How Good Can The Mets Be?

A Whirlwind of Emotion

In my most recent piece written about James McCann, I referenced the eventual emotions that later accompany big acquisitions like “anger” and “frustration”. After this week’s whirlwind of news surrounding the Mets blockbuster acquisition of both star shortstop Francisco Lindor, and underrated feel-good starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco, a quick scurry through Mets Twitter will show you that those two emotions? They no longer exist! Mets fans are rightfully ecstatic and they see the sky as the limit, which made me wonder…. What is the limit of this Mets team? With that being said, lets try and find out!

What I woke up to Thursday… At least what it felt like!

TEAM PROJECTIONS

To say our friends over at Fangraphs LOVE the Mets after this move would probably be an understatement. They now have the third highest projected WAR totals behind only the Dodgers and up-and-coming Padres, who have made some exciting moves of their own.

Good place to be I’d say…

SP OUTLOOK

While the roster as currently constructed seems to be built around its stout and deep lineup, it is the pitching that carries them in these projections. It might not be clear to pick up from the above picture so lets reorganize this a bit.

Keep rubbing your eyes… You are seeing this correctly!!!

HOLY *(#@$(*&#$(. The Mets are first? It almost seems like a mirage after the Padres added two Cy Young candidates, Darvish and Snell, to an already stout rotation. While the Dodgers rotation, fresh off a World Series victory, has not seemed to miss a step while the title of “Ace” is being passed down from Clayton Kershaw to Walker Buehler. Now you might be skeptical of “future” projections as they are simply that, projections, BUT I believe the Mets pitchers have the track record worthy of these lofty expectations.

Their rotation is of course anchored by two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, or as I like to call him, “The Best Pitcher in Baseball”. His exploits are well known to those around baseball, especially Mets fans, and do not need much further explanation. Carlos Carrasco is a great addition and for years now has been criminally underrated as he was often pitching behind another multi-Cy Young winner in Corey Kluber. His stretch from 2017 until his last start on May 30th, 2019 before being diagnosed with leukemia was nothing short of dominance that you never even noticed, unless you were an Indians fan.

Min 500IP (2017-5/31/2019)

A quick recap of that leaderboard

  • 11.7 fWAR – 6th
  • 3.56 ERA – T-10th
  • 3.18 FIP – 5th
  • 3.13 xFIP – 4th
  • 10.56 K/9 – 7th

Carlos Carrasco is not only a great addition to the Mets as a proven top of the rotation staple but as a piece moving forward. He is under control via an EXTREMELY team friendly contract that will will see Carrasco paid $24M over the next two seasons, his age 34-35 seasons. He holds a vesting option for 2023 that would see him paid $14M along with a $3M buyout if the option is not vested. For 2021 and beyond, the Mets could not have done much better for the production/cost value of Carlos Carrasco.

The next part of the rotation is made up of two pitchers who never saw the field in the pandemic shortened 2020 season, Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard. Noah Syndergaard was diagnosed with a torn UCL shortly before spring training was shutdown and underwent Tommy John Surgery (TJS) on March 26th, 2019. Marcus Stroman was slated to be the Mets #2 starter behind Jacob deGrom as the team ramped up its “Summer Camp” activities before he was slowed down by a calf strain that saw him start the season on the IL. He shutdown his season before it ever started as he opted out due to coronavirus concerns. Coincidentally, he did this not but a few days after acquiring enough service time to enter free agency after the season ended. Insert joke about service time manipulation here. Stroman would go on to accept the qualifying offer (QO) and forego free agency for one more year. Similarly, Noah Syndergaard finds himself also entering his last season before free agency and could soon find himself in a Stroman-esque situation in which a shortened season before free agency could make the QO more attractive to accept. Both of these starters are bonafide #2 starters with Syndergaard perhaps being a #1 on many teams. To have these two in the rotation as your #3 and #4 starters almost doesn’t seem fair. Just how good is this top four? They have 4 of the top 35 SP according to FIP with 3 inside the top 20, as seen below.

Now the Mets will have to strategically traverse the 2021 season in the rotation with Syndergaard set to be on the inevitable post-TJS “innings limit” they will have to fill those innings somehow.

Insert the two left-handed starting pitchers on the roster, Steven Matz and David Peterson. Both lefties are former top draft picks drafted nearly a decade apart. Matz has had a mercurial tenure with the Mets that started in one of the greatest debuts of all time but since has been littered with injuries and inconsistent play.

