Tag Archives: Yoenis Cespedes

2017 National League East Projections

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X-Washington Nationals 90-72

Since 2012, the Washington Nationals have had one of the most talented teams in Major League Baseball, but they have struggled to live up to their potential. The Nationals have three National League East Titles to their credit since 2012, but they’ve also failed to win a playoff series. And dating back to their time as the Montreal Expos, the Nats have only won one postseason series in their 49-year history. Washington will head into the 2017 MLB season looking to buck the trend as after winning the N.L. East, they tend to really underachieve in the following season and you have to wonder if things will be any different for them now?

Dusty Baker

Dusty Baker is set to begin his second season as the Nationals skipper and he is indeed a man that knows how to get results. In Baker’s managerial career, he has now led the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, and Nationals to the postseason. Baker gets the most out of his teams, but the biggest shock in 2016 was how he got Washington to the playoffs.

The Nationals were able to win the National League East in 2016 in spite of the fact the outfielder Bryce Harper had a down year. After Harper won the N.L. MVP Award in 2015, he only managed to hit .243 with 24 home runs and 86 runs batted in last year. Harper still gave maximum effort for the Nats, but his timing at the plate simply wasn’t there. However, Harper is the kind of player that knows how to bounce back, and for the Nationals to do some damage this year, he will need to recapture his MVP form.

Bryce Harper

But as Harper was unable to live up to the lofty expectations that were placed on him, Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy picked up the slack. In Murphy’s first season in Washington, he finished second in the National League MVP voting as he batted a career-high .347 with 25 home runs and 104 runs batted in. Murphy was a motivated man in 2016 after he was spurned by his former team in the New York Mets which led to his signing with the Nats. However you have to wonder if Murphy and the Nationals will be able to go the well with that once more in 2017?

But aside from Harper and Murphy, the Nats are really high on shortstop Trea Turner. In 73 games with the Nationals in 2016, Turner batted .342 with 13 home runs, 40 home runs, and 33 stolen bases. Turner is only 23-years of age and his potential led Washington to trading infielder Danny Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels over the off-season. Turner can be a lead-off hitter for the Nats and his getting on base in front of Harper and Murphy will be important.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon has been consistent for Washington at the hot corner, while they have a veteran presence in their clubhouse in first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and outfielder Jayson Werth. But two acquisitions that flew under the radar during the off-season by National general manager Mike Rizzo were when he acquired utility man Adam Eaton and catcher Derek Norris in separate trades.

The Nationals acquisition of Eaton got some attention due to the fact that three pitchers were sent to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for him, but he could be well worth it. Two of the last three years saw Eaton lead the American League in triples as along with Turner, he could be a valuable table setter in D.C. In five Major League Baseball seasons, Eaton is a career .284 hitter, while he also brings a scrappy element to each team in which he has played for.

Last September saw catcher Wilson Ramos suffer a torn ACL which hurt the Nats chances in the playoffs. Ramos has subsequently joined the Tampa Bay Rays, but his injury paved the way for Rizzo to acquire Norris from the San Diego Padres. Norris gives the Nats another veteran back stop along with Jose Lobaton to work with this pitching staff as they look to repeat as National League Eastern Division Champions.

The Nationals team earned run average of 3.51 was second in the National League and there is potential once for this staff to be one of the best in the business.

Max Scherzer

Starting pitcher Max Scherzer became the first Nats pitcher since Gio Gonzalez in 2012 to win 20 games en route to winning the National League’s Cy Young Award, and he should once again be a force. Scherzer is one of the better power pitchers currently in baseball which is evident by him striking out at least 200 batters in each of the last five years. Scherzer knows how to dictate the pace on the mound as he tends to get ahead of hitters in the count which paves the way for his electric fastball.

After spending 2015 between the starting rotation and the bullpen, Tanner Roark got his opportunity to pitch every fifth day for the Nationals and he rewarded the team by winning a career-high 16 starts. However 2016 was the first time in Roark’s career that he threw more than 200 innings in a season and you have to wonder if there will be any carry over to 2017?

After the strong start by Gonzalez upon joining the Nats in 2012, he’s been an up and down pitcher that needs to recreate himself. Gonzalez’s velocity has dipped slightly on his pitches as it time for him to become more of a junk pitcher that locates.

Each time that starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg appears ready to turn the corner in order to become the ace in which the Nats envisioned upon drafting him first overall in 2009, he cannot overcome the injury bug. Like Scherzer, Strasburg has the potential to win 20 games, but he is still a guy that Washington must approach with the kid gloves in order to maximize his effectiveness.

All signs point to relief pitcher Blake Treinen being the Nationals closer as neither Jonathan Papelbon or Mark Melancon returned to the Nats after they combined to save 36 games last year. Treinen has only saved one game during his three-year Major League Baseball career and it will be baptism by fire to begin the 2017 campaign.

2017 will more than likely shape up as a two-team race for the National League East Crown between the Nationals and Mets. And another strong start by Washington could be just what the doctor ordered for them to win the division in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history.

Y-New York Mets 89-73

The New York Mets will enter the 2017 Major League Baseball season seeking to do something that they’ve never done before which is to make the postseason in three consecutive years. After winning the National League Pennant in 2015, the Mets were expected to once again reach the World Series Title last year. However injuries plagued the Mets in 2016, but somehow they were able to secure a playoff berth. And now the Mets are hopeful to be healthy in order to make another World Series push.

Pitching was the name of the game for the Mets in 2015 for their National League Pennant, and in order for them to get back to the postseason this fall, they’ll once again have to rely on their arms. The Mets allowed veteran starting pitcher Bartolo Colon to leave in free agency as he joined the Atlanta Braves being that they have plenty of young studs in their starting rotation.

Noah Syndergaard

With injuries in 2016 to starting pitchers Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz, the Mets relied on another young stud in starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard. In 30 starts last season for the Mets, Synderggard went 14-9 with a 2.60 earned run average while striking out 218 batters. Syndergaard further solidified his reputation as a big game pitcher when he struck out 10 batters, but got a no-decision against the San Francisco Giants in the National League Wild Card Game. Fans in the Big Apple have gravitated to Syndergaard due to the fact that he is fearless on the mound which is something that they can relate to.

For the second time since 2013, Harvey missed significant time due injury, and after he had shoulder surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome, the man who the fans in New York City refer to as “The Dark Knight” is looking to bounce back. deGrom falls into that category of looking to bounce backas after expecting to be just stop gap starter in 2014, he would go on to win the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award. deGrom was a big part of the Mets rotation in 2015, but an elbow injury cut his season short last year. Injuries delayed starting pitcher Steven Matz’s route to the show, but he did display his potential coming down the stretch in 2015 and the early stages of 2016 for the Mets. However the same injury bug that slowed Matz down in the minors got the best of him last year as he succumb to a shoulder injury.

But the Mets are anticipating that Harvey, deGrom, and Matz will be healthy this year to rejoin Syndergaard in the starting rotation that helped to propel New York to the National League Pennant in 2015. But the Mets do have depth in their pitching staff with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. And if there’s another injury, both Lugo and Gsellman can contribute in the starting rotation while also providing long relief out of the bullpen.

