By Michael Wong
Port St. Luice, Fla.--The New York Mets had their pitchers and catchers report today and this quiet Florida locale is where I will kick off my tour of all the respective spring training sites both here and in Arizona. As always let's take a look at five major issues for the Mets and their impact on fantasy baseball.
1. Can the New York Mets rotation finally stay healthy and live up to the hype? Outside of Noah Syndegaard (who actually was pitching with a bone spur on his elbow), there was not a member of the Mets rotation that was not impacted badly by injuries. Some of the injuries were downright scary as Matt Harvey underwent thoracic outlet syndrome, Jacob DeGrom succumbed to a ulnar nerve movement in his elbow, and Steven Matz had his own bone spur repaired to go along with a slew of other health problems. Meanwhile Zach Wheeler failed to throw a Major League pitch for the second year in a row as he serves as a clear example that not everyone comes back well from Tommy John surgery. Each of this fivesome comes into camp fully healthy though and each carries significant fantasy baseball value as well.
Syndegaard of course leads the pack with his league-leading fastball average and sick secondary stuff but he would head any list of prospective Tommy John candidates for 2017. Harvey has looked good according to the Mets coaching staff but his numbers have been nothing special since his own Tommy John surgery a few years ago with a K/9 of mid-8.00 and his ERA in the mid-3.00 range. DeGrom has had two serious surgeries himself but he has more than proven to be an ace when healthy. Matz can be a tremendous pitcher who can reach ace-level himself but it is tough to depend on him as anything more than an SP 3 since he is as injury-prone a pitcher as it gets. Finally Wheeler is once again worth a late round look given his 98-mph fastball but control was never his strong point and a bullpen job could be his early on so as not conserve innings.
2. Last chance time for Travis D'Arnaud? Absolutely as D'Arnaud was comically bad in 2016 as he hit just .247 with 4 home runs while once again missing extensive time with injury. Things got so bad that veteran light-hitting backstop Rene Rivera became the starter during the second half. D'Arnaud was battling a shoulder problem for a good chunk of 2016 which no doubt impacted his power but he should not be touched outside of just NL-only formats early on.
3. How long will Jeurys Familia be suspended and can Addison Reed to get the job done in his place? Anyone who drafts Familia absolutely has to back him up with Reed who has been downright dominant since coming over to the Mets in 2015. Perfecting his secondary offerings have made Reed's fastball that much more potent and his 1.17 and 1.97 ERA's the last two years with the Mets tell the story of the development he has made. Meanwhile Familia is as dominant as any closer in fantasy baseball but a 30-game suspension seems to be at least what he will get which greatly hurts his bottom line value.
4. Cash out on Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera after their unexpectedly good 2016's? Not the worst idea in the world as both guys are on the wrong side of 30 and both dealt with some serious injuries last season. Cabrera fought through debilitating knee pain, while Walker was forced to undergo scary back surgery which almost always negatively impacts power the following season. Both guys don't run at all anymore and that is not what you want from your middle infielders. Again both did well in hitting over 20 homers last season but selling high is the way to go here.
5. With four outfielders for 3 spots, what happens with Michael Conforto? Conforto looks to be on the outside looking in right now in terms of the Mets' starting outfield as Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and Yoenis Cespedes are guaranteed spots. That is a real shame as Conforto remains a prime hitting prospect who underwent typical growing pains in 2016 when he hit just .220. The issue with Conforto is that he hardly spent any time in the minors as he was debuted with the Mets in 2015 just a year after being drafted and that lack of seasoning was shown a year ago. Believe in the talent here as Conforto has a smooth and powerful swing that screams out future 25 homer hitter. A big spring injury to an outfielder on another squad could allow the Mets to move Bruce and Conforto could also get time at first base if Lucas Duda has more back trouble. Don't give up on Conforto just yet. Buy low on the talent.