Today is Opening Day, a day of hope and unrealistic expectations; “all future, no past,” as the saying goes. In honor of this blessed day, we have asked our staff to take a swing for the fences and make a bold prediction about the team. Go a hot take of your own? Share it in the comments!
Kory Powell: Michael Conforto will finish in the top 10 at the end of the season for the NL MVP. I believe this is the year Conforto puts it all together and has a monster season. He has shown flashes throughout his career of being not just very good, but great, and it will happen in 2021. Playing in what is most likely a contract year for the outfielder, Conforto will be one of the biggest bats in the Mets’ lineup, along with Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso.
Dave Capobianco: Jordan Yamamoto will make 20-25 solid starts and emerge as a long-term rotation piece. We’ve seen the Mets’ starting depth be tested already with the injury to Carlos Carrasco, and it’s reasonable to assume more injuries will occur. Joey Lucchesi will likely get the first crack at the rotation, but Yamamoto is not too far behind. The 24-year-old was a solid mid-rotation starter in 2019 after looking like one as a prospect, and still looked like one in spring training 2020 and has in spring training this year once again. Last year was such a weird season, especially for the Marlins, that you can’t put any stock into his performance.
Allison McCague: Luis Guillorme becomes an everyday regular. Guillorme’s value on the defensive side has never been in doubt, but he has never hit enough to quite hack it at the major league level. In 2020, we got a small glimpse of what Guillorme can be if he is able to hit big league pitching consistently and as a result he put up 0.6 fWAR in just 30 games last season. He has a chance to see a lot of at-bats in 2021, especially if J.D. Davis’ defense does not stick at third base or if the Mets have bad injury luck among their infielders. And if Guillorme is given the chance to play every day, my bold prediction is that he won’t sniff the bench again.
Rob Wolff: Brandon Nimmo makes his first All-Star team and leads the NL in runs scored.
Christian Romo: Barring injury, Pete Alonso should play every day this season, and his spring training performance might indicate a return to his rookie year form. One could easily pencil in the Polar Bear for 40 home runs this season, and 50 doesn’t seem out of the question. But no one has hit 60 home runs in a season since Barry Bonds broke the single-season home run record 20 years ago. So what makes Alonso a prime candidate?
For one, he’s really really good at hitting home runs, registering his 69 career home runs in 8.5% of his at-bats. For another, he won’t be asked to carry the offense like he did in 2019, relieving the pressure of the city-owning expectations placed upon him in his rookie season. But maybe the most important factor is the talent surrounding him: No matter where Alonso lands in the batting order, a good hitter will be there to protect him in the very next spot. Pitchers will have to pitch to Pete, and it’s going to make the summer a very fun one.
Michael Drago: The bullpen has some question marks heading into the season, but we have some reason to be confident about who will be handling the ninth inning for the club. My bold prediction is that Edwin Diaz will not only be good in 2021, he will be the very best closer in the whole game. His 2019 season might have left scars in all of our minds, but between his decidedly solid numbers in 2020, his sterling performance in spring training so far, and—perhaps most importantly—the triumphant return of “Narco,” there is every reason to be very excited about what he will do for the Mets this year. It may not be enough to make fans forget about Jarred Kelenic, but it will at least be something.
Linda Surovich: I’m not sure if this is too bold given his pedigree but Francisco Lindor will win the National League MVP and will be the first Mets position player to grab the crown.
Now if I really wanted to go bold and stay on brand I predict that JD Davis will accumulate the highest WAR by a position player on the team. Yes his defense is going to improve that much. Book it.
Vas Drimalitis: Jeff McNeil wins the National League batting title. This prediction might not seem so bold, since McNeil flirted with the title in 2019 (he finished fourth) and 2020 (he finished ninth). While batting average is mostly an antiquated stat in 2021, McNeil finally breaks through this season and takes home the title in the National League over some very stiff competition, and it’s still something worth celebrating. McNeil will be benefited by a return to his natural position at second for the year and a stacked lineup that will take the pressure off of him. McNeil’s batting title will spell good news for the Mets, but bad news for people who enjoy hearing him curse every time he gets out (don’t worry, there’ll still be plenty of that, because he can’t bat 1.000, and McNeil is notoriously hard on himself).
Lukas Vlahos: Brandon Nimmo will rate as a top-7 center fielder in baseball by fWAR
It’s not hyperbole to say that Brandon Nimmo has elite plate discipline - arguably bested by only Joey Votto since he entered the league. That skill, combined with adequate bat-to-ball skill and enough pop to be threatening, has allowed him to accrue a 133 wRC+ over his career, a number deflated by ~300 PA in 2019 when he literally couldn’t turn his head due to an injury. Among center fielders since 2019, a 133 mark would rank 6th behind only Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ketel Marte, and George Springer. A 148 mark – which Nimmo has posted in each of his last two healthy seasons -jumps him over Springer as well.
All of this is to say that Nimmo can really, really hit. It’s the defense that’s limited him, and to be frank he’s been a statistical disaster in center. This spring he’s been playing further back, however, finally accepting that he’s much better at coming in on ball than going back on them. If he could get to just bad or even average in center rather than disastrous, that combined with his hitting talent would make him one of the elite center fielders in the game.
Rich Resch: All eight of the Mets’ starting position players will hit at least 20 home runs.
There is a ton that has to go right for this to happen, and it almost certainly will not. Someone will get hurt. Someone will regress. Someone will lose too many at-bats to late-game defensive replacements. If Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, and Michael Conforto stay healthy, they should all be locks for at least 20 dongs. But this prediction would require new career highs from Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, and James McCann, while also needing Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis to rediscover their power strokes. Add in the fact that they are deadening the baseball, and this is a downright asinine prediction. I’d be happy if six of the eight accomplish this feat, but we’re supposed to be going bold, right? Let’s get all eight to 20.
Grace Carbone: No guts, no glory. The Mets will have their first MVP winner in franchise history: Michael Conforto. Pair that with another Cy Young for deGrom and their first playoff appearance in five years.
Brian Salvatore: Taijuan Walker is going to have a career year, and he’ll be the team’s second best starting pitcher.
A combination of health and analytics will allow Walker to put together his strongest full season of his career, which will also allow the Mets’ rotation to be among the top in baseball. It will more than justify the expense of that lock screen.