Starting pitcher Zack Wheeler was supposed to be another one of the big arms in the Mets rotation, but Tommy John surgery has kept him out of action for the last two years. The Mets are looking to ease Wheeler back into the mix, and he could be valuable for them this year out of the bullpen.

The Mets will more than likely begin the upcoming Major League Baseball season without the services of relief pitcher Jeurys Familia. Familia set a Mets single-season record in 2016 with 51 saves, but he was arrested during the off-season for domestic violence. The chargers against Familia were subsequently dropped, however this does not mean that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred won’t reprimand him for the incident.

And if Familia isn’t available to begin the season for the Mets, they do have fall back options for the ninth inning which could be Wheeler or relief pitcher Addison Reed. Prior to joining the Mets in 2015, Reed had a past life being a closer as he combined to save 104 games for the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks.

But as good as the Mets pitching is which was evident by their 3.58 earned run average that was third in the National League last year, their lineup must become better at the plate in order for this team to be a legit World Series contender.

Last year the Mets were second in the National League in home runs as they hit 218. But New York was 12th in batting average (.246) and on-base percentage (.316), while they were tied for 11th in runs scored (671). Like the pitching staff, the Mets lineup was hit hard by the injury bug which included three infielders ending the year on the disabled list.

Mets third baseman and team captain David Wright was only able to appear in 37 games last year due to spinal stenosis. The Mets are hopeful that Wright will be available more this year, but the odds are against him. Wright has only appeared in 75 regular season games over the last two years and at the age of 34, a bad back is tough to overcome in order to be an everyday player. Wright’s injury also makes it harder for him to do the little things such as make a routine throw from third base to first base, and if the Mets are able to get 100 games out of him at the hot corner, I would be shocked.

After first baseman Lucas Duda belted 27 home runs for the Mets in 2015, he only appeared in 47 games last year after he suffered a stress fracture in his back. But Duda is scheduled to become at the free agent at the end of the season, and thus I expect him to bounce back in a very big way for the Metropolitans.

Last year second baseman Neil Walker tried to make the folks in Queens forget about the departed Daniel Murphy as he belted 23 home runs which tied a career high. But like Wright and Duda, Walker’s season was cut short after he underwent a lumbar microdiscectomy. Walker passed up the option to become a free agent and instead he returned to the Mets after accepting the team’s qualifying offer for $17.2 million. And if Walker is able to stay healthy in 2017, along with providing the Mets will solid defense and a good bat again, it’ll be a win-win situation for everyone involved.

But in case that the Mets are once again hit with the injury bug, they have depth in their infield. Fans were sad to see shortstop Jose Reyes leave in 2011 as he and Wright were the left side of the Mets infield. Reyes was never the same player when he left the Mets as he has spent time with the Miami Marlins, Toronto Blue Jays, and Colorado Rockies.

Jose Reyes

Reyes dealt with domestic violence issues following the end of the 2015 Major League Baseball season. Reyes would subsequently be suspended by MLB for Colorado’s first 51 games before they designated him for assignment. Reyes would return to the Mets as they were desperate for infield help, and he gave the team some of the flashes that made him a fan favorite during his first stint in Queens.

Reyes is no longer a .300 hitter, but he still possesses some speed, while he is hungry to once again have the chance to play as he has once again won over the fans in the Big Apple. However Reyes is no longer a shortstop, but he should once again be vital for the Mets at third base with questions about Wright’s health.

T.J. Rivera could be the future for the Mets at second base and I expect him to push the switch hitting Walker for time there, while Matt Reynolds could be valuable for the team as a utility infielder; even though he probably be on the shuttle back and forth to the minors.

But the biggest move that the Mets made this off-season was to re-sign outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes joined the Mets just prior to the trade deadline in 2015, and his impact in the lineup was immediate as he helped to propel the offense which led to New York winning the National League East. In 132 games for the Mets last year, Cespedes batted .280 with 31 home runs and 86 runs batted in. Cespedes opted out of his contract, but he and the Mets would agree on a new four-year deal that is worth $110 million.

Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes provides the Mets with a legit power bat in their lineup that they have lacked for some time as he has that rare ability to put a lineup on his back. But the downside is that Cespedes has been known to go into funks at times as well. Cespedes coming back to the Mets is a “high risk, high reward” scenario, however if it means that New York will be playing baseball in October for a third consecutive year it will be well worth it.

Last year there was speculation that the Mets would lose Cespedes in free agency which led to team general manager Sandy Alderson acquiring outfielder Jay Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds. At first Bruce struggled with the Mets as he was pressing, but he did managed to hit 8 home runs for the Metropolitans in 50 games. However when Cespedes re-signed, it created a logjam in the Mets outfield.

Cespedes is locked in as the Mets everyday left fielder, but you’ll have Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto, and Juan Lagares all vying for time at the other two positions. Lagares and Conforto will compete in center. But it’s Lagares who has the better glove, and Conforto who has the better bat. Granderson and Bruce are both veteran players who’ll each become free agents after this season. However Granderson has provided the Mets with a veteran presence in the clubhouse due to his work ethic and it would be hard for Alderson to part with him.

The Mets still have questions behind the plate with their three-headed monster in catchers Rene Rivera, Travis d’Arnaud, and Kevin Plawecki. The Mets have given d’Arnaud and Plawecki chances to prove themselves. Each player knows how to call a game behind the plate, but the Mets need more production from them with a bat in their hands as both d’Arnaud and Plawecki batted south of .250 last year.

Terry Collins

This could be the final year for Mets manager Terry Collins as there’s the possibility that he could retire. But if the Mets are able start strong and take care of their business, Collins could finish off his managerial career in style with a third straight trip to the postseason.

 

 

Miami Marlins 79-83

To call the 2016 Major League Baseball season a difficult one for the Miami Marlins would be an understatement. The Marlins were in contention for a wild card spot in the National League until they ran out of gas over the final two months. There was still optimism for the Marlins to finish with some momentum for 2017 until the morning of September 25 when starting pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident off of the coast of Miami. Fernandez’s death impacted the baseball world as well as his native Cuba. Fernandez was one of the game’s rising stars and he was rapidly becoming a legend in Miami. Marlins manager Don Mattingly had to piece things together after Fernandez died, but there was no way to hide the raw emotion of losing a person like Fernandez.

The Marlins have now had several months to digest the loss of Fernandez and move on. And as the 2017 Major League Baseball season is set to begin, the Marlins are hoping that they can get their first winning campaign since 2009.

Fernandez’s death leaves a gaping hole in the Marlins starting rotation as he put fear into every lineup in the National League East. Fernandez was 16-8 last year with an earned run average of 2.86. But no other Marlins starting pitcher won more than 9 games with an earned run average that was below 3.85. And as the Marlins don’t have another stud in their starting rotation, things will be pieced together with spit and glue. However if the Marlins starting pitching staff is able to take a lead into the late innings, they do have a quality closer to give the baseball to.

In the last two years, relief pitcher A.J. Ramos has saved 72 games for the Marlins. Ramos is a fire baller that Mattingly can rely on to close out contests. But if the Marlins do fall out of playoff contention early on, expect Ramos to become a hot commodity on the trade front.

