Finally, baseball is back! Yesterday afternoon, Jacob deGrom went head-to-head with Max Scherzer and came out victorious as the Mets won 2-0. I have been waiting for Opening Day since the GM Meetings in early November, and, no, I’m not exaggerating.
Ever since that week, scouring Twitter to find articles about the New York Mets, written by beat reporters, has been a large part of my daily routine. Baseball is not just something that I enjoy, it is my obsession, and that may even be an understatement.
Now, it is time for me to look at what the Mets have going into 2019, and after an exciting offseason where the team revamped their lineup, added strong pieces to their bullpen, and have a brand new Front Office, there is a lot to look at.
With that being said, I will now make a few bold predictions about the 2019 Mets as I have the past few seasons. Last year, I was completely wrong on three of my four predictions, however, I did predict deGrom would finish in the top three of the Cy Young vote, and stated that I thought he was the best pitcher in baseball which deGrom proved true with his historical 2018 season.
The Starting Rotation Will Stay Healthy
I have a couple of predictions about the Mets 2019 rotation, but my boldest prediction will be how strong their health will be. I think that the pitchers in the rotation will make a combined 150 starts. The pitchers in the rotation will include Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Jason Vargas.
I think the Mets will have the healthiest rotation in baseball this season, and will only need 12 spot starts throughout the year. Now, maybe one starter will miss all 12 of those games, maybe each starter will miss two to three starts, but nonetheless, the team will have an extremely healthy rotation, which will be a huge advantage throughout the year.
There are a lot of reasons why I think this will happen this year and don’t you worry, I am going to share.
First off, Jacob deGrom has proven that he can stay healthy ever since his major league debut in 2014, since then he has only had one injury prone season, which was 2016 where he missed eight starts. He has made at least 30 starts in three out of his four full major league seasons, and his in-between-starts routine seems to work well.
It is because of that routine, which he learned from Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, that I think the rest of the rotation will be healthy as well. Last year, Zack Wheeler picked up the routine from deGrom around May, and well, he was awesome after that point, with no injuries to speak of.
This offseason, Steven Matz, a close friend of deGrom’s off the field, took on that routine and will look to build on his career-high 30 start season in 2018 with more health in 2019. In this routine, these starters will pitch two bullpen sessions between their starts, and the belief is that this allows them to have better control of their stuff from pitch-to-pitch and from start-to-start.
As for Syndergaard, I don’t believe he has adopted the routine, simply because I haven’t read anything about it. So, the reason why I think he will be healthy this year is because of his 2018 season. While he missed seven starts last year, the reasons for the missed starts weren’t due to big injuries, rather blisters on his fingers, and contracting hand, foot, and mouth disease. I think that Syndergaard will finally make 32 starts; a full season for the first time in his career.
Finally, we have arrived at Jason Vargas. The Mets signed Vargas in 2018 to anchor the rotation and reliably take the mound every fifth day and I think he will be able to do that this year.
Cy Young’s Galore
Bold prediction number two includes the starting rotation again. This time, I will just be talking about deGrom, Syndergaard, and Wheeler. I think that these three starters will all finish in the top 20 in the Cy Young Balloting.
Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball, I said it last year, and have believed he was elite since his rookie season. While he won’t be as dominant as last season, he still will be dominant. I believe he will actually win some games this year and finish with a 17-5 record with a 2.43 ERA in 215 innings pitched. He will win the Cy Young again.
Noah Syndergaard may have the most electric stuff that I have seen since a prime Matt Harvey, however, he needs to watch deGrom pitch to see how he can use that stuff to his advantage. If he can learn how to control at-bats better, then the league better watch out. I think he will finish with a 15-8 record, a 2.94 ERA, in 205 innings pitched, and finish 6th in the Cy Young race.
Zack Wheeler was amazing in the second half of 2018, pitching to a 1.68 ERA in 75 innings pitched. His strong performance actually started in late May and continued throughout the rest of the season, which is why he finished with a 3.31 ERA in 182 1/3 innings pitched. I think he will finish with a 13-10 record, and have a 3.25 ERA in 201 innings pitched. He will finish 17th in the Cy Young balloting.
Conforto Will finish Top 10 In The MVP Race
I was expecting big things from Michael Conforto in 2018 after a strong 2017 was cut short by a disastrous shoulder injury. It seemed to me as if he was primed to breakout once healthy. I did not think Conforto would come back before he was 100%, nor did I think the Mets would allow him to do that.
However, Conforto confirmed himself that he came back too soon and was not fully ready until after the All-Star break. If you take a look at the numbers, that seems to make sense. In the second half of 2018, he hit .273, bashed 17 home runs, and drove in 52 RBI’s.
With a full season, I expect Conforto to take a leap similar to that of Christain Yelich, the reigning MVP, from his 2017 season to his 2018 season. Conforto has the talent to hit .280-.300, drive in 100+ runs, hit 30+ home runs and compete for the MVP.
When he’s right he is one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball because he has the ability to spray the ball to all fields. Also, he will be surrounded by Robinson Cano, one of the best pure hitters in baseball and Wilson Ramos, who will hit .270-.300 with power and will force pitchers to give Conforto pitches to hit.
I believe Conforto will bat .290, hit 33 home runs, drive in 98 RBI’s and finish 6th in the MVP race. He can hit for average, he can hit for power, and he can drive runners in. With Nimmo, Lowrie, and Cano ahead of him in the lineup, he should have a chance to break out big time.
The Mets Will Win A Wild Card Spot
In 2019, the National League East will be the toughest division in baseball. In a time where teams are trying their hardest to lose and rebuild with young, exciting talent there are four teams in the NL East trying to win the division.
While it will be exciting that the 57 games played against those three teams will be must-win games, it will make the road to the playoffs tougher for the Mets. However, with the starting rotation staying healthy, three of those starters dominating, and Michael Conforto breaking out as I said above, the Mets should be able to compete.
The Mets are a better team heading into 2019 than they were going into 2018. They improved their bullpen by adding an elite closer, bringing back a strong closer to set up games, and signing an established lefty that has experience late in games. These moves will allow Lugo and Gsellman to take on lesser roles, but still be useful in stressful situations.
They are going to have a better lineup with improvements at catcher, first, second, and third base. Rosario should take another step forward toward being an All-Star caliber player, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo should continue to be productive, and the team finally will have a strong bench.
While the Mets will miss Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier to start the season, their lineup and bench are still strong, with players in the minor leagues that have major league experience ready to help out if necessary.
I believe the Mets will have an 89-73 record, which will be good enough for the top Wild Card spot and they will host the Philadelphia Phillies, who will finish 88-74, in the one-game playoff.
My predictions were bold, and probably way off. But hey, all that matters to me is that baseball is back. Well, it is also important that the Mets win the World Series… but that is a conversation for another day.