From Panic City all the way to the National League Pennant, last year's New York Mets season was filled with soaring highs and face-palming lows. With expectations as high as they ever have been in Queens, here are five story lines to watch for the Mets in 2016.
1. Just how good are they?
There is no way to ignore it anymore. The Mets' starting rotation is that good. But just how good can they be in 2016? All of the Mets' young studs were kept on a short leash in 2015, but in 2016 we could see the bullets fly and the hounds let loose in what could be a historic season on the mound. With Zack Wheeler set to return sometime later this season there is a chance the Mets' pitching staff could have five starters with sub-3.00 ERAs. That is how good this pitching rotation is.
2. Offense is key
We all remember those summer months last season that brought us into Panic City. The Mets had an offense that was on a historically bad pace. This season, that can't be allowed to happen again.
It still is breathtaking what Yoenis Cespedes did when he came to the Mets at the trade deadline last season. In 57 regular season games with the Mets, he hit .287/.337/.604 with 17 home runs. How can you not love this guy? He drives a car that shoots flames and spends $7,000 to buy a pig—and the best part of it all is that he is a New York Met for the entire 2016 season. Cespedes will be the "big bat" the Mets desperately needed in the middle of their lineup last season.
Curtis Granderson was a savior for the Mets' offense in 2015 during their slide. Granderson hit 259/.364/.457 with 26 home runs, and his ability to take pitches and work the count him a prime leadoff hitter for New York. With more protection behind him in the lineup and a glut of outfielders to give him days off against lefties, Granderson could be in for another solid year in 2016.
Lastly, Lucas Duda could be among the streakiest hitters in baseball, but when he is on, boy is he on. Everybody wants to talk about his June struggles and his inconsistency at times, but his 57 home runs the last two seasons ranks seventh among first basemen—and is the same number of home runs Cespedes has hit over that span. Duda wasn't phased by left-handed pitching last year, hitting .285/.333/.545 with seven home runs off southpaws. With a much more balanced lineup around him, Duda could be the key to the Mets' offense this season.
3. The captain needs to stay relatively healthy
It has been a while since we have seen David Wright play an entire season for the Mets, and he's going to get regular rest to manage his spinal stenosis this year. Asking for a .300 average and 25 home runs is too much, but his presence on that diamond is second to none. Let's be honest, do we really want to see Eric Campbell or Wilmer Flores playing third base every day?
4. Vamos Familia
With Jenrry Mejia now serving a lifetime ban for his third PED violation, the back-end of the bullpen is all Jeurys Familia. His 43 saves last season tied the club record, and his fastball and splitter look even more dominant heading into this season. Familia's improved walk rate over the past three seasons shows that his control, even with all the movement on his pitches, has significantly increased. Losing Mejia hurts and the rest of the bullpen isn't quite the Royals' bullpen, but having Familia consistently pitching well in tight spots when needed will greatly help the Mets.