Brian Mangan’s Fearless 2016 Mets Predictions

One of the best (and also worst) things about maintaining your own blog is that you have a record of all of your predictions, opinions, and rants from years gone by. Not only is it wonderful to look back at things you’ve been right about, but it’s just as rewarding to see how your own thought process and understanding of the game has matured over the years.

My predictions from 2015 (click here) were not quite as good as the ones from 2014 (click here) but we still had a lot more hits than misses. We nailed Juan Lagares’s defensive regression, the fact that the #MarlinsTakeover was mirage, and Wilmer Flores and Lucas Duda’s eventual stat lines. Sure, we may also have predicted Michael Cuddyer would be a 2 WAR player, but nobody is perfect.

I don’t recap these for my ego — really, I do not. I recap them so that you, my wonderful, loyal readers, can rely on these predictions! You can go to bed at night confident that these are likely to be pretty good predictions. You can share them with your friends without worrying that I’m Joel Sherman or Ken Rosenthal.

I hope you click through and read some of the old ones (also recapped below), but for now, on to the predictions for 2016! I’ll list them from safe to risky.

Hansel Robles will have a great season, with < 3.00 ERA and 20+ holds.

Robles was quietly among the elite relievers in the National League last year in the second half. Robles pounded the zone (8th in Zone%), 15th in swinging strike %, and 6th in the all-important K-BB%. He was right between Sergio Romo and Jeurys Familia in that last stat, and ahead of Trevor Rosenthal, Ken Giles, and Hector Rondon.

Projection systems and fans have Robles around 10 K/9 and 3 BB/9 this year, and I do too. I would not be surprised if Robles emerges as the Mets 8th inning option ahead of Addison Reed.

Curtis Granderson will take a step back.

This is a somewhat easy prediction, but many people are predicting that Granderson will repeat his epic 2015. That’s not going to happen. Granderson was phenomenal last year — he put up the best season by a Mets outfielder age 34 or older in history, as he played 157 games and knocked 59 extra base hits, tallying 5.1 WAR (click here for full article).

Granderson is 35 this year, and a repeat of that performance would be surprising, especially considering his high-ish .305 BABIP despite being a lefty pull hitter. I expect Grandy will split the difference between 2014 and 2015, ending up around .240/.335/.425 with a nagging injury or two.

Juan Lagares will push for a starting role.

Lagares has looked good this spring, and if he’s fully healthy, he may able to get back to his 2014 form. Lagares hit .281/.321/.382 that year and he might be capable of putting up an even better line in the early-going in 2016 playing primarily against lefties. Lagares will never be an elite (+20 or +25 DRS) fielder again, but if he can get half way there he’s a player who deserves to start every day. The odds are that one of the Mets outfielders will struggle or spend some time on the DL, and if so, Lagares could try to seize it.

Syndergaard will lead the Mets starters in ERA.

I’ve written about Syndergaard here before (click here) and I’m sticking to it. Thor had the best xFIP on the Mets staff last year, and had the third best strikeout rate since 1960 among rookie starters (100+ IP) with less than 3.5 BB/9. His peers? Dwight Gooden, Mark Prior, Cole Hamels, and Jose Fernandez.

In fact, Jarrett Seidler of the brand new BP Mets did an incredible write-up that I recommend everyone read (click here). In short, Thor has an 80 grade fastball, an enormously exciting new slider, a 90+ mph changeup, and the hook from hell.

This is the year that Travis d’Arnaud breaks out and hits 20+ HR.

It’s been an up-and-down couple of seasons for Travis since he first debuted in the major leagues in 2013. First, he didn’t hit well, slashing .202/.286/.263 in 2013. In 2014, he hit better, slashing .242/.302/.416 over 108 games. Finally, in 2015, he hit better than he ever had before, slashing .268/.340/.485, but he struggled again with injuries and only appeared in 67 games.

Travis is 27 years old this season, and firmly established as a major league caliber receiver and hitter. It’s my riskiest call, but I think this is the year that Travis manages to avoid injuries and put it all together. He won’t slug .485 again, but I can see him playing 130 games with a line around .255/.330/.450. That is an excellent line from the catcher position.

NL East: The Mets are not a Lock; the Marlins will be above .500.

