New York Mets
2018 Record: 77-85
Fourth place, NL East
Team ERA: 4.07 (16th in MLB)
Team OPS: .701 (24th in MLB)
What Went Right
While Jacob deGrom didn’t get much in the way of run support, he turned in one of the best seasons on the mound in recent memory. He’s the favorite for the NL Cy Young Award and should also garner some MVP consideration. Expectations were low for Zack Wheeler after multiple injury-plagued seasons, but he broke out with a 3.31 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 29 starts. This includes a 1.68 ERA after the All-Star break. Brandon Nimmo (.404 OBP, 150 OPS+) was the best story of the year for the lineup and proved that he should be a regular moving forward. Michael Conforto amassed 17 homers with an .895 OPS after the All-Star break. Asdrubal Cabrera slugged 18 homers with an .817 OPS in 98 games prior to being traded to the Phillies. Noah Syndergaard had a bit of a frustrating year, but finished strong with a 1.73 ERA over six starts in September. Jeff McNeil more than held his own (.329/.381/.471 batting line with three homers, 19 RBI, and seven steals over 63 games) after a breakthrough season in the minors and should begin 2019 as the starting second baseman. Youngster Amed Rosario also showed some promise down the stretch. There weren’t many bright spots in the bullpen, but Jeurys Familia was effective prior to being traded to the Athletics and Seth Lugo continues to be a valuable piece. David Wright had a memorable send-off after two-plus years away from major league action. The Mets actually started the season 11-1 under new manager Mickey Callaway, but that went south in a hurry.
What Went Wrong
Plenty, mostly on the offensive side. No team in all of MLB scored fewer runs at home, which is something the new general manager (Sandy Anderson stepped aside for health reasons in June) will need to try to investigate and improve. The Mets went 5-21 in June, essentially sinking their season. Yoenis Cespedes only appeared in 38 games due to a hip/quad issue and underwent season-ending surgery in August for calcification in his right heel. He’s slated to have surgery on his left heel later this month. It’s a lengthy rehab which should keep him sidelined through the middle of 2019. Essentially all the Mets’ offseason moves were a bust, including Todd Frazier (.693 OPS), Jay Bruce (.680 OPS, nine homers in 94 games), Jason Vargas (5.77 ERA in 20 starts), Anthony Swarzak (6.15 ERA in 29 appearances), and Adrian Gonzalez (.672 OPS in 54 games). We could also include Jose Reyes, who somehow made it through the entire season on the roster despite a brutal .189/.260/.320 batting line in 251 plate appearances. Travis d’Arnaud required season-ending Tommy John surgery in mid-April. Matt Harvey struggled with a 7.00 ERA in four starts and four relief appearances before being traded to the Reds for Devin Mesoraco in May. Dominic Smith could have been handled better, but he batted just .224/.255/.420 in 56 games and faces real questions about his future. None of the Mets’ young bullpen arms made much of an impression.
**Jacob deGrom’s 1.70 ERA was the sixth-lowest of any qualified pitcher since MLB lowered the mound in 1969. It was truly a historic year for him, as he set the single-season MLB record with 29 straight starts allowing three runs or fewer and 24 straight quality starts. DeGrom was already plenty good entering 2018, but he took things to a new level this year, seeing a velocity spike while striking out more batters than ever before and improving his control. He did a much better job keeping the ball in the ballpark and induced more soft contact than any qualified starter. The only downside was that he somehow won just 10 games — only Cole Hamels and Reynaldo Lopez received less run support among qualified starters — but it’s hard to imagine him being anywhere near as unlucky in 2019. It’s impossible to expect someone to repeat a 1.70 ERA, but deGrom has earned his place as the No. 3 starting pitcher off the board behind Max Scherzer and Chris Sale in drafts next year.
**Noah Syndergaard was actually drafted ahead of deGrom in most fantasy leagues this year, but things didn’t exactly work out as planned. Thanks to a strong September, he finished with a fine 3.03 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 155/39 K/BB ratio in 154 1/3 innings over 25 starts, but he also missed time with a strained ligament in his finger and had a brief bout with hand, foot, and mouth disease. It’s not like he was bad when he was healthy, but he often didn’t have his best stuff and left fantasy owners wanting more. The potential is clearly there, but Syndergaard simply hasn’t shown that he can be counted on as a fantasy ace just yet. This will likely leave him on the fringes of the top-10 starting pitchers off draft boards in the spring.
