A New Era, A High Expectation

Sophia Vlahakis, Editor-in-Chief, News and Sports

https://theathletic.com/2302451/2021/01/05/new-york-mets-2020-season/

Underperforming and clicking too late, the Mets fell just short of the Wild Card the past two seasons. In 2019, the Mets displayed their potential making 2020 the season for them to solidify themselves as contenders and not just the other New York franchise, but finishing 8 games under .500 and missing out on an expanded postseason was an utter disappointment.

Under the new regime of Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson, the Mets enter this season with a playoff caliber roster and high expectations. Yes, the Mets missed out on notable free agents like J.T. Realmuto, George Springer, and Trevor Bauer, but none of these players were the missing piece nor do they take away from a successful offseason. This is a team with talent.

For a team that finished first in batting average and second in OBP, the Mets had really untimely hitting, ranking 22nd in batting with RISP. Pete Alonso suffered a sophomore slump striking out 61 times in 208 at bats and batting .231, but his power was still displayed with the 16 home runs that put him on pace for 43. Having the former rookie of the year return to some form of his 2019 self will give the Mets a huge boost and that big bat should be the expectation. His first base counterpart, Dom Smith, had a momentous season batting .316 and slugging over .600. The absence of a DH is not ideal and Smith will have to play some time in the outfield to keep his desirable bat in the line up. 

After a slow start, Jeff McNeil finished with a .311 batting average and he can be expected to fight for a batting title. Brandon Nimmo may be criticized for his defense, but he gets on base-a lot. His .404 OBP is tenth in the majors and only second on the Mets to Michael Conforto’s .412. Seeking a major contract, Conforto was stellar all around showing why he was a first round draft pick. As unclutch as the 2020 Mets were, this offense is strong. It is just in desperate need of clutch hitting which this team is capable of. 

https://nypost.com/2021/02/22/francisco-lindor-makes-mets-statement-with-crazy-blue-hairdo/

The Lindor-Carrasco trade is a game changer for not just the Mets, but the National League. Four time All-Star Francisco Lindor adds both a tremendous bat and glove to dramatically improve this roster. The former Silver Slugger and 2-time Gold Glove winner is the prize of this offseason and will hopefully be tied up by opening day as he is the experienced superstar and leader the Metropolitans need.  

 For a team that had no reliable starting pitching outside of Jacob deGrom who unsurprisingly had a third Cy-Young caliber year, the acquisition of Carlos Carrasco should not be undermined by the star shortstop. He is set to pitch at the top of the rotation as he would for almost every other team with his recent 2.91 ERA, which was coming off of a fight with leukemia in 2019. Having deGrom, the best pitcher in all of baseball, and Carrasco is not just great from a pitching standpoint but for setting an example to a young team as well.

The other returning starter from last season is David Peterson who proved to be promising with a 1.21 WHIP and sub 3.50 ERA in his rookie season. Marcus Stroman will also be back after opting out of the 2020 season and accepting a qualifying offer. Stroman is a man on a mission to prove himself, looking to replicate, if not be better than, his sub 3 ERA in the first half of 2019 with Toronto. Noah Syndergaard is expected to return by June from Tommy John and the pressure is on for the former All-Star to show he is not just a hard thrower with control issues. He has been inconsistent and has not reached that ace status predicted for him, but with free agency around the corner, this can be a redemption year. 

Also adding depth to this viable rotation will be Taijuan Walker, Joey Lucchesi and Jordan Yamamoto. They are good options for the backend of the rotation and taking the mound in place of Syndergaard. This solid and wide supply of arms could lead to the revival of the Mets’ strong pitching staff.

https://metsmerizedonline.com/2019/11/mmo-fan-shot-mets-have-a-michael-conforto-problem.html/

The bullpen was arguably the reason New York missed the playoffs in 2019; it was better in 2020 and it could be good for 2021. Seth Lugo is one of the best relievers in the MLB and has proved that he can even be a starter. Unfortunately, Lugo’s season will be delayed but perhaps this hiccup will allow for others to show their accountability. This could be a breakout year for Drew Smith who showed potential last year and Trevor May, who had been very solid for the Twins, was signed. This also is a defining year for Edwin Diaz who dramatically improved from a horrendous 2019, posting a 1.75 ERA and striking out 50 of 110 batters. Diaz is notorious in Mets fans’ minds with his blown games but his arsenal is great. Maybe closer is not the position for this flamethrower, but he’s an asset.

The other major change that compliments both pitching and offense is the signing of catcher James McCann. The upgrade of McCann from Wilson Ramos can not be underscored enough. He is a top 10 catcher who is known for his talent in framing pitches and his bat has been getting better every season. The All-Star’s batting average has increased from .220 to .289 over the past three seasons and his 2020 OPS and OBP were above average.

As the roster stands, this team should be set for the playoffs to open up the age of Steve Cohen. The NL East is tough and there is no way around that, but with 7 players in MLB Network’s Top 100, the Mets have helped set that bar.