Just a few days ago, FanGraphs released their predictions for the 2017 season as they predicted the final regular season record of all 30 MLB teams. FanGraphs predicted the Mets to finish in 2nd place in the NL East behind the Washington Nationals with an overall record of 83-79 and that the Mets were going to miss the playoffs completely.
I understand that the Mets have a lot of players coming into 2017 who had an injury plagued 2016 season and that the team has some question marks about some players in their lineup, but come on, only 83 wins? May I remind you that this Mets team won 87 games last year and hosted the National League Wildcard game with a vast majority of their opening day roster getting hurt at some point during the season, and 3/5 of their opening day starting rotation going down with season-ending injuries.
Even though the Mets have had a fairly “boring” offseason, Sandy Alderson still achieved his main goals he had coming into this winter.
His main objective coming into this offseason was to re-sign superstar outfielder, Yoenis Cespedes to a long-term deal, and he did just that by signing him to a four-year, $110 million dollar contract. In addition to that, Alderson also got a pleasant surprise as veteran second baseman; Neil Walker agreed to sign a one-year qualifying offer worth $17.2 million to keep himself in New York for at least one more season.
Also, even though Alderson’s original plan to use Jay Bruce as trade bait to get a potential high-end prospect didn’t work out, having a veteran power hitter like Bruce on your roster doesn’t hurt either. And on top of that, there is still a chance that Alderson could resign veteran left-handed relief pitcher, Jerry Blevins as he is still out there in the open market and Alderson is still interested in a reunion with Blevins.
So by resigning these players, the Mets are coming into 2017 with almost the same roster the Mets entered 2016 with before everybody started to get hurt. With this being said, it is flabbergasting to me that this year’s Mets team is projected to have a worse record than they did last season.
Also if you consider the timing of when the Mets starting pitchers underwent their surgeries last season, all of them should be ready to go 100% by Opening Day. Matt Harvey had his surgery done in mid-July to fix his thoracic outlet syndrome, Steven Matz underwent his surgery in late September to remove bone spurs in his left elbow but hasn’t pitched in a game since mid-August, and Jacob deGrom last pitched in early September before undergoing surgery on his right elbow.
Then there is Zack Wheeler who hasn’t pitched in a game since September 2014 due to Tommy John Surgery he underwent in March 2015. Even though it did take Wheeler longer than expected to recover from his surgery, it just gave him more time to be prepared for the start of 2017. So with this being said, the rock of this Mets team, the starting rotation should all be 100% ready to go to start the 2017 season.
Also, the Mets are expected to have one of the most dominant backend bullpen’s in the league with Jeurys Familia as the closer and Addison Reed as the setup man, giving the Mets a good chance to win if they have a small lead late in games. Even though the Mets middle relief still seems to be a big question coming into 2017, this team has some good young talent in the middle of their bullpen with guys such as Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker, and Eric Goeddel who all have the ability to be solid relief pitchers, for them it is just the matter of being consistent.
When it comes to the starting lineup, the Mets don’t have the best but they certainly have more than enough to win games with the great pitching staff they have. With Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce expected to be in the middle of that lineup, it could provide a big threat to opponents and could give the hitters around them in the lineup better pitches to hit.
While on the other hand, the team that FanGraphs projects to be ahead of the Mets in the NL East to finish the 2017 regular season, the Washington Nationals have had an awful offseason and lost a good amount of key players. They lost their starting catcher Wilson Ramos to the Tampa Bay Rays, their starting center fielder, Ben Revere to the Los Angeles Angels, and their closer Mark Melancon to the San Francisco Giants.
Also not to mention they traded their two top pitching prospects, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez to the Chicago White Sox for a player who is exactly like Ben Revere in Adam Eaton and traded another quality young pitcher in Pedro Avila to the San Diego Padres for veteran catcher, Derek Norris who batted just .186 in 125 games played last season.
The Nationals also did not address who will be their closer this offseason as they have yet to sign a relief pitcher with prior closing experience as they let high-end closers such as Melancon, Kenley Jansen, and Aroldis Chapman sign with other teams. So right now, the Nationals have no idea who their closer is going to be to start the 2017 season and do not have much depth in that bullpen as a whole.
When it comes to the starting rotation, the Nationals have two very talented pitchers at the top of the rotation with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, but each of them can be liabilities at times for the Nationals. Even though Scherzer is usually always towards the top of the league in strikeouts, at the same time he is usually towards the top of the league in home runs allowed.
And in Strasburg’s case, he is a very talented pitcher but his issue is that he can’t stay healthy. Seems like every year there is always some lagging injury that is holding him back as he has started less than 30 games in five of his seven big league seasons since getting called up. So that leaves some question marks for the Nationals at the top of the rotation.
Now let’s get to the Nationals lineup. Unlike the Mets, the Nationals seem to rely more heavily on their bats than their pitching staff as their pitching staff is fairly inconsistent at times. This season, the Nationals lineup will most likely not be as dangerous as it was in previous years as they lost key pieces such as Wilson Ramos and Ben Revere.
Also, the Nationals have two veteran bats in their lineup that they heavily rely on that have really hit the decline stage in their careers the past few seasons with Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth. Zimmerman has played in less than 120 games each of the past three seasons and his batting average has dropped off heavily each of the last three years. While Werth has batted under .245 each of the past two seasons with less than 70 RBIs each year.
And of course, there are the two big-hitting left-handers in the middle of that Nationals lineup, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. After Harper was drafted first overall in the 2010 MLB draft, Harper has been a good player for the Nationals but has not been the great player scouts were expecting him to be before making his big league debut. Harper has played five seasons in the major leagues and he’s batted above .280 once, hit 25+ home runs once, had more than 80 RBIs twice, and had an OBP above .400 once.
For a guy who was drafted #1 overall and had all of these high expectations for him coming into the big leagues, Harper really hasn’t lived up to the expectations and if any team is actually willing to pay this man $400 million when he becomes a free agent after 2018, they would be making a huge mistake. Harper had one amazing MVP season in 2015 where he batted .330 with 42 home runs, 99 RBIs, and a .460 OBP.
And even with a big year like that, the Washington Nationals still didn’t make the playoffs as they were home golfing in October while the Mets were playing baseball into November during their incredible World Series run. Harper is a good solid middle of the order guy for the Nationals and can cause some damage, there is no doubt about that, but the fact that he is being compared to Mike Trout as the best outfielder in the game is laughable.
In Murphy’s case, he did have a great year in 2016 as he batted .347 with 25 home runs, 104 RBIs, and a .390 OBP. However, I just can’t see him having another year like that again. I expect him to come down to earth in 2017 as pitchers will start to figure out Murphy’s weaknesses and start to get him out on a more consistent basis.
So overall, even though on paper the Nationals have a very solid starting lineup, they still have a lot of question marks in their lineup all-around. Can Murphy sustain his incredible season he had last year? Can Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman bounce back and show they have something left in them?
If the Nationals really want to beat out the Mets for the NL East crown back to back years, too much has to go in their favor while in the Mets case, if the Mets just stay healthy and their lineup puts up just enough runs to win games behind their great pitching staff, the NL East should be the Mets division to lose here in 2017.
If healthy, the New York Mets are a better all-around team than the Washington Nationals.