Maggie Wiggin

Maggie Wiggin writes about the Mets for SNY.tv.

As trade season heats up, it's hard to say what the Mets rotation will look like at the end of the season. But never one to back to back down from a challenge, let's take a look at what it will look like…in 2020.

The Ace

With the Mets floundering for the second straight year, it's a wise move to cash in on their two current aces. But the team has historically balked at complete tear-downs and it's a safe bet that one of Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom is still around.

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Maggie Wiggin
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Jun 22, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets center fielder Jose Bautista (11) celebrates in the sixth inning after hitting a thorn home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)
Jun 22, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets center fielder Jose Bautista (11) celebrates in the sixth inning after hitting a thorn home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

The Mets have made a habit of bringing in older players on inexpensive contracts, to varying degrees of success. Their most recent acquisition came with perhaps the lowest expectations of all, but Jose Bautista has surprised everyone with a hot start as a Met while adjusting to a suddenly-heavy workload.

When he was cut by the Braves after putting up a brutal .593 OPS over three weeks, there were some rumblings that Bautista might be done for good. But the Mets had holes all over the field due to injuries and picked him up in the middle of May. Since then, he's been a force to be reckoned with at the plate. Though he's only batting .254, he is getting on base at a .438 clip and slugging close to his career average.

While Bautista is certainly looking every bit the dominant force he used to be, there are a few causes for concern. His on base percentage is boosted by an exceptional 21.2 percent walk rate, which would be the highest in the league if he had enough at bats to qualify...

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New York Mets infielder Wilmer Flores (4) at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)
New York Mets infielder Wilmer Flores (4) at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)

After a slow start to his season and three weeks on the disabled list with a back injury, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding Mets infielder Wilmer Flores's return.

But he has put those concerns to bed, with two doubles, two walks, and a home run over the last week, raising the question of what he can be for the Mets -- or for other teams -- as the season wears on.

Prior to being placed on the disabled list, Flores had been a disappointing piece of the Mets' offense. He had put up his lowest batting average since his debut season and showed a significant dip in power as well. Moreover, he was putting up exceptionally poor numbers against left-handed pitching, in stark contrast to prior seasons.

Tags: Wilmer Flores, Maggie Wiggin
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Jun 3, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz (32) pitches during the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
		 (Anthony Gruppuso)
Jun 3, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz (32) pitches during the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports (Anthony Gruppuso)

Steven Matz, on the hill Thursday afternoon against the Rockies, entered the 2018 season coming off an injury-shortened 2017 campaign in which he put up a brutal 6.08 ERA. Amid doubts of his ability to pitch in a major league rotation as well as health scares, he has surprised with a 3.31 ERA in his 13 starts -- the same number he made before being shut down last season.

But questions remain about his peripherals as well as his durability as the Mets consider what their pitching staff will look like in the second half and beyond.

The results for Matz could not be more different than they were last year. He has allowed just 24 earned runs over 65.1 innings, after allowing 45 over the same timeframe in 2017. Batters have hit just .221 against him, and his 52.5 percent ground ball rate is the best of his career...

Tags: Steven Matz, Maggie Wiggin
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Apr 18, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets third baseman Todd Frazier (21) celebrates his two run single against the Washington Nationals during the eighth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Apr 18, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets third baseman Todd Frazier (21) celebrates his two run single against the Washington Nationals during the eighth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The Mets made a number of free agent pick-ups this past offseason, some of whom -- such as Jay Bruce -- are struggling and some of whom - such as Anthony Swarzak - have missed significant time due to injury. But through much of the chaos of the tumultuous 2018 season, Todd Frazier has been the steady, consistent leader the Mets were looking for to man third base.

When Frazier signed a 2 year, $17 million dollar contract this February, it was the team's first step towards filling the hole left by David Wright at third base. While Frazier cannot match the statistical prowess of his perennial All-Star predecessor, nor his decade of experience as a Met, he is providing much-needed value both on and off the field.

Frazier has never had eye-popping numbers, but his performance throughout his career has been remarkably consistent. And this year is no different. His .744 OPS is just short of his career average, though notably much of that production came in hitters' havens such as Cincinnati. His .333 on base percentage is significantly higher than his career mark and, along with his impressive walk rate, demonstrates his ongoing commitment to a more patient approach at the plate that is helping him succeed as he enters his mid-thirties...

Tags: Todd Frazier, Maggie Wiggin
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Lugo: Starter or Bullpen? 00:00:26
Mets manager Mickey Callaway addresses the fact that Seth Lugo is making a case to remain in the team's starting rotation.

Throughout a Mets season that has seen inconsistent, at best, production out of the bullpen, they have had two stalwarts: Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. They have combined for a 2.32 ERA over 85.1 innings and offer the Mets the effectiveness and flexibility they sorely need.

Gsellman has been a workhorse out of the bullpen, pitching more than one inning in 11 of his 30 appearances, including two scoreless innings in Sunday's win against the Yankees. That outing brought his ERA for the year down to 2.95, with a 1.23 WHIP. Batters struggle to make quality contact against him, though his 3.9 walks per nine innings are higher than you'd like to see in a reliever who doesn't notch many strikeouts.

While Gsellman is establishing himself as a solid bullpen option, Lugo is taking it a step further and pitching like a true ace...

Tags: Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Maggie Wiggin
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New York Mets' Jay Bruce (Frank Franklin II/AP)
New York Mets' Jay Bruce (Frank Franklin II/AP)

Jay Bruce's one hit, one walk line against the Cubs on Thursday was, in a vacuum, not a bad night. But it was just another in a long line of powerless performances, bringing his season OPS to .659 -- his lowest mark since an injury-riddled 2014. Signed through 2020, the Mets badly need Bruce to pick up the pace, so what is holding him back?

In many respects, much of what Bruce is doing in 2018 is little different from his excellent 2017. His walk rate, moderately above league average, has held steady. And he has even shaved a few points off his strikeout rate -- something he frequently struggled with earlier in his career. His batting average on balls in play, never particularly high because of his fly-ball approach, is almost identical to last year's. So how is it that his batting average and on base percentage have both tumbled more than 20 points?

The answer is the complete evaporation of his power swing. Over his career, Bruce has averaged 31 home runs per 162 games played, but in 2018 he is on pace for only nine. Overall, he is expected to fall 21 extra-base hits short of last year's total.

