New York Mets
2016 Record - 87-75
Second Place, NL East
Team ERA: 3.58 (3rd)
Team OPS: .733 (17th)
What Went Right
Thanks to a late-season surge, the Mets made the playoffs for the second straight season. They didn’t make it past the Wild Card game, but it was an impressive accomplishment for Terry Collins' crew given all of their injuries. Yoenis Cespedes led the charge for the offense yet again by slugging 31 homers with an .884 OPS while Asdrubal Cabrera proved to be an excellent free agent addition. Noah Syndergaard battled through a bone spur in his elbow and emerged as the staff’s ace while 43-year-old Bartolo Colon was a stabilizing force for a rotation that was otherwise in tatters. Oh, and most importantly, Colon also hit his first career home run. Jeurys Familia (who set a franchise record with 51 saves) and Addison Reed were a potent late-inning combo. When the injuries piled up, second baseman T.J. Rivera (.333/.345/.476 in 33 games) and right-handers Robert Gsellman (2.63 ERA in seven starts) and Seth Lugo (2.68 ERA in eight starts) surprised as late-season saviors.
What Went Wrong
The Mets were ravaged by injuries, especially in their starting rotation. Matt Harvey struggled with a 4.87 ERA over 17 starts before undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. Jacob deGrom required surgery in September for an ulnar nerve issue in his elbow. After being slowed by a shoulder injury, Steven Matz underwent surgery in September to remove a large bone spur in his elbow. Zack Wheeler missed a second straight season after encountering multiple setbacks in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The position players weren’t safe either, as David Wright, Lucas Duda, Juan Lagares, and Travis d’Arnaud all missed significant time due to injury. Michael Conforto’s sophomore season was a big disappointment and Jay Bruce mostly struggled after coming over from the Reds at the August 1 trade deadline.
**Noah Syndergaard should be considered an easy top-10 fantasy starting pitcher after posting a 2.60 ERA and 218/43 K/BB ratio over 183 2/3 innings this season, but who should we feel confident about on this staff beyond that? I think we have to put Jacob deGrom above the rest. His velocity was down in the early part of the season, but it eventually ticked up and so did his performance on the mound (2.22 ERA with 106 strikeouts in 97 1/3 innings from May 21-August 13) before things fell apart toward the end. He’s not going to face nearly as many questions after elbow surgery as Harvey will coming back from thoracic outlet syndrome. Steven Matz clearly has the talent and he’s expected to be ready for spring training after his bone spur surgery, but he has a lengthy injury history and has yet to make it through a full season in the majors. Zack Wheeler is the biggest wild card in this mix after back-to-back lost seasons. The good news is that the Mets now have Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as insurance if things don’t go according to plan. Will there be room for Bartolo Colon's return?
**Asdrubal Cabrera put up a 1.041 OPS with 10 homers in 41 games after returning from the disabled list on August 19. How can we explain the power surge? Well, Cabrera moved noticeably closer to the plate and also pulled the ball more often while lofting more balls in the air. This sounds similar to what we saw from Daniel Murphy in the second half last season, no? And we all know what happened with Murphy this year. This isn’t to say that Cabrera is going to hit .347 next season. He’s a different player than Murphy. And yes, it’s possible he’ll simply go back to some of his old habits in 2017, but he shouldn't be ignored in mixed fantasy leagues next spring.
**Jeurys Familia was arrested on a domestic violence charge this week and it now appears possible that he’ll serve a lengthy suspension in 2017. For example, Jose Reyes was signed by the Mets earlier this year after serving a 51-game suspension for a domestic violence incident with his wife. Like we saw with Reyes, MLB can issue a suspension regardless of whether somebody is convicted. With that in mind, look for the Mets to try to add another late-inning relief arm this winter. Addison Reed, who posted a dominant 1.97 ERA and 91/13 K/BB ratio over 77 2/3 innings this season, could be in position to begin the year in the closer role.
**What happened to Jay Bruce? He was an imperfect fit for the Mets when they acquired him from the Reds on August 1, but the hope was that he would provide a jolt to a weak lineup. Aside from some big hits over the final week of the season, it didn’t happen. Bruce batted just .219/.294/.391 over 50 games with New York. According to FanGraphs, we saw a more aggressive hitter on the whole. His swing rate went from 50.3 percent before the trade to 54.8 percent after. The most alarming part was that his swings on pitches outside the strike zone increased from 30.7 percent to 37.5 percent. Perhaps he was just pressing on a new team and a city that wasn’t one of his preferred destinations. We’re only talking about a third of a season here, so there’s reason to expect better from him in 2017 whether he remains with the Mets or becomes a trade chip. Still, we're talking about someone who had a 90 OPS+ from 2014-2015 and plays awful defense. Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto, and Juan Lagares are the other options in this outfield right now, but things could get even more complicated if the Mets somehow manage to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes.
**There was a lot of momentum for Michael Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud in fantasy leagues coming into the spring. And why not? Conforto hit .270 with nine homers and an .840 OPS during his first stint in the majors last year while d’Arnaud put up 12 homers and an .825 OPS over just 67 games. Both were big disappointments this year. Conforto batted just .174/.267/.330 after a monster April and even bounced back and forth from the majors to the minors a couple of times. As for d’Arnaud, he missed significant time with a rotator cuff injury and hit just .247/.307/.323 with 11 extra-base hits (including four homers) over 75 games. D’Arnaud’s continued injury issues are a major concern. There was even a report this week that the Mets could keep an eye on the market this winter for a potential new primary catcher. I’m more optimistic about Conforto. He dealt with a wrist issue during the first half and the Mets jerked him around at times. Hopefully the Mets just stick him in the lineup and leave him alone. He doesn’t turn 24 years old until March and was mostly pushed to the majors out of necessity in the first place. He’s shaping up to be a nice value pick in mixed fantasy leagues next year. This is the time to buy low in keeper formats.
**Another note on Conforto: The Mets have reportedly considered giving him some work at first base in the spring. And that’s interesting since Lucas Duda is under team control for one more season. Granted, Duda is coming off a year where he appeared in just 47 games due to a stress fracture in his lower back, but he amassed 57 homers with an .834 OPS (133 OPS+) from 2014-2015. I’m really interested to see how they juggle things here.
**Is David Wright done? Your guess is as good as mine. After missing most of 2015 with spinal stenosis, he appeared in just 37 games this season before undergoing surgery in mid-June to repair a herniated disk in his neck. He said back in October that he was scheduled to see doctors in three months in hopes of getting cleared for baseball activities, but expectations have to be modest for him at this point. Wright turns 34 in December and already had to put himself through an intense pregame conditioning program just to play with his chronic back condition. Jose Reyes (104 OPS+, eight homers, nine steals in 60 games) will return as an insurance policy and could also be an option at second base depending on what happens with Neil Walker. T.J Rivera and Wilmer Flores are also in that mix.
Team Needs: Improved health is their biggest need. Additional bullpen help is likely and perhaps a versatile right-handed bat. They also need to figure out what they are doing with the moving parts in their outfield and at second base.