New York Mets: Do they have enough talent to contend in the NL East?

Mickey Callaway, New York Mets. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mickey Callaway, New York Mets. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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New York Mets
Jacob deGrom, New York Mets. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Ed Stein – Co-Site Expert, Empire Writes Back

Manager Mickey Callaway has a deep set of tools to work with. I’m feeling good about the New York Mets chances this year. As long as they stay relatively healthy, there are several reasons why I believe they have enough talent to win the division.

Starting Pitching

There are the makings of a dominant starting staff this year. Of course, Mets fans have heard that for years, but the team is due for a healthy year from the starters. From one through almost five NYM’s starting pitchers are potentially as good any other team.

The staff is anchored by last year’s Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom. He was 10-9 with 269 strikeouts and a microscopic 1.70 ERA in 217 innings pitched. Imagine what his record could have been if he had gotten just a bit more run support. Behind JdG in the rotation is Noah Syndergaard, who had an off year, pitching only 154.1 innings. He still posted a 13-4 record and 3.03 ERA.

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Zack Wheeler finally shook off the injury bug and proved he could be counted on to take a regular turn in the rotation. He’ll be the third starter. Steven Matz has all the tools and should he finally put it all together, will be a superb number four. Right now veteran lefty Jason Vargas is penciled into the fifth slot. He’ll have plenty of competition, but if healthy has shown flashes of excellence over his career.

Relief Pitching

In my opinion, the bullpen could be the New York Mets big strength in 2019. Van Wagenen traded for Mariners closer Edwin Diaz in the offseason from Seattle. I covered the Mariners last season and I can tell you that I have rarely seen as dominant of a closer in any season. He saved 57 games for a team that won just 77. Diaz struck out 124 batters in 73.1 innings and had a stingy 0.74 WHIP.

Diaz will be set up by a familiar face to the Mets faithful, Jeurys Familia. Aside from an injury-plagued 2017, he had been the team’s closer 2015 until his trade to Oakland last July. Familia doesn’t need to be the lights out closer he once was. All he has to do most outings is to protect the lead for Diaz.

Another pair of power arms are set to begin the season in setup roles, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. Either one could find themselves in the rotation should an injury occur, but for now team with Diaz and Familia to make a dominating relief staff.

The above four relievers are all right-handed. That leaves a half-dozen lefties vying for one or two jobs. Free agent signee, Justin Wilson has the inside track to be the primary lefty. The seven-year veteran has 407 K’s in 370.2 career innings pitched.

When the Mets make the post-season, this is the kind of bullpen that gives opponents fits.

Balanced Lineup

I wrote an article earlier this week as to why the Mets should play small-ball this season. The cliff notes version is that they have a talented group of hitters throughout the batting order. That is opposed to the lineup of free swingers they had all last season.

Look for longer innings at the plate and production coming from almost every spot in the batting order. The New York Mets can lead the league in extra base hits in 2019 and not be in the top-10 of home runs. Additionally, should a lineup regular go down, Van Wagenen has brought in a deep roster of competent players.

Their biggest obstacles are Atlanta, who is very young, and maybe Philadelphia (if they sign Bryce Harper), but the talent gap has closed this season.