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MLB Team Roundup: New York Mets

Pete Alonso

Pete Alonso

John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

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New York Mets

2022 Record: 101-62
Second place, NL East
Team ERA: 3.58 (7th)
Team OPS: .744 (6th)

What Went Right

While the Mets’ season ended in bitterly-disappointing fashion, it’s easy to forget that this year’s club finished with the second-most wins in the franchise’s history, only topped by the legendary 1986 team. Buck Showalter brought in a change of culture and confidence in the dugout and it largely translated to the players on the field. Signed to a three-year, $130 million contract, Max Scherzer posted a 2.29 ERA over 23 regular season starts and played the role of ace while Jacob deGrom was sidelined due to injury. Francisco Lindor looked like the superstar the Mets thought they were getting when they traded for him, playing excellent defense at shortstop while topping 100 RBI for the first time in his career. Edwin Díaz was the most dominant closer in baseball, posting a 1.31 ERA over 61 appearances. Pete Alonso led the National League with 131 RBI while also swatting 40 homers. Jeff McNeil saw a dramatic turnaround winning the NL batting crown with a .326 batting average. Brandon Nimmo had a strong showing in his walk year, posting an .800 OPS while continuing to improve defensively in center field. Taijuan Walker (3.49 ERA in 29 starts) and Carlos Carrasco (3.97 ERA in 29 starts) provided steady innings throughout the summer. Offseason additions like Starling Marte (.814 OPS), Mark Canha (.770 OPS), Adam Ottavino (2.06 ERA in 66 appearances), Chris Bassitt (3.42 ERA), and Eduardo Escobar (1.042 OPS in September) were also major contributors. Luis Guillorme proved to be a valuable and versatile cog between second base and the hot corner. Tomás Nido might have been a liability offensively, but he was recently named a Gold Glove Award finalist for his work behind the plate.

What Went Wrong

It’s honestly a small list, at least until the final month of the regular season. The Mets had a chance to put the division away in September, but they had a 4-7 stretch in the early part of the month, including a sweep at the hands of the Cubs. It all came to a head in the final weekend of the regular season, as the Mets were swept at the hands of the Braves with Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, and Chris Bassitt all melting down. The Mets ended up losing the division on a tie-breaker before being bounced out of the Wild Card round at the hands of the Padres. From an individual perspective, it appears that Scherzer could have been trying to pitch through an oblique injury at the end of the season. deGrom didn’t make his season debut until August 2 due to a stress reaction in his shoulder, and while he dominant at the outset, he appeared more human down the stretch. This included a 6.00 ERA with six homers allowed over his final four regular season starts. While the Mets’ lineup was largely productive this season, the designated hitter spot was a major weakness with a .210 batting average and a .638 OPS (27th among MLB teams). Mets general manager Billy Eppler tried to upgrade at the deadline, but Darin Ruf was a notable miss (.152 batting average) as a platoon partner for Daniel Vogelbach and Tyler Naquin struggled miserably (.636 OPS) in a part-time role. J.D. Davis, who was traded for Ruf, slugged eight homers with an .857 OPS over 49 games with the Giants down the stretch. James McCann was even worse in his second season with the Mets, hitting just .195 with a .538 OPS while missing significant time due to injury. Tylor Megill started out strong, but posted an 11.57 ERA over his final nine appearances (including three starts) in between two different stints on the injured list. Trevor May (5.04 ERA) missed a large chunk of the season due to injury and Dominic Smith posted a .560 OPS over 58 games and actually finished the season in the minors.

Fantasy Slants

**It’s not a stretch to say that Francisco Lindor‘s first season with the Mets was a disappointment, but he quickly put that in the rear view mirror this season by reestablishing himself as one the best shortstops in the game. In addition to his stellar defense, the 28-year-old drove in a career-high 107 runs while batting .270/.339/.449 with 26 homers, 16 steals, and 98 runs scored. From a fantasy perspective, only Trea Turner was more valuable at the shortstop position. RBI are team dependent to an extent, but the counting stats should be there as Lindor holds down a prominent spot in the Mets’ lineup. He’s likely to come off the board in the late-second round or third round in standard mixed league drafts next year.

**There’s only a select group of bankable sluggers on the level of Pete Alonso. The 27-year-old only reinforced his status among the elite this year by slugging 40 homers while establishing a new career-high with 131 RBI to lead the National League. He also racked up 95 runs scored and even pitched in with five stolen bases. Perhaps most notably, he posted those impressive power numbers despite the lowest strikeout rate of his career. That helped him to a career-best .271 batting average. Alonso has struck out just 19.3 percent of the time over the past two seasons — well below the league average — so while he might not win any batting crowns, he’s far from an all-or-nothing slugger at this point. Freddie Freeman is still the class of the first base position in fantasy leagues, but Alonso isn’t too far behind.

