Jacob deGrom and Pete Alonso each had exceptional seasons in 2019. And yet, despite their incredible performances, the Mets at 86-76 still missed the postseason by three games.
In addition to deGrom and Alonso continuing to be awesome, I see success for the Mets in 2020 hinging on the performance of the following five players...
He struggled so much to begin 2019 that there was a question in June about whether Rosario should moved to the outfield or even be sent back to Triple-A. Then, seemingly overnight, he got himself stable and performing well in the field, he started swinging at fewer pitches out of the strike zone, and swinging at more pitches in it. He started making better contact, getting on base more, the Mets started winning, and his entire season turned around.
Rosario, 24, has gotten better every year of his career. However, his most important accomplishment in 2019 may have been how he successfully shook off the fear of being demoted, as well as criticism from media and disappointment from fans. This will be huge for him in 2020. It will not be the last time he faces adversity and massive criticism, but now he knows he can get through it and survive.
The projection systems used by FanGraphs expect Rosario to hit 15 home runs, bat .275 and be worth 2.2 WAR. He ended with 2.7 WAR in 2019.
I believe he can and will be better than what is projected for him by the FanGraphs community.
In the end, the difference between his being a 2.2 or even 2.7 WAR player and, say, something closer to 4.0 is not just a matter of one or two theoretical victories, it's also the difference between his getting lost in the shuffle or being full of energy, smiling, wreaking havoc on the base paths and creating situations that give an advantage to the entire team.
It used to be said, 'As Jose Reyes goes, the Mets go,' and Rosario's style of play and personality may soon have people applying to him that same saying...
DeGrom will again be competing for a Cy Young Award. Potentially teamed with Rene Rivera, I expect Noah Syndergaard to be better than he was in 2019. In either case, Syndergaard is a bonafide top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. On the other end of the rotation, Steven Matz and Rick Porcello are not expected to be anything more than guys at the back of the rotation.
And there's Stroman, in the middle of everyone and holding the potential to make the rotation among the best in baseball.
Stroman is a 3.0 WAR pitcher with a 3.25 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 170 innings when extrapolating a full season of stats out of what he did during his limited time with the Mets in 2019.
This stat line is on par with 2020 projections from FanGraphs.
Much like Rosario, no one will be disappointed if Stroman is on par with the above season totals. However, if he struggles and is erratic, it will force Matz and Porcello to pick up the slack and put additional pressure on deGrom and Syndergaard. On the other hand, if he exceeds expectations and gets himself on par with or better than Syndergaard, the Mets will be looking at a three-headed monster with a three-way rivalry for elite National League status.
Most people reading this probably expected me to choose Edwin Diaz. However, the bullpen's success doesn't necessarily hinge on his performance.
The Mets won 86 games last season with Diaz on the roster. Yes, if he was even slightly better -- let alone as good as he was in 2018 -- the Mets would have cruised to the postseason. The thing is, no one has any idea what to expect from him.
I do, however, know that when healthy Betances can be counted on to provide stability to a bullpen and bring postseason experience and late-season leadership to a group that was extremely rocky in 2020.
If he is not healthy and/or struggles on the mound, his experience and leadership becomes less meaningful and it means Diaz will have no choice but to get himself back on track. On the other hand, if Betances can return to being the 2-3 WAR reliever with a FIP hovering around 2.00, it doesn't just give the Mets a much-needed rock to lean on, but it also reduces the need to have both Diaz and Jeurys Familia return to their former glory.
Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Nimmo
The Mets had one of the most productive lineups in the National League in 2019. More or less the same cast of characters are returning for 2020. However, adding another big-time hitter to the mix would be helpful, especially on days when deGrom is on the mound.
In 2018, Nimmo surprised most Mets fans and pretty much everyone around baseball when he had a .404 OBP, had 58 extra-base hits, played well in all three outfield positions, had a 4.5 WAR and did it all with a gigantic smile.
To say anticipation for his 2019 was high would be an understatement, but then he got hurt, struggled to play through pain, hit the Injured List, missed nearly three months, returned in September and again showed what he can do when healthy.
Cespedes, on the other hand, has not played in more than a year and a half, prior to which he was on pace to have his best season since 2015. Luis Rojas and Cespedes felt before the season was delayed due to coronavirus that it was possible Cespedes would be ready for Opening Day. This becomes even more likely with every day the start of the season is delayed as it gives Yo more time to rehab.
In the event they can't get on track, the Mets can survive. Without these two men, the lineup still scored the second-most runs in the NL during the second half of the season in 2019.
However, to add to the lineup a healthy and productive Cespedes and/or Nimmo would not just help score runs, but would also provide additional protection for middle-of-the-order bats like Alonso and Michael Conforto.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is a senior writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. His book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime.