1: Noah Syndergaard will be a top-five pitcher in baseball
Jeff and I already agreed on the podcast that Syndergaard would be the Mets' best starter this year, but I'll go a step further and say he's a top-five starter in baseball this year. Simply put, I think Thor has one of the most impressive pitch mixes in baseball. All five of his pitches induce significantly above-average whiff rates. His sinker, change, and new Warthen Slider all exceed pitch type averages by close to 10 percent, and his fastball and curve are close to 5 percent above average.
Syndergaard gets all these strikeouts without giving up any walks either, as he walked just 1.86 per nine innings last season. His only flaw was a home run rate double that he allowed in Triple-A, and there's no reason that he can't limit homers in the majors at least as effectively as he did in the pitcher's hell of Las Vegas. I could go on, but you get the point: Syndergaard is a ****ing beast.
Some may decry this prediction as not bold enough, since Syndergaard is already projected as the 16th-best pitcher in baseball by Steamer with less than a win seperating him and the fifth best projected pitcher, Corey Kluber. To put things in perspective, here are some of the names he'll have to leapfrog: Jose Fernandez, David Price, Dallas Keuchel, Stephen Strasburg, Felix Hernandez, Madison Bumgarner, Harvey, deGrom. He'll also have to hold off the likes of Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer, who are snipping at his heels in the projections. Seems plenty bold to me. - Lukas Vlahos
2: Jeurys Familia will be the top closer in baseball and the first Met to save at least 50 games
Last year Familia broke camp with the Mets coming off a promising rookie season and as the clear cut set-up man to the incumbent closer Jenrry Mejia. After Mejia's run-ins with MLB's drug policy, Familia was thrown into the closer role, where he not only survived, he thrived. Last season he posted a 1.85 ERA, which was fourth among closers with at least 10 saves. He saved 43 games, which was the 3rd most in baseball and tied Armando Benitez for the most in club history. Familia also developed one of the nastiest splitters in baseball history late last year, sported a fantastic ground ball rate of 58.3%, a 9.92 K/9 rate, and an FIP of 2.74. With a full season under his belt as a closer, more time to work with pitching coach Dan Warthen on his deadly splitter, and an offense that should provide more save opportunities, Familia has a chance to take the fictional title of top closer in baseball. -Owen Condon
3: The Mets’ starting rotation will double their home run output from 2015
From 2014-2015, the starting rotation improved their batting average from second worst in the league to second best. Part of that production included two home runs. On May 27, 2015, Noah Syndergaard hit the first home run by a Mets’ pitcher in almost three years. Not to be outdone, Matt Harvey followed with a two-run shot of his own in July. This spring, Bartolo Colon hit a home run of almost mythic proportions in batting practice, and all of the pitchers have been working with Kevin Long to keep improving upon their offensive output. Four home runs is attainable for this crew in 2016. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, who finished 2015 with a .286 average, will get a full year of at-bats. Jacob deGrom hit a home run in college off a highly touted prospect named Chris Sale, and the White Sox just so happen to come to town in May. Matt Harvey already has the one home run so that could be a sign of more to come. Then, of course, there is Bartolo. Not only does he have that spring training home run, but he also has a Silver Sluggerincentive in his new contract because why not go for it towards the end of a career. 2016 looks promising for a surge in home run power from this staff. Book it. -Linda Surovich
4: David Wright will hit 20 home runs this season
Expectations have been scaled back quite a bit for Mets captain David Wright after playing just 38 games in the regular season due to a hamstring injury and his spinal stenosis diagnosis. At 33, David’s certainly not a young man in baseball terms anymore and back injuries often spell trouble for hitters.
All of that being said, I can’t shake the feeling that Mets fans are actually managing to underrate David headed into this season. Maybe it’s partially the not-so-faded memory of his career-worst 2014 season, marred by a shoulder injury, that’s causing the expectations to be lowered but the admittedly small sample stats show that David Wright can still hit. In those 38 games, Wright hit .289/.379/.434, which translates to an excellent 133 wRC+. While Wright’s power was diminished compared to his career norms, his .145 ISO was still much higher than the .105 ISO he put up in 2014 so the power is still in there. He also struck out at a reasonable 20.7%, not terribly far above his 18.4% career mark.
Can David stay on the field and give the Mets 120-130 games this year? That’s my biggest concern mostly because we’re in uncharted territory here. If he can manage to give that much to the Mets this year, however, I’m confident that he will hit well and am willing to stick my neck out on the line to say that he’ll hit 20 home runs. -Steve Schreiber
5: Travis d'Arnaud will be the second most valuable catcher in baseball when accounting for framing
This is arguably already true on a per-PA basis. d'Arnaud posted a 131 wRC+ last year, good for a second place tie with Kyle Schwarber (who will likely do little to no catching in 2016). Buster Posey was a bit out in front with a 136 wRC+, but that gap is hardly insurmountable. Further, d'Arnaud shouldn't be due for too much regression. His 15% HR/FB rate was high, but he posted a 10% mark in 2014, and his BABIP was a reasonable .289. Add in that d'Arnaud is one of the best framers among starting catcher in baseball per Baseball Prospectus and you get a truly enticing package.
