It may have taken a bit longer than usual, but the New York Mets are finally going to begin the 2020 season tomorrow. The 60-game sprint to the finish could be a benefit for the Mets, who are relatively healthy entering the year and looking to build off the momentum of a strong second half. As is the tradition here, let’s do our season preview with 10 major questions that will define the 2020 Mets.
1. Can the Mets stay healthy?
The biggest question for any team this season is simply if they can stay healthy. Most fans will assume this means having important players avoid contracting the coronavirus, but a routine injury could be devastating in a shortened season. An oblique strain, which can normally cost a player weeks of action, may wipe out someone for almost an entire season.
The Mets are in decent shape as the season starts, but they could begin the regular season down three relievers. The big blow is Marcus Stroman’s calf injury, which could sideline him for several weeks in a season that is only 66 days long.
2. Is Luis Rojas an upgrade over Mickey Callaway?
No manager in team history will face a more unique start to his career than Luis Rojas. The Mets gave Rojas the job in January after parting ways with initial choice Carlos Beltran due to his role in the Astros’ cheating scandal and Rojas has now had to run two separate training camps thanks to the pandemic.
One thing in Rojas’ favor is his history as a minor league manager, which gives him a bit more experience running a game than Callaway did, and an added bonus of some experience with the new extra-inning rule. Callaway did a lot of unorthodox things so if Rojas can bring a bit more stability it would be a win for the Mets.
3. Is Yoenis Cespedes ready to roll?
For the first time in two years, the Mets will have Cespedes ready to roll in a regular-season game. There is no doubt that Cespedes can have a monstrous impact on the lineup and history shows the Mets win a lot when he plays. What Cespedes has left in the tank is a mystery but the DH should allow the Mets to keep him healthy over the course of the season.
4. What can Pete Alonso do for an encore?
Alonso took MLB by storm in 2019, shattering the Mets’ franchise record by leading the league with 53 home runs. The clear cut Rookie of the Year, Alonso will now look to show that his impressive campaign wasn’t a fluke. If Alonso can find a way to hit at least 15 home runs in 60 games it would be a huge positive for the Mets.
5. Where will Robinson Cano bat in the order?
Rojas immediately drew some heat over the weekend when Cano was slotted third in the batting order for both exhibition games. The justification could be made that the games don’t count and Cano needed at-bats after missing eight days of summer camp, but the Mets can’t afford to let him hit third to protect his ego. Cano isn’t one of the Mets’ four best hitters and should not be in line to receive more at-bats than someone like Cespedes or Michael Conforto.
6. Can Jacob deGrom win three straight Cy Young awards?
All eyes on the mound will be on deGrom, who will be going for history as the first New York pitcher to ever win three straight Cys. deGrom will have to be outstanding from the get-go, which is a bit different from how he won the two awards by becoming more dominant as the season progressed. Even if he doesn’t win the hardware the Mets need deGrom to be their ace and stopper even more than ever before.
7. Can the rotation behind deGrom hold it together?
On paper, the Mets appear to have a solid rotation, but it is notably thinner than it has been in years past. The loss of Zack Wheeler to free agency will hurt while Noah Syndergaard is out for the year with Tommy John surgery. Stroman’s injury is a killer as it means Steven Matz, Porcello and Wacha will each assume more responsibility. There isn’t much behind them so the Mets will have to look at some combination of David Peterson, Erasmo Ramirez and Corey Oswalt to hold the fifth spot.
8. Can the bullpen be better in 2020?
The reason the Mets missed the playoffs last season was due to a historically bad bullpen. Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia had lost seasons, leaving Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo as the only arms Callaway trusted in big spots down the stretch. The addition of Dellin Betances will help while the law of averages says that the other quality arms out there should improve in 2020. Familia in particular has looked impressive in summer camp while a less lively baseball could help Diaz regain command of his slider, which was flat a bit too often in 2019.
9. Who is the Mets’ X-Factor?
The obvious answer here is Cespedes. Having a healthy Cespedes makes the Mets that much deeper in the lineup and scarier for opposing pitchers to deal with. If Cespedes isn’t the same guy it weakens the Mets’ depth considerably.
10. Prediction time: How will the Mets do in 2020?
The prediction game is always fun and it is even more so in a short season when randomness can make a mess out of the best-laid plans. The good thing for the Mets is that almost all of their key guys are healthy and have had full summer camps, leaving them in good position to get out of the gate hot. This team was a popular pick to contend for the NL East crown in February and the loss of Syndergaard shouldn’t be as impactful in a shorter season. We’ll say the Mets go 35-25 to claim the division crown and advance to the NLCS before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers.