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Hot Takes: Our Boldest Mets Predictions for 2016

Ain’t nothing like a hot take. It’s what makes the sports-industrial complex go–the ultimate expression of our tendencies toward hyperbole, contrarianism, and creativity. While in many cases, the needless hot take can be a thing that frustrates us, we here at BP – Mets enjoy the occasional bold opinion or projection. (Plus, we try to back our fire-hot takes up with data. Some times.)

Today, we’re presenting our best and favorite bold predictions for the 2016 Mets season. Try not to burn yourself. #hottakes

The Mets Will Win The 2016 World Series

The 2015 Mets won 90 games and went to the World Series. The 2016 Mets start out at least as good than the team that was in the playoffs–and the Mets that were in the playoffs were way better than the Mets that played most of the 2015 season. Yoenis Cespedes, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Steven Matz aren’t midseason adds this time; they’ll start with the major league club. The type of offensive depth that was added at the deadline in 2015 already exists in 2016 with the additions of Alejandro de Aza and Asdrubal Cabrera, and incumbents like Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares. Zack Wheeler–who might have been the most touted of all the recent Mets pitching prospects–will be back at midseason.
A lot of things will go wrong between here and October. But no other team in baseball can even come close to the frontline pitching that the Mets have. (Editor’s note: Well…) And the offseason has blessed Terry Collins with a good, deep lineup with ample choices and backup plans. These Mets are going all the way. — Jarrett Seidler (@jaseidler)

David Wright Will Not Start The Mets’ 2016 Playoff Games

This one hurts me personally. Captain America is almost exactly 11 months younger than I am, so his aging runs parallel to mine. However, his is public, and his baseball mortality is happening rapidly. First there are the health issues. Spinal stenosis limited Wright to 38 games in 2015. His lengthy rehab to return to the field has been well-documented. More germane at the outset of the 2016 season, his involved routine to prepare his body to play everyday is both impressive, but also a warning sign. No one, including Wright or a team representative, is willing to say publicly that he thinks that Wright will make it through the season in healthy and productive fashion.

Beyond the stenosis, Wright has played 150 games only once since his excellent age-27 2010 season (36 2B, 29 HR, 6.2 WARP). My bet is simply that his body will not hold up to both a full season’s worth of regular season and playoff games. In theory, it’s possible that if the Mets look headed for the playoffs in July or August, they could sit Wright for a while. However, that assumes that their playoff berth looks secure, and both Wright and the team think that such a rest would be beneficial.

It’s likely that if Wright is healthy and playing, he’s going to be the Mets’ best option at third, but there are abundant signs of decline in the 33-year-old’s game. In 2015, he was productive–.315 TAv–but only played in 38 games. In 2014, he played in 134 games, but was not particularly productive with a .258 TAv and a 1.2 WARP. He’s been a below-average defender at third in six of the last eight years. That’s not likely going to be enough to take him off the field, but it will hurt his value. His contact percentage on swings at pitches inside the strike zone (84 percent) and his overall contact rate (78 percent),were his lowest since his 2010 season and his second lowest since the statistic became available in 2008.

So that’s two years in a row where he has not given the Mets very much. Can a 33-year-old bounce back to a level most recently set three years ago? Sure. Is that a strong bet? Anyone have a roulette wheel? — Toby Hyde

Bartolo Colon Will Be Better Than Zack Wheeler In 2016

If the baseball gods are kind in 2016, the Mets should expect two men to receive an equal number of starts from the rotation’s No. 5 slot. First up is Bartolo Colon, a national folk hero who uses 83 percent of his repertoire on a fourseamer sitting 91 and a sinker that’s back to the future at 88 mph. Somehow, this works. But once July 1 or thereabouts rolls around, in will step Zack Wheeler, who turns 26 a week after Colon turns 43. After a season away recovering from Tommy John, Wheeler can return to his quite-excellent 2014 form right from the get-go, perhaps.
Perhaps. There’s no reason to automatically assume Wheeler gets back to that form just in time for a second half wherein the Mets figure to be very competitive. And despite Colon’s immense mileage, it’s worth nothing that last season was no aberration: His contact rates–in and out of the strike zone–were consistent with his career trends and his relative health is no issue. Plus, asking Colon to give you his best 16 starts right out of the gate means you get the very best he has to give. With Wheeler’s return, Colon becomes a long-man par excellence. Point is, if you’re thinking young Zack will come up in July and prove to be a clear upgrade over the ageless Bartolo, think again. — Erik Malinowski (@erikmal)

