“65 Mustangs” Who’s on First? What’s on Third? 2017 Discombobulated NY Mets Preview.

As a NY Sports fan, I always like to see the Mets win even though my loyalty lies across the river in the South Bronx. The 2000 Subway Series will always be one of the best World Series for me. Maybe we’ll see it again in the next couple of seasons if this spring is any indication of how soon the Yanks can be relevant again. The NY Mets are relevant now, at least on paper, as they have a formidable collection of power hitters at nearly every position and power pitchers in both the rotation and bullpen. So, what’s the problem?

The Mets are discombobulated on a few fronts. Some of the hitting issues may help you in fantasy baseball with multi position flexibility, while some of the pitching issues will hurt. They spent a few years drafting and trading for what would eventually become a five ace pitching staff. Then, Zack Wheeler tore his elbow, Steven Matz had a shoulder impingement then surgery on a bone spur, Jacob DeGrom had his left Ulnar nerve impinged and had to have his ulnar ligament moved because of it, Noah Syndergaard got a bone chip but it was small enough to pitch through, and then there is Matt Harvey. Between Harvey’s injuries, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome plus others, his agent Scott Boras calling the shots, and the often dysfunctional Met’s medical staff we really don’t know what we are going to get. To me, he doesn’t seem to have a very strong constitution. We may never see all five of them in the same rotation at once. In the pen, Jeurys Familia is one of the better closers in the game but he is also facing a potential domestic suspension much like Aroldis Chapman got last season. If he gets suspended hopefully it will be for only 30 days. Look, there is Scott Boras explaining how it is going to work to the Mets medical staff. He has his PHD in, no, I’m not sure what either? Boras looks a bit out of shape too, maybe he better get on a conditioning program himself.

As for the position players, there are problems all around the diamond.  David Wright, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker are all recovering from back problems that cost all three time in 2016, and that is 3/4 of the infield. Wright’s career may even be over. Walker should be good to go and Duda’s health for the long season is yet to be seen. They are deep at SS however as Asdrubal Cabrera had one of his best seasons and they brought Jose Reyes home for a 2nd go-around. They can’t play two SS but Reyes can play 3rd as he proved last season. They also have Wilmer Flores who can play all the infield positions and is a great utility player, but he wants to play every day and may cry if he doesn’t get to. The infield will depend on how many games the back ache club can play. I bet the Mets have a whole crew of chiropractors on the payroll.

The outfield appears overcrowded with the Mets unable to trade Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson, resigning Yoenis Cespedes and trying to get regular at bats for Michael Conforto, though he still has options remaining. Either Granderson or Cespedes will have to man CF leaving three men for the other two spots. If Duda can’t play, Bruce may be able to man 1B which clears up the problem. Both Bruce and Granderson are free agents after 2017. The good news is the whole lineup is capable of hitting 20+ HR except for maybe Reyes. Then there is the catcher position. Travis d’Arnaud was the prize return from the R.A. Dickey trade several years ago, but just can’t stay healthy enough to prove he is the player he projected as at the time of the trade. Maybe this will be the year, he just turned 28 and still has the skill set the Mets coveted.

Hopefully, these problems will all work themselves out. If they do this is a World Championship caliber team.

Who’s out? James Loney, 1B, Bartolo Colon, SP. They may miss both of these guys more than most people think.

Who’s in? Ben Rowen, SP. He is a 28-year-old rookie reliever who closed in the minors.

Trivia Question: What one starting pitcher has led the Mets in Wins, Innings Pitched & Games Started in each of the last three seasons, 2014, 2015 & 2016?          (Missed by 1 Game Started in 2014)

Probable Starting Lineup:

Curtis Granderson,  CF: I still have trouble seeing him as a leadoff hitter, but he still produces even at 35 with a .335 OBP, his 3rd best in the past eight years. He will give you an odd combination in fantasy of R & HR but fall short in RBI, BA, & SB now that he no longer runs. He used to be a very good center fielder but hasn’t played there regularly since 2012. Juan Lagares is there to back him up, but is only a 5th outfielder, and Yoenis Cespedes can play center also, but it looks like it’s the Grandyman. In fantasy, I see him as a 5th OF, but if your 5th OF hits 30 HR, scores 90+ runs and has an OPS > .800 you are pretty happy no?