For the Marlins to have a realistic shot at making the postseason this year, they are going to have to rely heavily on their lineup which will require everyone staying healthy and living up to their potential. The Marlins have several players in their lineup that have the potential to hit at least 25 homers, but shockinginly as a team they were only 14th in the National League last season with 128 long balls.

Giancarlo Stanton

Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is one of Major League Baseball’s best power hitters. In seven years with the Marlins, Stanton is already the franchise’s all-time leader in WAR (wins above replacement) at 27, and home runs (208). But as much stress that Stanton can put into opposing pitchers, he also puts that same fear into the Marlins front office. Only once during Stanton’s career has he been able to appear in at least 150 games. As most power hitters are prone to strikeout often, Stanton falls into that category as he could flirt with striking out 150 times this year. But one of the biggest issues with Stanton is that his batting average continues to dip as it is boom or bust with him. Last year Stanton only batted .240 as his propensity to swing at pitches out of the strike zone makes it very enticing for pitchers to get ahead of him in the count in order to make him chase pitches out of the zone.

Outfielder Marcel Ozuna is fresh off of his first All-Star Game appearance as he was one the Marlins most consistent hitters last season. Outfielder Christian Yelich is developing into one of the better contact hitters in the National League. Yelich batted .298 last season while hitting a career-high in homers with 21. Yelich should be in running to be an All-Star this season, while if he concentrates on hitting into the gaps at the cavernous Marlins Park, he could also flirt with getting at least 10 triples this year. Yelich also has one Gold Glove Award to his credit, and with his range in the outfield, he could once again have in name in the conversation as far taking home some more hardware.

After first baseman Justin Bour finished fifth in the National League’s Rookie of the Year voting in 2015, the expectation level was high for him last year. Bour hit 23 homers in 2015, but injuries limited him to just 90 games in 2016. And like Stanton, if Bour is able to remain healthy in 2017, it will provide some extra pop to Miami’s lineup.

Dee Gordon

After second baseman Dee Gordon led the National League batting in 2015 at .333, he was once again expected to be a catalyst last year. But it didn’t play out that way for Gordon has he failed a drug test which saw him miss 80 games. And now as Gordon is seeking to rebuild his reputation, he must once again reassert himself as the Marlins table setter if this teams expects to have a legitimate shot at the postseason.

It won’t be easy for the Marlins to begin the season as they’ll be on the road to face the Washington Nationals and New York Mets respectively as these are the two favorites to win the National League East. It will be tough for the Marlins to overtake either team, and I am not sure if this organization has still gotten over the untimely death of Fernandez.

Philadelphia Phillies 77-85

When Andy MacPhail became the Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations in 2015, he knew that he had a rebuilding job ahead of him. The Phillies lost 99 games in 2015 as they were a far cry from the team that made the postseason in five consecutive years from 2007-2011 which included winning the World Series in 2008. The Phillies roster got old and MacPhail knew that he would need to revamp it while also finding a new field general.

Pete Mackanin

2016 was Pete Mackanin’s first full year as the manager of the Phillies and it wasn’t as bad as most people expected. The Phillies had a winning record through the first two months of the Major League Baseball season before they began to fade. The Phils would lose 91 games, but they remained competitive throughout. And although that the Phillies will be fighting an uphill battle in the National League East in 2017, their effort and hard work will make them a team that you’ll be unable to forget about.

But in order for the Phillies to realistically compete, they are going to need improvement in each phase of the game. Last year Philadelphia’s team earned run average of 4.63 was 12th in the National League. Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson was a pleasant surprise in his first season in Philadelphia as he led the pitching staff in wins with 12.

Jered Eickhoff

Starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff has plenty of potential for the Phillies. Eickhoff was one of the key prospects that Philadelphia received when they shipped starting pitcher Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers in 2015. The 26-year old Eickhoff was able to make 33 starts for the Phillies last season as he posted a record of 11-14 while his earned run average was 3.65. Eickhoff also had 20 quality starts as he recorded 167 strikeouts. Eickhoff fell just short of the 200-innings plateau, but could flirt with winning 15 games for Philadelphia this year.

Starting pitcher Aaron Nola is one of the keys in the Phillies rebuilding process, but his 2016 Major League Baseball season was cut short due to an injury. Nola was shut down after just 15 starts last year due to an injured elbow. Nola visited Dr. James Andrews who has been known to perform his fair share of Tommy John surgeries, but he instead prescribed a platelet-rich plasma injection and rest. However it will be interesting to see if Nola’s elbow is fully healed and ready to take on the riggers of making 30-35 starts over the course of an 162-game season.

The Phillies do have a solid bullpen which features relief pitchers Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez. Neris was able to strike out 102 batters in 80.1 innings in 2016 which paved the way for his 37 holds. The Phillies are Gomez’s third Major League Baseball team. And after Gomez spent six years trying to figure out his role, he now appears to be someone that Philadelphia can count on in the ninth inning. But if the Phillies were to fall out of contention, I would expect MacPhail to definitely dangle Gomez out there on the trade market to see if a contender would want his services. But this Phillies pitching staff will have its hands full as they’ll once again be asked to mask the issues of the team’s offense.

Last year the Phillies were last in the National League in runs scored (610), while they were 14th in both batting average (.240), and on-base percentage (.301). Philadelphia did acquire veteran utility man Howie Kendrick from the Los Angeles Dodgers, but his presence in Philadelphia is more about working with some of the team’s young players. The Phillies do have some young potential in their lineup; especially in the infield which could once again lead this franchise to glory.

Maikel Franco

Third baseman Maikel Franco led the Phillies in home runs last year with 25, and the age of 24, he is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. Like Franco, shortstop Freddy Galvis is coming off of a career year as he belted 20 homers. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez doesn’t possess the power of Franco or Galvis, but he’s rounding into being a solid contact hitter as he batted .294 in 2016 to go along with an on-base percentage of .371. However this trio must improve their defense as they combined to commit 33 errors last season.

Outfielder Odubel Herrera is coming off of his first All-Star Game appearance, and in a few years he has the potential to be one of the best outfielders in the National League. Herrera is a solid contact hitter who knows how to get on base which is evident by his .361 on-base percentage from last year. Herrera also stole 25 bases for the Phils in 2016 and his ability to get on base will be important for Philadelphia to hang around in the playoff race.

The Phillies will continue to be a scrappy team, but they still have some improvement ahead of them as they’re still a year or two away from becoming a legitimate contender.

Atlanta Braves 73-89

The rebuilding process of the Atlanta Braves has been a tough one as they have not had a winning season since 2013. The Braves have seen the parade in the National League East pass them by as the Washington Nationals and New York Mets are the two best teams in the division, while the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies are inching closer to contention. The Braves have lost at least 90 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1990, and as they are set to begin life at SunTrust Park in Cobb County, Georgia, the last thing that they can afford to do is to remain an afterthought.

Brian Snitker

Brian Snitker is set to begin his first full season as the manager of the Braves. Snitker replaced Fredi Gonzalez as the Braves manager last year when he was fired after the team’s 9-28 start. Atlanta would go 59-65 the rest of the way under Snitker which was enough for Braves president of baseball operations John Hart to give him the job on a full-time basis.