Tags: Jay Bruce, Maggie Wiggin
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May 24, 2018; Milwaukee, WI, USA; New York Mets catcher Devin Mesoraco (29). Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports (Benny Sieu)
May 24, 2018; Milwaukee, WI, USA; New York Mets catcher Devin Mesoraco (29). Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports (Benny Sieu)

Since being traded to the Mets on May 8, Devin Mesoraco has thrived, culminating Monday with his fifth home run for his new team. That brings his season total to six homers, which matches his entire tally from the past three seasons. What has been working so well for him these past three weeks, and can he keep it going?

Mesoraco's big day against the Braves brought his slashline as a Met up to .261/.358/.630 in 53 plate appearances. Even including his sub-par stretch with the Reds prior to being traded for Matt Harvey, his .821 OPS ranks fourth in the majors among catchers with at least 90 plate appearances, tied with the Yankees's Gary Sanchez. His hard hit rate is well above his career mark and he is elevating the ball well while also sustaining a below average strikeout rate.

While he has generally struggled over his career, this kind of production is not entirely unprecedented for Mesoraco. In 2014, he was a dominant force for the Reds, hitting .273 with a .359 OBP and 25 home runs -- a performance that secured him an All-Star nod and even a few MVP votes. Only 26 years old at the time, the future looked bright for the former first round pick...

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DNL: Nimmo an everyday player? 00:02:44
The Daily News Live panel discusses the impact Brandon Nimmo has had on the Mets' offense, and if he has earned the right to play everyday.

Long considered a questionable pick at best, Brandon Nimmo, the very first draftee of the Sandy Alderson era, is in the midst of a legitimate breakout. He's getting on base more than Joey Votto and slugging higher than Bryce Harper. He has been the team's best position player despite spotty playing time, and leads the league in Smiles Above Replacement. Can he keep it going?

Nimmo's best tool is without question his eye at the plate. He makes selectivity an art form, and his 17.4 percent walk rate would rank sixth in baseball if he qualified. He swings at only 20 percent of the pitches he sees out of the zone, and rarely whiffs. These are skills he has consistently displayed not only since his 2016 debut, but throughout his professional career. They are real and they are sustainable.

One number that might or might not be so sustainable is his .393 batting average on balls in play -- a full 100 points above league average and a top 10 mark in baseball among players with at least 100 at bats. A BABIP this high is often seen as a sign of imminent regression to the mean, but there's good reason to think Nimmo's mean is significantly higher than average...

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Maggie Wiggin
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Apr 7, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia (27) throws to the Washington Nationals during the ninth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Apr 7, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia (27) throws to the Washington Nationals during the ninth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

During this weekend's sweep of the Diamondbacks, Jeurys Familia was one of the many Mets with standout performances. But there was little buzz over his two perfect innings. In fact, his entire resurgent season has largely flown under the radar.

After three straight seasons as one of the best relievers in baseball, Familia's brutal 2017 was an alarming blow to a struggling team. Between a suspension related to a domestic violence arrest and surgery for a blood clot, he threw only 24.2 innings with an ERA of 4.38 -- nearly two full runs higher than his career mark -- and had only six saves on the year.

Familia's most notable weakness has always been his walk rate, which in 2017 jumped to 5.5 batters per nine innings. Aside from a slight drop in his strikeout rate (which has never been elite in the current environment), Familia's other statistics largely held stable, suggesting a return to form wasn't out of reach. Looking back, it seems that rustiness from lost time and lingering effects of a short-term injury were to blame for his ineffectiveness, both of which have fully resolved...

Tags: Jeurys Familia, Maggie Wiggin
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Apr 5, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets right fielder Jay Bruce (19) jogs up the firstbase line after hitting a grand slam off Washington Nationals relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler (not pictured) during the seventh inning at Nationals Park. New York Mets defeated Washington Nationals 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)
Apr 5, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets right fielder Jay Bruce (19) jogs up the firstbase line after hitting a grand slam off Washington Nationals relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler (not pictured) during the seventh inning at Nationals Park. New York Mets defeated Washington Nationals 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)

The Mets are in a serious rut, only one game over .500, after scoring just six runs over their last four games. In 11 games this month, they are averaging 2.4 runs per game -- by far the worst rate in baseball -- and gone 2-9 in that span.

There is talent, if not much depth, in the Mets lineup. Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier, and Asdrubal Cabrera are all strong hitters, with Brandon Nimmo showing signs of a real breakout, and Adrian Gonzalez seemingly rescuing his career from the brink. So why has a team that showed a solidly average offensive ability for the first five weeks of the season suddenly fallen off a cliff?

To begin with, they simply are not making solid contact at all this month. Their hard hit rate is under 32 percent -- dead last in MLB -- and their soft hit rate is over 21 percent -- also dead last. They are not using the whole field, which makes them vulnerable to the shift, and are hitting more pop-ups than any other team. In light of this kind of a batted ball profile, their .269 batting average on balls in play for the month of May might even be considered overperforming.

Tags: Adrian Gonzalez, Amed Rosario, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brandon Nimmo, Jay Bruce, Jose Reyes, Juan Lagares, Michael Conforto, Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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Apr 5, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets right fielder Jay Bruce (19) jogs up the firstbase line after hitting a grand slam off Washington Nationals relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler (not pictured) during the seventh inning at Nationals Park. New York Mets defeated Washington Nationals 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)
Apr 5, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets right fielder Jay Bruce (19) jogs up the firstbase line after hitting a grand slam off Washington Nationals relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler (not pictured) during the seventh inning at Nationals Park. New York Mets defeated Washington Nationals 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)

Despite Monday night's much-needed seven-spot, put up in the hitter's paradise of Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, the Mets have a serious offense problem.

While the pitching has been a problem -- a 5.13 ERA over the last two weeks -- unless the bats can turn it on, the team is going to find itself losing a lot of games, whether it's 2-0 or 11-0.

After a hot start, the Mets hit a serious offensive wall in mid-April that culminated in a six-game losing streak last week during which they were shut out three times in four days. Since April 14, they have a team OPS of just .665, which ranks 28th in baseball. By that measure, the fact that they somehow managed to score 84 runs in that stretch -- 23rd in baseball -- is almost impressive.

