5 Keys to the New York Mets’ Success in 2014
New York Mets: 5 Keys to the Team's Success in 2014
Like many other teams, the New York Mets enter Spring Training with quite a few question marks. Ultimately how these questions are answered will determine whether the Mets are back under .500 for yet another season or whether they're playing meaningful games after August for the first time since 2008.
After several quiet offseasons, general manager Sandy Alderson was finally given the go-ahead to loosen the purse strings in free agency. With Mets fans growing increasingly impatient with ownership and, as a byproduct, the front office, Alderson floated a bit of an olive branch to fans with his signings of Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young. New York spent more money on Granderson's contract than the total amount of money Alderson had handed out in free agency since becoming Mets GM.
While those additions will most certainly lead to an improvement in the on-field product, in order for the Mets to contend this season they need several other things to break in their favor. New York still has a good deal of young talent occupying critical spots on the roster, and they need to see those young players either take the next step or in some cases rebound from significant down seasons. Last year's Mets team was befallen by a shaky bullpen, black holes at first base, shortstop and, for most of the season, catcher as well as the injury bug.
In a division with powerhouses like the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, there figures to be little room for error. With ace Matt Harvey likely to miss the entire season after Tommy John surgery this offseason, it's especially imperative for other Mets to pick up the slack. Scroll through the slideshow to see just who those players are.
5. Travis d'Arnaud
Last year, the Mets had to endure nearly a full season of John Buck and, his hot April aside, they got almost nothing out of the catcher position. Travis d'Arnaud has been on top prospect lists seemingly forever, but he's had a good deal of trouble remaining healthy enough to justify those projections.
After breaking his foot early last season, d'Arnaud made it up for a cup of coffee in September and struggled mightily. New York hopes that, with a full season in the big leagues, d'Arnaud can provide the best production they've seen behind the plate since Mike Piazza left town.
4. Ike Davis/Lucas Duda
Although it seemed like a foregone conclusion the Mets would trade one of Ike Davis or Lucas Duda this offseason and put the holdover at first base, Sandy Alderson wasn't able to find a deal to suit his liking. As a result, both men enter camp locked in a battle to see who will be the Opening Day first baseman.
While Davis has the more gaudy numbers, he's also far more prone to season-crippling slumps as the Mets saw last season. Davis was also regarded as a superior defender to Duda, but last year he regressed in that category. The Mets love Duda's plate discipline, but whomever wins this job needs to put together a solid full season or find themselves elsewhere next year.
3. The Bullpen
The Mets' bullpen has been a house of horrors since 2007. Although the team has hit on a few diamonds in the rough over the years, like LaTroy Hawkins and Carlos Torres, too often the pitchers that made up the bullpen threw gasoline on the fire instead of putting it out.
Closer Bobby Parnell is seemingly the one consistent piece the Mets can rely on, but even he's coming off of surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck and won't throw off a mound for another few weeks. This puts the onus on many of the young arms that figure to make up the rest of the relief corps, such as Vic Black, Jeurys Familia, Josh Edgin and Jeff Walters. Although the Mets recently added veterans Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde on minor league deals, neither is a lock to make the team. Whichever pitchers the pen consists of this season, they'll need to do a much better job of protecting leads.
2. Young Pitching
It's no secret that the Mets are tethering their hopes, for now and the future, to their young pitching. This will be Zack Wheeler's first full season in the majors, Jenrry Mejia is coming off a solid audition last season and both Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero could make their presence felt before August. New York also has a myriad of good, young pitchers in the minors who they'd like to see improve but are further away.
The Mets are in dire need for these pitchers to take the next step in their developments, especially with Harvey not returning until September at the earliest. Wheeler and Mejia have both shown flashes to indicate they could be special, but Montero and Syndergaard are also highly touted and could serve as injury reinforcements or, in a perfect world, boosts for a playoff push.
1. David Wright Staying Healthy
Regardless of the prior items on this list, the Mets will only go as far as their leader takes them. David Wright missed 50 games last season and has played less than 115 games in two of the last three seasons. When healthy, he's still one of the premier players in baseball and almost carries the Mets' offense by himself.
New York desperately needs Wright to stay on the field as, even with the offensive upgrades made this offseason, he's the prime catalyst. It also goes without saying that the Mets don't have much in the way of an adequate replacement at third base should Wright go down; Wilmer Flores replaced him last season and, while the Mets like Flores' bat, there are legitimate questions as to whether or not his foot speed will allow him to handle any position besides first base.