St. Louis Cardinals blog C70 At The Bat has an annual spring training tradition of asking members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance to contribute to a pre-season roundtable discussion of the teams that they cover. Today, the New York Mets were featured – you can check out the full piece at www.cardsconclave.com, but my contribution (written about two weeks ago) is printed below:
1) How would you grade the offseason?
C+ The Mets were more active in the free agent market this winter than they have been in recent off-seasons, but it feels like they were just patching holes instead of making improvements.
Curtis Granderson should replace Marlon Byrd‘s 2013 production. Bartolo Colon is being asked to fill the innings Matt Harvey would have pitched if he was healthy. Chris Young… will be better than Rick Ankiel and Collin Cowgill, but I’m still trying to figure out why Sandy Alderson chose to spend a significant portion of his limited resources on a high strikeout/low on base percentage hitter.
Despite a lot of talk about wanting to upgrade at first base and shortstop, the Mets will probably open the season with the same infield they had last year. I wanted to see some bold moves this winter, and they just didn’t happen.
2) Can Zack Wheeler step up and fill the gap left by Matt Harvey’s surgery?
If you look at it from a wins-loss record perspective, sure. Harvey won 9 games in 2013 and Wheeler won 7… it’s not hard to believe Wheeler could win 16 by himself this year if he gets enough run support. But I don’t think that Wheeler will be able to replace Harvey’s star power, at least not right away. That’s ok. The Mets just need him to help them win games and continue to improve.
3) Which roster battle will be the most intriguing during spring training?
Right now, the two main ones appear to be for the first base and fifth starter jobs. Neither seems especially exciting, except to the participants. Shortstop could be intriguing, though.
The Mets have been talking about giving Wilmer Flores a chance to play shortstop this spring. Although that was his original position in the minors, he’s played second and third base for the past two years. Flores looks like he’s in much better shape this spring after attending a voluntary fitness camp over the winter… maybe he can play well enough defensively to steal the position from Ruben Tejada, or at least give Terry Collins enough confidence to keep him as the backup instead of a light-hitting player like Omar Quintanilla or Wilfredo Tovar.
4) What rookie, if any, will make the most impact on the team in 2014?
Juan Lagares came out of nowhere last year and had a bigger impact than the more highly-anticipated prospects like Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud. Pitcher Noah Syndergaard is the name everyone is excited about this year, but I think d’Arnaud is going to be the most important rookie on the Mets. If he lives up to his potential, d’Arnaud could really stabilize the middle of the batting order. If he doesn’t take that step forward, the Mets may have to find another answer behind the plate until Kevin Plawecki is ready for his chance in late 2015 or 2016.
5) What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division?
Sandy Alderson says the 2014 New York Mets can win 90 games. Las Vegas is predicting 74. I think the team’s final record is somewhere in between — 82-80, tied with the Philadelphia Phillies for third place in the NL East.
6) Which player from your team do you most enjoy watching?
Juan Lagares – it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to watch a center fielder who covered as much ground as he does.
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