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Series Preview: New York Mets vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

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Snakes? Why'd it have to be snakes?!

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona wasn't supposed to factor into a National League West race that already includes the preseason favorite Dodgers as well as the World Series champion Giants and offseason darling Padres. However, it's already June and the Snakes are hanging around with a 25-27 record that puts them six games out of first place.

What's allowed a team that lost 98 games in 2014 to hang around the .500 mark in early June? We know it's not the pitching. That staff looks like we went to the future and the Phillies traded Cole Hamels. Instead, the D-backs are hitting the ball really well. They're scoring one run per game more than they did last year, and that 4.80 mark leads the National League. Moreover, the Snakes have shown a lot of versatility this year by hitting 51 home runs (fifth in the NL) and stealing 49 bases (second).

Goldy is so hot right now

While a good deal of the swiped bags are taken care of at the top of the order thanks to Ender Inciarte and A.J. Pollock, the power comes from MVP candidate and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. A broken hand limited the slugger to just 109 games last year, but in 2015 he's back to being one of the very best players in baseball. In fact, he's even better than he was before. Thanks to a five-percent increase in walk rate, and a four-percent decrease in strikeout rate, Goldschmidt is hitting an insane .349/.470/.667 with 15 home runs. We might never see another .400 batting average for a full season, but a .500 on-base percentage might still be in play. Failing 30 percent of the time was so last century.

Oh, and this kid is also on pace to steal 20 bases. He might never have a better season, but Goldschmidt is probably not going to start the All-Star game because of what Anthony Rizzo and Adrian Gonzalez are doing in those large markets. The MVP is still in play, though.

Sellers already?

Well, the MVP will be in play if the Diamondbacks can stay in contention. We know how the people in charge of these things hate giving the award to guys whose numbers aren't padded by awesome players around them. That makes sense. Anyway, the point is that just made a "sell" trade and we're still more than 50 days away from the trade deadline. What gives?

It turns out this trade — which sent Mark Trumbo and Vidal Nuno to Seattle in exchange for catcher Welington Castillo, relief pitcher Dominic Leone, and prospects Gabby Guerrero and Jack Reinheimer — wasn't just a dump of salary. Trumbo might have been hitting for power once again (nine home runs, .247 isolated power), but his low walk rate and poor defense is still a huge downside. Plus, the deal frees up space to play young bats Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb at the same time once Lamb returns from the disabled list. It will be interesting to see how Tomas, who was considered a third baseman when he came over from Cuba this winter, handles the outfield, but both he and Lamb have show good returns at the plate so far this year.

The move also fills a need at catcher for Arizona. The club just lost starter Tuffy Gosewich to a torn ACL, and it probably didn't want to play Miami cast-off Jarrod Saltalamacchia every day. Castillo has been hurt by a .176 BABIP this year, but he's shown the ability in the past to be above-average with his bat, and he's still only 28 years old.

More arms on the way?

Even if that trade isn't a total sell move, it's still an example of Arizona trading away an older player so that it can give more playing time to younger ones with higher upside. General manager Dave Stewart might want to try that with his pitching staff soon, because the unit is headlines by Rubby De La Rosa and his 5.09 ERA (his 3.33 xFIP at least is optimistic).

De La Rosa, though, is the one guy the Mets won't see this weekend. Instead, they'll get the rest of the motley crew that shows us why Stewart is probably glad that his top five prospects are all pitchers. Maybe a couple of these guys gets replaced by Double-A right-handers Braden Shipley and Aaron Blair later on, but until then the Snakes will be stuck wondering how Josh Collmenter strikes out fewer than five batters per nine innings in today's era of pitching.

Date Time Television Mets Probable Starter Diamondbacks Probable Starter
June 4, 2015 9:40 PM SNY Matt Harvey Jeremy Hellickson
June 5, 2015 9:40 PM SNY Jon Niese Chase Anderson
June 6, 2015 10:10 PM SNY Bartolo Colon Archie Bradley
June 7, 2015 4:10 PM SNY Jacob deGrom Josh Collmenter

At 27 years old, Chase Anderson is only in his second big league season, but he's found success by keeping walks down and changing speeds with his curveball and changeup. That Friday night game is the one where the D-backs should have the pitching advantage, but that's the case with anyone versus Jon Niese these days. The lefty has pitched five innings or fewer in his last three starts and his strikeout rate is the lowest it has ever been.

Fortunately, the Mets appear to have the edge in all the other matchups. Colon has been hit-or-miss this year, but Arizona top prospect Archie Bradley has struggled mightily with his control so far. deGrom probably feels like he could outduel just about anyone, so when he faces the aforementioned Collmenter, it's a game the Mets should feel they can win. You can't predict baseball, though (that doesn't mean we're not going to try).

Update: Bradley to the disabled list, Robbie Ray to the big league roster. Ray is starting tonight versus Harvey.

Prediction: Mets win three of four.

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