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Thursday, February 19, 2015

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL AROUND THE CAMPS: NEW YORK METS

By Eric C. Wright

Port St. Lucie, Fla.--The New York Mets are vowing to be in the playoff hunt this season and on paper alone the team's rotation is right there as one of the deepest and most potent in all of baseball.  While the Washington Nationals clearly are at the top of the heap, followed closely by the Los Angeles Dodgers when it comes to the best rotations in baseball, one can argue that the Mets come next when you look at the five guys who are slated to begin the season 1 through 5.  Returning fireballing ace Matt Harvey joins Rookie of the Year Jacob DeGrom, up-and-coming power righty Zack Wheeler, and veterans Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese.  The rotation is so deep that last year's Opening Day starter in Dillon Gee is relegated to the bullpen or the minor leagues.  The pitching is the clear strength of this team and it goes into the bullpen as well where the Mets have FOUR hard-throwing closer types in Jennry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Vic Black, and the returning Bobby Parnell.  The lineup unfortunately doesn't follow suit as the Mets added only an aging Michael Cuddyer to a core where David Wright and Curtis Granderson both come off poor years.  With that said let's take a look at how the team shapes up overall.

LINEUP

1.  Juan Lagares
2.  Daniel Murphy
3.  David Wright
4.  Lucas Duda
5.  Curtis Granderson
6.  Michael Cuddyer
7.  Travis D'Arnaud
8.  Wilmer Flores
9.  PITCHER

ROTATION

1.  Matt Harvey
2.  Jon Niese
3.  Zack Wheeler
4.  Jacob DeGrom
5.  Bartolo Colon

CLOSER

Jenrry Mejia

5-STAR PLAYERS

Matt Harvey:  Even though Harvey is making his way back from missing all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery, few are more potent and talented than the hard-throwing Mets ace.  Harvey will be a full 18 months removed from the surgery on Opening Day which is an above-average amount of time away from the mound which is nothing but a good thing.  That means Harvey is not likely to have to fight his stuff early on like we have seen in the past from other pitchers who came back from the procedure soon after a year.  The strikeout stuff is as good as it gets and Harvey absolutely can be an ace fantasy baseball starter in every sense of the word. 

4-STAR PLAYERS

Lucas Duda:  It would be to say that reflexively Lucas Duda is a 5-STAR player as he comes off a 30-HR/92-RBI breakout at the age of 28.  However Duda is not there yet as there are still some issues that needs to be worked out.  The first is that Duda batted a very mediocre .253 as he struck out a very high 136 times in only 514 at-bats.  Helping that along is the fact Duda was completely useless against lefties at he batted only .180 against them.  It is so bad with the latter that it is advisable you bench Duda outright when a lefty is on the mound.  Still don't push him down too much as Duda's power is very rare in today's game. 

David Wright:  Once a 5-STAR perennial for the better part of ten years, reality now is that David Wright is anything but as he comes off by far his worst campaign ever in 2014.  Dogged by a lack of power and poor hitting even before he went down with an injured shoulder, Wright was listless at the plate last season to the tune of a .269 average with only 8 home runs in 535 at-bats.  At a still young 32, Wright chose to rehab his shoulder and not have surgery which his a big risk.  He has a chance to rebound here as the Mets moved in the outfield fence in right-center which is Wright's power alley but the injury issues and declining play remove him from top five third baseman standing for the time being.

Jacob DeGrom:  What a story this kid was as DeGrom took the majors by storm in a shocking fashion last season out of the blue for the Mets and his fantasy baseball owners.  Never considered a top prospect by the team or anyone in baseball, DeGrom took advantage of injuries in the Met rotation to grab hold of a spot and never let go as he finished with a tiny 2.69 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while striking out 144 batters in only 140.1 innings in 2014 to win Rookie of the Year.  A few things here:  the first is that DeGrom never struck out guys in the minors like he did last season so some regression could come there.  However DeGrom and many other pitches have thrown harder after Tommy John surgery so the increase in K's may not be a total fluke.  In addition, DeGrom likely caught many by surprise which means the ERA could rise as well a bit.  Still this is a terrific SP 2 candidate for 2015.

