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What Would Not Surprise Us About the 2017 Mets

Way way back many centuries ago, not long after the blogging began, Will Leitch started a site called Deadspin. He relied upon tips from the common man.

Will’s vision for Deadspin was to publish sports news that never made it into the public domain “because of either corporate obligations or just plain laziness.” Deadspin needed and wanted to be the internet’s depository for otherwise-unrevealed sports stories. You might recall Jim Bouton opened the door to such reporting in Ball Four, but Deadspin debuted in 2005 not 1969. (How long ago was 2005 in internet time? OG Deadspin was a great place to read the comments.)

An MLB Trade Rumors tweet the other day brought back the memory of my favorite ancient Deadspin post. No, not that one. Someone at the NCAA had published a webpage containing contact information for the people running each of the 32 college bowl games. An industrious reader found the page and tipped off Will, who ran with it. We all got a laugh when we read that ESPN, which then as now televised 90% of college bowls, was also responsible for organizing a couple of games themselves. Even in 2005, ESPN producing its own live sports #content was mildly scandalous but not really surprising.

I was reminded that obvious sports story is obvious when I saw this last Tuesday:

The natural Met fan response:

Nobody here would be shocked, shocked if Kelly Johnson ends up a 2017 Brave, then a 2017 Met. It would not surprise us in the least. Here, then, are some more Mets futures that would leave us unperturbed. — Scott D. Simon (@scottdsimon)

Noah Syndergaard wins the Cy Young; Clayton Kershaw finishes second

If I just said it wouldn’t surprise me if Noah Syndergaard would win the Cy Young in 2017, well, that wouldn’t put me out on much of a limb. Thor in 2016 was 3rd in ERA, 4th in strikeouts, and 1st in FIP in the National League. He has the best raw stuff in baseball. He’s easily a top-five pitcher in the league, and top-five pitchers win the Cy all the time.

But I’ll go a step further: I expect Clayton Kershaw to turn in a prime Clayton Kershaw season. And I still think Syndergaard wins. Maybe it’ll be close, maybe it’ll be controversial, but I think Syndergaard’s 2017 is so good that it overcomes the everyday magic of Kershaw’s best. And a race between the two of them at their absolute best might be the most enjoyable thing in baseball. — Jarrett Seidler (@jaseidler)

Terry Collins spends all season trying to get Jay Bruce going

There’s an alternate reality, a different timeline, in which 2015 Matt Harvey left Game 5 after the eighth inning and David Wright was mobile and Daniel Murphy figured things out before he left town. This is not that reality. This is the reality in which Michael Conforto, a shiny young outfielder who dominated in his first taste of the big leagues, will be left to rot in the high noon sun of Las Vegas because Jay Bruce is inexplicably still wearing orange and blue. Conforto slugged .727 in Triple-A last season. That won’t matter. Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 as a Met. That won’t matter either. Barring injury – and maybe even then – Terry Collins is going to stick with the veteran. Even if the veteran isn’t all that good anymore. — Kate Feldman (@kateefeldman)

Amed Rosario is not eligible for our 2018 Top 101 Prospect List

As you may be aware, I just got finished with four months of prospect lists, culminating with the release of our BP 101 on the site two weeks ago. Amed Rosario ranks quite highly, but he could use another full season in the upper minors. Anyway, even considering that we just have to take the Mets’ word for it that David Wright is playing catch … somewhere … the 2017 team has a fairly settled and deep infield. If Asdrubal Cabrera’s hip starts barking again, Jose Reyes can slide over to shortstop. Wilmer Flores has, uh, plenty of experience there as well. There really shouldn’t be a need for Rosario to suit up in Flushing beyond a September call-up to get a few major league reps with an eye toward taking over the starting shortstop job in 2018.

However, there are already raves for Rosario coming out of Mets camp. Terry Collins gushes about him at pressers, and when Terry likes a guy, Terry plays a guy. This rule has traditionally been limited to veterans like Eric Campbell, Alejandro de Aza, and James Loney, but I can definitely see a scenario where Rosario is hitting .370 in Vegas in July, half the Mets’ infield is on the disabled list (LOLMets), and he is both the best option and the player the manager is agitating for. Rosario might be overmatched in his first taste of major league action, but he has the tools to hit the ground running and never look back, leaving me to ponder if Dom Smith, Thomas Szapucki, or Justin Dunn will top our Mets prospect list in 2018. — Jeffrey Paternostro (@jeffpaternostro)

Matt Harvey performs as a mid-rotation starter

Last season was rough, as Harvey pitched through thoracic outlet syndrome that sent his performance careening and ended his season early. Pitchers with TOS have a mixed record upon their return, but Harvey has enough natural talent that he can survive a hit and keep on ticking as a mid-rotation arm, provided he can actually stay healthy this time. I think he’ll be fine, but perhaps never again an ace.

