Hope springs eternal. Therefore, here is the most optimistic post you will read in 2013 at MetsToday.
After two days of spring training baseball games, the Mets are undefeated (though, their record does include a tie). So while we are giddy with hope and riding high on the Mets’ success, let’s list some of the most optimistic predictions being thrown around by blue-and-orange bleeding Mets fans.
Matt Harvey will continue pitching exactly like he did in his first ten starts as a big leaguer, and opponents won’t make adjustments. As a result, he’s going to win somewhere between 16 and 18 games, emerging as the Mets’ ace by the end of the season.
Zack Wheeler will reluctantly be left behind when camp breaks in Port St. Lucie, but he’ll be with the big club by June. Posting a 11-2 record, 2.25 ERA, and 12 K/9 rate, he and Harvey will pitch the Miracle Mets into the Wild Card.
Similarly, Travis d’Arnaud arrives during the same week as Wheeler, and by the end of September he’ll have Rookie of the Year locked up, based on a .320 AVG, 17 HR, and 85 RBI in only 100 games. His clutch hitting, leadership, and ability to handle the pitching staff draws comparisons to Buster Posey.
Lucas Duda discovers the awesome power everyone has been predicting, and has a monster, breakout year: 38 homeruns, .290 AVG., and .890 OPS that includes 85 walks.
Ike Davis starts 2013 the way he finished 2012, and hits more homers than anyone in baseball by mid-July, making the All-Star team and winning Home Run Derby in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Citi Field. He finishes the year with 47 homeruns, shattering the Mets single-season record.
With the slugging Davis and Duda protecting him in the lineup, David Wright has the best year of his career: .338 AVG with 35 HR and 125 RBI. If not for the monster years of the aforementioned lefty sluggers, Wright might have won the Triple Crown.
Pitching for a new contract, a motivated Johan Santana uses guile and grace to win 14 games, including clutch wins down the stretch that push the Mets into the Wild Card. His late-season performance is compared to that of Catfish Hunter in 1978.
Now comfortable at 2B, Daniel Murphy relaxes at the plate and fights teammate Wright for the batting crown. The race goes to the final game of the season, and Murphy finishes at .336. He also shows some pop, putting 17 balls over the fence and hitting 52 doubles.
After rotating several men in center field and the leadoff spot, manager Terry Collins (who wins Manager of the Year) finally settles on the hard-nosed, hustling fan favorite Collin Cowgill as his fairly regular centerfielder, platooning him with veteran Marlon Byrd. Cowgill responds with a scrappy performance that reminds many of Lenny Dykstra‘s rookie season; in fact, the dynamic duo of Cowgill and Byrd sparks numerous newspaper articles and blog posts comparing them to Dykstra and Mookie Wilson.
If Tejada is the quiet man in the lineup, Dillon Gee is the quiet man in the starting rotation. The recipient of tough luck most of the year, he goes only 12-10 despite a sparkling 3.65 ERA. Key to his performance is pitching into the seventh inning in all but four of his 32 starts.
Shaun Marcum proves healthy and keeps batters off-balance with his signature junk. He finishes 13-8 and tosses 198 innings. Had he thrown just two more frames, the entire Mets starting rotation would have reached the 200 mark. Still, it’s the first time four Mets starters pitch 200 or more innings since 1986.
With Frankie Francisco struggling with elbow issues, Bobby Parnell takes over the closer role in early May and doesn’t look back. Riding behind his triple-digit heat and a now-mature knuckle-curve, Parnell stymies hitters all season, striking out 13 batters per nine innings and saving 42 games.
Left field — like center field — is like a game of musical chairs for most of the first half. Eventually, though, Mike Baxter emerges as “Mr. Steady” and bats a respectable .285 with 8 homers and 45 RBI in 335 plate appearances. In late July, Wilmer Flores — who has been tearing it up in AAA — is brought up and starts against lefthanders. Flores is not much of a factor until the waning weeks of September, when he suddenly gets hot and swats four home runs in the final week of the season. Comparisons to Miguel Cabrera ensue.
OK, I think that’s it. Surely I missed something, or someone, or possibly filled in a Baxter or Cowgill when it should’ve been a Valdespin or Nieuwenhuis. But hey, we’re looking into a crystal ball that doesn’t exist, so I’m allowed to make a few mistakes. Please use the comments to correct me and/or fill in the gaps I missed.
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.