David Wright, 3b: Talk about an elephant in the room, this is the tough part. When Wright is healthy he’d rival Cespedes as the best hitter on the team. When was Wright last healthy? (2012) I can’t take him seriously as he may be closer to announcing his retirement than hitting .300 with 25 HR. This is a sad way to go out, much like Don Mattingly did in the Bronx. But we can’t dwell in fantasy baseball. Draft him in the later rounds as a flyer but draft your 3bman long before that. That brings us to Jose Reyes. The Mets look smart for grabbing him for a bag of balls last season after his suspension was over. He played 3b down the stretch. He is no longer the SB or power threat he used to be but he will still likely score a lot of runs, extra base hits and double digit HR & SB. I bet he will have double the AB that David Wright accumulates. They think he can even play some outfield. I’d draft him right after all the top middle infielders are off the board. He would look good in an MI or CI spot in a standard lineup. As for David Wright, he looks like he is ready to go home and spend some time with his wife.

Yoenis Cespedes, LF: Met’s management had no choice but to bring Yoenis back in 2016 and he did not disappoint. He hit 31 HR, 72R, 86RBI, batted .280 with an .884 OPS. 2016 was the 2nd season in a row he hit over 30 HR. He does not strike out a lot but seldom walks either.  He is a must draft in the 2nd round. I think fans can stop worrying about his state of mind. It won’t help anyway. It is fun to see what he’ll drive, or ride to work any given day, though.

Jay Bruce, RF: Jay Bruce has become another elephant in the room, after David Wright & Matt Harvey that is. The Mets got him for the stretch drive and Bruce did his part. He has one more year left on his contract, but no position to play considering the Mets would like to have Michael Conforto in the OF. Bruce has started playing some 1st base so he can be the replacement there if Lucas Duda has problems. I think Bruce will get his AB one way or another if he continues to hit at a 30, 100 pace no matter what his BA is. I’ll place him 4th in this lineup for the same reason. We always like those (early) mid round OF/1B men who hit 30 HR. Don’t we?

Neil Walker, 2B: I’ve expected a Neil Walker breakout season for a few years now. There is 30 HR potential in that bat somewhere but a bad back has derailed him from that accomplishment. He should be ok heading into 2017, and if you draft him as a 25 HR, .280 BA kind of 2bman you’ll be happy. I’d be happy entering the season with him at 2B if I missed out on the big guys. Wilmer Flores would be the back up here. Where have you gone Daniel Murphy?

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: Cabrera quietly had one of his better seasons in 2016. His stats look eerily similar to Neil Walker’s in 2016. 23 HR, 62 RBI .280/.810 vs 23 HR, 55 RBI, .282/.823 but in 100 less at bats. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and is borderline draftable as a fantasy starter at SS, but would be a safe MI pick in the mid to late rounds. For a playoff caliber team, his defense coupled with the aforementioned offense is more than adequate. This was one of Sandy Alderson’s better moves. Should anything go wrong, Jose Reyes played a few games at SS in his time. The Mets had to be pleased when Ozzie Guillen chose not to take him on Venezuela’s team in the WBC as he had a balky knee for most of 2016.

