The New York Mets’ roster has gone through quite a number of changes since Brodie Van Wagenen took over as general manager. There was a good reason for that — with aspirations of making the playoffs in 2019, there was no way the roster he inherited would make it there without external help.
After all, a majority of the Mets’ roster performed poorly when compared to the rest of baseball. But now that players have descended upon Port St. Lucie to embark on another year of baseball, the slate is officially clean — well, outside of all the projections that have been flying around in recent weeks.
Everything we’ve seen get released in advance of spring training getting under way — whether it’s PECOTA, FanGraphs, or something else — should be taken with a grain of salt. However, it’s a good way for us to get a glimpse of what we could expect to unfold in the coming weeks and months. With that in mind, I was curious as to how much each area of the Mets’ roster is expected to improve when compared to last year’s production and MLB rank (using fWAR as the determining factor).
The below table summarizes all that, first recapping how each part of the roster performed in 2018 before comparing the 2019 projections from FanGraphs.
|Position||2018 fWAR||2018 MLB Rank||2019 Projected fWAR||2019 Projected MLB Rank||Diff in Rank|
*FanGraphs broke out projections for each outfield position. The projected fWAR is the sum of all three positions, while the projected MLB rank is an average of the rank for each individual spot on the field.
While both the rotation and outfield are expected to see a bit of negative regression, it’s not as if their respective projections are terrible, either. Second base gets even more of a boost thanks to the expectation that Robinson Cano will be manning the keystone from start to finish. Adding Jed Lowrie via free agency will also (hopefully) raise the performance floor at the hot corner.
What’s most noticeable here is the double-digit jumps FanGraphs sees happening from the other parts of New York’s roster.
Although it would’ve been cool watching Manny Machado trot out to shortstop while wearing orange and blue, it’s at least encouraging to see Amed Rosario be projected to take a step forward in his second full big-league season. He’s currently projected to produce 2.1 fWAR, which would be a slight increase to what he did in 2018 (1.5 in 154 games played).
Rosario’s season-long projections at the plate don’t look much different than what he did last season, but here’s to hoping there’s a little more consistency thanks to a strong finish to 2018. Through the end of July, the 23-year-old had slashed just .237/.280/.359 with a 74 wRC+ in 353 plate appearances before increasing all those numbers to .284/.318/.413 and 102, respectively, over his final 239 trips to the plate.
New York obviously didn’t make any external additions here, but Mickey Callaway‘s squad will hopefully get a huge boost from the presence of Peter Alonso, who just reported to camp over the weekend but is already turning some heads. With the way teams manipulate service time to gain an extra year of control of top prospects, it will likely take a tremendous performance from Alonso this spring to actually break camp with the Mets.
However, FanGraphs’ depth chart projections have him carrying the team at first base. Todd Frazier is projected to slash .218/.310/.410 through 105 plate appearances, generating 0.2 fWAR, while Alonso’s projection includes a .241/.319/.458 triple slash through 455 plate appearances and being worth 1.5 fWAR.
Perhaps more notable than the top of the first-base depth chart is the bottom of it, where Dominic Smith is sitting. His projection includes just 14 big-league plate appearances, as his place (and future) on the 25-man roster continues to look more uncertain with each passing day.
There’s no shock here — free-agent acquisition Wilson Ramos is projected to lead Mets catchers in plate appearances (384), OPS (.751), and fWAR (2.2). The path toward finding a back-up catcher has become much clearer with Kevin Plawecki now with the Cleveland Indians. However, having the necessary depth behind Travis d’Arnaud is necessary given the recent injury histories of both him and Ramos.
So, bringing back Devin Mesoraco on a minor-league deal helps with that conversation (depending on what kind of opt-outs he has in his contract) since the only other backstop on the big-league depth chart is Tomas Nido.
After the past couple years, it’d be wonderful to watch this projection come true, wouldn’t it? One of the problems Callaway faced on an almost daily basis last season was not having many dependable relievers to turn to in important situations — especially after Jeurys Familia was traded to Oakland. He’s back in the fold, but Edwin Diaz and his ability to make hitters swing and miss lead the way with a projected fWAR of 2.1.
Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman were easily the go-to guys as last season progressed. They combined to throw 158.1 of the 546.1 total bullpen innings from 2018, which was nearly 30.0% of the total output in this area. They’re currently projected to combine for 120 of 496 total frames out of the bullpen in 2019, which is about 24.0% of the total output.
None of these projections are an exact science, but with Diaz and Familia locking down the end of games, allowing Lugo and Gsellman more rest and an opportunity to enter in crucial junctures of a game earlier than normal will be helpful for everyone.