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Two of the Mets’ most important players will likely be their youngest

The Mets are a veteran ballclub, but their offense will almost certainly rely upon two prospects.

2021 Sirius XM Futures Game Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The 2022 Mets, who were good, were definitely not without their flaws despite winning 101 games throughout the campaign. While their offense on a whole was elite—coming in third with a 116 wRC+, trailing only the Dodgers and Blue Jays—it had a glaring issue that reared its head at times during the season and their brief trip to the postseason; they just did not hit for as much power as one would hope.

Despite their top three wRC+, they ranked eighth in slugging percentage at .412, and all the way down to 16th in ISO (isolated power). The Mets’ offense thrived while zigging when the rest of the league zagged, and for the most part, it worked. Until it didn’t.

While it is clear you do not have to bludgeon teams to death with home runs to win in this league, adding some power to help stave off the extended slumps the Mets offense would go through is a clear fix. Unfortunately, the free agent class does not do much to cure those ails.

The best offensive players available for the Mets’ best resource—money—either do not fit the roster or will not really help the problem. Dansby Swanson, who had the best 2022 of any of the offensive players left per fWAR (6.4), had a strong season, although he carries a career 94 wRC+ into free agency. The second best is Carlos Correa (4.4 fWAR), who would absolutely help the Mets’ offensive issues.

Unfortunately, both of those players are shortstops.

While the Mets can probably convince Swanson or (my personal choice) Correa to move to third, they will likely get paid handsomely to play shortstop, and one would assume they would want to stick to their natural position if they have the choice.

The next three free agent hitters per fWAR are: Elvis Andrus (3.5 fWAR), Brandon Drury (3.0 fWAR), and Andrew Benintendi (2.8 fWAR). While those players would be helpful—former Mets legend Brandon Drury in particular—they likely would not serve has a great boon to the offense. They could add a pure right-handed DH type such as Nelson Cruz or JD Martinez to pair with Daniel Vogelbach, but they would have to get Darin Ruf off the roster to do so, for numbers purposes alone. Barring a trade, it looks like the biggest additions to the offense will come from within.

Luckily for the Mets, they have a few prospects capable of doing it.

Francisco Álvarez and Brett Baty are numbers one and two in the Mets’ middling system by literally every metric, including (spoiler alert) ours here at Amazin’ Avenue. On top of that, they are both top end prospects across the league, regardless of the publication. Baseball Prospectus had Álvarez at number two and Baty at 19 in their 2022 Midseason Top 50. Baseball America had Álvarez at six and Baty at 31 in their midseason top 100. MLB Pipeline had Álvarez as the best prospect in the sport, with Baty sitting at 18. These are two elite prospects, and they are plugged in to positions of need.

Mets catchers last year hit an absolutely putrid .216/.262/.306 (66 wRC+), providing absolutely no offense between a big three James McCann, Tomás Nido and Patrick Mazeika. Eduardo Escobar, the Mets’ everyday third baseman, hit a respectable .240/.295/.430 (106 wRC+), although that does not tell the whole story. Escobar struggled for much of the season, and he was a slightly below average hitter in the first half of the season (94 wRC+), before going absolutely nuclear in the second half (132 wRC+). While it was nice to see him rebound, the performance in the first half of the season is troubling.

The Mets can slot their two elite prospects into places on the roster that need it the most. Álvarez can catch frequently and get some reps at DH against lefties. Baty can split time with Escobar at third base and maybe even some left field, something the Mets have done in the minors with him infrequently the last two seasons. Both of these players need to be in the major leagues to start the 2023 season—they already got a small taste of the bigs to end the 2022, and they are well past learning anything from the minor leagues. It is time for them to show what they can do, and they both have the ability to hit for power that the offense is sorely lacking right now. These are two of the top prospects in the sport, and it’s their time.

It is also endlessly amusing that two of their most important players are also their two youngest.

General manager Billy Eppler has done a great job so far to keep the Mets in contention for a World Series, signing Justin Verlander, José Quintana, and David Robertson, and re-signing Edwin Díaz and Brandon Nimmo, all before the second week of December. Due to the state of the organization the Wilpons left the Mets in, free agency is their only path to contention right now, and that means filling your roster with, well, elder statesmen.

The youngest everyday player on the Mets is Pete Alonso, who just recently turned 28. Nido is turning 29 before the season begins. Francisco Lindor will turn 30 next November. Outside of those three players, no one out of the Mets nine everyday hitters will be under 30—unless Baty and Álvarez make the roster.

The Mets have World Series aspirations, and they should. Steve Cohen has more money than you can imagine and a desire to win along with it. It is a marquee market and they have shown a willingness to sign marquee players to win. Their roster is littered with late-20s and 30-year-olds ready to win right now, and two of their most important hitters are a 23-year-old rookie third baseman, and a 21-year-old rookie catcher.