Even with the Braves rebuilding process, they can still lean on one of the best first baseman in Major League Baseball in Freddie Freeman to be a center piece in their lineup. After a down 2015, Freeman bounced back in 2016 to hit a career high in home runs 34, while also batting .304. The Braves have remained steadfast in not trading Freeman in spite of interest from other teams. And if the Braves are going to shock most people in order to make the playoffs, Freeman will be a big part of it.

Outfielder Matt Kemp is not the all-around player that he was when he finished second in the National League MVP voting in 2011 as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he is a still a quality player. Kemp split 2016 with the Braves and San Diego Padres as he hit 35 home runs. Kemp is one of those players that is streaky, and the Braves would love to see a long hot streak from him in 2017.

Dansby Swanson

Shortstop Dansby Swanson was the first overall pick of the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. But the Diamondbacks quickly soured on Swanson as they felt that he would not be the player that they initially projected him to be. However the Braves were more than happy to acquire Swanson from Arizona as in 38 games with Atlanta last season, he batted .302 with an on-base percentage of .361. The Braves hope that Swanson is not a flash in the pan as they need a lead-off hitter who’ll be able to consistently get on base in front of Freeman and Kemp.

The Braves team earned run average of 4.51 was 11th in the National League last season. Like Freeman, the Braves scoffed at offers for starting pitcher Julio Teheran who was only 7-10, but he possessed an earned run average of 3.21. Teheran would have had a better record if he played on a better team. And as there have been some upgrades to the Braves for 2017, Teheran could flirt with winning 15 games.

Behind Teheran, the Braves will be relying on some veteran arms in their starting rotation. Starting pitcher Bartolo Colon is set to begin his 20th Major League Baseball season and he has become a cult hero. Colon will be 44-years of age in May, and last year he led the Mets in wins with 15. Colon is not a hard thrower, but his rubber arm can eat up innings, while also giving the Braves a valuable veteran in their rotation whom the youngsters can lean on for advice. The Braves also signed a 42-year old starting pitcher in R.A. Dickey whose knuckleball can be very difficult to deal with when he’s on. Dickey spent the last four years of his MLB career with the Toronto Blue Jays, but he was unable to recapture the success that he had in 2012 when he won the National League’s Cy Young Award as a member of the Mets.

Relief pitcher Jim Johnson is not the player that he was when he led the National League in saves in 2012 and 2013, but he could still be valuable for the Braves in spite of the fact that he more than likely will not have as many opportunities to close out games this summer in Atlanta.

The Braves will begin the upcoming season facing an uphill battle as their first eight games will be on the road, while it will also be interesting to see how many fans will make the trek from Atlanta to Cobb County in order to watch them play.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

 

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2016 National League East Projections

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X-New York Mets 95-67 (2)

After six consecutive losing seasons, the New York Mets awoke from a deep slumber to take the Big Apple and the baseball world by storm. Riding a dominant pitching staff, the Mets won the National League East for the first time since 2006, en route to their first NL Pennant since 2000. But the fairytale season for the Mets came to abrupt halt in the World Series where the experience of the Kansas City Royals was on center stage as New York fell three wins shy of their of their first title since 1986. The odds will be stacked against the Mets in 2016 as they will be out to win the NL East in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history and they are also seeking that elusive World Series Championship that they’ve been unable to win since 1986.

At first it looked like this was going to be a tough off-season for the Mets when their longtime second baseman Daniel Murphy was allowed to leave as a free agent to sign with the rival Washington Nationals. Murphy was selected by the Mets in the 13th round of the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft and he’s been a lifer for them. During his time with the Mets, Murphy scrapped, clawed, and did whatever it took to win; which included him putting New York on his back in the first two rounds of the postseason last October as he set an MLB record with a home run in six consecutive playoff games. But Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is a big sabermetrics guy and he wasn’t a fan of Murphy’s defense or his overall talent which led to him being allowed to leave. However the Mets will miss his leadership and hustle in their lineup.

Yoenis Cespedes

Last July, the Mets acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers and he was able to ignite their offense. In 57 games with the Mets, Cespedes batted .287 with 17 home runs and 44 runs batted in as he lifted New York from being one of the worst offenses in the National League to one of the best. At first it appeared that Cespedes was going to be a rental in New York as he was a pending free agent. But Cespedes and the Mets came to an agreement on a three-year deal that is worth $75 million to keep the slugger in Queens which undeniably changes the look of their lineup.

To replace Murhpy’s presence at second base, the Mets acquired Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Murphy and Walker have put up similar numbers at second base with Walker being the better defender which is something that the Mets are looking to solidify. Along with Walker, the Mets signed shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera as they look to sure up their defense.

Michael Conforto

Offensively, the Mets are a team that is full of streaky hitters up and down their lineup, but they are very high on outfielder Michael Conforto. Conforto was the Mets first-round pick in 2014, and in 56 games last year for New York, he batted .270 with 9 home runs and 26 runs batted in. Conforto is expected to be the starting left fielder for the Mets and it would not surprise me to see him get some strong recognition as far as making the All-Star team.

Led by outfielder Curtis Granderson and third baseman David Wright, the Mets have veteran leadership in their lineup. But being that Wright is dealing with spinal stenosis in his back, you can’t expect him to play the hot corner everyday and I would forsee manager Terry Collins looking to give his captain a rest during day games that immediately follow night games.

(l-r) Bartolo Colon, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler

Last season the Mets pitching staff’s team earned run average of 3.43 was fourth best in the National League and they have the potential to be even better in 2016. After going back and forth with inning restrictions with the Mets front office, starting pitcher Matt Harvey appears ready to go and he’s proven that he is a guy that wants the ball. And along with Harvey, starting pitchers Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz all have the potential to win at least 15 games as this rotation will remind baseball fans in New York City who are old enough to remember the days of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Nolan Ryan pitching for the Mets. The Mets also have a veteran presence in their pitching staff with starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, and along with Logan Verrett. Both pitchers have the ability to either be starters or middle relievers which makes a deep pitching staff that much deeper.

After being thrust into the role last year, relief pitcher Jeurys Familia fortified the ninth inning for the Mets, and is he’s able to save at least 35 games in 2016, it should symbolize a good season in Queens. But before the Mets give the ball to Familia, they have solid setup pitchers in Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, and Antonio Bastardo that know how to get out of tight situations.

The construction of the Mets under Alderson which began in 2011 appears to be finally taking shape. And barring any huge setbacks, the Mets should in contention to win the World Series.

Washington Nationals 87-75

Unfortunately for the Washington Nationals, they’ve been unable to string together consecutive solid seasons. After winning the National League East in 2014, the Nationals headed into the 2015 Major League Baseball season as one of the favorites to win the World Series. But when last October rolled around, the Nats found themselves watching the postseason from home as it was the New York Mets who won the division. The Nationals struggles in 2015 resulted in manager Matt Williams being fired which was a quick fall from grace as he was just named as the NL Manager of the Year in 2014. Williams would be replaced as the Nationals manager by a man that he played for during his time as a third baseman for the San Francisco Giants in Dusty Baker.

