2019 Record: 86-76
Third Place, NL East
Team ERA: 4.24 (11th in MLB)
Team OPS: .770 (11th in MLB)
What Went Right
For a team who missed the postseason, a lot went right this year. At the top of the heap is a great follow-up season for 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. After being included on the Opening Day roster, Pete Alonso slugged a rookie record 53 homers while cementing his place as a franchise leader and cornerstone. Jeff McNeil proved that his rookie showing was no fluke and even added some power in the process. Acquired from the Astros last winter, J.D. Davis proved to be a great find for first-year GM Brodie Van Wagenen, slugging 22 homers with a .307/.369/.527 batting line over 140 games. Michael Conforto established new career-highs with 33 home runs and 92 RBI. Zack Wheeler carried some momentum into free agency with a strong second half. Seth Lugo was one of the game’s most valuable relievers, posting a 2.70 ERA with 104 strikeouts and just 16 walks over 80 innings. Amed Rosario made strides offensively and defensively during the second half and Wilson Ramos was as advertised with the bat even if he wasn't the strongest receiver.
What Went Wrong
This was a team who underachieved during the first half and their second-half surge ultimately wasn’t enough to save them. While Van Wagenen deserves credit for acquiring Davis, he wasn’t as fortunate with some of his big moves. The most high-profile among them was the Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano trade, as Jarred Kelenic emerged as one of the top overall prospects in the game for Seattle while Diaz was a nightmare with a 5.59 ERA and Cano posted a disappointing .736 OPS. Signed to a two-year, $20 million contract last winter, Jed Lowrie logged just eight plate appearances all season due to a variety of injuries. After returning to the Mets with a three-year, $30 million deal, Jeurys Familia scuffled with a 5.70 ERA and 1.73 WHIP over 66 appearances. The Mets added Marcus Stroman before the trade deadline, but failed to go all-in and improve their bullpen. Noah Syndergaard made it through the season healthy, but proved inconsistent while compiling a 4.28 ERA over 32 starts. Brandon Nimmo was limited to just 69 games due to a bulging cervical disk in his neck. Yoenis Cespedes fell into a hole on his ranch while rehabbing from surgery on both of his heels and didn’t make it back in 2019. The Mets were once again one of the worst defensive teams in the majors. After failing to make the postseason, manager Mickey Callaway was fired after two seasons on the job.
*It would be a surprise if Jacob deGrom doesn’t take home his second straight NL Cy Young Award. That scenario didn’t appear likely early on, as deGrom had a 3.98 ERA with seven home runs allowed through his first nine starts. However, he quickly kicked things into gear while compiling a ridiculous 1.89 ERA and 188/30 K/BB ratio in 152 innings over his final 23 starts. He allowed three earned runs or fewer in 21 of those starts. He ended up leading the National League with 255 strikeouts. Wins were once again hard to come by, but that’s hardly his fault. Gerrit Cole might have jumped Max Scherzer for the top spot among fantasy starters going into drafts next year, but it’s unlikely that deGrom will fall out of the top-three.
*It would have to take a lot for someone to be the favorite over Braves right-hander Mike Soroka for the NL Rookie of the Year award, but Pete Alonso’s season was really that special and historic. Not only did his 53 home runs top Aaron Judge for the all-time rookie record, he also became the first rookie to ever win the overall home run title. Just to put things in perspective, he more than doubled the previous Mets’ rookie record of 26, which was set by Darryl Strawberry in 1983. And Alonso was far from an all-or-nothing slugger, with a .260/.358/.583 batting line over 161 games. He walked in 10.4 percent of his plate appearances and struck out 26.4 percent of the time, so the approach suggests he won’t be a zero in batting average and there could even be room for improvement. Watching his majestic home runs, it’s unlikely much credit should be given to the “juiced baseball.” Metrics like average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and barrel percentage would seem to back that up. Cody Bellinger and Freddie Freeman figure to go first and second respectively among first-base eligible players next year, but Alonso should be next in line in most leagues. His power is simply off the charts.