**When healthy, Max Scherzer was everything the Mets could have hoped for when they signed him to a three-year, $130 million contract last offseason. The 38-year-old posted a sterling 2.29 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 23 starts while striking out 173 batters in 141 1/3 innings. He walked just 4.2 percent of the batters he faced, the second-lowest walk percentage of his career. The bad news is that Scherzer served two different stints on the injured list due to an oblique injury which might have (if not definitely) lingered down the stretch. Scherzer was notably off his game in his final regular season start against the Braves before allowing four home runs in his Wild Card game start against the Padres. That being said, a full offseason of rest should give him plenty of time to be 100 percent for the start of 2023. He’s still an easy top-five fantasy starting pitcher even as the milage continues to build on his right arm.

**What to make of Jacob deGrom at this point? While a stress reaction in his right shoulder kept him out until August, he looked like his usual self upon his return, posting a 1.66 ERA and 63/4 K/BB ratio in 43 1/3 innings through his first seven starts. It was a different story in September, as he gave up at least three runs in four straight starts to finish the regular season. He walked four batters and gave up five runs in a start against the Athletics, the first time he had allowed more than three runs in a start since May 17, 2019. The nadir was a series-opening loss to the Braves in the final weekend of the season where deGrom gave up three homers. On the bright side, even when deGrom “struggled” down the stretch, he struck out 39 batters in 21 innings. He’s certainly capable of being the best pitcher in the world again in 2023, but the injury history looms large at this point and it’s unclear where he’ll be pitching as he’s expected to exercise the opt-out clause in his contact and test free agency.

**Is Edwin Díaz the slam-dunk first closer off the board in mixed league drafts next year? It’s hard to argue against it. Díaz had the best season of his career this year, notching 32 saves while compiling a dominant 1.31 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 61 appearances. With his Timmy Trumpet/Narco entrance becoming a sensation at Citi Field during the summer, the 28-year-old allowed just three earned runs combined over his final 42 appearances. Díaz struck out an incredible 52 percent of the batters he faced this season. Just to put things in perspective, among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched this season, Jacob deGrom was second at 42.7 percent and Devin Williams was third at 40 percent. Díaz was simply in a different stratosphere in terms of missing bats. Only Aroldis Chapman (52.5 percent - 2014) had a higher strikeout percentage for a full season. The big question is where Díaz will pitch next year as he looks a monster free agent contract in the face, but he’s the elite of the elite among closers right now.

**The Mets’ starting pitching coming up small when it mattered most was a big reason why the team lost the division and got sent home early this postseason, but losing Starling Marte to a broken finger in early September was a significant blow to the team. Signed to a four-year, $78 million contract last offseason, Marte proved to be a spark plug for the Mets’ lineup by slashing .292/.347/.468 with 16 homers, 63 RBI, and 76 runs scored across 118 games. He went just 18-for-27 in stolen base attempts after shipping 47 bags in 52 tries in 2021, so he was a disappointment on that front for fantasy managers. It’s worth noting that his sprint speed registered in the 68th percentile this year after ranking in the 83rd percentile in 2021. He was banged up at times this year, so that explains some of it, but it’s probably fair to temper expectations as he moves into his age-34 season. Still, he’s a bankable five-category contributor and those don’t exactly grow on trees, now do they?

**Francisco Álvarez was called up out of desperation for a crucial series against the Braves at the end of the season, which wasn’t really fair to him. Still, he showed off why he’s such a highly-regarded prospect in the small sample stretch drive with his ability to hit absolute rockets. There’s also a swagger and confidence for someone who isn’t even yet 20 years old. Alvarez blasted 27 homers with an .885 OPS over 112 games between Double- and Triple-A this season and appears to be ready with the bat. The big question is if he’s ready behind the plate, as well. Either way, Alvarez appears likely to play a key role with the big club in 2023. He actually required surgery on his ankle following the season, but he should be good to go for spring training. It’s not crazy to think he could be a top-12 fantasy catcher from the jump, assuming regular at-bats are coming his way.

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Key Free Agents: Jacob deGrom (expected to exercise opt-out), Edwin Díaz, Brandon Nimmo, Chris Bassitt, Trevor May, Adam Ottavino, Seth Lugo, Carlos Carrasco (if Mets decline team option), Mychal Givens, Tyler Naquin, Daniel Vogelbach (if Mets decline team option)

Team Needs: There’s a lot to figure out for a team coming off a 101-win season. Whether it’s Billy Eppler solo (or some combination with David Stearns, maybe?) the Mets need to stabilize the rotation with deGrom, Taijuan Walker, and Chris Bassitt all headed to free agency. The same can be said for the bullpen. The Mets also need to figure out their outfield situation with Nimmo in free agency and add some power to their lineup.