Dusty Baker

Baker has done it all in Major League Baseball. As a player, Baker broke in with the Atlanta Braves in 1968 and he’ll always be remembered as being in the on-deck circle when Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run in 1974 which made him MLB’s all-time home run king. Baker was also a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers 1981 World Series Championship team. In 1993, Baker began his managerial career with the Giants. Baker has also managed the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds as he has guided each team to the postseason at least once. Some feel that the game may have passed Baker by, but he is joining the Nationals now to show that his old-school work ethic can still get it done in the modern game.

Baker comes to the Nationals knowing that he has the reigning National League MVP in the middle of his lineup in outfielder Bryce Harper. Harper is only 23-years of age, and in four seasons with the Nats, he has established himself as one of the finest players in Major League Baseball. Harper has and will continue to do this without that much helped around him in the lineup and it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that 2016 could see him become the first player in franchise history to hit 50 home runs in a season.

The Nationals are hopeful that the new additions of outfielder Ben Revere, and second baseman Daniel Murphy can make them a playoff team. This off-season, the Nats acquired Revere from the Toronto Blue Jays in a deal that saw them send disgruntled relief pitcher Drew Storen to Canada. In six Major League Baseball seasons, Revere is averaging 39 steals per season and he could be just what the doctor ordered for the Nationals at the top of their lineup. Washington has finally had enough of being hurt by Murphy who left the Mets as a free agent to play in D.C. Murphy is a professional hitter who has a career batting average of .288. Murphy became a household name last October when he set an MLB record by hitting a home run in six consecutive postseason games for the Mets. But New York decided to move on from Murphy due to the fact that he is not a solid fielder which paved the way for him to go to Washington.

The Nationals scored the third most runs in the National League last season, but they weren’t consistent in doing so which hurt their pitching staff. Starting pitcher Max Scherzer was dominant in his first season in Washington as he recorded 276 strikeouts with an earned run average of 2.79. But Scherzer only won 14 games due to the fact he wasn’t getting run support. Scherzer has the potential to win the National League Cy Young Award this year; if he is able to get the support from his team.

Washington also lost a pair of veteran starting pitchers in free agency in Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmerman. Fister and Zimmerman combined to win 18 games last season and their departure will put more pressure on Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg to provide depth in the starting rotation behind Scherzer.

In a bit of surprise, the Nationals decided to bring back relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon back for 2016. Last year the Nats acquired Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies, but all he did was help the team implode down the stretch of the regular season which included a dugout altercation with Harper. But when Papelbon is on, he is really on, and the same can be said when he is off of his game. However, if there is a manager in Major League Baseball that can get through to Papelbon, it is Baker.

The first month of the regular season should be a cakewalk for Washington as they’ll be facing bottom feeders which could give them the ammunition that they need to contend for a postseason spot.

Miami Marlins 79-83

It wouldn’t be the Miami Marlins if they didn’t begin a Major League Baseball season amid some turmoil. Last year the Marlins had aspirations of making the postseason, but after just 38 games, Mike Redmond was fired as the team’s manager. Redmond would be replaced by the Marlins general manager Dan Jennings as Miami lumbered through their sixth consecutive losing season. Jennings would also be fired and ultimately surface with the Washington Nationals as their new assistant general manager. Jennings’ departure paved the way for Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to promote Michael Hill as the team’s new general manager. Hill and Loria made a splash this off-season when they brought in Don Mattingly to be the Marlins new skipper. Mattingly comes to the Marlins with a solid resume that includes him being a six-time All-Star first baseman for the New York Yankees along with his previous managerial experience with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mattingly spent the last five years with the Dodgers where he led them to three National League West Titles and he never had a losing season. But getting to the postseason alone wasn’t enough for Mattingly to maintain his job in Hollywood. However, Mattingly has a sharp baseball mind, and it will be interesting to see if his laid back approach will be able to work with a young team in Miami.

The Marlins lineup does have potential to keep the pressure on opposing pitchers. In the last two seasons, second baseman Dee Gordon has stolen 122 bases which is by far tops in Major League Baseball. Gordon also led the National League in batting average last season at .333 and he appears to be rounding out as player. Gordon did this without having the services of outfielder Giancarlo Stanton behind him for the majority of the season. Stanton is one of the most feared power hitters in MLB, but a fracture in his hand limited him to just 74 games in 2015. And if the Marlins want to contend for a playoff spot this year, they will need Stanton to be healthy in the middle of their lineup.

Along with Stanton and Gordon, the Marlins have a plethora of young potential in their lineup with outfielder Christian Yelich and first baseman Justin Bour. But Miami must find a way to play as a unit due to the fact that they were near the bottom of most statistical categories in the National League last season and the arrival of Barry Bonds who is Major League Baseball’s all-time home run leader as the Marlins new hitting coach could help them.

Along with the youth movement, the Marlins do have a veteran presence in their lineup with outfielder Ichiro Suzuki along with infielders Chris Johnson and Martin Prado who Mattingly will lean on to provide leadership on the field.

Jose Fernandez

The Marlins are hopeful that starting pitcher Jose Fernandez will be able to remain healthy and be their ace, but at the same time the salty relationship that his agent Scott Boras has with Loria makes you wonder if his days in South Florida are numbered. This off-season the Marlins did sign starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen to a five-year deal that is worth $80 million. In four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Chen was 46-32 as a starting pitcher with an earned run average of 3.72 and Miami is hopeful that the move to the National League from the American League will see him become more dominant.

The Marlins schedule to begin the 2016 Major League Baseball season won’t be an easy one with series against the Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals, and New York Mets right out of the chute. But even with a slow start, Mattingly will be preaching consistency and accountability to his young bunch of players as they’ll attempt to push for a postseason spot.

Philadelphia Phillies 65-97

Tough times have caught up to the Philadelphia Phillies as they are now in the midst of rebuilding. After nine consecutive winning seasons, the Phillies are coming off of their third straight losing season and they are looking to avoid finishing in the basement of the National League East for a third consecutive year.

The Ruben Amaro Jr., era as Phillies general manager is over as there is a new brain trust that is running things. Andy MacPhail was brought in last year to be the Phillies new president of baseball operations and he brings with him a wealth of baseball knowledge. Prior to joining the Phillies, MacPhail served as the general manager of Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, and Baltimore Orioles. And in Minnesota, MacPhail helped the Twins win their only two World Series Championships in franchise history. Along with MacPhail, the Phillies have a new general manager in Matt Klentak. But Pete Mackanin will be returning to manage the Phils after taking over mid-season last year when Ryne Sandberg was fired.

Odubel Herrera

The Phillies were one of the worst teams in each aspect of the game last year, but they do appear to have themselves some building blocks in outfielder Odubel Herrera and starting pitcher Aaron Nola. Last year as a a rookie, Herrera batted .297 while he provided the Phillies with solid defense in center field, and he should only get better with his fielding and at the plate in 2016. Nola was the seventh overall pick of the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft by the Phiilies and he made his debut with the big club last year. In 13 starts with the Phils, Nola went 6-2 with a 3.59 earned run average as he has displayed the command of the strike zone that will see him develop into the ace in Philadelphia real soon.

The Phillies are on the hook to pay first baseman Ryan Howard $25 million this season as it is the final year of his deal. Howard is no longer an MVP-caliber player and if the Philadelphia is able to ship him out of town to an American League team where he could become a designated hitter, it would be a win-win for both parties.

