In a perfect world, best case scenario, the Mets' ideal lineup produces roughly 20.0 WAR, according to projections made by FanGraphs.
Mets manager Mickey Callaway hasn't announced an official Opening Day lineup. To date, the only clue he has given is that Brandon Nimmo will hit leadoff, Wilson Ramos will hit in the heart of the order and Amed Rosario will bat eighth in front of the pitcher. The rest of the lineup will likely depend on matchups, rest and hot and cold streaks. In either case, we know it will almost always include Michael Conforto, Jed Lowrie, Robinson Cano and -- if healthy -- Todd Frazier. When facing a right-handed starting pitcher, the lineup is also expected to include Jeff McNeil.
The wild card will be center field -- especially when the team faces left-handed starting pitchers. And, given they have four options in camp (Juan Lagares, Keon Broxton, Carlos Gomez and Rajai Davis) and room for only two of these men on the roster, it's hard to say how this one spot will play out during the next few weeks, let alone Opening Day.
It was expected that Lowrie would mostly play third base, with Frazier shifting to first base.
However, as I type this, Frazier and Lowrie are already injured and may not be ready for Opening Day -- though Frazier has resumed baseball activity.
Meanwhile, it has been nearly nearly two weeks since Lowrie has been on field as he continues to be sidelined by a capsule sprain in his left knee. As of Feb. 23, the team had not not yet given an estimate for his return.
In the event Lowrie and Frazier begin the season on the IL, it's possible Dominic Smith could end up making the Opening Day roster and play first base. Similarly, McNeil could temporarily return to the infield, though Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said the current plan is to keep McNeil working in the outfield. The slick-gloved Adeiny Hechavarria can also fill in at second or third base.
This is exactly the type of breakdown Van Wagenen was hoping to avoid when he repeatedly talked about ridding the roster of "ifs," which he contended hurt them most the past few seasons.
While the Mets are dealing with injuries to two of their older infielders, 36-year-old Robinson Cano is fine and looking smooth and sound. And, if Pete Alonso is ready to take over first base, he and Cano could combine to make a huge impact. Last week, in a game against the Braves at First Data Field, Cano and Alonso quickly showed what it could look like if both are functioning at peak levels...
In his first at-bat, Cano worked the count and then slapped an opposite-field base hit against the shift on a ball thrown on the outer half of the plate. It was classic Cano and exactly what the Mets hope to see from him.
The following inning, Alonso pounced on the first pitch of his first spring at-bat and crushed a slider over the left-center wall for a homer.
"The success of their lineup really hinges on the health of Cano and Ramos and whether Peter Alonso -- I'm sorry, Pete -- can make the immediate impact they're hoping to see from him," a major-league scout told me when chatting in St. Lucie. "I've been impressed by the kid (Alonso). He's got his head screwed on right, his swing is short and simple, the bat is explosive, and he doesn't seem fazed by expectations. In fact, he looks comfortable running toward his potential, not away from it, which will serve him well as a rookie in New York."
In what is almost certainly not a coincidence, Alonso's spring training locker is wedged in between the veterans Cano and Frazier, both of whom are often seen talking with the promising rookie.
"If they're smart, and they put Alonso's bat between these veterans, if those guys stay healthy, I'd put him down for 30 home runs and at least 20 doubles, which could probably get him close to 100 RBI. That's Rookie of the Year territory," a second scout said. "Without those guys around him, though, big-league pitchers will knock him off his game with off speed speed pitches away. He'll need those guys around him to keep everyone honest."
The consensus among the above scouts, as well as other people in baseball that I trust, is that as currently constituted -- given their impressive pitching staff -- the Mets should have a positive run differential and net out with a mid-80s win total.
None of the scouts I spoke with believes an NL East team will eclipse 90 wins, mostly because having to play one another all season will make the division one of the most entertaining and highly contested in baseball.
Again, though, that's assuming everyone on every team performs to expectations. This does not factor in injuries, under performing or even over performing.
"To win the NL East and push 90 wins, Ramos has to keep putting the ball in the air and be behind the plate at least 110 times," the third scout added. "The same for Cano. I need to see 600 at bats, I need to see him hitting to all fields and getting back to his normal strikeout rates. If those guys do that, Alonso will have one helluva debut and their lineup will do very, very well."
In the end, it seems that more than Conforto, more than Nimmo, more than Frazier or Lowrie, to push 90 wins and secure one of three playoff spots, 2019 will come down how Alonso performs between a healthy and productive Cano and Ramos. Otherwise, at best, experts see a team that will finish slightly above .500, tease us, but again miss out on the postseason.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!