The Mets enter 2013 in a transition period. This past offseason, they traded the 2012 NL Cy Young winner but landed some excellent building blocks in return while also making franchise centerpiece David Wright a Met for life. The ballclub has some seriously enticing prospects ready to make an impact very soon, but the major-league roster is still dotted with some spot-fillers for the time being.
Under-the-radar offseason transaction
Nearly every move the Mets made this offseason was high-profile (the David Wright extension and R.A. Dickey trade) or pretty insignificant. However, being that it's a one-year deal for $4 million, I'll go with the signing of starting pitcher Shaun Marcum. Since returning from Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the 2009 season, Marcum has gone 33-19 with a 3.64 ERA (113 ERA+) and 1.18 WHIP. He's not an All-Star, but he's no slouch. And he's being paid like a lackluster big-league starter. This was an excellent signing to help bridge the gap to the future arms.
Fantasy sleeper: Matt Harvey
"Harvey made his MLB debut in 2012, a little more than two years after the Mets took him with the seventh overall pick in the amateur draft. The scouts felt he could quickly move through the system because of his college pedigree, and Harvey didn't disappoint. After carving up minor-league hitters, Harvey debuted with an 11-strikeout performance July 26 at Arizona and kept his rotation spot through the end of the year. Harvey is going to be under a lot of pressure to be the arm to help replace R.A. Dickey's presence in the rotation, but he has a four-pitch arsenal that keeps hitters off balance and Fantasy owners will love his strikeout potential. He struck out 9.8 batters per nine innings in the minors and averaged 10.6 K/9 in 10 MLB starts last season." -- Michael Hurcomb [Full Mets fantasy preview]
The young battery and its promise. Among the arms, Harvey has already arrived, top prospect Zack Wheeler isn't far behind and rising prospect Noah Syndergaard is on the horizon -- likely ready in 2014. Behind the plate, the highly-touted d'Arnaud will probably hit the show this season, too. The upside for this group is immense. Being that the focal point for this club is the future, it doesn't bode particularly well for 2013. But that doesn't mean this group should be dismissed in the immediate future.
The outfield (remember, the two highest-paid outfielders aren't even on the team). After losing out on Michael Bourn, the Mets are left with an outfield that is comprised of three fourth-outfielder types. Is there upside with Duda and possibly even Nieuwenhuis? Sure, but it's limited. It's hard to see the starting trio combining for a better-than-average season, even with an optimistic outlook. A realistic look is that they combine to perform below average.
Santana and Marcum stay fully healthy atop the rotation, Harvey rounds into shape, Wheeler and d'Arnaud arrive in May and produce big rookie seasons while Wright puts forth an MVP campaign. Davis puts together a full season like he did in the second half last year and the Mets get some bullpen and outfield help at the trade deadline.
If all this happens, there is enough here to get back to the postseason for the first time since Carlos Beltran left the bases loaded with a strikeout -- looking.
There are potential pratfalls all over the roster. Among them: The disastrous likelihood of Francisco closing, the injury risks to Santana and Marcum, the lack of upside in the outfield, the potential for Davis to mount an extended slump, the lack of big-league bench depth and any number of things that can go wrong with young prospects. It's entirely possible this group ends up in last place in the NL East.
As can be done with any team, we can grab some of the things from the "best-case" column, some from the "worst-case" and some from an in-between scenario. I like big seasons from Wright and Davis, while I believe Harvey and Wheeler are capable of showing serious promise. Anything involving Francisco is a catastrophe, though, and it's tough to expect a full season of health from Santana. And, frankly, it's hard to look at the "probable lineup" listed above and get excited.
Progress will be made, even if it can't be seen as much in the wins-and-losses columns -- though I do think the Mets can flirt with .500. Still, this team can't do better than third in the NL East. I think fourth is the most likely landing spot. The real breakthrough comes next season, when the young trio of starting pitchers and d'Arnaud behind the plate are ready to join Wright and Davis as serious pieces of the nucleus.
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