Tags: Amed Rosario, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brandon Nimmo, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, Wilmer Flores, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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Apr 16, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Michael Conforto (30) hits a double during first inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)
Apr 16, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Michael Conforto (30) hits a double during first inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

Since his unexpectedly early return from shoulder surgery in early April, Michael Conforto has struggled at the plate, with just a .652 OPS. Still, there are some promising signs for the young slugger, who the Mets badly need to give a boost to an anemic lineup.

In the month since his season debut, Conforto has just a .200 batting average and, even more troubling, has shown very little power, with his lone home run on the year coming in his first game. His four extra base hits over 90 plate appearances is well below his career numbers. And with the possibility of lingering issues related to his highly unusual shoulder injury that ended his 2017 season, both the team and the fans have some reasonable concerns.

Not all of the numbers for Conforto are bad, though. He is seeing the ball as well as at any point in his career, as he has walked in 20 percent of his plate appearances, pushing his on base percentage to a strong .367. His strikeout numbers are similar to his career norms and he is making contact at a good rate -- on par with last season.

Tags: Michael Conforto, Maggie Wiggin
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St. Lucie Mets first baseman Peter Alonso connects for a two-run double in the second inning against the Florida Fire Frogs at First Data Field. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
St. Lucie Mets first baseman Peter Alonso connects for a two-run double in the second inning against the Florida Fire Frogs at First Data Field. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

As the Mets struggle through a nearly team-wide rough patch, the young Peter Alonso is smashing expectations with Double-A Binghamton and rapidly entering the conversation of how the Mets should handle first base.

Since being drafted in the second round in 2016, Alonso -- a right-handed hitting first baseman -- has seen success everywhere he's played. After putting up an .878 OPS with High-A St. Lucie in 2017, he made a short but impressive Double-A debut, hitting .311 over 11 games. But his 2018 numbers, at just 23 years old, have been nothing less than eye-popping. In 98 plate appearances over 22 games, he's slashing .400/.500/.788 with seven doubles, eight home runs, and almost as many walks as strikeouts.

Scouting reports have always looked positively on Alonso's offense, particularly his potential for power. He has put to rest early doubts of his ability to harness that potential as he has improved at every level, even while losing time to a hand injury last year. There have been questions about his abilities at first base, particularly due to his unusual profile as a right-handed thrower. But the Mets like what they're seeing as he develops, with Sandy Alderson noting "Not only has he hit well, but his defense has apparently improved quite a bit."

Tags: Dominic Smith, Maggie Wiggin
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Apr 11, 2018; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets pinch hitter Adrian Gonzalez (23) connects for a two run RBI single in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins during a MLB game at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports (Steve Mitchell)
Apr 11, 2018; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets pinch hitter Adrian Gonzalez (23) connects for a two run RBI single in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins during a MLB game at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports (Steve Mitchell)

The Mets picked up Adrian Gonzalez in order to buy Dominic Smith more development time in the minors -- a prescient move as Smith missed most of Spring Training due to injury. But Gonzalez has struggled so far. And though the team has a good record, it's questionable how long they can carry this kind of a hole at first base.

There are a few silver linings to Gonzalez's start. His .345 OBP is solid and he has more walks than strikeouts. His batting average is under .240, but he has timed his few hits well, knocking in multiple key runs. He has clearly improved over his injury-filled 2017, where he amassed just a .642 OPS.

Compared to last year, his .737 OPS is quite serviceable, but he is missing a key aspect of his game -- the power hitting. He has two home runs and one double on the year and that's a hard level of production to carry at first base, which is still an offense-first position around the league. Carrying a low-power first baseman, something Smith may turn out to be, is possible, but only if he brings value in a high average and solid defense -- two things we are not seeing from Gonzalez so far.

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Mar 29, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (1) scores a run on New York Mets left Fielder Yoenis Cespedes (not pictured) rbi single during the 5th inning of the game on opening day at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)
Mar 29, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (1) scores a run on New York Mets left Fielder Yoenis Cespedes (not pictured) rbi single during the 5th inning of the game on opening day at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)

The debut of top prospect Amed Rosario was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary 2017 for the Mets, but his performance at the plate had some red flags. This year, he's showing some real promise in addressing his biggest concerns. And while he isn't yet tearing the cover off the ball, he's already showing the growth the Mets need from him.

Rosario's patience at the plate last season was almost impossibly poor. In 46 games, he drew just three walks, with a walk rate under 2 percent that ranked him dead last in the majors among players with at least 100 plate appearances. In just 18 games so far this year, he's already matched his walk total from last year. He has dropped his swing percentage significantly -- particularly on pitches outside the zone -- and lowered his swinging strike rate from a lofty 18 percent to a more manageable 13 percent.

While the walks are steadily improving, Rosario has made only a small dent in his strikeout rate, which is still well above average. He wasn't always a strikeout machine in the minors, so as he continues to train his eye against major league pitching, he may refine his game further. At 22 years old, he is still very raw in this regard, but the increase in contact he has shown is a good sign...

Tags: Amed Rosario, Maggie Wiggin
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New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler winds up during the first inning of against the Washington Nationals. (AP)
New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler winds up during the first inning of against the Washington Nationals. (AP)

Jason Vargas's progressing recovery from hand surgery this spring had already raised the question of how the team will manage a crowded rotation, but Matt Harvey's struggles as a starter this season have further complicated matters. It seems inevitable that someone will find themselves pitching out of the bullpen by the end of the month, so who is the best fit?

Two weeks ago, the answer would assuredly have been Zack Wheeler. Since the early days of his major league career, many have seen a future reliever in him, perhaps even a closer. Despite strong tools, he's lacked the ability to go deep into games, and to put away batters consistently. He has also battled injuries throughout his career, including an exceptionally long recovery from Tommy John surgery, leading to conjecture that his arm may not be able to handle the work load of a full-time starter.

Even the Mets seemed to have their doubts about Wheeler's future in the rotation, as a shaky spring led to his starting the season in the minor leagues. But his two quality starts since his recall earlier this month have bought him some renewed confidence and certainly another shot to show he can hold up to the trials of a starting pitcher...

Tags: Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Maggie Wiggin
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New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the first inning of baseball game, at Nationals Park, Sunday, April 8, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)  (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the first inning of baseball game, at Nationals Park, Sunday, April 8, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

As Matt Harvey prepares to take the mound Thursday night in Atlanta, he is a very different pitcher than he was just a few years ago -- one who finds himself fighting for a rotation spot. What has changed in how Harvey pitches and what can he do -- if anything -- to succeed in this new incarnation?

