The New York Mets kick off the 2022 season tonight in Washington (weather permitting), and after an off-season spending spree, reality hit hard for the Metropolitans in Spring Training after staff ace Jacob deGrom went down with a shoulder injury that could keep him from toing the rubber in Queens for about a month. What are the keys to a successful season for Steve Cohen’s Kings in Queens? Let’s take a look!
5) How will the new guys transition to New York? The Mets have a lot of new faces on this year’s squad, none more important this trio: Eduardo Escobar, Matt Canha and Starling Marte. All three players were brought to New York to provide lineup consistency that didn’t exactly exist last season, especially down the stretch.
Marte and Canha both come over from the Oakland A’s. Both players are 33; both signed multi-year deals to play for the Mets. Marte hit .308 last year between stops at Miami and Oakland, while Canha, a lifetime .244 hitter, hit .231 with the A’s last season. Neither player is a mega power hitter, but both are veterans who will be asked to come up big in table setting spots for the likes of Pete Alonso and Robinson Cano.
As for Eduardo Escobar, he too is 33-years old, and is coming off two of his best run producing years of his career. In 2019 with Arizona, Escorbar hit 35 home runs with 118 RBI. Last season with Arizona and Milwaukee, Escobar combined to cork 28 homers and 90 RBI. How Escobar’s late career power surge will continue at pitcher-friendly Citi Field will be interesting to watch. Escobar is mostly a hold over at third base until Brett Baty is ready in a year or two.
4) Can the Mets Bullpen Deliver? The Mets are going with a mostly right-handed dominant pen, even though the club recently added former Yankees’ relievers Joely Rodriguez and Chasen Shreve to the mix as the staff’s two left-handers. Still there is going to be a huge amount of pressure on the likes Seth Lugo, Trevor May and Adam Ottavino. Lugo (4-3, 3.50 ERA) is trying to get back to the dominant reliever he was a few years ago in 2019 when he pitched to a 2.70 ERA. Injuries have been an issue with him. As for May and Ottavino, both pitched over 68 games last season. This duo will be called upon to get big outs in the middle innings. This all leads up to Ediwn Diaz, the Mets infamous closer. Diaz owns 17 blow saves over his three-year tenure in New York. Last year, Diaz owned a ERA of 3.45. That is too high for a closer. Diaz needs a big season.
3) Francisco Lindor needs a bounce back year: Lindor had a frustrating 2021 with the Mets. Adjusting to New York is never fun, and Lindor found out the hard way. In addition to struggling to hit over .210 for large chunks of the season, Lindor dealt with some bad P.R. when he first got involved in a bizarre clubhouse fight with second baseman Jeff McNeil, and later blamed it on a racoon. :Later in the year, he joined — now former Met — Javier Baez in giving a “thumbs down” symbol to mock booing Mets fans. Lindor, who signed a 10-year $341 million contract to be a Met prior to the 2021 season, hit only .230 with 20 homers and 63 RBI. He hit .294 with four homers and 11 RBI this spring. The Mets hope this spring is a preview of coming attractions for the former All Star Shortstop.
2) Buck Showalter’s Leadership Must Guide Club Through Tough Times. The Mets needed a true baseball man running things in the dugout, and they got him in veteran manager Buck Showalter. Showalter is not going to be timid by the New York press or the pressure that comes with managing and playing in New York because he has done it already with the Yankees in the 90’s when George Steinbrenner was still running the show in the Bronx. Everywhere Showalter has been that team has improved and eventually went on World Series runs after he left. The Mets are already facing adversity with the health of their rotation. Showalter’s even-keeled approach is going to be huge in helping this team get through it. His attention-to-detail managerial style will also be welcome strategically in the dugout.
1) Health of the Rotation. Well, duh! This was obvious from the jump. The Mets are built on starting pitching, and they must have their full complement of starting pitchers in order to truly succeed. That has taken a huge hit due to deGrom’s shoulder injury that could sideline him til May or even June. Max Scherzer has been bothered by hamstring tightness, but is expected to pitch Friday in D.C. Taijuan Walker is already bothered by a knee injury. That means the Mets need Tyl0r Megill who impressed as rookie last year, and former A’s pitcher Chris Bassit to step up big time if the Mets are going to keep pace in the NL East.
If the Mets can keep pace with Atlanta and Philadelphia for the first third of the season, and get deGrom back healthy by summer time, the Mets could then begin thinking about making a run.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Robinson Cano returns after a year off due to a suspension from PED’s. He will be the Mets designated hitter. At 39-years old it will be interesting to see what he can contribute. Pete Alonso is a 30-to-40 home run hitter every year; we know what to expect from him. Second baseman Jeff McNeil and catcher James McCann both need bounce back years after struggling for most of 2021.