Travis d’Arnaud Will Be The Best Catcher In Baseball

In well under half a season last year, Travis d’Arnaud amassed 4.0 WARP. That would place him behind maybe only Buster Posey–maybe no one!–on the WARP leaderboard if he had played around 130 games. Of course, that is the catch since he hasn’t managed a full season yet … but I’ll take the over on 130 for him in 2016. I’d also bet that his power spikes as he enters his prime and his plate discipline improves as well. That combined with refinements in pitch blocking (and his continued elite pitch framing) will allow him to pass Posey as the most valuable catcher in the game. — Maggie Wiggin (@maggie162)

The 2016 Mets Break The Team Record For Most HR in a Season (200)

The starting rotation garners the most hype, and rightfully so, but this lineup has the kind of power we haven’t seen since the 2006 squad set the club record for home runs. If healthy, lineup numbers one through eight should all reach double-digit homers. Lucas Duda and Yoenis Cespedes could both conceivably hit 30 homers again and it wouldn’t be surprising if Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto, and Travis d’Arnaud surpass 20 apiece. Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera have averaged 32 homers combined per season dating back to 2012. Who knows what to expect from David Wright, but Wilmer Flores can provide thump in whatever role he ends up playing. It’s already getting interesting and we haven’t even touched on the other bench players and pitchers. (I’m looking at you, Bartolo.) No NL team has slugged 200 homers since the 2012 Brewers and best-case scenarios rarely play out, but I’m here to be bold, so I’ll say that the Mets are going to threaten that club record. – D.J. Short (@djshort)

Wilmer Flores Redefines the Super-Sub Role

Over the last 10 seasons, there have been 35 players who got 400 or more plate appearances while playing at least 10 games each at second base, third base and shortstop. Some of these players had a primary position but made spot appearances elsewhere, like Ruben Tejada last year. Others bounce around infield and outfield positions, like Boston’s Brock Holt.

What’s unusual about the Mets’ bench this season is Wilmer Flores probably starts off as the primary backup for all four infield positions. Also, it seems like most teams keep “super-sub” infielders with power away from first base so they can add power to a weaker position. I expect Flores to stay in this super-sub role all season, where Wilmer Flores will become the first player in National League history to start 10 games at each infield position and hit 10 or more home runs. — Noah Grand (@noahgrand)

The Mets Will Miss Jon Niese

There’s no love lost between Niese and the Mets. Shunted to the playoff bullpen in favor of Steven Matz, then dealt in the offseason for Neil Walker, the Mets made it clear that Niese was superfluous to their 2016 team. PECOTA agrees in principle, projecting every member of the Mets’ starting five to outperform Niese.

PECOTA’s preference notwithstanding, the Dodgers’ spring should remind the Mets that pitching depth is a necessity, not a luxury. Sandy Alderson’s reliance on a returning Tommy John patient to provide rotation depth is risky, particularly because the team apparently believes once-heralded prospect Rafael Montero will never succeed at the big-league level. Niese deserves credit as a reliable innings-eater, having made at least 24 starts each of the last six seasons.

Yet there’s reason to believe Niese is more than mere depth. PECOTA may not realize that Niese is one of four pitchers to finish in the top 10 in inducing comebacker outs each of the last two seasons–the others are Dallas Keuchel, Zack Greinke and Mike Leake. Niese’s new teammate Gerrit Cole appears on the 2015 list, along with the top four NL Cy Young finishers and the AL Cy Young winner. Niese gives Pirates pitching coach/wizard Ray Searage plenty of raw material on which to perform his alchemy.

If Niese makes the leap in 2016 or the rotation is beset by injuries–let alone both–the Mets’ decision to jettison a No. 3 or No. 4 starter with upside will be proven imprudent. — Scott D. Simon (@scottdsimon)

Michael Conforto Will Have A Better Season Than Corey Seager

Michael Conforto will not be the National League’s Rookie of the Year. (That’s not the hot take. He’s not eligible.) The hot take is that he would be if he were eligible, and by that I mean that Conforto is going to have a better season than the hot NL RoY pick and BP’s top prospect for 2016: Corey Seager.

This is the genre of hot take that, upon further inspection, is more of a tepid take. In 2015, Conforto had a .315 True Average and posted a 1.9 WARP in just 56 games. If he even comes close to maintaining the pace he set, Conforto would be one of the 10 best outfielders in the National League. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. FanGraphs’ community projections see Conforto’s bat being just as valuable over a longer stretch of games. I think it will happen. And that would be more significant than any award. — Eric Garcia-McKinley (@garcia_mckinley)