The basis of this prediction largely comes from how many plate appearances d'Arnaud will record. He's highly unlikely to catch Posey, who gets starts at 1B to keep his bat in the lineup and is better with the bat and the glove anyway, but I think d'Arnaud just needs a little luck to get through a whole season. It's worth noting that none of d'Arnaud's injuries are really his fault - he's broken a foot on a foul ball, broken his hand on a HBP, and strained his elbow on an awful throw home, but he's not repeatedly tearing his hamstring or tweaking his ACL as he runs the bases. To me, he's labeled injury prone unfairly due to previous misfortune, and I'm betting that he'll be a bit luckier in 2016 and post a full season of elite catcher production. -Lukas Vlahos
6: Come September, the Mets' strongest competition for the NL East will come from the Marlins
The common perception across baseball is that the NL East is a two horse race between the Mets and the Nationals this season. Come September, the Mets may indeed have to battle to repeat as division champs, but their toughest test won’t come from D.C. It will come from Miami.
From game attendance to club performance to reception of their bizarre home run statue, the Marlins have been about as big of a disaster as could be found in American sports since the franchise rebranded and relocated in 2012. This year will be different. Swimming amongst the Fish are three of the most electrifying players in all of baseball. Dee Gordon was the most dangerous lead-off man, both at the plate and on the base paths, in the Majors last season. Giancarlo Stanton played in only 74 games and still managed to throttle 27 homers, 10th best in the NL. He is healthy again. Finally, Jose Fernandez, fully recovered from a Tommy John operation last May, is a top contender for the NL Cy Young award. Factor in a competent new manager in Don Mattingly, and the result is a bona-fide contender for the NL East crown. -Eric Goodman
7: Neil Walker will finish second among all 2B in wRC+…to only his predecessor, Daniel Murphy
Murphy made mechanical changes last year, which theoretically provided him more pop, and both his playoff performance and the regular season advanced stats bear that out. He hit more fly balls, pulled the ball more often, and hit the ball harder than he did in 2014, yet it only resulted in 14 HRs. If Murphy’s HR/FB% rises just a little bit, he could easily clear 15-20 dingers. And that isn’t even the most appealing aspect of his outlook for 2016. He posted an MLB-low 7.1% K rate in 2015, so even with the lack of power, his BABIP was still amazingly lower than his actual batting average. And his BABIP was an incredibly unlucky .278. If it regresses to just his career BABIP of .314, to go along with the power spike, then you’re looking at an average north of .325. If he exceeds his career BABIP, suddenly you’re looking at a batting champion and easily the best offensive second baseman in baseball. Walker has a pretty clear case for this prediction as well – just go look at his track record. In 2014, he sneakily posted a 131 wRC+, which would have led all second basemen had he done it last year, and by a decent margin. (Jason Kipnis and Logan Forsythe led with a 126 mark.)
Walker is incredibly consistent, having posted a wRC+ above 100 in every one of his full seasons. His career 114 mark is easily within shouting distance of a top two finish, and this prediction has as much to do with him as it does with his competition, or lack thereof. The only reason this prediction is bold is because I fully expect Robinson Cano and Jason Kipnis to be the elite offensive second basemen they’ve always been. However, other than those two and maybe Ben Zobrist or Dustin Pedroia, the pickings get slim, setting up Murphy and Walker for high ranks among MLB second sackers. -Austin Yamada
8: Wuilmer Becerra will be the best prospect in the Mets system in 2017
This actually runs a bit counter to what I wrote at Baseball Prospectus, where I predicted a 2016 breakout for Desmond Lindsay. But Becerra could finish the season in Double-A with a strong first half, and he has always looked the part of a top prospect. He made major strides with his swing mechanics in 2015, and if it all comes together, his 90th percentile outcome is as high as any in the system. He is a long way away from that right now, but if you want to make a bold bet on someone in the system—other than Desmond Lindsay—Becerra has the tools to give you a big payoff at the end. It isn't impossible he ends 2016 looking like a potential .270, 25 home run bat with the speed and arm to be an asset in right field. -Jeffrey Paternostro
9: Michael Conforto will be the most valuable left fielder in the National League
LF has gotten surprisingly weak in the NL. Carlos Gonzalez is still a constant injury risk and is now a defensive liability. Matt Holliday is old. Ryan Braun will probably be moving back to LF, but he's not the offensive force he once was and his defense has never been good. The cream of the crop is Starling Marte, who is unlikely to maintain his power spike and has seen his stolen base rate dip, and Christian Yelich, who does nothing but bash the ball into the ground. The three young guns coming into the picture are Kyle Schwarber, David Peralta—who might wind up in right field instead—and Conforto. Schwarber is probably a better hitter but is a horrendous defender and does have some issues making contact and Peralta has an extended track record of struggling against south paws. Conforto is projected to share time in the crowded Mets OF, but I bet his sweet lefty swing and underrated defense convince management to let him ride, at which point he'll post a 4.0 WAR season and establish himself as a middle of the order bat. -Lukas Vlahos
10: Wilmer Flores will be caught crying on live television no less than three times in 2016
If you look at the numbers - and I mean really crunch them - it becomes clear that Wilmer Flores’s crying incident from July of 2015 was no fluke. There are some serious indicators in his underlying peripherals - namely a suppressed wCRY+, an unsustainable SMILE/150, and an Isolated Sniffle Percentage that would lead the league if Flores were eligible. It is possible that, by the end of the season, this prediction looks like a conservative one. Going out on a limb, I will also predict that one of Flores’s crying outbreaks will occur after a splash of champagne leaks inside of his goggles. -Rich Resch