2020 Record: 26-34
Tied for Fourth Place, NL East
Team ERA: 4.98 (22nd in MLB)
Team OPS: .807 (3rd in MLB)
What Went Right
The best thing for Mets fans this year happened off the field, as Steve Cohen has agreed to purchase the team from the Wilpon and Katz families for a record $2.42 billion. MLB owners will have to vote to approve Cohen — expected shortly after the World Series — but the recent announcement that Sandy Anderson will help head baseball operations should allay concerns. To be fair, Mets fans don’t know what sort of owner Cohen will be, but given his net worth (reportedly in the area of $14 billion) and his longtime Mets fandom, there’s reason to believe it will be a refreshing change from the outgoing regime. I tried to do a good job controlling my glee here. How did I do?
As for events on the field, Jacob deGrom continues to have one of the more dominant starting pitcher runs in recent history. After beginning the year without a clear role, Dominic Smith broke out with 10 homers and a .993 OPS over 50 games. Michael Conforto posted a career-best .927 OPS over 54 games and Robinson Cano bounced back from an uneven first season in Queens with 10 homers and an .896 OPS over 49 games. Andres Gimenez was a surprise inclusion on the Opening Day roster, but he held his own at the plate while playing excellent defense. Brandon Nimmo cut down on his strikeouts in a big way while posting an impressive .280/.404/.484 batting line over 55 games. Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso both came on strong late in the season. Luis Guillorme was excellent in a utility infielder role, hitting .333 with a .426 on-base percentage over 30 games. David Peterson led the Mets with six wins as a rookie while posting a 3.44 ERA and 40/24 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings (nine starts and one relief appearance). And finally, year two of Edwin Diaz in New York was much better than year one.
What Went Wrong
With the level of talent that the Mets have, it’s a major failure that this team didn’t qualify for the expanded postseason. The biggest issue was the starting pitching. Noah Syndergaard required Tommy John surgery in the spring and Marcus Stroman opted out over COVID-19 concerns, so it was a tightrope act after Jacob deGrom. The rotation finished with a 5.37 ERA (26th in MLB, highest in team history) and that was with the best pitcher in the game on the staff. Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha proved to be busts while Steven Matz was moved to the bullpen and Seth Lugo struggled after moving into the rotation. The Mets led the majors with a .272 batting average during the regular season, but they hit just .243 with runners in scoring position, tied for 23rd in MLB. Wilson Ramos was a big disappointment in his walk year and Amed Rosario regressed enough that Andres Gimenez could be taking his job. Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia failed to emerge as trusted late-inning arms. J.D. Davis was still an above-average hitter, but he took a noticeable step back from his breakout 2019 campaign. Oh, and Jed Lowrie did not appear in a game.
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**Jacob deGrom might not win his third straight NL Cy Young Award this season, but that’s not really a slight on him. He had another great year and looked better than ever at times, posting a 2.38 ERA over 12 starts. He led the National League in strikeouts (104) and strikeout percentage (38.8%) all while facing a difficult schedule with the NL East and AL East. His average fastball velocity led all qualified major league starters at 98.6 MPH, a full five MPH faster than when he won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2014. He just keeps getting better, if that was possible. Shane Bieber makes a strong case after his amazing 2020 and Gerrit Cole is a monster, but deGrom is as safe as it gets among fantasy aces right now.
**Pete Alonso set the all-time rookie record with 53 homers last season — becoming the first rookie to lead the majors in homers — which set the bar incredibly high for a follow-up performance. He largely failed to meet expectations, seeing his OPS fall from .941 to .817, but he had a huge final week to push his overall numbers to respectability. Extrapolate his stats to a full 162-game season and he was on a 46-homer, 100-RBI pace. It was not a bad year by any stretch, though his low batting average was tough to swallow for fantasy players. Alonso saw decreases in barrel percentage and hard-hit percentage, which resulted in a .227 xBA, so he mostly deserved the numbers he put up this year. But it was a small sample and he seemed to be pressing for a large part of the season. Alonso will surely fall a bit in drafts next year, but that’s not necessarily the worst thing.
**The Mets appeared to be well-equipped with the late addition of the universal DH for his unique 2020 season, but most of the conversation centered around Yoenis Cespedes. Of course, Cespedes only ended up playing eight games before opting out citing COVID-19 concerns. It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened for the Mets, as it opened the door for Dom Smith to flourish. Building off a solid 2019, the 25-year-old slashed .316/.377/.616 with 32 extra-base hits (including 10 homers) and 42 RBI in just 50 games. Expected stats on Baseball Savant all back up what he accomplished at the plate. Smith is a better defender than his buddy Pete Alonso at first base, but that might not be a problem if the DH sticks around. Alonso might be better off there. He was also part of one of the more impactful moments in sports this year in the fight against racial injustice. He’s just the sort of player and person that any franchise would want to keep around for the long haul.
**Michael Conforto took his game to a new level in 2020, posting a .322/.412/.515 batting line with nine homers, 31 RBI, and 40 runs scored over 54 games. In addition to posting career-bests in batting average and on-base percentage, his OPS+ of 156 was the best of his career. He hit four out of his nine homers against lefties, an encouraging sign of progress. While Conforto moved away from a pull-heavy approach, his .412 batting average on balls in play can’t be ignored, especially with no change in his strikeout rate. In other words, he shouldn’t be projected to be a .300 hitter in 2021. Still, he’s established himself as a consistent middle-of-the-order force.
**Coming off a disastrous first season with the Mets, Edwin Diaz started 2020 on the right foot to close out a 1-0 Opening Day victory over the Braves, but he struggled in his next two chances before effectively being removed from the closer role. He wouldn’t notch another save until August 28, but he did a wonderful job turning his season around. Diaz finished with a 1.75 ERA and gave up just one run over his final 12 appearances. Control remained an issue for him (14 walks in 25 2/3 innings), but opposing batters hit just .191 against him and he struck out 45.5% of the batters he faced, a new career-high. In fact, it was the 10th highest strikeout percentage ever among pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched in a season. Devin Williams and James Karinchak actually ranked higher this season, but the point is that Diaz shouldn’t be a concern going into 2021. He’s back to top-tier closer status.
**2020 was a topsy-turvy year for Jeff McNeil. He was hitting an uncharacteristic .258 with zero homers on August 30, but he rallied for a .362/.434/.585 batting line over his final 25 games to finish with a .311 batting average for the year. His brilliant surge included homers in four straight games. McNeil still makes contact with the best of them — only five qualified hitters struck out less often — so he remains a safe play for batting average. There’s some question about where his power will settle, as well as where he’ll hit in the lineup after seeing a lot of time out of the No. 7 spot this year. Still, he’s a clear top-100 player in mixed leagues when you consider eligibility between second base, third base, and the outfield.
Key Free Agents: Marcus Stroman, Dellin Betances (has player option), Rick Porcello, Wilson Ramos, Yoenis Cespedes, Jed Lowrie, Robinson Chirinos, Todd Frazier, Justin Wilson, Jake Marisnick, Michael Wacha, Brad Brach, Jared Hughes
Team Needs: Catching and starting pitching. J.T. Realmuto is at the top of every Mets’ fans wishlist, understandably. However, with Noah Syndergaard likely still rehabbing for the early part of 2021 and little in the way of certainty beyond Jacob deGrom and David Peterson, the Mets also need to add a couple of starting pitchers. Trevor Bauer is the big name on the market, but bringing back Marcus Stroman is a possibility as well.