Addison Reed will be the best pitcher in the Mets’ Bullpen

Some hitters are made for Fenway Park and some pitchers are made for PETCO Park, but those aren’t the only baseball marriages that matter. This prediction is absolutely not an indictment on Jeurys Familia, who should have a very strong 2016 (though a small step back from the elite version of himself last year should probably be expected), but one based on the potentially dynamic combination of Reed and Dan Warthen. When Reed has been great, his slider has been the reason why, and Reed flashed a harder and better-controlled slider down the stretch last season than at any point in his career. If Reed can now add that bat-missing element his younger self flashed after a full offseason of work, he has a chance to realize the potential he showed throughout the minors. That could look come with a pristine ERA and 90-100 strikeouts. — Bret Sayre (@dynastyguru)

Jeurys Familia Will Be The Best Reliever In Baseball

Familia was a dominant closer in 2015, and a great bullpen arm in 2014 as well. The bar for elite relief pitching is high nowadays though, as the fireballing strikeout-monsters aren’t just showing up in greater numbers in major league rotations, but in the pen as well. Familia’s 1.85 ERA last season just snuck into the top 10 for relief pitchers, and the fielding independent stats think he may have been a bit lucky; he out-pitched both his FIP and DRA by about one run per nine. But as for me, I have no idea how any major league hitter squares him up. After a performance hiccup post-All-Star-break, Familia debuted a devastating splitter that routinely touched the mid-90s. That is not a typo. Splitter. 90s.

It immediately looked like a top-of-the-scouting-scale, wipeout offering*, and he pairs it with a two-seamer that can touch 99 (and moves almost as much as the split), and his plus-plus version of the Warthen slider. This is an 8/8/7 scouting profile. It is always risky to predict the next sixty innings of any relief pitcher (that is how you end up trading for Ramon Ramirez and signing Scott Atchison), but I will bet on a full season of that splitter.

* Bonus fun fact: Familia threw 114 splitters in 2015. He gave up only four hits, and  batters swing and missed 33 times. – Jeffrey Paternostro (@jeffpaternostro)

Three Mets Pitchers Will Receive Cy Young Votes

Since baseball expanded to thirty teams in 1998, only eight teams have had at least three pitchers receive Cy Young votes. As a “bold” preseason prediction, it’s one of the more plausible, so the true question will be which three (or four, or five, or…) manage the votes. Will the Sports Illustrated cover trio of Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, and Jeurys Familia lead the charge? Will the even younger guns of Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler improve further on their touted prospect statuses? Will Big Sexy add a couple home runs to stellar pitching? (Probably not.) The Mets’ top-six starters are projected to have about the same WARP as last season, and if that’s the case, three pitchers with Cy Young votes is hardly out of the question. Sadly, of the aforementioned eight three-Cy-votes teams, just one won the World Series. Here’s hoping for a second. — Brian Duricy

Noah Syndergaard Will Come In Second In NL Cy Young Voting

I won’t predict that he surpasses the lefty in Los Angeles, but Noah Syndergaard will dominate the NL and finish second in the NL Cy Young voting. He features two of the fastest fastballs in baseball, and a 97 MPH two seamer that moves as much as Syndergaard’s does is patently unfair. All of Thor’s secondaries also induce above average swinging strike rates, and he’s supposedly improved his Warthen slider even further. Add in his excellent control and his dominating demeanor on the mound–I’m really hoping someone actually does try to meet him sixty feet six inches away–and you have the ingredients for one of the best pitchers in baseball. — Lukas Vlahos (@lvlahos343)

The Mets Trade For a Starting Pitcher At the 2016 Trade Deadline

I do not want to be the pessimist here. I really don’t. But we need to talk about the potential for injury among at least four of the Mets’ five starters. Noah Syndergaard throws so hard that his arm could spontaneously detach and hit 60 on the radar gun itself. Jacob deGrom had a little velocity loss in Spring Training, and that gives me heartburn. Bartolo Colon is held together with duct tape, and Steven Matz has proven that the only thing he isn’t good at is staying healthy. Only Matt Harvey is a sure thing to stay healthy … you get a three-year manufacturer’s warranty on Tommy John surgery these days, right?

I am going into 2016 assuming that Matz and Wheeler will co-habitate one slot in the rotation, and that one of Thor or deGrom will get the zipper mid-season. That would leave the Mets with a Harvey/Ace #2/Wheltz/maybe Bartolo/Oh No rotation going into the back half of the season, and I’d expect the team to still be competitive at that point. (They’re good!) But if that’s the case, I could certainly see Sandy and Co. to go after a relatively-cheap, relatively-good, relatively-left-handed starter to fill out the back end of the rotation. You know, someone like Matt Moore or John Lamb or James Paxton. Besides, is it really that pessimistic of me to expect the Mets to lose one of their three best pitchers and still be in the mix as a playoff team?

You don’t have to answer that. — Bryan Grosnick (@bgrosnick)

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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