The calendar has turned to February and optimism is in the air for baseball fans and their respective teams. This is especially true with the 2019 Mets with all of the new acquisitions brought in by Brodie Van Wagenen and co.
With the optimism comes in the computer-generated projections which predict how individual players and teams will fare during the season. With the N.L. East growing more competitive by the day (The Phillies just traded for J.T. Realmuto Thursday) the 4-team race will be neck to neck.
The projections being discussed in this article will come via Zips, which is a player projection system created by Fangraph’s Dan Szymborski. The system takes information about the player’s statistics from the past four years, placing more emphasis on more recent years. The algorithm uses growth and decline curves based on the player type to find trends. These projections are updated daily. The other projection system being analyzed is Pecota, (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm) which is the player and team projection system used by Baseball Prospectus.
Overall Standings Projections:
Washington Nationals: 89 – 73
New York Mets: 88 – 74
Philadelphia Phillies: 86-76
Atlanta Braves: 84 – 78
Miami Marlins: 65-97
Pecota projects this to be a very close division race. They have the Mets, with notable additions of Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Jed Lowrie, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, and Edwin Diaz, in second with an 88 win total. The Nationals are on top of the division with an 89-win projection after bringing in Patrick Corbin, Yan Gomes, Brian Dozier, Trevor Rosenthal, Kyle Barraclough, and Anibal Sanchez. The Phillies are the wildcard in this scenario, as they just signed J.T. Realmuto and they are still in on the two megastars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. If any of these two are signed with their additions of Jean Segura, Andrew Mccutchen, J.T. Realmuto, and David Robertson, their projection in the division could change drastically. Currently, they are projected to be third with an 86-win projection. The defending N.L. East Champion Atlanta Braves are projected at 84 wins with the additions of Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann and the resigning of Nick Markakis. The Miami Marlins will likely be the punching bag of the division, as they are still in the beginning stages of their roster overhaul, although they have brought in some notable former Mets, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson. They are projected to win 66 games. To give perspective, Pecota is known to be conservative with their projections but were close to projecting the 2018 Mets record. Their projection was 80 wins, the actual result was 77 wins.
Lets transition to the Zips Projections with the projected starting lineup and starting rotation.
2019 Zips Opening Day Lineup Projections:
Brandon Nimmo (R)
Jed Lowrie (S)
Robinson Cano (L)
Wilson Ramos (R)
Michael Conforto (L)
Todd Frazier (R)
Amed Rosario (R)
Juan Lagares (R)
None of the position players projected statistics stand out as a “superb” season, but there is noticeable depth down the line-up that shows consistency. Michael Conforto is projected to be the Mets home run leader at 28, followed by Peter Alonso (who will be up at some point in the season) hitting 24, and Todd Frazier with 21. Some of the projections were a little surprising and could be up for debate.
From what we’ve seen with Brandon Nimmo’s game is that he is an on-base machine. Even when his bat would go quiet, he would still work counts, draw walks and find ways to reach base. My gripe with this projection is the on-base being so much lower than the year prior. My prediction is that we will see Nimmo’s on base be in the high 300’s and he will begin to get more notoriety around the game. I see Nimmo replicating his 4.4 WAR season, solidifying Sandy Alderson’s decision to select Nimmo 13th in the first round of the 2011 amateur draft.
The Robinson Cańo and Edwin Díaz trade was Brodie Van Wagenen’s bold entrance into the GM field. Diaz is arguably the best closer in baseball right now, but bringing in the 36-year-old second baseman with five years and $120 million left on his contract with a PED suspension received skepticism. With this said, Cańo hasn’t shown much slowing down with his offensive game in his age 35 seasons. Although shortened, due to an 80-game PED suspension, Cano hit .317 with 6 HR and 27 RBI in 41 games after coming back. Cańo averaged 21 home runs with a .296 AVG in his 31-35 age seasons with the Mariners in spacious T-Mobile Field (Formerly Safeco Field.) The Zips projections see Cańo producing 16 home runs. I predict the over on this projection due to Cańo being motivated to clear his production from the PED suspension and with coming back to a city that he loved playing in.
Hot Take Alert: Juan Lagares will have a plus offensive season. Lagares had another injury-riddled season in 2018 with a tear of the left big toe plantar plate placing him on the 60-day disabled list. Lagares prepared heavily for the 2018 season coming into spring training in excellent physical shape while working extensively with Craig Wallenbrock and Robert Van Scoyoc who were essential in turning around the careers of A.L. Homerun Leader J.D. Martinez and Los Angelos’s Chris Taylor. Lagares started the 2018 season with a hot start with 20 hits in 59 at-bats. I predict If Lagares stays healthy, he will outplay Keon Broxton to solidify his place in centerfield.
Starting Rotation 2019 Zips Projections:
With every addition Brodie Van Wagenen has acquired, the foundation of this team is the starting rotation. Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler is a 1-2-3 that can stack up against any team in baseball. DeGrom’s Cy Young season was one for the record books, a 1.70 era is unprecedented. Along with DeGrom’s excellence throughout the entire season, Zack Wheeler’s growth was apparent. This was especially seen in his second half, where he had a 1.68 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .218 average. Noah Syndergaard also finished his season strong in September posting two complete games with a 1.73 ERA in 41.2 innings. Zips has DeGrom as the only starter with a sub-3 ERA for the 2019 season, my take is that the top 3 will all have an ERA under 3.10.
The N.L. East has been the most transformative division of the 2019 offseason and each of the top four teams could be argued the favorites heading into the season, aside from the Miami Marlins.
My prediction is the Mets have made enough improvements, most notably with the bullpen which was ranked 28th in ERA last year, to win 90 games. Yet again, these are just predictions, the season will have its highs, lows, injuries, strategical debates, and moments that keep us watching, let us hope that it breaks right for the 2019 Mets.
Featured Image: Anthony J. Causi: New York Post