Thanks again for this memory Grandpa Bert

David Peterson who was the team’s top draft pick in 2017, moved quickly through the system as a polished college arm with plus command. He made his debut early on in the 2020 season and showed the promise that made him a first round pick. His command(4.35 BB/9) was not what it was in the minors but this might have been something to do with the lackluster catching behind the plate as seen below.

Thank You to Matthew Brownstein. If you don’t follow him on Twitter than stop reading and go do that… NOW!

While primarily known as a sinker baller in college and throughout the minors, Peterson debuted and immediately posted one of the best 4S/SL combos in all of baseball!

Min 500 FB/SL thrown.

A lot of numbers here so lets break it down

  • 2nd Lowest BAA – .142
  • T-3rd Lowest xBA – .175
  • 3rd Lowest SLG – .258
  • 5th Lowest xSLG – .312
  • 4th Lowest wOBA – .237
  • 10th Lowest xwOBA – .267

These two lefties will likely start the season as the Mets #4 and #5 starters with Peterson having the most sticking power. Matz’s leash on the other hand will only be as long as it takes for Noah Syndergaard to ramp up and re-enter the rotation. Seeing Matz in the rotation might make some Mets fans sick after his disastrous 2020 in which absolutely nothing went right for Steven. He had 4 lackluster starts to begin 2020 and saw himself banished to the bullpen where he dealt with a shoulder injury and inconsistent usage. While it is hard to see the silver lining with Matz one can point to his improved K/9 (a career high 10.57) or the fact that while his 9.68 ERA is absurdly bad, his 4.15 xFIP is right in line with his career 4.01 xFIP and that his 2020 woes may have a lot to do with his unsustainably high 4.11 HR/9 (career 1.34 HR/9 before 2020).

So far we’ve listed 6 starting pitchers but any fan knows you need more than just 5-6 over a full season. Some depth options the Mets have currently in house are Corey Oswalt, Franklyn Kilome, Thomas Szapucki and Sam McWilliams. While none of these names are bound to make Mets fans jump for joy they represent depth that has a mix of upside, and steady inning-eating ability. Oswalt for example, in 12 starts after his debut has posted a 3.47 ERA and is likely ticketed straight to AAA. Kilome and Szapucki represent some high end prospect talent with both being inside the team’s top 10 prospects. Kilome debuted in 2020 as well and showed a solid FB/CU combo that ultimately profiles as a late inning relief option but for now will be further starting pitching depth. Thomas Szapucki, the Mets 8th ranked prospect, I feel could be the 2021 version of David Peterson. Szapucki could really use more innings in the minors after already missing time to TJS but has truly an ELITE pitch in his slider, which is likely the best pitch in all of the Mets minors. Lastly, Sam McWilliams comes over to the Mets from the Tampa Bay Rays system in which he signed $750K contract that is well above the usual major league minimum. McWilliams has never pitched in the majors and struggled in a small sample at AAA but has a large frame and a fastball to match it. On a personal note, I had the pleasure of watching McWilliams pitch several times at AA Montgomery, where he was named to the 2019 Southern League All-Star Game and he pitched to a 2.05 ERA. If the Mets choose the out of house option they could target pitchers like Garrett Richards, Rick Porcello or Chris Archer just to name a few.

BULLPEN OUTLOOK

Tied with the Rays at 3.2??? SIGN ME UP!

The Mets bullpen as currently constructed is VERY top heavy. The trio of Diaz, Lugo, and May is a backend to go to war with and will give a lot of teams FITS. What the Mets BP is in dire need of now is an established lefty. Justin Wilson is now a free agent and outside of a MiLB deal to fan favorite Jerry Blevins, farmhand Daniel Zamora and recent waiver pickup Stephen Tarpley the Mets have very little in the way of “an established lefty”. A prime target would be former CLE closer Brad Hand who was non-tendered by the penny pinching Indians in October. Another target for the Mets could be Jake McGee, he was solid LHP who came up through the Tampa system(2.77ERA/2.58FIP/2.88xFIP 11.06K/9) before struggling over parts of 4 seasons in COL (4.78ERA/4.65FIP/4.56xFIP 8.19K/9). McGee was released shortly before the season started by the Rockies but latched on with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he proceeded to be in the 95th percentile or better in xwOBA, xERA, and K%. The peculiar part about McGee’s 2020 season is that he threw 332 pitches, 320 of them? Fastballs. The backend of the bullpen is worrisome but in better shape than most teams as it features former elite RP such as Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, and Brad Brach. The Mets would love for all three to return to former glory but this is an unrealistic expectation. Ideally the Mets want 1-2 of them to return to form in addition to getting a full offseason to tinker with mid-season acquisition Miguel Castro who pairs elite velocity (99th percentile) with a wipeout slider (48.3 Whiff%). The Mets at 3.2 projected WAR are only 0.3 behind the Yankees at #1 so it does not need to be a huge acquisition to push them across. It is almost too easy to pick Brad Hand’s conservative 0.5WAR out of this list to fill out the BP