Zack Wheeler:  Right there with Harvey and DeGrom, Zack Wheeler is the third head in the triple power pitching attack by the Mets rotation.  After fighting through some poor control his first year-plus in the majors, Wheeler seemed to mature before our eyes as 2014 went its course.  Still a baby who turns only 25 this May, Wheeler logged a 3.57 ERA last season to go with 187 strikeouts in 185.1 innings.  Wheeler has 200-K stud written all over him and all he has to do is take another step forward in 2015 to do so.  Sizable upside remains. 

3-STAR PLAYERS

Curtis Granderson:  We all knew Granderson would lose more than a few home runs in moving from Yankee Stadium to Citi Field which means there was no shock in him swatting only 20.  However the .227 batting average was a joke and it adds credence to the notion that Granderson is not seeing the strike zone well as he ages.  Surely there was pressure to justify his contract which led to more whiffs but right no Granderson really has only value in home runs and those are slipping.  Very little to recommend here as Granderson could even be considered a 2-STAR guy.

Daniel Murphy:  I almost put Murphy as a 4-STAR guy as he has been a rock solid top ten fantasy baseball second baseman the last two seasons in a doing a little bit of everything.  Murphy is a guy many either love or hate but you can't argue with his .300 average to go with 15 home runs and 15 steals at a thin spot.  Give the guy his due. 

Bartolo Colon:  Say what you want about Colon but the guy continue to get the job done in a very durable way as he now turns 42.  He won 15 games with a 4.07 ERA last season and his penchant for giving up home runs is neutralized somewhat in Citi Field.  The strikeouts are pretty ugly which means avoid Colon in innings-capped setups.  Otherwise he is a very solid anchor to your rotation.

Michael Cuddyer:  We are not in Colorado anymore which his what Cuddyer will learn real quick.  His two years with the Rockies saw Cuddyer hit .330 and grab a batting title.  However moving to Citi Field on an injury-prone body means Cuddyer will likely revert back to his Minnesota days when he hit 20 home runs and collected 80 RBI with a .275 average.  Solid but unspectacular.

Jenrry Mejia:  Once the Mets realized Mejia could not hold up as a starter, the smartly moved him to the closer role where his immense fastball took over to great effect.  While Mejia is constantly getting injured, he represents decent closer value as a guy who has nice ratios but is not a big name. 

2-STAR PLAYERS

Travis D'Arnaud:  It was a tale of two halves for D'Arnaud has he was a complete disaster for the Mets the first half which got him sent back to the minors.  Upon his recall late in the summer, D'Arnaud performed like a low-end catcher 1.  This is a guy who was traded for two Cy Young winners and was considered a can't miss hitter.  Keep the faith for another season and be sure to take advantage of the fact his hype has quieted some.

Jon Niese:  A solid lefty starter who has proven himself for years, Niese remains a frustrating guy to own due to ongoing shoulder trouble.  Niese just can't pitch for more than a few weeks at a time before his shoulder barks again and that leaves him as nothing more than an  SP 5. 

1-STAR PLAYERS

Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Jeurys Familia, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee

HEARD AROUND

-The Mets will allow Wilmer Flores to sink or swim at shortstop.  They think he can be the rare shortstop to hit 20 home runs and think he can play enough defense to stick.......Right now the plan is for Dillon Gee to pitch either out of the bullpen or in the minors until injury strikes a member of the rotation.  With Niese having a long history of shoulder trouble, Gee likely will find himself back in the rotation before too long which is why the Mets won't move him unless they get a deal they like.....The feeling around camp is that both Granderson and Wright will get another 5-7 home runs from the fences being moved in around right-center.......The Mets won't sit Lucas Duda against lefties as they want him to figure out how to at least be serviceable there. 

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