Thoracic outlet syndrome, a career-ender for many, first and foremost has drained Harvey's once-formidable velocity. His average fastball came in at or near 97 mph in 2013 and 2015 and is below 93 in his three starts thus far in 2018. The cold weather may be a factor, though, and it's not much of a stretch to see him reaching the 94 he averaged in 2017. His other pitches have slowed as well -- slider, changeup, and curveball have all dropped two or more miles per hour since 2015.

Many pitchers survive and even thrive with a velocity along the lines of what Harvey is currently throwing, but his performance is still a long ways off from his days as an ace. He's struggling to fool batters, with swing rates well below his peak and contact rates well above. His swinging strike rate has dropped almost 3 percent from his 2015 mark, though it is up slightly from last year...

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 (Andy Marlin)
(Andy Marlin)

Brandon Nimmo had an incredible game on Sunday in his first start since being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas, smashing three hits including a triple and a home run. His season OPS is up to an eye-popping 1.371 and the Mets are in a real bind as they simply have to find a way to keep his bat in a crowded outfield.

In only 21 plate appearances so far, Nimmo has gotten on base an incredible 12 times while striking out only twice. This is certainly a small sample, and while he won't produce like a peak Barry Bonds all season, Nimmo is on track for the best walk and strikeout rates of his career -- as well as his best hard-hit rate and line drive rate.

Always a patient hitter, Nimmo is swinging less than ever, but pummeling the ball when he does hit. He is the consummate leadoff hitter the team has been lacking for so long and if the team is waiting for him to cool off, it might be a long wait...

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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Mar 29, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera (13) at bat against the St. Louis Cardinals during the 5th inning of the game on opening day at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)
Mar 29, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera (13) at bat against the St. Louis Cardinals during the 5th inning of the game on opening day at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)

The Mets' hot start has featured standout performances up and down the roster, but the unsung hero so far is Asdrubal Cabrera. He is impressing in every aspect of his game while providing consistency and stability in the middle infield.

Cabrera's bat has been all-around solid since day one of the 2018 season. He's batting a cool .333/.405/.515. And while that will regress when his batting average on balls in play dips, it's supported by strong peripherals. His walk rate of 8 percent is just around his career norm, but notably his strikeout rate is just 13.5 percent -- well below league average. And while he has just one home run, his slugging percentage is boosted by three doubles.

He's also benefiting from an all-fields approach, hitting the ball to the opposite field at a career-high rate -- a habit that could keep his batting average higher than his prior career numbers would suggest...

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera, Maggie Wiggin
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Apr 5, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway (36) walks across the field before the start of the game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)
Apr 5, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway (36) walks across the field before the start of the game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)

Mickey Callaway, new to the Mets and new to managing altogether, arrived to expectations that he would be less inclined towards following the "old-school" guidelines than his predecessor. He is living up to those expectations in a number of ways, most notably in regards to his lineup construction, which he has varied with each of the six games so far.

The most striking way in which he has rejected traditional managerial dogma is in batting the pitcher eighth. This was something Terry Collins dabbled with briefly, but Callaway made a splash early by debuting this construction in his first game, and seems to have a clear strategy for exactly when and how to utilize it.

Callaway has a very clear goal in batting the pitcher eighth and that is to use the young Amed Rosario to his greatest potential. Rosario has the speed of a classic leadoff hitter but his low on base percentage makes him a liability high in the order. Pushing him down to ninth ensures that he sees good pitches ahead of Brandon Nimmo or whoever else is in the leadoff spot and also gives the Mets' potent top of the lineup more opportunities to drive in runs when Rosario does get on...

Tags: Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes, Kevin Plawecki, Michael Conforto, Travis d'Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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Apr 3, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) is congratulated in the dugout after scoring in the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)
Apr 3, 2018; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) is congratulated in the dugout after scoring in the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)

The Mets have a lot to be satisfied with at this early point in the season, with the second-best batting average in baseball and an overall offense in the top third of the league. But behind those numbers are some very different stories -- some good and some not so good.

While it's still early to come to any conclusions, let's take a look at the trends emerging for the 2018 Mets...

The Good

Tags: Amed Rosario, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brandon Nimmo, Jay Bruce, Jose Reyes, Juan Lagares, Maggie Wiggin
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Mar 9, 2018; Lakeland, FL, USA; New York Mets infielder Todd Frazier (21) fields a ground ball in the first inning of a spring training game against the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)
Mar 9, 2018; Lakeland, FL, USA; New York Mets infielder Todd Frazier (21) fields a ground ball in the first inning of a spring training game against the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)

The Mets have long struggled with infield defense, culminating in last year's all-around disaster. Between all four spots, they totaled an incredible -68 defensive runs saved (roughly equivalent to losing seven games more than they would have with average defense) -- a mark double that of the second worst team.

No position was better than -10 defensive runs saved, with shortstop taking the cake at -24. There was no place to go but up and thankfully, with some new faces and some positional changes, the Mets should be in line for a big step forward.

Asdrubal Cabrera was one of the worst offenders in 2017 and while he's the only starter returning, he should benefit considerably from a positional change. While he is not expected to be a defensive whiz at second base, his performance there over the course of his career has far exceeded his performance at shortstop, where he has been a major liability almost every season. In a small sample in 2017, he was still a net negative at second, but more consistent time there should help significantly...

Tags: Amed Rosario, Asdrubal Cabrera, Dominic Smith, Wilmer Flores, Maggie Wiggin
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BNNY: Conforto in Port St. Lucie 00:07:10
Mets outfielder Michael Conforto was in the lineup Friday against the Cardinals and went 1-for-4 in his first Spring Training game.

The Mets enter the 2018 regular season with projected wins ranging from 80 to 83 -- a disappointing set of expectations. But projections are always rough and it's normal to have a swing of plus or minus six-to-nine wins, which would give the Mets a shot at a playoff spot if things break right.

So what are the key breaks the Mets need to make it to the postseason?