Lucas Duda, 1b:  One more unknown commodity due to a back issue. He is supposed to be good to go, and if so is a power-hitting corner infielder with no speed and a pretty mediocre BA. The infield’s Jay Bruce if you will. Between those two and Granderson, the Mets will have a lot of strike outs and a very low BA. That is only if he is healthy. If he is not, perhaps Jay Bruce can step in, freeing a spot for Michael Conforto, and Wilmer Flores will see time there as well. Duda is draftable if only for the 30 HR potential. I would not want to leave the mid rounds with him as my primary 1bman, but as a CI in a standard lineup, he may be worth taking a chance.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: Another classic underachiever. d’Arnaud had a star stamped on his forehead when he came to the Mets as part of the R.A. Dickey trade. He has battled so many injuries that he never put together a long enough stretch to get in a groove and show what he can do. He still has time to pay some dividends for the Mets as he is only 28 years old, but he must stay healthy enough to play 120-130 games. If he does that he could be a sneaky catcher play after the draft and part way into the season, or as the #2 catcher in a 2 catcher league. If I have room, I’m going to stash him. If not he’ll be one of the first I look at if I have a catcher issue. The alternatives are Kevin Plawecki & Rene Rivera, both capable career backups.

Impact Reserves:

Jose Reyes, SS, 3b: See above.

Wilmer Flores, Util: See above. His 16 HR and 49 RBI were very useful in 307 multi position at bats.

Michael Conforto, OF: See above. If I were in Vegas I’d bet the trio of Reyes, Flores & Conforto has more at bats in 2017 than David Wright & Lucas Duda combined. Conforto hit 12 HR and drove in 42 runs with a .220/.310/414 slash in 304 AB. The Mets believe he can do a lot more as he was an on base machine in the minors averaging a .320 BA in three minor league seasons. He just turned 24.

Juan Lagares, OF: Great fielding, light hitting CF, he may bat against lefties in place of Granderson, but not enough to be fantasy relevant.

Probable Starting Pitching Staff:

Trivia Question Solution: Bartolo Colon led the Mets in Wins and Innings Pitched 2014-2016, and in Games Started 2015 & 2016. missing by one in 2014.

Noah Syndergaard, SP: Noah became one of my favorite players the day he knocked Alcides Escobar on his ass in the 2015 World Series. I had him ahead of deGrom and Harvey heading into 2016 and luckily got him outside the top 20 in some leagues. I even named 2 of my teams after him.  He will be no more than the 10th pitcher off the board in 2017 and could end the season in the top five. He is a fearless bulldog, the Mets’ ace and he is my Ace. After Kershaw, Scherzer, Bumgarner, Sale and Arrieta I’d put him right in with Kluber, Verlander, Strasburg, Cueto et al. If you want 220 K’s and ratios in the 2.5/1.10 range, this is your man. He should be clear to eclipse 200 IP for the first time in 2017 increasing his chance at 18-20 wins.

Jacob deGrom, SP: deGrom is not far behind Syndergaard but not quite the power arm. He hit a speed bump in 2016 and had to have surgery on his ulnar nerve but looks good to go now. He is a quality pitcher that I would draft not long after the top 10-12 are off the board. The picture to the right is the big 4 SP plus Jeurys Familia.

Steven Matz, SP: In theory, he is the 4th of the Mets aces but like some of the others has not had the chance to prove it over a whole season. This time last year some thought he was the most talented of the group. If that is true this is the best staff in the game. Even coming back from a shoulder impingement and bone chip surgery he will not fall far in the draft, so pick your spot and stick with it.

Matt Harvey, SP: The biggest elephant in the Met’s room. Harvey has been and can be an ace type pitcher. However, between injuries, interference from his agent, and perhaps a weak psyche, Harvey is more albatross than Ace. Of course, if he has three or four top notch starts in his first month I’ll deny I ever said that. So will all the Met’s faithful. He is also the one most likely traded if they have to move a SP. I won’t draft him and already traded him for Syndergaard last off season. I don’t trust him, and this is Team Thor now.

Robert Gsellman, SP: If Wheeler can’t go, Gsellman should get the call after pitching surprisingly well in 2016 with a 2.42 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning in seven starts. His minor league record says temper those expectations but he could be a useful fantasy spot starter especially with continued use.

