During the past two weeks, I reached out to current and former players, coaches, scouts and league executives to learn who on the Mets is most likely to take a big step forward in 2020 compared to 2019.
The following three players were mentioned most...
1) Amed Rosario
Rosario hit .287 with a .323 OBP, 15 home runs, 30 doubles and 19 stolen bases, while producing 2.7 WAR in 2019, according to FanGraphs.
As soon as he started to get himself stable and performing well in the field, he also began swinging at fewer pitches out of the strike zone, while swinging at more pitches in it. Not surprisingly, he also started making more and better contact overall, while also reducing how often he struck out.
"I think for him, it's important he has a healthy, positive spring training that carries into April," an NL advance scout told me, which was added on to by a second rival evaluator.
"In the second half last year, when he looked relaxed and in command, when he had a good balance going, you saw him become one of the better shortstops in the National League," he explained. "If he doesn't come out of the gate with that same groove, I fear he'll have a similar up-and-down season to what he did last year."
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 criticism from media and disappointment from fans. This is huge for him. It will not be the last time he faces adversity and massive criticism, but at least now he has the experience to pull from to know he can fight through it.
"To be able to take the next step I just need to keep working hard and focus on the little details the same way I did in the second half," Rosario told me. "I want to be able to produce like that for a full season. With consistency and hard work the results will be there."
2) Marcus Stroman
I was surprised to see Stroman on this list because -- for me -- he pitched as expected during his time last season with the Mets. In fact, he had just one really bad start out of eight, the rest of which were worthy of being a mid-to top-of-the-rotation starter.
His time with the Mets extrapolated across a full 30 games would have netted out around a 3.25 ERA, 3.0 WAR and 160 strikeouts in 170 innings. This is also on par with 2020 projections from FanGraphs.
Nevertheless, I guess based on name recognition, his results in Toronto and pitching in front of an improved infield defense, experts feel he can be much better than the above stats.
Also, "I don't think people realize how difficult it can be getting traded like that," a front office source with an NL East team recently told me. "It's chaotic enough to get traded midseason, but to also have to manage local family and friends, their expectations, your expectations, everyone wants tickets, there's a sudden barrage of media requests, it can be a lot to take on out of the blue."
"That will be mostly behind him (in 2020)" he continued. "We've always liked that he's a smart, competitive kid and I think you'll see that and see him perform better because of it."
Frankly, I'm most excited to see a full season of the 'Stro Show.'
"Marcus has an intensity and focus about him that pushes him to be one of the best," Curtis Granderson told me about Stroman. "It can inspire his teammates, as well. He's a guy that is always looking for different ways to improve and ready for the challenge."
Stroman is a fascinating, captivating pitcher and person. He's a hustler, he's short and revels in beating the odds against him. He's intense. He's not shy about to defending himself or his teammates, and he clearly, desperately wants to win with the Mets. This could describe us as Mets fans as well.
It can cut both ways, though, so he has to be careful.
"He holds grudges and walks with a big-ass chip on his shoulder," an anonymous, former teammate that enjoyed his time with Stroman told me. "Don't get me wrong, this can be a good thing because it can motivate guys around you, but I've also seen it bring him down and put up a wall a bit."
3) Edwin Diaz
Three things were repeatedly mentioned to me when people talked about how Diaz can rebound from 2019 and return to dominating like he did in 2018. First, he must get off to a strong start so his confidence can remain high. Second, he, new manager Luis Rojas and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner have to be on the same page in terms of expectations and his usage. Third, he better have learned last season how to "pitch," and not just throw 100 mph.
He got swings and misses with his slider, but opposing hitters were always waiting for it, a rival scout pointed out to me. And, when they got it, they hit it -- and hit it hard.
"Diaz has immense talent. Also, Hefner is prepared. He will prove to be a very good hire," one league executive that had interest in hiring Hefner told me. "I think you'll see a drastic difference in how he uses guys and how often he gets them up and down, specifically Diaz. This will help in a lot of ways."
"And don't discount what Dellin Betances brings to him in terms of experience and shaking off adversity in New York," the same source wisely added. "He will help, too."
The runners up
Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil and Noah Syndergaard were under consideration more than other players on the current roster, but no one I talked with was willing to lock them in as his or her top choice.
In the case of McNeil, most of the hesitation was based on playing time.
For instance, if J.D. Davis and/or Jed Lowrie is not traded, their presence could eat into McNeil's at bats, make him a super utility guy and require added preparation.
"Preparation is the biggest key for a utility player," former Mets utility man Frank Catalanotto added. Former Mets third baseman Howard Johnson told me accepting the role and entering each day with the right mentality will also be important for McNeil.
As for Syndergaard, the belief that his elbow or shoulder will give out one day remains the top concern for people intrigued by his potential to return to being an ace. That said, they all agree that if Rene Rivera catches him each start that it can only help Noah's success in 2020.
Lastly, if I could guarantee Nimmo will be healthy and play in at least 140 games, he would have everyone's support. I can't, though, so experts had similar skepticism.
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.