A strong return by Michael Conforto

Tags: Kevin Plawecki, Michael Conforto, Travis d'Arnaud, Maggie Wiggin
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Feb 26, 2017; Paul Sewald (79) delivers a pitch during a spring training game. Credit: Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2017; Paul Sewald (79) delivers a pitch during a spring training game. Credit: Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As Spring Training wears on, the pieces of the Mets roster are beginning to fall into place. The bullpen -- a long time thorn in the team's side -- has a strong foundation emerging, and there are several relievers looking to snag a spot for Opening Day.

The back-end of the bullpen is set, and has the potential to be strong. Jeurys Familia is solid so far this spring, and looks to be fully recovered from last season's surgery. A.J. Ramos has also come out strong, and should bring a much-needed consistency that the Mets have often lacked. The newest acquisition, Anthony Swarzak, has seen limited action due to an early calf strain, but should be seeing action this weekend. And Jerry Blevins is looking to continue his stretch as one of the top lefty relievers in the game.

This core quartet leaves either three or four spots for a bevy of competitors to vie for, depending on how many bench players the Mets intend to carry. Paul Sewald, who pitched better last year than his final line indicated, is at the front of the pack currently, having given up only one run this spring over four appearances. He doesn't throw hard, but his sidearm delivery offers a nice complement to the other fireballers on the staff.

Tags: Hansel Robles, Jeurys Familia, Paul Sewald, Rafael Montero, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler, Maggie Wiggin
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Sep 24, 2017; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) rounds second base after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)
Sep 24, 2017; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) rounds second base after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports (Wendell Cruz)

Brandon Nimmo saw success for the first time in his young career in 2017, despite an unusual profile and an inconsistent role on the team. The team's outfield alignment may not have an opening for him on a regular basis but can one plus-plus tool force their hand?

Nimmo arrived in the majors with the expectation that he would get on base and he has done exactly that. Over 215 plate appearances in 2017, he put up a .379 on base percentage, which would have ranked him in the top 20 of all hitters in baseball if he qualified. A high strikeout rate held him back from a high batting average, but his 15 percent walk rate was elite and anyone getting on base that often has significant value, regardless of his other qualities.

When a young player puts up an exceptional statistic like a 15 percent walk rate, it makes it difficult to project future seasons with accuracy. ZiPS, Steamer, and PECOTA all expect a big drop off, based on the assumption that his walk rate will fall back to earth and his power will regress...

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Jay Bruce, Juan Lagares, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Andy Marlin)
(Andy Marlin)

With the acquisition of Todd Frazier, the Mets' contingent of position players is largely settled. But some questions remain, including one that has plagued the team for several seasons now: who will lead off?

On Friday, new Mets hitting coach Pat Roessler mentioned Frazier, Brandon Nimmo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jose Reyes as potential leadoff candidates. And there should be even more candidates than the above. So, who should it be?

The classic "old school" leadoff man is whoever is fastest -- who will steal the most bases? Of the Mets' projected starters, clearly Amed Rosario fits that mold best. He is projected to steal anywhere from 15-to-25 bases in 2018, and his raw speed is clearly elite...

Tags: Amed Rosario, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes, Michael Conforto, Maggie Wiggin
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Sep 11, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) (Peter Aiken)
Sep 11, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) (Peter Aiken)

Lorenzo Cain just signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Brewers -- a deal mostly seen as fair overall. The Mets had largely silenced any rumors of a union with Cain with the signing of Jay Bruce earlier this month, but the reasonable terms of Cain's contract raise the question of whether he would have been the better fit.

Cain represents something the Mets haven't had on the team in some time -- a starting center fielder in his natural position. While Juan Lagares is one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, he is not viewed as a starting-caliber player, and so the team has made due with reasonably athletic corner outfielders, from Yoenis Cespedes to Michael Conforto, both of whom more than account for the defensive deficiencies with strong bats.

But the value of a true center fielder is significant. Not only does the defense in center improve, but an uptick in the run-prevention from the corners usually happens as well. Cain, the fourth-best centerfielder in baseball since 2015 by both defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating, would have undoubtedly tightened up the outfield in an era of ever-increasing fly balls.

Tags: Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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Sep 7, 2017; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) is congratulated by center fielder Juan Lagares (12) after hitting a home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the fifth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)
Sep 7, 2017; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) is congratulated by center fielder Juan Lagares (12) after hitting a home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the fifth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)

With the return of Jay Bruce and a hole remaining in the infield, much of the buzz around the Mets this week has centered on the possibility of trading Brandon Nimmo or Juan Lagares for a second baseman. But the Mets are still dangerously thin in the outfield and willingly dealing away what little depth they have would be a serious mistake.

The Mets currently have five outfielders on the 40-man roster: Bruce, Nimmo, Lagares, Michael Conforto, and Yoenis Cespedes. Conforto, as reported earlier, is expected to be out at a minimum the entire month of April. Moreover, Nimmo, Lagares, and Cespedes all have lost significant time in recent years. The safe assumption is that they will be down by at least one man for the bulk of the season.

Teams have gotten by with four outfielders on the active roster for short stretches, but rarely for long stretches. And if the Mets were to have two on the sidelines at the same time -- a fairly common occurrence -- they would have no choice but to dig into their minor league depth, and that's where things start to get scary...

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Jay Bruce, Juan Lagares, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

As Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler come off of disappointing and injury-riddled seasons, their futures with the Mets remain hazy. Though both were highly-touted and, in Harvey's case, experienced a significant run of exceptional success, there's a chance that at least one of them will be pitching out of the bullpen by the end of next season.

Rumblings about Wheeler pitching out of the bullpen started almost as soon as his major league career. As a flamethrower with difficulty pitching deep into games, it seemed to be a natural fit, though the promise of a young pitcher reaching his full potential as a starter was enough to keep him in the rotation even after his 2015 Tommy John surgery. But promise doesn't last forever, and the 27-year-old has yet to show he can overcome his deficiencies as a starter.

One of the issues that has always made Wheeler a frustrating pitcher to watch is his difficulty going deep into games. He has yet to average 6 innings per start in a season, and 2017 was his worst yet, averaging just over 5. Converting him into a reliever would instantly eliminate one of his biggest weaknesses, though it's questionable whether it would address the primary cause of that weakness -- his sky-high walk rate. It would also likely add some velocity to his fastball, which could potentially boost his strikeout numbers. And the smaller workload could preserve his arm health, which is in serious question right now...

Tags: Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Maggie Wiggin
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Aug 3, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; New York Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (1) motions before the game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports (Isaiah J. Downing)
Aug 3, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; New York Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (1) motions before the game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports (Isaiah J. Downing)

Amed Rosario's much-anticipated debut was for many Mets fans the lone highlight of an otherwise brutal 2017 season. The former top prospect arrived in Queens on August 1 to sky-high expectations, some of which he met and some of which he did not. Going into 2018, his age-22 season, it may not be fair to anticipate a superstar breakout, but there are a number of ways he can improve and grow.

As many expected prior to his debut, Rosario's bat is still very much a work in progress. His .665 OPS would have been the fourth-worst among shortstops in 2017 if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. It's hard to find a silver lining in his performance, other than the fact that he's still very young and can largely be carried by his glove. Plate discipline, power, and baserunning all need work, even for someone who brings elite defense to the table.

No one was looking for Rosario to be a walk machine at the plate, but the three bases on balls he drew over his two months with the Mets were good for a 1.8 percent walk rate, the lowest in the majors of all 435 players with at least 100 plate appearances. Paired with a strikeout rate close to 30 percent, it's crystal clear that improving his plate discipline needs to be Rosario's top priority in preparing for the new season. He's never going to be Brandon Nimmo up there, and he doesn't need to be, but a swinging strike rate nearly double the league average is a problem...

Tags: Amed Rosario, Maggie Wiggin
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Aug 17, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) (Nick Turchiaro)
Aug 17, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) (Nick Turchiaro)

As the Mets try to fill gaping infield holes from a free agent class that is mediocre at best, the team is looking to the trade market to try to piece together an outside-the-box solution for a challenging offseason. Evan Longoria may be on the trading block, and if he is, the Mets will likely check in about what the Rays are looking for.

Longoria is not the player he was when he peaked in his mid-20s, when he was one of the best third basemen in the game, but he has shown the ability to stay healthy despite his age. Since 2013, he has played at least 156 games every season and has the most games played of anyone in baseball in that span. For a team constantly struggling to keep players on the field, his durability would bring enormous value.

Any acquiring team will be concerned about Longoria's skill level, though. After a resurgent 2016 campaign where he racked up 36 home runs and an .840 OPS, his best since 2013, he hit just league average in 2017, with a paltry .313 on base percentage that was the lowest of his career. The good news is that his strikeout rate was a very impressive 16 percent, well below league average, and his walk rate, while not at the elite level it once was, was on a par with recent years...

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New York Mets' Dominic Smith hits a double scoring two runs in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Tami Chappell)  (Tami Chappell/AP)
New York Mets' Dominic Smith hits a double scoring two runs in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Tami Chappell) (Tami Chappell/AP)

The Mets have made no secret of their interest in bringing in a first baseman this offseason, which means one thing: they are not (yet) sold on Dominic Smith. And it's hard to make an argument that they should be.

Smith's debut was by any measure a disappointing one. Across 49 games in August and September, he hit a paltry .198 with a .658 OPS and failed to demonstrate either the smooth glove or the smooth swing that brought him to the majors in the first place. The one positive is that he showed the potential for real power for the first time in his career, hitting nine home runs with an isolated slugging close to .200. He still does not compare favorably to the average first baseman in that area, but he has shown consistent improvement year over year.

But a 22-year-old former first-round pick brings a lot of upside that a 183 plate appearance sample size doesn't necessarily encompass. So as the Mets explore their options, they'll be asking themselves what an extra year -- and, if offseason rumors are to be believed, a little less weight -- will do for Smith's numbers...

Tags: Dominic Smith, Maggie Wiggin
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Sandy's Shopping List: RHP Shaw 00:00:37
Right-handed relief pitcher Bryan Shaw is the latest name on Mets general manager Sandy Alderson's shopping list.

With the Mets turning focus towards the bullpen, as they look to turn around one of the league's worst from last season, we will hear from some familiar names (like the rest of MLB, they will be kicking the tires on Addison Reed and Brandon Morrow), but also some lesser-known relievers with established histories of success.

One right-hander they are looking at that fits this mold is Bryan Shaw, who they have reportedly made a multiyear offer to. The 30-year-old put in two solid years with the Diamondbacks before blossoming over five excellent seasons with the Indians. His pitching coach there? Mickey Callaway, who knows a good arm when he sees one.

Shaw made 378 appearances for Cleveland from 2011-2017 and hits free agency having put together a 3.11 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP for them. His strikeout rate is far from dominant for a relief arm -- just 8 batters per 9 innings -- but his strong groundball tendency has given him considerable added value in this homerun-heavy era...

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The Mets are in the market for starting pitching and perhaps one of the better bang-for-your-buck options in free agency this year will be Lance Lynn. The towering right-hander is coming off a strong run with the Cardinals and is expected to net a 3-to-4 year deal with an average annual value around $15 million.

Lynn was a big question mark going into 2017 after missing all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, but he saw great success in his return, putting up a 3.43 ERA over 186 1/3 innings with a 1.229 WHIP. Like most of baseball, he saw his home run numbers rise, but not at an alarming rate. His walks were a bit high, not unusual for a pitcher settling in after a long hiatus, but he showed he still has the ability to induce weak contact.

That said, Lynn comes with his share of concerns, as will any pitcher on the wrong side of 30 with surgery in his past. The biggest red flag is a decline in his strikeout rate. Once capable of nearing 200 strikeouts in a season, Lynn struck out a career-low 7.4 batters per 9 innings in 2017, without the corresponding improvement in his walk rate that many pitchers show as they shift from power pitching to finesse pitching as they age...

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Sep 11, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) (Peter Aiken)
Sep 11, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) (Peter Aiken)

The Royals have made qualifying offers (one-year contract offers of $17.4 million that net the team a draft pick if the player refuses) to pending free agents Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer. This move did not come as a surprise but nonetheless may play a role in the Mets' offseason as they look to retool their lineup.

This year marks the debut of a new system of qualifying offers, one designed to have a lesser impact on a player's market than in prior years. If the Mets sign a player who has received a qualifying offer, instead of losing a first round draft pick, they will lose their second-highest pick This is based on there being a big market team that didn't exceed the luxury tax last season, the rules vary for teams in other situations.

To the Mets, this is a lesser obstacle to signing a player than it would have been last year, though the league may see overall sticker prices on these players rise because they don't "cost" as much in draft pick compensation.

