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ESPN ranks Mets as the ninth-best team in baseball

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Only four National League teams are ranked ahead of New York.

Wild Card Game - San Francisco Giants v New York Mets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

ESPN released a breakdown of their top 10 teams in baseball earlier this week, and our Mets checked in at No. 9, which is behind four other National League clubs. That would put New York in line for a postseason spot, but not a division title. That’s because the rival Nationals are No. 4 on the list.

Here’s what ESPN’s Buster Olney had to say about the Mets’ prospects.

At their best: The Mets are confident that they’ll have all or almost all of their starters fully healthy and ready to go at the outset of the 2017 season. If that’s the case — if Matt Harvey is back to where he was in 2015 and Steven Matz continues to evolve — then the Mets will have the best and most dynamic rotation in the majors, a group so good it can cover for other offensive and defensive problems.

What could go wrong: If the rotation isn’t healthy, some of the other cracks will be exposed: the uncertainty about David Wright and Lucas Duda, the outfield defense, the lack of lineup depth around Yoenis Cespedes.

A key number: 93. That’s the number of starts Noah Syndergaard, Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler combined for in 2016.

It goes without saying these days that the health of New York’s pitching staff will be a major storyline heading into the 2017 campaign, but keeping Wright and Duda on the field for as many at-bats as possible will be just as important. Thanks to the pleasantly surprising performances of Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo last year, we know that the Mets have depth in the starting pitching department, but the same can’t be said about the lineup. Jose Reyes is back on board for infield help, but James Loney was less than an ideal replacement for Duda during the first baseman’s long injury absence.

The big takeaway is that the mainstream media considers the Mets a postseason contender again in 2017, and the team will be scrutinized as such. This is a team that was forced to make in-season trades to respond to injuries last year. If the front office is once again found ill-prepared for injuries, fans and the media aren’t going to listen to excuses.