As good as the 2000’s were the for the Phillies organization which was highlighted by winning the World Series in 2008, the 2010’s are just as bad. But all is not lost as MacPhail appears to be the right guy to get things turned around in Philadelphia.

Atlanta Braves 64-98

The Atlanta Braves are in the process of rebuilding as they look to once again be a player in the National League East. The Braves are coming off of consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1990 and it is highly unlikely that things will get any better for them in 2016.

John Hart

John Hart is entering his second full season as the Braves president of baseball operations and he is attempting to build this franchise in his own image. Hart named John Coppolella as the Braves general manager and after gutting the roster in Atlanta, the only way for this organization to go is up.

In this rebuilding process by the Braves, they lack an identity in each faze of the game. Last season the Braves were 13th in the National League in team earned run average at 4.41 and they only had one starting pitcher in Julio Teheran win at least 10 games. And there doesn’t appear to be that much protection behind Teheran in the Braves starting rotation in 2016 either.

The Braves were near the bottom of most statistical categories in the National League last season, but they are hopeful that the return of a healthy Freddie Freeman at first base will provide them with a catalyst in their lineup. The Braves do have some veterans in their lineup as this off-season has seen them acquire shortstop Erick Aybar from the Los Angeles Angels while also signing former Chicago White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham. Aybar is a slick fielding infielder that should help the Braves improve defensively. Beckham is a seven-year Major League Baseball vet that is a native of the State of Georgia which is something that the Braves are hopeful will result in improved numbers for him.

After being one of the most prolific base stealers of the 2000’s ,injuries have begun to slow outfielder Michael Bourn down. After leaving Atlanta in 2012 as a free agent, Bourn was reacquired by the Braves from the Cleveland Indians. And at the age of 33, Hart and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez are hopeful that he still has some burst left in the legs that have led the National League in steals on three separate occasions.

With a very difficult schedule to begin the 2016 Major League Baseball season, it is very conceivable that the Braves could use the first few months of the campaign to showcase some of their veteran players in the hopes that a contending team would be willing to pick them up while sending some prospects back to Atlanta. And unfortunately for the folks in Dixie, that is all that they have to look forward to this summer from their baseball team.

Sources: Baseball-reference.com

X-Division Winner

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A Big Off-season Ahead For Sandy

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For the New York Mets, the sting is still there from falling three games short of winning the World Series, and they can take tremendous solace in knowing that they were able to make huge strides this year. But the last thing that the Mets want to do in 2016 is to take steps backwards. After winning 79 games in 2014, and failing to record a winning season since 2008, things began to come together for the Mets in 2015 as they won 90 games in the regular season for their first National League East Title since 2006. The Mets would get past the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs in the playoffs en route to winning the NL Pennant, but the Kansas City Royals proved to be too much for them in the World Series.

Sandy Alderson

Since taking over as Mets general manager in 2010, Sandy Alderson has gone about reshaping the team for the previously financially strapped team owner Fred Wilpon. The past few years have seen the Mets have one of the lowest payrolls in Major League Baseball while attempting to develop their young talent which came to fruition in 2015. The Mets rode their blend of youth and veterans this year to a run that ended on the first day of November. And after captivating their fan base with their magical run, the last thing that the Mets can do is go back to being a mediocre franchise which means that Alderson has some work ahead of him going into the winter.

Already the Mets have roughly $60 million committed to their payroll for next season. That number will definitely increase with several key players led by starting pitcher Matt Harvey up for arbitration over the winter. But the Mets will be faced with several key roster decisions to make as well.

Daniel Murphy

The Mets failed to reach an agreement with second baseman Daniel Murphy last off-season and if they want to retain his services now, it will cost them dearly. During the regular season Murphy batted .281 with a career-high in home runs (14), to go along with 73 runs batted in. But in the postseason, Murphy became a household name as he batted .328 with 7 home runs and 11 runs batted in including setting a postseason record by hitting a home run in six consecutive games. And because of Murphy’s postseason run, along with his leadership and the affection that the fans in New York City have for him, the Mets cannot afford to have him leave town this winter as a free agent. You can expect the Mets to give Murphy a qualifying offer, but they need to make every effort possible to keep him in Queens.

Yoenis Cespedes

This year the Mets became the first team in Major League Baseball history to be last in runs scored prior to July 31, and still qualify for the playoffs. July 31 is an important date on the MLB calendar as it marks the non-waiver trade deadline, and for the Mets they made a splash on that day this year when they acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers. In just 57 games with the Mets, Cespedes batted .287 with 17 home runs and 44 runs batted in. Cespedes’ time with the Mets saw him provide the team with something that they’ve lacked for some time which is a proven cleanup hitter. Cespedes was unable to have the same success in the postseason as a shoulder injury limited him at the plate, but he didn’t endear himself to the Mets and their fans either with his lackluster defense during the World Series which played a part in New York’s series loss to the Royals. Cespedes is 30-years of age and he is expected to command a hefty salary this winter and it will be interesting to see how far the Mets are willing to go to in order to keep him. Throughout Alderson’s time as a general manager, he hasn’t been a fan of giving players 30-years of age or older long-term deals and whomever were to give Cespedes a big contract would more than likely be in the “win now” mode while they would be willing to eat dead money at the end of the deal. And I’m not sure if the Mets and Alderson would be willing to push that envelope.

Michael Conforto

If the Mets allow Cespedes to walk, they could be willing to give outfielder Michael Conforto a chance to be their everyday left fielder. Conforto was the Mets first-round selection in 2014 and he made his Major League Baseball debut this past July. In 56 games with the Mets, Conforto batted .270 with 9 home runs and 26 runs batted in and at the age of 22, New York likes his potential. But it would just be interesting to see if the Mets would be willing to make him an everyday starter being that they have a team that is now a contender.

Spinal stenosis limited Mets third baseman David Wright to just 38 games in 2015, but he was able to play in every postseason game this year. Wright is 32-years of age and his bothersome back is not going to get that much better which is something that the Mets need to keep a keen eye on. Wright is in a position where he is constantly rehabbing in order to get ready to play everyday and heading into 2016, the Mets must work on their infield depth as he will need his fair share of games off; especially when day games follow a night affair.

The Mets are still also facing a conundrum at shortstop with Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores. Tejada has a solid glove but he is not a good hitter, while Flores is a solid hitter, but his defense is shaky. If you put Tejada and Flores together, you get a good shortstop, but the problem is that only one player can be on the field at a time.

Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom

The Mets appear to have their starting rotation going forward with Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler, but you can never have enough pitching. Syndergaard and Matz have yet to pitch a full season in Major League Baseball while Wheeler is on his way back from having Tommy John surgery. Wheeler is expected to miss the beginning of 2016 which means that it wouldn’t hurt the Mets to ponder re-signing starting pitcher Bartolo Colon. Colon went 14-13 for the Mets last season with an earned run average of 4.16 and at the age of 42, he has a rubber arm. The Mets used Colon out of the bullpen during their postseason run and he is a guy that was valuable, but there will be a market for him. Along with Colon, the Mets have another veteran starting pitcher in Jon Niese. In eight years with the Mets, Niese is 61-61 with an earned run average of 3.91. Like Colon, the Mets used Niese solely out of the bullpen during the postseason, but he is a player that could go back to being a starter. Conventional wisdom would say that the Mets could trade Niese this winter in exchange for a bat or prospects, but he still has value for them due to the fact that the team still needs to have some insurance behind their young pitchers.

