The Mets have made the playoffs the last two seasons with essentially the same team they have now. The fact that the franchise has never made three playoffs appearances does not sway them one bit, as this team is confident and primed to win a World Series. Before they get through 162 games though, there are some things that must go right if they are going to live up to the hype.
7. Lucas Duda
The Big Lebowski is healthy and will be manning first base on Opening Day. If the Mets get The Dude that hit 57 home runs in 2014 and 2015 while hitting .249/.350/.483 during that span, that would be great. However, he has been inconsistent over the years, periodically getting into long, horrible slumps. If he can avoid those slumps and stay consistent, that would be a best case scenario that would give the Mets a solid cleanup hitter and would go a long way into deepening the Mets already strong lineup.
6. Jose Reyes
With David Wright completely on the shelf to begin the season, Reyes will see most of the playing time at third base. He brings a certain spark to this Mets team at the top of the lineup and having his energy leading off will be crucial. He has said he wants to steal 30 bases this season, which might not be too lofty of a goal. If he does that and hits anywhere close to his career .289/.338/.431 slash line, the Mets will have a hard time keeping out of the lineup when Wright is healthy.
5. The Dark Knight Rises
Already with a Comeback Player of the Year Award under his belt, Matt Harvey returns from thoracic surgery with a vengeance. He was humbled by the baseball gods last season, going 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA, but he is one of the most competitive players in the game. If he can come back like he did after his Tommy John surgery (13-8, 2.71 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 189.1 IP, 188 K, 37 BB, 1.019 WHIP), which I believe he can, that would be the difference between a great rotation and the best rotation.
4. The Bullpen
After Jeurys Familia returns on or just after April 20th, the Mets will have a strong bullpen. Addison Reed seems to be a sure thing while other effective relievers Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas return. They will be joined by Josh Smoker, Josh Edgin, and either Rafael Montero or Seth Lugo. That rounds out a strong bullpen, but what would make that bullpen stellar is a Hansel Robles breakout. He has great stuff but if he can command his pitches better, he could be a very effective 7th inning man in front of Reed and Familia.
Travis d’Arnaud has made many adjustments to his swing that, at least during spring training, have paid off. He went 15-for-45 (.333) with two home runs during the spring, and it could be that he is finally realizing his offensive potential. Unfortunately though, his defense is leaving something to be desired. While he is a superb receiver, his throwing has not impressed anybody this spring, especially after a season of allowing way too many stolen bases. Rene Rivera controls the running game well, however his offense is comparatively weak. D’Arnaud has a strong arm, that’s not the issue; what is the issue is that he is slow getting rid of the ball and he is inaccurate. If he hits like he can and improves his throwing at all, the Mets will be okay at catcher.
2. Hitting With Runners In Scoring Position
The Mets scored 671 runs last season, which was 26th in the Majors. This number is surprising considering the same team ranked 5th in home runs with 218. The explanation for this is simple: The best did not hit with runners in scoring position. Solo home runs are not enough to win baseball games. Neil Walker had 23 home runs and only 55 RBIs. Curtis Granderson hit 30 home runs and only 59 RBIs. He set a new MLB record for fewest RBIs with 30+ home runs. The Mets have to be more clutch with runners in scoring position. They have a strong offense, but they must drive in runs when they have to in order to win ballgames.
1. Less MRIs. Much, Much Less.
You probably guessed this was number one, right? The Mets MUST stay healthy. They are already starting the season with David Wright, Steven Matz, and Juan Lagares on the disabled list so they’re not off to a very good start. The starting rotation is key, but they have the depth to deal with one or two injuries, especially after the possible resurgence of Rafael Montero. Walker and Duda are both coming off surgeries, and Cabrera played the end of last season with bad knees. If everyone stays healthy, this team is something special. If the injury bug continues to sneak around the Mets clubhouse, it could end up being a disappointing season.
This is a very special team on paper. There are obviously many more things that need to fall into place in order to win a World Series, but we at MMO see these seven keys as paramount. None of them are more important than staying healthy, though, something the Mets haven’t been able to do in a long time. Here’s to hoping this is the season the Mets can take the Hospital for Special Surgery’s front desk off their speed dial.