NY Mets: Will the team be pitching or hitting dominant going forward?
The New York Mets have always been known for their pitching. Whether it comes from the draft, international signings, or through trades, the Mets have owned the mound. Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Doc Gooden, Sid Fernandez, Al Leiter, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Johan Santana, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom are just some of the many studs the Mets toed the slabbed in orange and blue.
Given their history of pitching dominance, it feels weird to say that the future of the New York Mets will be built around offense.
I’m not going to make free agent predictions here, because that remains to be seen. The Mets are rumored to have interest in several hitters that could make the lineup even stronger, but I’m only going to talk about players that the Mets have right now in the majors, or prospects who can come up and contribute in the next couple of years.
James McCann, while coming off a down year, has pop. In 2019, he hit 18 homers and 26 doubles. In the shortened 2020, he was on pace for more homers and he posted a career-best .896 OPS and 143 OPS+. Even though he has three years left on his contract, he is not the future of this position, nor is he the offensive strength.
Both of those categories go to Francisco Alvarez. Alvarez has powered his way to A+ ball as a 19 year old and he is projected to make his major league debut in 2023. In just two seasons, he could jump McCann on the depth chart and have his power bat in the lineup almost every day.
The Mets have a nice duo at first base, with Pete Alonso and Dom Smith around for the foreseeable future. With the designated hitter likely – and finally – coming to the National League, I expect Alonso to get the lion’s share of his at-bats as a DH and Smith will get most of the time in the field. Smith is a stronger defender at first, so while Alonso isn’t nearly the defensive liability he used to be, it makes sense to put the stronger fielder there.
Second base is a little up in the air right now. There have been talks of the Mets signing Javy Baez to a long term deal. In this scenario, he would be the everyday second baseman. While he is certainly a power threat, he is not the player many are hyping him up to be. In his two months with the Mets, he put up a 141 OPS+, which is up 37 points from his career OPS+ of 104. In my opinion, there are better ways for the Mets to spend their money in free agency.
If that doesn’t happen, Jeff McNeil will get most of the reps at second base next season. He will be looking for a bounceback, coming off the worst season of his career in 2021. While his attitude needs a major overhaul, he is a better player than we saw this year. However, he is not the future second baseman of the Mets.
I think Ronny Mauricio is the future of this position. With a shortstop in place for the next 10 years, Maruicio is going to have to move. I hope it’s to second base, but there’s a chance he gets traded too.
Franciso Lindor’s 10-year extension kicks in this winter. While he struggled mightily in the first half of 2021, he was his usual self in the second half. He will be playing shortstop and batting in the top half of our lineup until 2031.
Two of the Mets’ top six prospects are third basemen with power. Brett Baty (#2) and Mark Vientos (#6) are both capable of being cornerstone third basemen and they should make their debuts in 2022. It’s possible that one gets traded, but both also have experience in left field, so there is a scenario that they could both stay in the long term. Personally, I think Baty is more likely to stick at third.
There are a lot of moving parts here. Michael Conforto will likely leave in free agency. Brandon Nimmo is under contract for 2022, but unless he signs an extension, he will be a free agent next offseason. Khalil Lee will likely come up at some point this year. As mentioned in the third base category, Baty or Vientos could see time in left. So a potential outfield arrangement at some point this season could be Vientos/Baty in left, Nimmo in center, and Lee in right. As I mentioned above, I’m not going to make free agent predictions, but they have been rumored to be interested in a couple of outfielders.
It would be nice to see Nimmo get an extension. Few players have the capability to get on base like he does, and while I would prefer to see him in a corner outfield spot, he plays a decent center field.
So where do the Mets stand with pitching?
Jacob deGrom has an opt-out after 2022. It’s hard to see him going anywhere, but it’s a possibility. Taijuan Walker’s contract is over after 2022 as well. Marcus Stroman is a free agent now. Carlos Carrasco is signed through 2023, but he was disappointing in 2021 and he will be 35 in 2022. David Peterson and Tylor Megill will be around for a few more years, but they aren’t names to build around.
Looking at prospects, J.T. Ginn is a big name that will likely be ready in 2023. Matt Allan, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, will need at least a year to recover and more time to develop after that. MLB Pipeline projects him to come up in 2024, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we don’t see him until 2025.
The bullpen has a lot of moving parts as well. Edwin Diaz, Trevor May, and Miguel Castro are all free agents after the 2022 season. The Mets will have to make decisions about re-signing them, or potentially trading them if the first half of 2022 doesn’t go as planned. Drew Smith is a guy who will be around for awhile, so he could be a future closer. There’s not much excitement over relief prospects either, with the one exception being Jose Butto.
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To wrap it up, the Mets are poised to become a hitting-dominant team. In the majors, they have young players who will be around for a few years. They also have top hitting prospects who will be ready to come up over the next couple of years.