I wrote over and over again before the 2015 season that the Marlins were not a threat (click here), but a lot went right for them under-the-radar last year. Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon cemented themselves as above-average regulars, and Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton both returned from the injuries that sidelined them in 2014. I see a lot that I like in their 2016 club, which I wrote about here.

Meanwhile, the gap between the Mets and the Nationals is razor thin, perhaps only one or two games (click here). Between the two teams, the Mets have the superior depth, but the Nationals have the superstars and a couple wildcards that could propel them back to being a mid-90’s win team. It wouldn’t take much — a healthy season from Ryan Zimmerman or a return to form from Anthony Rendon gets them right back into the mix.

I have predicted that the Mets will win the East, with the Nationals two games behind them, and the Marlins around .500. But anything can happen in a baseball season, and those margins may narrow — or even reverse.

Now for some quick hits!

  • Two of Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom will finish in the National League Top 5 in WAR and FIP. The other will be top 15.
  • Steven Matz will put together a nice season but will disappoint sky-high expectations with a 3.60 ERA.
  • Antonio Bastardo will frustrate Mets fans all year with his 4+ BB/9 rate, leading many to consider him Alex Torres part 2. Jerry Blevins will pick up the slack with a decent season as the lefty specialist.
  • One of the big stories for Michael Conforto this year will be the walks. He walked 8.8% of the time last year, which is great for a rookie. But with Collins batting him down the lineup he won’t get quite so much to hit as pitchers avoid him to go after Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Conforto finishes with a wonderful year, .270/.350/.460.
  • Wilmer Flores‘s 1.9 WAR, 16 HR debut was rewarded with a demotion to a super-utility role, and the multiple defensive positions and sporadic playing time will affect his already-funky swing. He got out of whack last September/October and he’s looked bad again this year. His deficiencies will be hidden somewhat with his platoon advantage, but he’ll be unplayable against righties.
  • A minor leaguer who may unexpectedly help this year? Seth Lugo. He was solid in Double-A last year and then actually improved his peripherals in Triple-A, with 30 strikeouts in 27 innings. Lugo will be one of the first up from Triple-A if the bullpen falters (after Goeddel and Gilmartin, most likely) or if he continues to pitch well may wedge his way into the spot-starter role.
  • Lucas Duda is gon’ Lucas Duda again. He was great in the second half last year when the pressure to carry the entire team was relieved (he hit .250/.364/.591 after the All Star Break). With health, I expect him to put up another typical Duda season .250/.355/.490 with increased RBI numbers thanks to the lineup around him. He’ll have the Mets first 100-RBI season since David Wright in 2007.

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Footnote: For those not inclined to click over, here’s a summary of some of the predictions from last year.

  • (A+) The Mets will finish ahead of the Marlins, for CERTAIN.
  • (A) The Mets will play the whole season with Wilmer Flores at shortstop, who will hit .266/.304/.425 with 16 HR and only 65 K, but will lead the team into double plays grounded into. Flores finished at .263/.295/.408 with 16 HR and 63 Ks.
  • (A) Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey will both post ERA’s below 2.80 and receive Cy Young votes. I got the ERA’s right, with deGrom finishing at 2.54 and Harvey finishing at 2.71, but Harvey didn’t get any Cy Young votes. deGrom finished 7th, but probably should have been 5th.
  • (A-) Travis d’Arnaud will not take a step forward this year. d’Arnaud was better on a rate basis in 2015, slashing an awesome .268/.340/.485, but he played only 67 games. He improved his WAR to 1.7, but overall, he hasn’t broken out yet.
  • (B+) Bartolo Colon will have an ERA above 4.25, and be out of the rotation by August.  He did have a 4.90 ERA on August 21st, but the Mets kept throwing him out there. A run of easy games at the end of the year (PHI, MIA, ATL, MIA, ATL, PHI) helped him bring his ERA down to a facially palatable 4.16.
  • (B) After two consecutive years of 26+ Defensive Runs Saved in partial seasons, Juan Lagares will finish with only 20 Defensive Runs Saved in a full year.  I’ll give myself a friendly grade here because I was the only person out there saying Lagares’s defense was not a given. Lagares finished with only +2 DRS and +3.5 UZR.
  • (C+) Michael Cuddyer will play 115+ games, contribute 2+ WAR/15+ HR. Cuddyer was healthier, playing 117 games, but only put up 0.5 WAR despite 10 home runs.