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Breaking down the 2018 Mets PECOTA projections

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The PECOTA projections are out. Let’s get mad about them!

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

We’re not quite at spring training yet, but on Wednesday we did get a different kind of preseason baseball treat as the PECOTA projections were released by Baseball Prospectus. It turns out that the Mets signed Todd Frazier just in time to boost their win projection over the .500 mark to 82-80. That’s only two games out of a Wild Carth berth, but Mets fans likely have higher aspirations for this team. Let’s break down the PECOTA projections for the starters and some key reserves and see if we can’t find a little extra value.

Lineup

Michael Conforto: 475 plate appearances, .263/.347/.488 with 23 home runs

Once Conforto recovers from last season’s shoulder injury, PECOTA sees him as New York’s top all-around player. As the only starter with a projected on-base percentage above .330, fans should expect to see him in one of the top two spots in the order. He’s going to be crucial to the offense in 2018.

Asdrubal Cabrera: 540 plate appearances, .252/.312/.405 with 15 home runs

During his two years with the Mets, Cabrera has been such a solid hitter that it’s easy to forget how much he struggled from 2013 to 2015. PECOTA thinks that he’ll turn back into the player he was during his Tampa Bay tenure, but hopefully we get one more year of the New York version since no one expects Cabrera to play great defense at second base.

Yoenis Cespedes: 600 plate appearances, .262/.315/.477 with 28 home runs

Cespedes has beaten those on-base and slugging numbers by a wide margin since joining the Mets, so what gives? The low projection probably has something to do with the Cuban slugger suffering a hamstring injury last year and then turning 32 years old. Some sort of decline is likely, but it would be disappointing if La Potencia failed to achieve an .800 OPS.

Jay Bruce: 569 plate appearances, .235/.301/.441 with 25 home runs

Bruce’s projection is also lower than his 2017 output, but this one feels more correct based on what he did in the three seasons from 2014 to 2016. All those fly balls to the outfield and ground balls into the shift mean that Bruce is not going to hit for a high average, but the Mets didn’t sign Bruce for singles. As long as he can hit some home runs, walk a little bit, and not be a disaster on defense, he’ll be just fine.

Todd Frazier: 521 plate appearances, .236/.314/.441 with 24 home runs

The Toddfather profiles a lot like Bruce, except the Toms River native is right-handed and plays a mean third base. It will be interesting to see if his career-high 14 percent walk rate from last year carries over to Queens. If it does, the OBP will be a lot higher than PECOTA projects.

Adrian Gonzalez: 304 plate appearances, .260/.324/.420 with 10 home runs

On one hand, Gonzalez is only projected to hit a little better than the much younger Dominic Smith. On the other, only Conforto has a higher OBP projection among starters. Although Gonzalez is no longer a big power hitter at this stage of his career, he’ll stick on the Mets if he can put the ball in play and keep the lineup moving.

Travis d’Arnaud: 487 plate appearances, .250/.315/.418 with 16 home runs

This is the only projection in the lineup that you can describe as being aggressively optimistic. 487 would be a career high in plate appearances for d’Arnaud, and PECOTA also thinks that he’ll beat last year’s .293 OBP that was held down by a .250 BABIP.

Amed Rosario: 538 plate appearances, .254/.295/.383 with 11 home runs

It might be a while until Rosario’s offense catches up to his defense, and PECOTA reflects that. As the only viable shortstop on the roster, he’s going to get plenty of playing time, and double-digit home runs would be a nice compliment to his glove work.

Brandon Nimmo: 325 plate appearances, .246/.339/.383 with seven home runs

It’s good to know that PECOTA believes in Nimmo’s impressive walk rate from last year, but he will have to do more in the contact and power categories if wants to continue getting playing time following the return of Conforto.

Rotation

Jacob deGrom: 180 innings, 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 200 strikeouts, 55 walks

deGrom finished with a 3.53 ERA last year, but he also posted career highs in innings and strikeouts. PECOTA expects the brilliance to continue with an ERA drop in store for deGrom if he can cut down on the long balls.

Noah Syndergaard: 164 innings, 3.01 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 190 strikeouts, 51 walks

PECOTA and Mets fans agree that deGrom and Syndergaard both need to be great for New York to compete for a postseason berth. Thor’s stuff is so good that he should have no trouble reaching this projection as long as he stays healthy. That’s the tough part, though, isn’t it?

Matt Harvey: 114 innings, 4.35 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 99 strikeouts, 42 walks

It will be almost impossible for Harvey to be as bad as he was last year, when he posted a 6.70 ERA in 92 innings. PECOTA says he’ll do better in 2018, but how much better is still a big question mark.

Robert Gsellman: 108 innings, 4.48 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 88 strikeouts, 39 walks

Unable to recapture the magic of his 2016 debut, Gsellman had his share of troubles on the mound last year. Without much of a track record to fall back on, he’ll probably need to prove himself in spring training in order to lock down a rotation role.

Steven Matz: 86 innings, 4.10 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 82 strikeouts, 29 walks

Matz pitched very well following his June debut in 2017, but then he collapsed in July and August. That makes me think that the southpaw won’t pitch in 86 innings this year. He’s either going to get back to his old self and throw at least 120 frames or hop back on the struggle bus and be replaced in the middle of May.

Zack Wheeler: 93 innings, 5.04 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 83 strikeouts, 42 walks

One guy who could take Matz’s spot — if he doesn’t start the regular season in the rotation — is Wheeler. Even before he underwent Tommy John surgery, the Georgia native was a high-walks, high-WHIP guy, and the 2017 campaign didn’t do much to change that. Thanks to the lack of standout performers below deGrom and Syndergaard, though, Wheeler has a chance to earn a significant role if he looks okay during spring training.

Seth Lugo: 116 innings, 5.14 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 99 strikeouts, 43 walks

Lugo has outperformed this projection in his first two major league campaigns, so it’s clear that PECOTA is not a fan of him. The 28-year-old doesn’t have the velocity or upside of some other Mets hurlers, but his ability to maintain a high floor and not completely collapse makes me optimistic that he’ll beat these numbers.

Bullpen

Jeurys Familia: 60 innings, 3.40 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 62 strikeouts, 27 walks

Before last year’s injury-shortened effort, Familia had an ERA below 3.00 and a WHIP below 1.30 for three straight seasons. I’d like to say that a fourth such performance is a lock as long as Familia is healthy, but his walk rate started to become an issue in 2017 and nobody knows how he’ll react to Mickey Callaway’s closer-by-committee approach.

AJ Ramos: 60 innings, 3.76 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 66 strikeouts, 29 walks

PECOTA likes Ramos to have a WHIP slightly lower than his career average, which is interesting considering that in 2017 he walked more than five batters per nine innings for the second time in the last four seasons. The Texas Tech product has always been able to pitch around walks during his career, but it remains to be seen if Callaway will trust him with save opportunities.

Jerry Blevins: 55 innings, 3.86 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 60 strikeouts, 27 walks

Blevins has beaten this projection in two straight very solid seasons with the Mets, but the lefty could see his role change a little under a new manager. If he’s asked to pitch to more right-handed batters in 2018, we could see a rise in ERA.

Anthony Swarzak: 60 innings, 4.02 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 61 strikeouts, 24 walks

Swarzak, Ramos, and Familia are all projected for 60 innings, but it’s unlikely that the workload is distributed that evenly. As the only member of that trio with an ERA under 3.00 last year, we could see Swarzak rise up the bullpen ranks quickly if he proves that his incredible 2017 performance was no fluke.