Originally this was going to be a series of posts, but I thought it a better idea to clump them all together in one page, so that you could refer to it as the season goes on. It will be fun to see how far off (and occasionally on) I am with the predictions, and welcome you to post your comments, criticisms and I-told-you-so’s.
First, the overall prediction for the Mets as a team. I believe they will finish the year 90-72, finishing second in the NL East to the Braves (again), and missing the wild card, which will be garnered by a team in the NL Central. Omar Minaya will be the GM of the Year and Willie Randolph will finish second in the Manager of the Year voting.
Now, the individual player predictions, in no particular order:
Carlos Delgado will start and finish strong, giving the Mets their first consistent cleanup hitter in who knows how long. He’ll end the year with 32 HRs, 125 RBI, .292 avg.
David Wright will prove 2005 was no fluke, and finish 30-118-.285 with 25 SBs and batting third in the lineup. His defense will improve considerably, and by year’s end he’ll be considered one of the top NL glovemen at the hot corner.
Carlos Beltran will rebound, but still not quite justify his contract: 20-75-.275 and 30 SBs. By mid-June he will be established in the #2 spot in the order, and score 95 runs.
Jose Reyes will continue his improvement all-around, batting .270 but more importantly, improving his walks to 55. He’ll lead the NL in steals with 70, in triples with 18, and finish second with 120 runs scored.
Anderson Hernandez will start out well defensively, but struggle at the Mendoza line most of the year. Kaz Matsui will go on occasional hot streaks and be the temporary second baseman at times, but ultimately finish with a .250 batting average and a one-way ticket back to Japan.
Paul LoDuca will emerge as the Mets’ on-field leader, but will prove to be no more effective at throwing runners out than Mike Piazza. He’ll bat around .270 with 5 HRs and 65 RBI, many of which come in clutch situations.
Xavier Nady will be batting .195 in mid-May, prompting the Mets to insert Victor Diaz as the starting RF. Diaz will finish the year with 21 HRs, 79 RBI, .273 average and be penciled in as the starting LF in 2007.
Cliff Floyd will have another good year, going 29-90-.284 and 19 SBs.
Billy Wagner will shrug off a few minor ailments and a stint on the DL but still finish the year with 38 saves. Duaner Sanchez will pick up a few saves and establish himself as the top setup man in the NL East. Jorge Julio will start the season poorly but finish strong after a ten-minute session with Rick Peterson. Willie Randolph will “bring the funk” a few too many times, and thus Chad Bradford will pitch his way out of the job. Randolph and Peterson will wonder what they were thinking back in April when they made the decision to carry a ROOGY. His spot will be replaced in July by Heath Bell, who will pitch lights out the rest of the way, finishing with a 1.91 ERA. He’ll be released outright on October 15th as punishment for throwing so many darn strikes.
Pedro Feliciano will fail miserably as the LOOGY and be replaced by Royce Ring. However, Randolph will not have the confidence to use him and he’ll end up throwing only in mop-up situations. He’ll be part of a trade deadline deal to the Orioles (in return for Luis Matos), who turn him into their closer. He saves 9 games down the stretch for Baltimore, under the tutelage of Leo Mazzone.
2006 will go down as the Year of The Toe, and Pedro, in limited starts, will finish 15-5 with a 2.70 ERA.
The rest of the rotation will have its ups and downs, and the Mets will win (and lose) a number of high scoring games. Steve Trachsel will be 1-8 in mid June, and will be replaced by Aaron Heilman, who will go 11-4 the rest of the way. He’ll throw 2 complete-game shutouts in September, solidifying his spot in the 2007 rotation. Brian Bannister will vie for Rookie of the Year honors, pitching 208 innings and going 14-10 with a 4.05 ERA. Tommy Glavine will be the only other starter garnering 200 innings, but his ERA will be over 4; he’ll finish 16-11. Victor Zambrano will alternate outstanding games with abysmal ones, and finish the year with a losing record. Rumors of Barry Zito coming to Shea in June will abound, but the A’s insistence on Lastings Milledge kills the deal. Milledge will come up in September but be relegated to a role of pinch running and late-inning defensive replacement during the heat of the pennant race. Mike Pelfrey will also come up in September but will not be used by Randolph, who will prefer a more experienced pitcher down the stretch. Jose Lima will make spot starts in September instead, and go 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA, including one game where he pitches 7 strong innings of shutout ball against the Dodgers. His emergence will cause the Mets to consider him for the 2007 rotation.
All in all, the season will be exciting to the end, and raise fans’ expectations for 2007. Immediately after the World Series, Omar Minaya will begin an aggressive campaign to sign free agent Zito, and work on a deal with the Angels to bring Bartolo Colon to New York. He will cite the inconsistent rotation as the reason for doing so, stating that his goal for 2007 will be finding workhorse starters “to lengthen ballgames”.