Compared to 2016, PECOTA’s projection for Harvey is rosy, with a 4.14 DRA in about 156 innings … a performance worth roughly two wins. With decent health, that sounds about right to me: a solid but unspectacular No. 3 starter overall in his time on the bump. In some games he’ll be magic and some he’ll be a disaster. Though I’m not sure we’ll ever see anything quite like his remarkable 2013, Harvey’s got the underlying velo, smarts, and stuff to succeed as a big league starter, even if his strikeout rate is diminished and opposing hitters make better contact than ever before on his slider. He’ll be “fine.” — Bryan Grosnick (@bgrosnick)

Bartolo Colon makes a glorious return (in the Kelly Johnson deal)

Mid-season, once Wright and Walker’s spinal columns are reduced to piles of ashes, Collins begins to pine for a middling utility man. He promptly reacquires Kelly Johnson — who can deny a love so deep? Luckily, in the trade package, Bartolo Colon also makes a triumphant return to Citi Field, where he stands upon a mound made of the bone spurs of his younger colleagues and once again becomes the most consistently uninjured pitcher in Queens. — Sara Nović (@novicsara)

Old Curtis Granderson morphs into Chris Carter

This possibility was always present in the back of our minds from the moment Curtis Granderson signed his four-year contract in the 2013-14 offseason. In his last couple seasons with the Yankees, albeit while battling fluky hit by pitch injuries in 2013, Granderson became a total strikeout machine. His potent power and ability to draw walks kept him useful, but it seemed like that was the player the Mets signed.

Granderson turned out to be much better, cutting down on his strikeouts in Queens, bringing them to a more reasonable level. So even as he moved further along in his thirties, he remained a very productive player, batting .241/.342/.436 with 76 homers in 462 games. As Granderson’s about to turn 36, though, his bat speed seems bound to fade. The strikeouts may rise, but that’s okay. The dingers should still be around. As Chris Carter and earlier iterations of Granderson demonstrated, that kind of hitter is still valuable, no matter what your grouchy uncle thinks. — Andrew Mearns (@MearnsPSA)

Mets players’ names remain non-predictive of performance

The recent history of Mets onomastics has hidden its fair share of verbs within its subjects’ names, though their relationship with the players’ skillsets have seemed misplaced. Zack Wheeler does not share his Backyard Baseball counterpart’s bristling speed. “Smoker” better fits an ill-tempered, hulking first baseman in the Clu Haywood movie villain mold (provided “Josh” is swapped for a more menacing name). Sure, “Steven Matz down the competition” is a bad headline waiting to happen, but…

That brings us to Neil Walker, whose name includes a literal baseball stat! Except his career 8.2% walk rate is the kind of pedestrian that, in childhood, would have had his parents yelling at him for playing in the middle of the road. In 2016, Curtis Granderson’s team-leading 74 free passes on a 11.7% rate far outpaced Walker’s (granted, injury-shortened) 42-walk campaign despite a career-best 9.2% walk rate. It would be unsurprising if Granderson repeated: he’s tallied the most plate appearances and walks on the team each season since his crosstown switch, and hasn’t posted a walk rate south of 10% since 2007. Walker is just not an elite walker.

With this, our hope turns to Jerry Blevins. As of this writing, “blevin” is not yet in the dictionary, but you can’t tell me that this guy isn’t leading the league in blevins this coming season. — Brock Chenier (@brockchenier)

Michael Conforto receives 500 plate appearances

I was one of the few Mets fans who didn’t panic last month when an unnamed Mets executive told the New York Post that Jay Bruce would start on Opening Day. After all, a lot can happen between the start of Spring Training and the end of the season. But I also remember that Terry Collins liked having one primary backup in both the infield and outfield last year. Alejandro De Aza got 267 plate appearances as the primary extra outfielder, versus Conforto’s 348 as a half-season starter. That’s why no distribution of outfield playing time will surprise me in 2017, ranging from the incredibly smart to the incredibly stupid. Since Spring Training is a time of hope, it’s important to remember that high variance situations include positive outcomes like a breakout season for Conforto. — Noah Grand (@noahgrand)

Beloved former Mets plague the Amazins

The ghost of Mets past will come back to haunt Queens this season. The Atlanta Braves have nineteen games against New York in 2017. Their pitching staff includes many familiar (and beloved) faces who once played in blue and orange. While former Mets farmhand John Gant was traded from Atlanta to the Cardinals during the offseason, the Braves picked up R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. For many, those were two of the most adored Mets pitchers of the last decade. I’d expect those pitchers to have a winning record and perform strangely well against the Mets, even though they are a combined 85 years old. —  Bryan Kalbrosky (@BryanKalbrosky)

The Mets struggle against the NL East

PECOTA projects the Mets to win the NL East with a record of 88-74. For this to occur, though, the team will need to beat up on their lowly competition in the NL East: the Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies. All three nominal competitors are currently re-building and project for under-.500 records. Yet last year the 90-72 Mets seemed to lose a bunch of winnable games against the Braves — at 68-93, the 5th worst team in all of Major League Baseball.

The three NL East bottom feeders expect to improve as they rebuild. Therefore, the Mets will need beat up on these teams while they have the opportunity. However, with the Mets’ luck and the growth of the other NL East teams, I would not be surprised to see New York struggle against the weaker competition. If this happens, the Mets will have difficulty competing for a spot in the playoffs. — Seth Rubin (@sethrubin)

Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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