Zack Wheeler, SP: Wheeler has missed two seasons after complicated elbow surgery with setbacks, so has not yet had a chance to show what he can do in a full season. He is a wild card for 2017 both for health and the degree of rustiness/innings limits. I doubt I’d draft him unless I had a bench spot but he could be an impact add later in the season. Early Reports out of Port St. Lucie are that he is throwing smoothly and the ball is coming out of his hand well. One can only hope.

Probable Impact Relievers:

Jeurys Familia, Closer: He puts some runners on base to give the fans and his owners palpitations, but he almost never gives up a HR and strikes out about 10 batters per nine innings. He’s got the closer mentality and led baseball with 51 Saves in 2016. He may have a domestic violence suspension looming much like Chapman’s 30 days even though the charges were dropped. I would not drop him too far in my rankings for saves as he could still rack up 40 in 5 months.

Addison Reed, Set Up: Reed is a must-own in any league, not only as a CLEW***(handcuff) for Familia, especially in April, but also as a premier set-up man in baseball. He closed for three seasons with the White Sox and Arizona then, after an off year, he came back to the NL with a vengeance last season. If you count holds he is a top five set up man, leading the league with 40 holds in 2016.

Hansel Robles, RP: Robles has serious strikeout pitches and k’s over one per nine innings. He also walks too many, 36 in 77 innings. He is a walk correction away from Addison Reed value and should be owned in deep leagues.

Jerry Blevins, RP: One of the better  LOOGYS (Left-handed specialists) in baseball. If your league counts holds and especially Inherited Runners Stranded (IRS) he is a must own.

Possible help from the Farm:

Brandon Nimmo, OF: Nimmo held his own in five minor league seasons before tearing up AAA Las Vegas for a .352 Avg. and Votto like .423 OBP (.964 OPS) in 400 at bats. He showed very little speed (7 SB) or HR power (11) though he had 25 doubles and 8 triples. He also held his own during his 73 AB cup of coffee in NY, batting .274. He will turn 24 next week so there is still time to fill out his 6’3″ frame and develop some more HR power. Right now he is stuck behind 5 outfielders but should be the first one called up. In the meantime, he is a man of many hats.

Seth Lugo, SP: Lugo, 27 years old this season pitched well in his 17 game cup of coffee, starting 8 of them, going 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA. There was some luck, however as he pitched to a .240 Babip and had a miserable 2.14 K/BB. He did pitch too much higher strikeout rates in the minors, though (8.0 Avg) so that may be a matter of command. He’ll likely be the first one up if there is a need.

Rafael Montero, SP: He had a miserable 2016 both in the MLB and the minors. The stats are so bad they are not worth repeating. He is not too far removed from being a top Mets pitching prospect, and he is only 26 years old. He may find his way back in 2017 if a need arises.

The cream usually rises. We already know Yoenis Cespedes will. We know that Noah Syndergaard will. If the rest of this cast can stay healthy and produce like they are capable of they will be playing meaningful October Baseball.  My money is on them figuring it out and winning some playoff games. When the cream rises it has to rise above team owners, executives and medical staff who tend to inadvertently F*** it all up. I think they can.

Thanks for reading and see you all next week when we take a look at the Texas Rangers. The season starts in 2 weeks. Can you feel it?

joseph.iannone021@gmail.com                @joeiannone2 on Twitter

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 12th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #78 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we break down both West divisions. We will discuss potential lineups, rotations, bullpens, and any minor league potential for each team along with a heavy fantasy spin.

Our guests this week are Kevin Bzdek and Kevin O’Hara. Kevin Bzdek is one of our newest additions to our baseball writing staff in 2017. His articles publish every Friday morning. Kevin O’Hara is a big dynasty baseball fan and a moderator for the fantasy baseball community on reddit.com.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

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(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 19th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #79 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss player updates, players being overdrafted, and overall fantasy updates.

Our guest this week is Jon Merkel. Jon is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com in both baseball and football. His articles publish every Wednesday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

 



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