Baseball training camps open this week. Pre-season play starts in 2 weeks. Time to take a look at separating the contenders from the pretenders. Before we break down the six divisions, we'll take a look at our "local" teams first, starting with the Mets.
The Amazing Orange & Blue Crew shocked everyone by forging a second place tie with Atlanta, several lengths behind Washington. While the pundits have the two teams trending in opposite directions due to off-season activity, let's remember that it's a six month marathon, not a quick sprint.
Everything seems to hinge on the health of 3B/team captain David Wright. However, 1B Lucas Duda had a breakout season in 2014, with 30 HR's. 2B Daniel Murphy is a doubles machine, and the Mets would've been stupid to move him. Then again, they have a history of making dumb moves based on false perceptions. The battle is at shortstop between Ruben Tejada & Wilmer Flores, who hit about 8-9 HR's between them last year. Eric Campbell proved the Mets right by letting Justin Turner go after the 2013 season, as he produced when able to play, not only in the infield, but in the outfield as well. To think that the tabloid press expected the Mets to make a move for Colorado All-Star Troy Tulowitzki. Maybe GM Sandy Alderson was right to stand pat in this area.
Curtis Granderson moves to left field to accomodate Michael Cuddyer, a childhood chum of Wright's who was picked up as a free agent from Colorado. To make room, another ex-Rockie, Eric Young, Jr., who can also play 2B (his original position), was let go, and landed in Atlanta earlier this week. Given that the Mets figure to start the season with Matt den Dekker & Kirk Nieuwenheis as their backup outfielders, that's a risk. There's no messing with rocket armed Juan Lagares in center, who earned his first Gold Glove, and prompted announcer Gary Cohen to create a catchphrase when Lagares makes a highlight reel play. "Where extra base hits go to die!" Lagares, if he can get his offense to catch up to his defense, will be an All-Star soon enough. They moved the fences in at Citi Field to accomodate Granderson & Wright, and not only that, but they signed ex-Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long, who was Granderson's mentor in the Bronx.
Enough about the return of Matt Harvey. They're talking innings limit with him, and you can't really blame them, though Harvey's bulldog mentality will challenge them during the summer. With Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Rookie of the Year Jacob DeGrom, Bartolo Colon, & either Jon Niese or Dillon Gee in the 5 hole, the rotation isn't a problem. Daisuke Matsuzaka returned home to Japan, but they still have swing man Carlos Torres, so at the most, the rotation is 7 deep. Scary. Jenrry Mejia, Bobby Parnell, & Jenrys Familia, in reverse order, could match Kansas City's late game pen. No wonder there's optimism in Queens.
We won't discuss catchers Travis d'Arnaud & Anthony Recker, since the Mets can't or won't opt to sign a veteran to back them up. D'Arnaud, however, showed some life in terms of power numbers, and he & Recker combined for about 20 long balls. Nothing to worry about.
If the Mets get off to a fast start, they have to keep up the momentum all season long, with no threat of breakdowns. Of course, the Citi Field injury curse could still be a factor.
Prediction: 2nd again, this time by themselves, and in line for a Wild Card.