Going forward the Mets feel that they have their closer in Jeurys Familia. Familia saved 43 runs for the Mets during the regular season after being thrust into the role at the last minute and he was unhittable against the Dodgers and Cubs in the playoffs until the Royals lit him up to the tune of a pair of blown saves in the World Series. The main thing that the Mets need in their bullpen for 2016 is a bridge between their starters and Familia. During the season the Mets acquired relief pitcher Tyler Clippard from the Oakland Athletics and Addison Reed from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mets manager Terry Collins would regularly give Reed the seventh inning, and Clippard the eighth in order to hand to ball to Familia in the ninth. In 17 appearances with the Mets, Reed had a 1.17 earned run average and being that he is not set to be an unrestricted free agent, I see him sticking around in New York as potentially being the eighth inning setup man for Familia. Clippard on the other hand is set to become a free agent and being that he’ll more than likely once again look to be a closer, he won’t be returning to Queens in 2016.

Terry Collins

The Mets gave Collins a two-year extension last week as they feel that he has what it takes to get this club to a championship. Collins has been the Mets manager since 2011, and he has had a history of making some questionable moves. But in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Collins was able to hit all of the right buttons until he rolled snake eyes against the Royals.

The Mets have a team that is set to contend for the next few years, but the time is right now for them to win due to the fact that you can’t take anything for granted as far as simply getting back to the World Series. The Washington Nationals have a new manager in Dusty Baker who is looking to restore order in D.C. as most of the Mets success in 2015 in the National League East came at their expense. The St. Louis Cardinals are always in contention in the NL and we’re heading into an even numbered year which means that it will be about time for the San Francisco Giants to make another World Series run. Like the Mets, the Cubs are a young and upcoming team that is a contender while the Dodgers could attempt to keep themselves in contention by opening up the vault. The Mets have proven that they can contend with the best that the NL has to offer, but it won’t be easy for them as far as defending their position as NL Champions which puts the onus on Alderson this winter to keep his squad at the top of the Senior Circuit.

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What To Expect In The 2015 World Series

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The New York Mets and Kansas City Royals are four victories away from Major League Baseball’s holy grail.

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What To Expect In The 2015 NLCS

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If Joe Maddon can get the Chicago Cubs, he will never have to buy around drink in the Windy City.

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A Decade In The Making

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In 2006, the New York Mets were the talk of the baseball world. The Mets went 97-65 which was the best record in the National League and they had a solid core of players that was led by shortstop Jose Reyes, third baseman David Wright, and outfielder Carlos Beltran that appeared ready to take the Big Apple by storm. But in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, Beltran struck out looking with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Mets lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2007, the Mets would blow a seven-game division lead with 17 games remaining in the regular season as they watched the Philadelphia Phillies win the NL East. In 2008, the Mets would enter the month of September with a three-game lead over the Phillies for the top spot in the NL East. But once again the Phillies would catch the Mets, and when the season ended, it was Philadelphia that was crowned as World Series Champions. This would also mark the second consecutive year in which the Mets missed the playoffs by one game.

Fred Wilpon

The wheels began to fall off for the Mets in 2009 as injuries severely depleted their roster and they finished with a record of 70-92. Around this time, the Mets team finances were put in dire straits when it was revealed that team owner Fred Wilpon was a victim of Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme. And because of this there was a possibility that Wilpon would be forced to sell the Mets, but he stuck around which hurt the team as they had to dump payroll as they would become one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball.

In 2010, Wilpon sought out the help from his friend in Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig who would recommend Sandy Alderson to be the Mets new general manager. At the time Alderson was working in the MLB offices, but he had previous experience as a general manager as he had led the Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres to the playoffs.

Sandy Alderson

And when Alderson arrived in Queens, he preached patience as this was not going to be a quick fix as far as the Mets being able to contend. Prior to the start of the 2011 Major League Baseball season, Alderson would name Terry Collins as the Mets manager. And in each of their first four seasons together, the Mets never posted a winning record, but they were getting younger while putting an emphasis on developing their talent in the minor leagues.

Heading into 2015, the Mets would have been happy to just finish with a winning record for the first time since 2008 as it would have been seen as a building block for this organization. But things changed for the Mets when they began the season by coming out of the chute like gangbusters as they reeled off 11 consecutive victories in the month of April. The Mets would start with a record of 13-3 and in the media capital of the world that is New York City, people were beginning to once again talk about the Mets.

Solid starting pitching would keep the Mets afloat, but their offense would consistently struggle which was highlighted by them losing four games by the score of 1-0 as they were simply frustrating to watch. In mid-June, the Mets would fall under .500 as they lost seven consecutive games, but they would rebound to be 47-42 at the All-Star break. Then on July 29, the Mets announced a trade that was going to send shortstop Wilmer Flores and starting pitcher Zack Wheeler to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for outfielder Carlos Gomez. The trade was announced during the Mets game against the San Diego Padres, and it appeared to be a recipe for disaster as they allowed Flores to remain in the game after telling him the news. Flores couldn’t hold back the tears of disappointment while he was playing and it appeared to be another wrong turn for the Mets as they left the youngster naked to the world.

A few hours later, the Mets backed out of the deal with the Brewers as they were not satisfied with Gomez’s medical report and another chapter of ineptitude was written in franchise history.

Yoenis Cespedes

But hope sprung eternal for the Mets as two days later, they would acquire outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers. And the trade with the Tigers was made just prior to a huge weekend series for the Mets against the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals came to New York with a three-game lead over the Mets for first place in the National League East, but there was a buzz around Citi Field that hadn’t been there since the park opened in 2009 as the fans there were just waiting for something to explode about. The explosion came in the bottom of 12th inning when Flores broke a 1-1 tie with a walk-off home run to give the Mets the victory. The Mets would go on to sweep the Nats which created a tie atop the NL East and they were just getting started.

In the month of August, the Mets would go 19-8 to solidify themselves as the team to beat in the National League East while Cespedes was becoming a household name and in the process, making a ton of money for himself this off-season as he is set to enter free agency. In just 51 games with the Mets, Cespedes is batting .296 with 17 home runs and 44 runs batted in to actually garner some interest about being the NL MVP this year. Cespedes has put the Mets lineup on his back and in the process, he has become the most important player in team history since Mike Piazza. And when the Mets needed to put a stranglehold on the division lead, Cespedes was at the forefront.

On Labor Day, the Mets traveled to D.C. to meet the Nationals for a three-game series. New York was nursing a four-game lead, but they rallied to sweep the Nats and in the series, Cespedes hit a pair of home runs while also driving in 7 runs. The Mets never looked back and this past Saturday evening, they were able to wrap up their first National League East Championship since 2006.

