NL East Team-by-Team 2020 Preview: New York Mets

With Spring Training fast approaching, the Miami Marlins should be starting to suss out their opponents weaknesses.

The National League East is considered by many to be the strongest division in Major League Baseball. With the defending World Champion Washington Nationals, and the other three teams all finishing at-or-above .500 in 2019, it’s no wonder the Miami Marlins have a bit of an uphill climb to relevancy, to put it mildly.

At 57-105, the Miami Marlins were 24 games out of second-to-last place last season, behind the fourth-place Philadelphia Phillies and 40 games behind the NL-East winning Atlanta Braves. The New York Mets, who posted a strong 86-76 record, finished a distant third in the division, 11 games out of the division title and a mere three games out of the wild card money.

What are some things the Miami Marlins should be looking out for when it comes to the New York Mets. In head-to-head matchups last season, Miami was just 6-13 versus the Amazin’ Mets. That’s an anemic .316 winning percentage that was 36 points lower even than their NL-worst .352.

Miami Marlins

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 03: Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

The Rotation

31-year-old Mets’ right-handed pitcher, Jacob DeGrom is a two-time defending Cy Young Award winner, and maybe the Marlins’ biggest fear. Last year, he racked up an NL-second ERA of 2.43, just a year after leading the majors with a 1.70 mark in 2018. He seems poised to take his place as maybe one of the best pitchers in MLB history. The Marlins may have the better of him. Although he’s 9-7 with a 3.26 ERA versus the Fish, that’s better than any other NL East team has done against him.

DeGrom is bolstered by a solid rotation that boasts the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Michael Wacha, former American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, and Stephen Matz, most of whom have achieved some measure of success against the Marlins.

The Field

C – Wilson Ramos
1B – Pete Alonso
2B – Robinson Canó
3B – Jeff McNeil
SS – Amed Rosario
LF – J.D. Davis
CF – Brandon Nimmo
RF – Michael Conforto

The above lineup is how the Mets are currently constructed. Spring Training could see some things shake out differently, but most of the players listed should wind up in the Opening Day lineup.

Former long-time Nationals veteran Ramos is coming off his most-utilized season. He appeared in a career-high 141 contests, and slashed .288/.351/.416 with 14 long-balls and 73 RBI. A two-time former All Star, he grades out as a below-average fielding catcher, with a single-season -13 DRS in 2019. He’s not an elite CS-threat either, with a 15 percent rate last year.

Alonso looks to build on a legend-building rookie campaign. Last year he led the major leagues with 53 home runs and knocked in 120, while slashing .260/.358/.583. His 5.0 WAR ranked tied for second on the club, behind only DeGrom. A more-or-less average fielder, he predictably won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Is a sophomore slump in the cards – or can he build on his spectacular debut?

Canó is easily the senior of the group, at 37-years-of-age. The eight-time former all-star will be entering his 16th major league season, and already has a pretty good case for a Hall-of-Fame induction in six-to-nine seasons with a 50.5 7yr-peak bWAR, or whenever he decides to retire plus five years. In 2019, he was well off his career slash rates, with a mark of .256/.307/.428 with 13 home runs and 39 RBI. Look for Canó to struggle to reach replacement levels through the campaign, much like Curtis Granderson‘s final season.

Miami Marlins

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 24: Jeff McNeil #6 of the New York Mets. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Despite appearing in 28 fewer games than Alonso’s 161, McNeil matched the NL ROY with a 5.0 bWAR last season in only his second campaign. He played all over the field, starting 45 games in left field, 38 in right, 24 contests at second base, and 16 at the hot corner. Despite third base being McNeil’s fourth-most prolific position, he’s currently listed there atop of the Mets’ depth chart according to MLB.COM. McNeil slashed a very respectable .318/.384/.531 with 26 homers and 94 RBI while racking up 23 Rdrs/yr at third base. For context, he was four Rdrs/yr in right, three in left, and even at second base.

Shortstop Rosario is still locked in to the Mets until the completion of the 2023 campaign, and will be entering his fourth major league season. In a shade under 3000 innings in the field at short, Rosario has posted a .968 fPCT and has graded out slightly below average at the position in each of his full seasons, at -15 and -14 Rdrs/yr respectively. Offensively, he’s coming off his best season, a slashline of .287/.323/.432 and a 102 OPS+.

Davis is yet another young overachiever in the Mets current incarnation. In 140 games last season, he slashed .307/.369/.527 with 22 home runs and 57 RBI. Defensively, he’s another story. He finished the season at -23 Rdrs/yr in left field and a nearly unfathomable -50 in 220 innings at third base. His resultant WAR was just 1.0 despite his well-above average approach at the plate, due to his -2.4 dWAR. Davis was somewhat more apologetic than other parties to the Houston Astros cheating fiasco.

Miami Marlins

CINCINNATI, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 22: Brandon Nimmo #9 of the New York Mets. (Photo by Bryan Woolston/Getty Images)

Like most Mets’ starters, Nimmo is between the ages of 25 and 27. Unlike the others, he doesn’t have a proven power stroke, aside from a 17 home run campaign in 2018. Last year, he slashed just .221/.375/.407 in 69 games while providing league average defense across all three outfield positions.

2017 NL-all-star Conforto is coming off a career-high 33-homer season. He slashed .257/.363/.494 in 151 games for the Mets. Still two-weeks-shy of his 27th birthday, Conforto has already hit 109 long-balls in 578 career games. He’s a well-below average center fielder, but provides league-average defense in right field, which is where the Mets will primarily utilize him.

Miami Marlins

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 03: Edwin Diaz #39 of the New York Mets. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Mets Bullpen

Again using the Mets official depth chart as listed on MLB.COM, the most probable combination of eight bullpen arms to break camp with the parent club is:

Edwin Diaz
Seth Lugo
Dellin Betances
Jeurys Familia
Justin Wilson
Brad Branch
Robert Gsellman
Chasen Shreve

According to Steamer projections available at fangraphs.com, this particular combination of arms will combine for 4.3 WAR this season, led by Diaz’ 1.3. They’re projected to toss somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 innings, and save about 40 games.

Notable Prospect on the Verge

Andres Gimenez is listed as MLB.COM’s number 84 overall prospect, and is the number four guy in the Mets’ system. With a projected arrival date of 2020, he could supplement or supplant Rosario at shortstop sooner rather than later. According to the Pipeline:

One of the better defensive shortstops in the minor leagues, Gimenez shows excellent range in all directions thanks to his combination of speed, first-step quickness, and veteran-like instincts.

The top three prospects in the Mets system are still a few years off. SS Ronny Mauricio, C Francisco Alvarez, and 3B Brett Baty are all expected in 2022 or later, and shouldn’t make an immediate impact on the Mets’ major league picture.

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