**Zack Wheeler’s career was at a crossroads coming into this spring. After missing back-to-back years following Tommy John surgery, he struggled with a 5.21 ERA in 17 starts in 2017 before going down with a stress reaction in his right arm. Wheeler actually began this season with Triple-A Las Vegas while working on a mechanical change, but he was up with the Mets by mid-April and went through some ups-and-downs while posting a 5.40 ERA over nine starts through the end of May. However, with an uptick in velocity in June, he completely turned his season (and career) around by posting a 2.52 ERA and 126/36 K/BB ratio in 132 1/3 innings over his final 20 starts. His control was better than ever before and he induced lots of soft contact. His 1.68 ERA after the All-Star break was even better than teammate and Cy Young Award favorite Jacob deGrom. Efficiency was regularly an issue with Wheeler even before his Tommy John surgery, but he completed at least seven innings in each of his final six starts and eight out of his last nine before being shut down at 182 1/3 innings, nearly 100 innings more than he threw in 2017. The big key is staying healthy, but Wheeler has a strong case to be considered as a top-25 starting pitcher going into 2019.
**Michael Conforto beat the original timetable with his shoulder capsule surgery, but perhaps he returned too soon. The numbers certainly suggest as much. While Conforto homered in his season debut, he went into the All-Star break with a weak .216/.344/.366 batting line through 85 games. While there were still some ups and downs during the second half, he was much more productive on the whole, batting .273/.356/.539 with 17 homers and 52 RBI over 68 games. His hard-hit percentage also saw a healthy bump in that time, a sign that the strength of his shoulder improved as the year moved along. Conforto had nine homers and 29 RBI over 28 games in September, so Mets fans and fantasy players should feel confident about him going into 2019.
**There was some chatter about the Pirates asking for Brandon Nimmo as part of a possible deal for Josh Harrison during the offseason, but the Mets have to be very happy that they held firm. While it wasn’t the plan for him to be a regular, Nimmo took advantage of injuries in the Mets’ outfield and proved to be one of the more productive players in the National League. He ranked fourth in the majors with a .404 on-base percentage and sixth with a wRC+ of 149. Getting on base is nothing new for Nimmo, but he also contributed with 17 homers and nine steals. Nimmo saw a healthy jump in his hard-hit rate and also pulled the ball more often, so there’s reason to believe he can continue to contribute enough on the power front to be useful in mixed leagues. While the Mets used Amed Rosario as their leadoff hitter down the stretch, Nimmo really needs to be at the top of the order in 2019.
**Speaking of Amed Rosario, he showed some real signs of progress down the stretch. He hit .284/.318/.413 with five homers, 24 RBI, 15 steals, and 37 runs scored over 54 games after the calendar turned to August. Rosario had a disappointing .237/.280/.359 batting line prior to that. While he’s still a free-swinger, he made some progress with his approach from his rookie season and also saw a healthy jump in his line drive rate during the late-season surge. Perhaps most exciting for fantasy owners, he was much more active on the basepaths during that time. Rosario was the primary leadoff hitter over the final two months, but he might not be the best fit for that role in the short-term. This is something to watch in regard to his fantasy value, but he’s certainly relevant in mixed leagues.
**The Mets decided against a September call-up for Peter Alonso, but it’s probably just a matter of time before he takes over as the regular first baseman in Queens. The 23-year-old smashed 36 homers in 132 games between Double- and Triple-A this year while posting .285/.395/.579 batting line. We saw the swing-and-miss with his game during his time in Vegas and he’s not much of a defender at first base, but he could make an impact from a power perspective right away in fantasy leagues.
Team Needs: There's a strong sentiment that the Mets should make a progressive choice with their new general manager and give that person more autonomy and the ability to add to the team’s analytics staff, though there’s plenty of reason for skepticism given Fred Wilpon’s reported preference for an old-school type. Either way, there should be some resolution soon. Mets’ relievers combined for a 4.96 ERA this season, second-worst to the Marlins in the National League. Odds are the new general manager will focus on this area, with at least one high-profile addition. Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino, and Jeurys Familia are just a few of the notable relievers due to hit free agency. The Mets can’t count on Yoenis Cespedes for 2019, so they could also add a right-handed bat to the mix. Manny Machado would be ideal, but don’t hold your breath on that coming to fruition. Barring an unexpected major move from the new GM (a trade involving Syndergaard, for instance), look for some minor tweaks with the lineup and bench, possibly with a new catcher as well.