It is has been a total team effort for the Mets as their aren’t any egos on this team which is a testament to the stoic demeanor of Alderson. Alderson built this team through a series of key trades while developing the Mets minor-league system. In 2011, Alderson traded Beltran to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Wheeler. At the time, Wheeler was a prospect in the Giants system, but they were forced to part with him as they were looking a quality bat in their pursuit to repeat as World Series Champions. That off-season, the Mets allowed Reyes to walk in free agency as they could not afford the six-year, $100 million contract that he received from the Miami Marlins. After starting pitcher R.A. Dickey won the National League Cy Young Award in 2012, the Mets traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays who were desperate to improve their pitching staff. And in exchange for Dickey, the Mets would receive catcher Travis d’Arnaud and starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard who were prospects at the time which is exactly what Alderson wanted and it has come full circle this year.

The Mets drafted starting pitchers Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz, while along with Syndergaard and Wheeler who is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, New York has their rotation for the next few years.

Jeurys Familia

When the 2015 Major League Baseball season began, relief pitcher Jeurys Familia was supposed to be the setup man for relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia. But when Mejia tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, Familia stepped up for the Mets as he is third in the National League this season in saves with 42.

Last year the Mets signed outfielder Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million deal which at the time appeared to be a head scratcher. In 2014, Granderson batted a career-low .227 with the Mets as he was attempting to carry the Mets lineup. But Collins decided to shift Granderson to the leadoff position and along with more depth now in the Mets lineup, his numbers have improved as he is currently tied for the club lead in home runs with 25. Mets first baseman Lucas Duda had to earn his position as a fan favorite with the Mets. When Duda first broke in with the Mets in 2010, the team attempted to put him in right field as they were sold on Ike Davis being their everyday first baseman. But last year the Mets gave up on Davis and when they traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Duda became New York’s full-time first baseman. Duda has rewarded Alderson’s trust in him as he hit 30 home runs last year while he is tied with Granderson for the team lead in home runs this season with 25.

And for Wright and second baseman Daniel Murphy, they have seen the best of times and worst of times for the Mets. Wright became a New York heartthrob in the mid-2000’s for his boyish looks and his ability at the plate as he appeared to be the heir apparent to Piazza as far as being the face of the Mets franchise. Murphy debuted with the Mets in 2008, and together he and Wright have stuck it out in New York during the thin years. And with the Mets going back to the postseason next month, it will be extra sweet for Murphy and Wright as it was once expected for them to be a frequent October participant as they now see how difficult that it is for them to get back there.

Whereas there was a time when the Mets couldn’t find the money to get quality players to come to Queens, they are now lining up to come there as this is a team that is ready to contend and that players want to be a part of. And speaking of lining up, the Mets are now near capacity for every home game which is a far cry from a few years ago when they couldn’t give away tickets to fill the stadium. It’s true that if you build it, they will come and the Mets have a solid of blend of youngsters and veterans that are ready to take New York and Major League Baseball by storm. We’ve seen in the past how Shea Stadium would be rocking for playoff baseball, and now Citi Field will have its chance next week. From top to bottom, the Mets were an organization that people had forgotten about a few years ago. But now they are the talk of the town and who knows how far that this will be able to go next month.

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In Cespedes We Trust

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The best thing to compare the 2015 Major League Baseball season of the New York Mets to are the highs and lows that are associated with the stock market. The Mets record has fluctuated this season and if they were indeed a stock that was purchased this past May or June, the stockholders would be happy people right about now. In April, the Mets won 11 games in a row and they became the talk of baseball as they’ve been a franchise that has been moribund for so long, but then they became the talk of New York City. As the season went along, the Mets record began to dip and by June 24, they had a losing record as it seemed like they were on the track to becoming the “same old Mets”. The main problem for the Mets this season has been their hitting as they’ve ranked near the bottom of most offensive statistical categories in the National League, but they were able to get a reprieve in late July.

In a trade that raised some eyebrows as the Mets appeared to simply be reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic, New York acquired infielders Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe from the Atlanta Braves in late July. And in typical Mets fashion, they botched a trade that would have seen them re-acquire outfielder Carlos Gomez from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for shortstop Wilmer Flores and starting pitcher Zack Wheeler. After this the Mets were taking a beating in the New York media for their handling of the trade until they received a shot at redemption when they acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers. The acquisition of Cespedes has now given the Mets a form of life that they have lacked for a very long time.

Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes is the true definition of a five-tool player as he has power bat, hits for average, he has speed on the bases, he has a strong throwing arm, and he has defensive range in the outfield. And the baseball fans in the United States are no stranger to what Cespedes can do as they’ve seem him be a productive player over the past three years for the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox, and Tigers.

But before Cespedes came to New York, the Mets lineup lacked an identity as it appeared to be kept together by spit and glue whereas now that have themselves a legitimate cleanup hitter. In 23 games with the Mets, Cespedes is batting .311 with 7 home runs and 21 runs batted in. And over that stretch, Cespedes is already seventh on the team in home runs this season. Since August 1 when Cespedes began playing for New York, the Mets are 17-6 and they are now in first place in the NL East with a 6.5-game lead over the Washington Nationals. The Mets offense has exploded to the point that they have scored 10 runs in a game five times since Cespedes joined the club as to only doing it once before the trade.

Over the past few days, Cespedes has been on a personal tear. In the Mets 14-9 victory over the Colorado Rockies this past Friday night, Cespedes went 5-for-6 which included him hitting three home runs; one of which was a grand slam. And in the Mets 16-7 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies this past Monday night, the team set a franchise record by hitting eight home runs which was capped off by a two-run blast from Cespedes in the ninth inning as New York finally has an offense to compliment their pitching staff that is currently third in the NL this season in team earned run average at 3.31.

Since the acquisition of Cespedes, the Mets front office has a good problem on their hands. With the recent surge of the Mets, attendance is up at Citi Field as they now have more than a puncher’s chance to make the playoffs. But all is not well in New York as Cespedes is set to become an unrestricted free agent this winter unless the Mets are able to pony up the bread to keep him there.

Once this season concludes, Cespedes will only have four years of MLB service, but being that he played for several years on the Cuban National Team, his former agent Adam Katz worked out a clause in his initial contract with the Athletics which forced the team that he last plays for prior to becoming a free agent, to release him if no new deal is in place to prevent him from becoming a free agent. And per MLB rules, that team could not re-sign him until May 15 of the following year. The Mets have between now and five days following the conclusion of the 2015 World Series to blow Cespedes and his new representatives of Roc Nation Sports away with an offer that would make him balk at free agency in order to remain in Queens. So the onus is now on Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon who has been crying poverty over the past few years to overspend on Cespedes or he will face a revolt from the team’s fan base.

With Cespedes at the core of the Mets lineup, New York has a team in place that can not only make the playoffs, but do some damage there as well. Cespedes made a name for himself on the MLB in the small market of Oakland before having a cup of coffee in Boston and Detroit respectively. But there is nothing quite like being able to do it on the big stage of New York City which has been known to make or break the best of them. Cespedes is a native of Cuba and with a large Latino population in the Big Apple, they would welcome him there with open arms if he decided to stay long term.

Contractually we don’t know what will happen with Cespedes and the Mets, but the only thing that they can do in the meantime is to ride the wave of momentum that he has created around him in New York City.

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