Tags: Dominic Smith, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Troy Taormina)
(Troy Taormina)

Though this may have been unthinkable just a year ago, it's undeniable that the Mets are in desperate need of starting pitching. Their 5.14 ERA ranked 27th in baseball and going into 2018, and only Jacob deGrom (and Noah Syndergaard, if healthy) can be reasonably counted on to be major contributors.

The Mets need to improve the rotation fast, and the best way to do that is with a big fish. This offseason, the biggest fish out there is Yu Darvish and if the Mets are serious about contending in 2018, they should have every intention of bringing him to Queens.

Darvish is coming off a solid season, his first full year since he underwent Tommy John in spring of 2015. He brought the same nearly unhittable stuff that has been his hallmark throughout his career, putting up a strikeout ratio of over 10 batters per 9 innings, a mark he has hit every year in the majors. And while control has sometimes been a challenge for him, his walk ratio was well below his career average. He did experience an uptick in home runs allowed, but it was proportionate to the MLB norm in this power-heavy year and certainly not enough to be considered a red flag...

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Shanna Lockwood)
(Shanna Lockwood)

The Mets have made some smart, unexpected moves to open the offseason -- buying a new Triple A affiliate, going with an out-of-the-box manager choice -- but the moves that will determine the future of the 2018 season are yet to come. What we've seen so far is that the team is willing to take risks, and that may be the most promising sign of all.

Under GM Sandy Alderson, perhaps the Mets' biggest flaw has been risk aversion. Right after Alderson's hiring, the team made the most uninspired manager hiring possible, who in turn managed almost pathologically to the book at every opportunity. In player acquisition, they eschewed big contracts, even after payroll began to expand, instead focusing on lower-risk, lower-return smaller deals. Even the trades, which generally involve taking chances on unproven prospects, were relatively low-risk for the Mets as the players being traded offered little value to the rebuilding team.

The Mets are in a tough spot now, with a surging Nationals team, a Braves team teeming with young talent, and more roster holes than you can shake a stick at. But despite the rotation looking as bad as it's ever been, the window isn't quite closed yet...

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The Sandy Bunch: Mickey Callaway 00:00:37
SNY.tv takes a look at Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway as a candidate to be the next Mets manager.

This post was originally publised October 9, 2017...

For a team whose pitching staff collapsed as epically as the Mets' did in 2017, it makes sense to consider bringing in a manager with pitching expertise. And after helping the Indians put together one of the best group of arms in baseball, that's one metric Mickey Callaway might very well lead the league in.

Since taking on the role of pitching coach in Cleveland in 2013, the pitching staff there made a complete 180. After posting a major league worst ERA in 2012, the Indians have led the American League in ERA every year since then and have put up MLB-best numbers in strikeouts and wins above replacement.

Under Callaway's tutelage, they have developed stars in Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, and Corey Kluber, who may be looking at his second Cy Young Award this year. In many ways, the Indians have reached the heights of pitching that the Mets were expected to, and Callaway receives a lot of the credit. It's also noteworthy that, despite throwing hard, they have generally stayed healthy...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Maggie Wiggin
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The Sandy Bunch: Joe McEwing 00:00:40
SNY.tv takes a look at White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing as a candidate to be the next Mets manager.

The parade of Mets managerial candidates has included a number of familiar faces, but perhaps none more familiar than Joe McEwing, who spent five years in Queens as a bench player.

While fans' affection for McEwing often outpaced his skill on the field, he has spent the years since his 2008 retirement in a variety of coaching roles with the White Sox organization, and his good reputation has earned him an interview with the Mets this week.

McEwing was in many ways the quintessential utility player. In his five seasons with the Mets, "Super Joe" saw time at every position except pitcher and catcher. He eked out a league average batting line in only one season, but was a solid defender and was beloved by fans and teammates alike for his scrappy play and positive attitude. Prior to his release early in 2005, he had served as something of a mentor to a young David Wright, who raved about his character and bemoaned the loss of his friend and teacher...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, David Wright, Maggie Wiggin
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The Sandy Bunch: Bob Geren 00:00:39
SNY.tv takes a look at Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren as a candidate to be the next Mets manager.

When Terry Collins's position officially opened, it was no surprise that Bob Geren's name was one of the first mentioned. With past managing experience and prior ties to the team, he is a classic Sandy Alderson managerial candidate, though whether he will be their final choice remains to be seen.

While his career lacked the longevity of Alex Cora's, Geren saw his share of playing time, spending four years catching for the Yankees, and one more for San Diego. After retiring at age 32, he took on managing roles for Red Sox minor league teams, before moving over to the Athletics organization in similar roles. It was in Oakland that he got his first shot at the major leagues, first as bullpen coach and bench coach and then as manager, beginning in 2007.

Geren's time as manager of the A's was a mixed bag. He was given mediocre teams to work with, which generally performed as expected, but the front office consistently expressed confidence in him, extending his contract and twice picking up options on him. In 2011, though, there were public complaints from current and former players about his communication and distribution of playing time. Just two weeks later, following a brutal losing streak, he was let go...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Maggie Wiggin
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Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Mallex Smith (0) is congratulated by third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) (Kim Klement)
Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Mallex Smith (0) is congratulated by third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) (Kim Klement)

While most names connected to the Mets managerial search have had some past affiliation with the team, one that might be new to Mets fans is Charlie Montoyo, current third base coach for the Rays.

On-field, Montoyo's career was short and unmemorable. He spent nine years in the minors as an infielder and saw major league action in just four games with the Expos in 1993. He retired at age 30 in 1996 before launching his career as a coach, with the brand new Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Working at every level of the Rays organization, Montoyo has built an impressive resume. Most notably, he spent eight years as their Triple-A manager, leading the Durham Bulls to six division championships and two league championships. He holds the team record for most managerial wins and has been inducted to the International League Hall of Fame in recognition of his success in that role, which exposed him to a lot of the young talent that fueled the Rays' playoff runs beginning in 2008...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Maggie Wiggin
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The Sandy Bunch: Kevin Long 00:00:36
SNY.tv takes a look at Mets hitting coach Kevin Long as a candidate to be the next Mets manager.

There's a lot of skepticism at the true impact a hitting coach can have on a swing decades in the making, but one of the few who has undeniably made his mark is Kevin Long. That talent has made him invaluable to the Mets and has pushed his name near the top of the list of managerial candidates.

