/Lagares/Granderson from left to right.
The second “if” is what happens if the Mets can’t bring in a good haul for Jay Bruce? He is a All Star-caliber slugger that Sandy will not trade for peanuts. If a good deal doesn’t come his way, he will not trade him. If Bruce were to remain a Met, they would either have a serious surplus of outfielders or they would trade another outfielder, probably Granderson.
5. What’s The Catch?
Four-time All Star Matt Wieters is a free agent. Sandy Alderson could swoop in and sign him and the Mets would have a another option behind the plate for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, it does not seem like that will happen as Sandy has said on multiple occasions that he is trusting Travis d’Arnaud with the starting catcher job.
While his excellent pitch-framing skills will directly help the pitching staff, he is lacking in most other areas. He has a very hard time throwing people out, throwing out only 23% of potential base stealers in his career. After hitting 12 home runs (.485 SLG%) in only 67 games in 2015, his power was almost nonexistent in 2016, posting a .323 SLG% in 75 games.
He does have a lot of potential, however that’s all it is right now — potential. If the Mets are planning on winning the World Series, which they have the pieces to do, is it the best course of action to totally invest in someone who has either been injured or severely underperformed since his debut in 2013?
He would split his time with Noah Syndergaard‘s personal catcher Rene Rivera. Rivera, a good defensive catcher who has thrown out 36% of potential base stealers in his eight-year career, could also start other days when d’Arnaud is struggling either at or behind the plate. Rivera would not be much of an offensive upgrade over even a struggling d’Arnaud, as he hit .222/.291/.341 with six home runs in 65 games in 2016.
What are you most concerned about going into 2017? Comment below!