If the Mets would like to sign a lefty reliever who has NY experience than they should sign no other than?

OLLIE MADE YOU LOOK!

Just kidding Mets fans… Ollie Perez can’t hurt you anymore

POSITIONAL OUTLOOK

If we go back and look at the total WAR projections we’ll see the Mets are projected to have the 9th highest offensive WAR total. I think this is a VERY conservative projection for the Mets who are coming off a year where they tied the World Champion Dodgers in wRC+ at 122. For my more traditionally aligned readers, the Mets led the league in BA (.272) and were in a virtual tie in OBP(.348) with the league leading Braves (.349). They also posted the 4th highest SLG (.459) behind only the Dodgers, Braves(.483) and Padres(.466). Needless to say, the Mets offense was VERY good. While it did not show its full potential during the truncated 2020 season due to some early troubles w/ RISP this is an offense that is primed to be the best in the division and potentially all of baseball with the addition of Francisco Lindor.

*I am going to advance into this next section under the assumption no other starters (Springer, Bradley Jr, etc) are added after the Mets have added slightly over $30M in payroll in the Lindor deal. Instead I am focusing on what is on the roster NOW*

Unlike the pitchers side projections which I think were generous, I believe the Mets positional projections to be too conservative. Similar to how the Mets have four pitchers in the top 35 in FIP, the offense has a list that is even more impressive.

*For more information on OPS+ check out this link.*

2018-2020 Min. 500PA

Yep… That is right. FIVE hitters with an OPS plus in the top 40 (24 if you account for ties). This is a remarkable base in which to build a lineup. Lets not forget JD Davis who also comes in inside the top 100 with some accomplished hitters such as Trea Turner, Joey Gallo, and Yoan Moncada.

2018-2020 Min. 500PA

If you were to only take into account JD’s time as a Met his OPS+ jumps from a solid 115 to 129 and launches him into some REAAAALLY impressive territory in terms of OPS+.

2019-2020 Min.500PA

You might be wondering where is Francisco Lindor? Yes Lindor is a very accomplished hitter with multiple 30HR seasons which lands him between Conforto’s 129 and Davis’ 115 at 122OPS+. Lindor should fit perfectly in the middle of the lineup as a switch hitting threat behind on-base machines such as Brandon Nimmo (.397 OBP T-6th since 2018) and Jeff McNeil (.383 OBP 9th since 2018). This gives the Mets a 1-7 in which EVERY PLAYER has an OPS+ greater than 115. For comparison, no other team in the NL East has more than 4.

  • Nationals (4) – Soto (151), Turner (115), Bell (121), Schwarber (115)
  • Braves (2) – Freeman (144), Acuna (133)
  • Phillies (3) – Harper (134), Hoskins (120), McCutchen (115)
  • Marlins (3) – Aguilar (120), Dickerson (117), Marte (115)

The team closest to the Mets 7?

  • Yankees (6) – Judge (145), Voit (143), Stanton (132), Urshela (129), Torres (122), Hicks (120)

*Lists do not include pending FAs such as Marcell Ozuna, DJ LeMahiue, Joc Pederson, etc*

RECAP

With all that being said the Mets are projected to have one of the best (if not the best) rotation AND bullpen as well as trotting out one of the deepest lineups in baseball. Don’t get me wrong acquiring Lindor and Carrasco is one of the most exciting things we’ve had in a long time as Mets fans. Personally though? I am more excited that the Mets are building one of the deepest rosters in baseball that could not only sneak up on the Atlanta Braves for the division, but sneak up on teams like the Dodgers and Padres for the pennant!

What the rearview mirror is looking like to ATL, SDP, LAD…

*All stats courtesy of fangraphs.com, baseballsavant.com, baseballreference.com unless otherwise stated.*

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