Long has had a significant effect on Mets hitting since joing the team in 2015. He translated the organizational focus on plate discipline -- not necessarily with the goal of drawing walks, but with the goal of finding a pitch to drive -- in a way that clicked for many of their hitters.

Curtis Granderson, who had sung Long's praises since they worked together in the Bronx, rebounded from a rough Mets debut to put together one of the best seasons of his career. Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, and Asdrubal Cabrera both saw big spikes in on base percentage working under Long as well. And Long's intense work with Daniel Murphy certainly seems to have paid off as well, albeit not for the Mets...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Yoenis Cespedes, Maggie Wiggin
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The Sandy Bunch: Alex Cora 00:00:38
SNY.tv takes a look at former Met and current Astros bench coach Alex Cora as a candidate for the Mets managerial position.

Of the many names being floated as potential future managers for the Mets, one that has garnered a lot of interest is Alex Cora. Expected to interview soon, his youth and relative lack of managerial experience may put him at a slight disadvantage, but he has a lot to offer a team in transition.

Cora is not a new name to Mets fans -- his 14-year stint in the majors included a brief stop in Queens. Already near the end of a mediocre at best on-field career, his performance with the Mets was quite poor (a .597 OPS over 2 years), but even then, in 2010, he received raves for his clubhouse presence. And there was a widespread assumption he would eventually go into managing.

Since retiring from professional baseball in 2012, Cora spent some time broadcasting, but most notably joined the Astros as a bench coach for the 2017 season...

Tags: 2017 Mets Manager Search, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Adam Hagy)
(Adam Hagy)

Jacob deGrom carried the burden this season of being the most valuable player on his team by far, and is the closest thing the Mets have to a sure bet going into 2018. Though some of his stats took a hit in a season that was strange for pitching in general, he was out there every five days, amassing 200 innings, 15 wins, and showing the consistency that has made him the centerpiece of the team.

Despite his relatively high ERA of 3.53 (still significantly better than most of the league), deGrom did some of the best pitching of his professional career this season.

He struck out a dazzling 239 batters -- fifth-most in baseball, and did so at a rate of nearly 11 batters per 9 innings, by far a career-best and good for seventh in the league. He also put up the best swinging strike rate and the best soft contact rate of his MLB career...

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Maggie Wiggin
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New York Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud (18) hits a three run home run against the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud (18) hits a three run home run against the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

All season, the Mets had a significant problem at the catcher position. Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki were each batting under .240 with an OPS under .700 at the end of August and minimal history of success to look back on, particularly in Plawecki's case. But both have had a surge of production that may help simplify an issue for a team facing a very complicated offseason.

On September 1, d'Arnaud was sitting on a .232/.281/.394 slash line over 306 plate appearancesm -- a deeply disappointing season in which he finally seemed to be capable of staying healthy for a long stretch. Since the beginning of the month, though, he has been on fire, batting .315/.367/.741 with six home runs in 60 plate appearances, while striking out only five times.

It hasn't all been against September call-ups either -- five of his six home runs came against established major leaguers, and his OPS is seventh-best in baseball for the month. D'Arnaud's season line is still below major league average overall, but better than the average catcher, particularly in regards to power. He's not out of the woods yet, but this explosion could not have come at a better time.

Tags: Kevin Plawecki, Travis d'Arnaud, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)
(Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)

The Mets will be going into the offseason with a lot of question marks, but one thing is clear: they need more starting pitching. Sandy Alderson has said in interviews that he will be looking for someone who can be counted on for a lot of innings, which probably means they would be steering clear of high-ceiling starters with injury issues, such as Michael Pineda and Lance Lynn.

The sticker prices on Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta will probably deter the Mets, so who are some mid-level starters they should have their eye on?

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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

The Mets have two veteran infielders who are having good second halves -- Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera. With the way the roster is currently constructed, one of them will probably find himself with the team next year, possibly even with a starting role. Which one has the better case?

Asdrubal Cabrera

Cabrera followed up a stellar 2016 campaign as the Mets' starting shortstop with a rough first half of 2017. At the All-Star break, he had just a .736 OPS, and his defense was terrible. Moreover, he had made headlines by asking to be traded after the team asked him to move off shortstop. At the time, it seemed highly unlikely he would remain a Met much longer, despite a team option that would allow him to return in 2018 for just $6.5 million...

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
(Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)

In the five weeks since his Mets debut, Dominic Smith hasn't put up dominant numbers in any category, leading some to express concerns that he wasn't ready for the majors. But he is already beginning to adjust, and his .879 OPS in September shows the potential he brings.

Possibly as a function of his relative youth at each level, Smith has a history of adjusting slowly to his promotions. As a 20-year-old in High-A, he mustered just a .220 average with one extra base hit in the month of April. From May onwards, he hit .314 and finished the year with 33 doubles.

Likewise, the following year in Double-A, he put up mediocre numbers well into May, before catching fire and batting .323/.397/.495 from June through September. His start in Triple-A (an .867 OPS in April of this year) was comparatively strong, but he still showed improvement throughout the season, finishing with a career-high .905 OPS, as well as the best power numbers he has shown in professional ball...

Tags: Dominic Smith, Maggie Wiggin
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 (Brad Mills)
(Brad Mills)

The Mets bullpen has underperformed this season, pitching to a 4.56 ERA that ranks 24th in MLB, as well as walk and home run rates that place them in the bottom third of the league. Behind those numbers, though, are two very different seasons.

The first half Mets bullpen was one of the worst in the game -- 27th in ERA and dead last in WHIP. They had blown nearly half of their save opportunities and walked over 10% of the batters they faced. Since the All-Star break, though, they have largely righted the ship, with an ERA in the top 10 and a WHIP around the middle of the pack.

The Mets bullpen is still quite shallow and needs plenty of revamping over the offseason if the team hopes to compete in 2018, but a few notable names have been making the most of their opportunity. Here are some arms to watch over the rest of the season.

AJ Ramos

A big-league reliever with closer experience, Ramos was brought in with the expectation that he will be a lock for late-inning relief in 2018. Luckily for the Mets, he has lived up to expectations and his 3.00 ERA since becoming a Met has helped stabilize a bullpen reeling from the loss of Addison Reed...

Tags: Addison Reed, Josh Smoker, Maggie Wiggin
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