Spring training is underway, and hopes are high for the New York Mets. PECOTA projects them to win the National League East, but it is expected to be a tight race with the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, and Philadelphia Phillies. One guy that could be a major difference-maker for the Mets, if he is healthy, is outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
The Mets haven’t had a healthy Cespedes since 2017, but he appears to finally be on the mend from heel surgery now. Cespedes is taking batting practice at spring training and worked in the outfield today, but updates on his progress will be hard to come by.
Manager Luis Rojas has indicated there is no timetable for Cespedes yet, who restructured his contract over the winter to a more incentive-based pact. Cespedes himself indicated he isn’t planning to talk to the media anytime soon, so there won’t be much information available from him either.
It is hard not to be encouraged, however, when you see the footage of Cespedes roping pitches off the wall. The Mets’ record with Cespedes in the lineup is far better than it is without him, and having a highly motivated Cespedes in a contract year should be a boost to the lineup.
One of the problems with Cespedes in the past has been his durability, but the Mets are well equipped to keep him fresh. The presence of players like JD Davis, Dominic Smith, and Jeff McNeil lessens the pressure for Cespedes to play 140 games, which should theoretically keep him healthier over the course of the season.
The Mets’ lineup is already pretty deep, but it could use one more impact power bat in the middle of the batting order. Cespedes could provide that in spades, and if he is healthy it would add a ton of pop to the order. There is no question that a healthy Cespedes would strike tremendous fear into opposing pitchers, and he could well be the X-factor for the Mets in 2020.
If the Mets can get 130 games out of Cespedes and he can knock the rust off quickly, a 30 homer, 100 RBI campaign is a realistic possibility. That kind of production doesn’t grow on trees, and it could be the difference between the Mets winning the division or jockeying for a wild card in the deep National League.