*It has been multiple years now that fantasy players have given Noah Syndergaard the benefit of the doubt in regard to his talent and upside, but that’s going to change next year, as he’s coming off a disappointing 4.28 ERA (95 ERA+) over 32 starts. While he reached 200 strikeouts for the first time since 2016, his strikeout percentage was 23rd among qualified starters and opposing hitters had a much easier time squaring him up. A quick glance at Baseball Savant shows that the barrel percentage, average exit velocity, and hard-hit percentage all saw major increases, so it’s not shocking that he had his biggest issues with the home run ball since his rookie season. And yes, it was also the Year of the Home Run. Syndergaard mentioned some grip issues early on in the year and later his preference of catcher attracted quite a bit of attention. It also doesn’t help that teams continue to run at will against him. Still, with his price tag likely to be quite reasonable in 2020, he’s a logical bounce back target in fantasy leagues. He’s too talented to be this mediocre.
*It was hard to know what to expect from Jeff McNeil after his call-up last season, but he backed up his minor league success by hitting .329/.381/.471 through 63 games. Regardless, the Mets seemingly guarded against the possibility of a sophomore slump by adding the likes of Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie. While Cano disappointed and Lowrie missed most of the year due to injury, McNeil got even better by slugging 23 homers with a .318/.384/.531 batting line over 133 games. He also held his own playing multiple positions, but the power was the real surprise. McNeil hit seven homers in 76 games in the first half before connecting for 16 bombs in 57 games during the second half. While the strikeouts went up (from 11.9 percent in the first half to 14.9 percent in the second) along with the power, he also increased his fly ball rate from 32.7 percent to 37.4 percent. Yes, the juiced baseball makes a lot of power numbers difficult to forecast for 2020, but there’s at least some evidence behind the power spike. And he’s proven himself to be such a good contact hitter that the batting average will be there regardless. McNeil required surgery for a fractured right wrist after a hit-by-pitch in late September, but he’s expected to be good to go for the start of 2020. There’s no way he shouldn’t be seen as a top-10 option at a shallow second base position in mixed leagues.
*Putting aside the Jarred Kelenic factor, fortifying the back-end of the Mets’ bullpen made a lot of sense last offseason. It looked like the club found their solution to the closer role with Edwin Diaz after he posted a ridiculous 1.96 ERA with 57 saves for the Mariners in 2018, but we all know how that turned out. In addition to the 5.59 ERA, the seven blown saves, and the 15 homers allowed in 58 innings, Diaz was demoted from the closer role down the stretch with Seth Lugo seeing the majority of the save chances. Diaz had a devil of a time commanding his slider and gave up a ton of hard contact because of it, but the good news is that he was throwing just as hard as ever. The weird thing about his season is that between all the blow-ups, he still struck out 99 batters. In fact, only four relievers (min. 50 IP) posted a higher strikeout percentage this season. Nick Anderson (3.32 ERA) had the highest ERA of that group, which also includes Josh Hader, Kirby Yates, and Ken Giles. It’s hard to give up on a talent like that. The long offseason can only help Diaz’s mind and body and maybe the baseball becomes less hitter-friendly too, so he has a chance to be a real value in drafts next year depending on how the Mets plan to deploy him.
*For the second straight year, Amed Rosario looked better and better as the season moved along. The 23-year-old was actually hitting .242 with a .687 OPS in mid-June, but he rallied for a .322/.353/.453 batting line with seven homers over his final 89 games. He was red-hot for two months before having a relatively quiet finish to his season. Still, he posted career-highs in hits, homers, and RBI while finishing as an above league-average hitter for the first time. Rosario is becoming more discerning at the plate and hitting the ball harder when he does swing, an encouraging trend. The only negative here is that he went just 19-for-29 in stolen base attempts. He’s going to have to do more — through speed, power, or batting average — to really stand out in a crowded field of fantasy shortstops. There has been some talk of Rosario seeing some time in center field, but the strong defense he showed during the second half figures to give him some extra leash for now.
Team Needs: Well, a manager for one. They’ll also need another quality starting pitcher with Zack Wheeler likely to turn down a qualifying offer (assuming the Mets give him one) in favor of a lucrative multi-year contact in free agency. Improving team defense needs to be a priority. With that in mind, it’s high time to finally find a strong defensive center fielder who can also be a threat with the bat. Upgrading behind the plate is another option, though Ramos is under contract for another year. Making a run at impending free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon would be great, but the Mets have options with Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, and Jed Lowrie.