The 2019 offseason for the Mets has been quite under the radar when juxtaposed with general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s first offseason in 2018.
Last year was highlighted with a very high risk – high reward trade. This offseason, Brodie has made a complete 180 and has gone with low risk-free agency signings. Now, the signings of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha aren’t as eye-popping as the blockbuster trade of his first go around, but Brodie has definitely added necessary depth to this roster.
Coupling these additions through free agency with what now seems to be the impending return of Yoenis Cespedes, leaves questions of what this roster, rotation, and opening day lineup may be.
The below lineup is what the Mets need to explore come opening day. It creates a perfect righty – lefty balance along with creating as much length as possible. It also is going to help alleviate pressure and workload from aging players while attempting to get the most possible out of players who need to become key contributors.
- Brandon Nimmo (CF)
The Mets needed an impact right-handed bat for CF going into 2020. However, they failed to make that addition. That now leaves Brandon Nimmo as one of the few members of the roster who is capable of playing a passable center field. His elite On Base Percentage is why he should be batting leadoff on opening day. After a great campaign in 2018, Nimmo got back to producing at that level in 2019 once fully recovered from a bulging disc in his neck. At just 26 he should take another step forward in 2020.
2. Amed Rosario (SS)
It is time to take the training wheels off of Amed Rosario and see if he is capable of living up to the expectations he came to the big leagues with. He has been hidden down in the lineup for two years now and if the Mets are going to make a push for the postseason this year, Rosario needs to be a big part of it. The second half of last year Amed hit .319 with 91 hits in just 70 games, with a .351 OBP. Those numbers show there is another level to Amed’s game that can be tapped into. Being another young player at the top of the lineup (24 years old) leads you to believe he can grow into that potential still.
3. Jeff McNeil (3B)
I don’t expect a lot of people to agree with me on this but Jeff McNeil needs to be put into a more RBI friendly spot. He had an OBP of over .380 with only 35 walks last year because of his ability to put the ball in play. He can hit for average and he can hit for power. If Nimmo can keep getting on base as he has throughout his career and if Rosario plays like he did in the 2nd half of last year, you could be looking at a monster season for the Flying Squirrel.
4. Pete Alonso (1B)
Is there really any other option here? Alonso put on a power display last year the likes of which nobody has ever seen before. The cleanup spot in the order was made for a guy built like the Polar Bear. To avoid a sophomore slump Pete will need to stop expanding the strike zone as much as last year. Strikeouts will always play a major part in the game of a power hitter like Alonso, however it is still a weakness he can work on. Pete did display the ability to hit the ball the other way last year. He needs to incorporate this a little more in 2020 when he gets to two strikes. If he is able to do that with some more frequency, the 2020 encore for Alonso should be fun to watch.
5. Michael Conforto (RF)
Conforto is likely the best position player picked from the draft by the Mets since David Wright. He set career numbers in home runs and RBI’s last season and can benefit from a deeper lineup around him this season. The knock-on Michael is that he never transformed into the All-Star level player he was supposed to be but to be fair, he hasn’t exactly been a bust. Also, looking back at the past few seasons, the Mets lineups have been relatively weak.
Last year was the most productive Mets lineup since 2016 and coincidentally he set career numbers when there was more talent around him.
6. Yoenis Cespedes (LF)
This is where things will begin to get interesting. It seems as if (fingers crossed) we are nearing the return of La Potencia to the field. The Mets need to think it will be instrumental to his season and his health if they are able to relieve pressure from him and not expect him to step back into the cleanup position and anchor the lineup.
Let Cespedes hit down in the 6th hole and add length to this lineup. It is time for the young core on this team to step up and carry the load. The Mets should sacrifice some at-bats from Yo over the season if it is a positive impact on his health.
7. Robinson Cano (2B)
You can see the above and rinse and repeat when it comes to Robinson Cano. Cano started extremely slow last season and instantly made the fanbase raise their fists at Brodie Van Wagenen. After the All-Star break, Cano did bat a very respectable .284 while hitting more than double the amount of home runs (9) than the first half (4) in 20 fewer games. Just as Cespedes, the Mets might serve themselves better to remove some pressure from Cano and sacrifice some at-bats for the betterment of his health. Even more so considering how much longer, he is under contract.
8. Wilson Ramos (C)
After the offensive season Ramos put together in 2019 it is tough to pencil him into the 8th spot going into 2020. He was the team’s leading hitter with runners in scoring position and sported a 26 game hit streak at one point. However in order to move him you would need to justify why, and as of right now I cannot do that. The Mets do have the luxury of being able to be flexible with the lineup so there is definitely a chance you see Ramos in the 5 or 6 spots at times. If all goes according to plan though, that won’t be necessary. Ramos could hit 8th all season and benefit from the talent in front of him that should give him plenty of chances to drive in runs.
The lineup has a whole lot of potential firepower. There are some massive “if’s” regarding Cespedes and Cano but if things break in the Mets favor you might be looking at one of the top offenses in the National League.
Rounding out the position players will be J.D Davis, Jed Lowrie, Dom Smith, Jake Marisnick, and Thomas Nido. Pitchers and catchers report in less than 30 days so it is fairly safe to assume the roster is set. That is not saying trades do not happen in January and February but right now there doesn’t seem to be much movement on that front.
J.D Davis is a tough guy to leave out of the lineup but he was a defensive liability last season. That leaves him needing to force his way into the lineup with his bat, which he is very capable of doing. The problem is that his only two paths to the field are 3B and LF, those of which are blocked by Jeff McNeil and Yoenis Cespedes respectively.
With McNeil’s versatility and the unlikelihood of Cespedes playing 140+ games, J.D should still see substantial at-bats
On the other side of the baseball, there are some spots up in the air for grabs. After the departure of Zack Wheeler, Brodie opted to sign a couple of veterans looking for a chance to prove they still have Major League value. 2016 AL Cy Young Rick Porcello and 2015 NL All-Star Michael Wacha are now on board after down years in 2019 and will look to compete for a back of the rotation spot. Surprisingly both are currently listed ahead of rotation incumbent Steven Matz on the depth chart (Based on the team’s website). This leads you to believe that the front office is open to the idea of penciling in Porcello and Wacha for the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation while transitioning Matz to the bullpen.
Outside of a disastrous spring training or injury, I do not see how Matz winds up in the bullpen. His ceiling and floor are both currently higher than the previously mentioned right-handers and he would provide the only left-handed option in the rotation. With the top 3 spots in the rotation locked in, Matz’s talent should wind up securing him the 4th spot with Rick Porcello edging out Michael Wacha for the 5th and final spot.
With the MLB rosters expanding to 26 men in the 2020 season, and with the Mets bullpen issues in 2019, expect them to carry 8 relievers for the majority of the season. The Bullpen depth chart barring any trades or signings before the season will likely look similar to the following.
The Mets’ success in 2020 will all but depend on the bullpen’s ability to bounce back from their various issues in 2019. Can Diaz and Familia get back to form? Can Seth Lugo duplicate his 2019 season? What can the Mets expect from their newest reliever Dellin Betances? The Mets bullpen on paper looks to be dominant however the question marks littering it are too large to ignore.
So as in year’s past, the Mets have the potential to live on either end of the spectrum. They certainly have the talent to compete for the NL East banner but also have some combustible pieces that could blow up in their faces.
For the second straight year the NL East is going to be a dog fight. The Mets will need to be firing on all cylinders in order to come out on top.