The New York Mets enter 2017 in a position to make franchise history. This could be the first time that the team makes the playoffs in three straight years. However, that feat is 162 games away. Right now, the team will begin what they hope is a successful season. For that to be the case, the team will have to respond to questions surrounding their rotation, closer, and outfield.
New York Mets 2017 Season Preview
How Will the Rotation Bounce Back?
A rotation of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler has the potential to be the best in Major League Baseball. That was said by many people last season, as the five pitchers were primed to start together when Wheeler came off the disabled list in July. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Wheeler hasn’t pitched in a game since September 25, 2014. Matz, Harvey, and deGrom all missed time in 2016 due to injuries. Syndergaard was the healthiest pitcher of the five and still dealt with a bone spur.
There is no questioning the talent of these pitchers, but it is unknown if they can all fully recover. Even if they do, there is still no guarantee that another injury won’t pop up for any of them. Syndergaard, Matz, and deGrom look fine right now, but Harvey and Wheeler have big question marks surrounding them.
Harvey is recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome, which is a condition few MLB players have experienced. That makes it harder to determine how likely a pitcher can come back from the required surgery. He didn’t make a good first impression on worried fans, as he couldn’t get out of the second inning and needed 39 pitches to get five outs in his spring debut.
Wheeler experienced tenderness in his surgically-repaired elbow when he first threw in the middle of February. That worried many fans and writers alike, but seems to have been blown out of proportion. So, while it doesn’t look like he’ll need another Tommy John surgery, he also may not be ready to start the season with the team.
The odds of all five of the aforementioned pitchers starting the entire season together are low. Luckily, both Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman emerged as solid pitchers last season. If they can pitch anywhere close to how they did in 2016, the Mets will be fine with their rotation from one to five.
Can the Mets Survive Without Jeurys Familia?
A big storyline going into 2017 is Familia’s expected suspension. After allegedly abusing his wife at the end of October, the charges were dropped by his wife in the middle of December. The Mets are still waiting to hear back from MLB, since the commissioner still has the power to suspend him under the new Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse policy.
The two players who have been suspended under that policy so far have been Aroldis Chapman and Jose Reyes. Chapman got a 30-game ban, primarily because he was never prosecuted due to insufficient evidence and conflicting reports. Reyes had a court date set, but because his wife wouldn’t cooperate, his charges were dropped. He ended up with a 51-game ban instead.
It would make sense for Familia to get a ban similar to that of Chapman. If so, he will only be out 30 games, which isn’t too bad. However, it will come at an important time, as all 30 games will be against division rivals.
It will still be note-worthy to see if Familia’s absence has a big effect on the bullpen. Addison Reed will most likely be the interim closer, and Fernando Salas will most likely be the setup man. Although Familia had an impressive save count in 2016, a case can be made that Reed was more valuable. In a different season and role, Mets fans can only hope that the same can hold true in 2017.
Can Terry Collins Properly Manage the Outfield Situation
What was once a source of need has now become a surplus. The Mets have made major strides since the days that Lucas Duda, Collin Cowgill, Mike Baxter, Jason Bay, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis roamed the outfield on a regular basis.
Now, they are at the point where they have three players capable of hitting over 30 home runs patrolling that same outfield. Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, and Yoenis Cespedes will make Terry Collins‘ job easier in that aspect, but will make it harder in another. The Mets will have both Gold Glover Juan Lagares and young phenom Michael Conforto on the bench or in Triple-A Las Vegas.
While Lagares is the best defensive outfielder on the team, his spot on the bench makes more sense, as he can come in as a defensive replacement. His bat isn’t his strength. For Conforto, the bench will most likely stunt his growth. For that reason, he may be better off starting everyday in Triple-A Las Vegas. However, he showed in 2015, and is currently showing in Spring Training, why that would be a bad idea.
If Conforto starts the season with the big league club, Collins will have to manage the outfield in the best way possible to get the most out of the top-paid veterans while still letting Conforto and Lagares develop and show off their talents.