John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Rarely has a season ended with such a strong feeling about what might have been. The Mets went 46-26 in the second half, looking every bit the part of a playoff team with Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson doing the heavy lifting at the back end of the bullpen.
Yet they were realistically out of the Wild Card chase with a week to go in the season, and they weren't even close in the NL East, 11 games behind the first-place Braves and seven back of the Nationals.
It's no mystery as to what went wrong, of course, most of it during a 40-50 first half. Edwin Diaz set a major-league record by giving up 15 ninth-inning home runs, while Jeurys Familia allowed 42 walks in 60 innings -- the two of them turning the Mets' bullpen into a dumpster fire for much of the season.
Just decent relief work from the two of them and the Mets surely would have at least nailed down a Wild Card spot.
This team had other flaws, most notably a defense that various metrics showed to be among the worst in the majors (though it was better in the second half), and first-half slumps by Robinson Cano and Wilson Ramos that dragged down the offense.
Big picture, though, the 2019 season produced a better-than-expected young core of no fewer than seven players, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis, Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, and Dom Smith, which offers hope for 2020 and beyond.
Breaking it down individually, here are my season-ending grades for the key players, and Mickey Callaway and Brodie Van Wagenen as well.
- Pete Alonso: Pretty much all has been said. One of the great rookie seasons in baseball history. Grade: A+
- Amed Rosario: Defense at shortstop improved enough in the second half to end talk of a move to center field, since his impactful offense is still ascending. Grade: B+
- Todd Frazier: Streaky nature made him an easy target at times, but he put up a .910 OPS with RISP, and finished with decent numbers overall. He shouldn't be back. Grade: C+
- ROBINSON CANO: Looking back, it's reasonable to believe Cano's disastrous first-half was at least partly the result of a couple of hit-by-pitch hand injuries, something at which he hinted. The four remaining years of his contract are an albatross, but his second-half .880 OPS at least suggests he's not done, as it appeared when he was killing the Mets offensively. Still turns the double-play as well as anybody. Grade: D +
- Jeff McNeil: Two questions. Is he betting hitting .349 in the first half with modest power, or .276 in the second half with 16 home runs? And where should he play? Grade: A+
- Michael Conforto: Very good season, but hasn't reached star-level expectations. He had 33 homers in a year when 58 players hit 30-plus, and his .856 OPS ranked 48th in the Majors. Grade: B
- Brandon Nimmo: Great eye that will always produce walks, but still some question about his ceiling, after missing four months due to neck injury. Grade: C+
- Dom Smith: He was having a breakout year in a limited role before his foot injury sidelined him for two months. Alonso at first probably makes Smith a trade chip. Grade: B
- Juan Lagares: He had a brief stretch where he looked like the player the Mets once envisioned. But a disappointment overall. Grade C
- J.D. DAVIS: The find of the year for Van Wagenen, who traded three minor leaguers to get him from the Astros. Davis proved the scouts wrong when they said he had a slider-speed bat and couldn't hit high velocity fastballs. He was a studious hitter whose opposite-field approach with two strikes helped him hit .307, to go with 22 homers in only 453 plate appearances. Should be the everyday left fielder, unless Yoenis Cespedes rises from the dead next season. Grade: A +
- Wilson Ramos: Scorching-hot August, where he hit .434 and delivered some key hits, which eased the scrutiny on his defensive shortcomings and changed the perception of his free-agent signing. Yet, 103 of his 136 hits were singles, as he hit .288, and his lack of speed is an obvious issue. Likely back to finish out two-year deal. Grade: C +
- Jacob deGrom: Back-to-back Cy Young Awards would say it all about his greatness. Grade: A+
- Zack Wheeler: Inconsistent command was still an issue, but delivered 15 starts of seven innings or more with occasional dominance. Can the Mets really afford to let him go? Grade: B
- Steven Matz: Second straight season he made 30 starts, putting to rest injury-prone reputation. He was dominant at times, but too inconsistent to be more than a No. 3-4 starter. Grade: B-
- Marcus Stroman: Made a few strong starts in September, but overall didn't live up to the hype -- some of his own making -- coming in a trade with the Blue Jays. Grade: C+
- NOAH SYNDERGAARD: Seemingly more of an enigma now than ever after posting a 4.28 ERA, way too high for his talent, leaving open the question of whether he'll ever reach ace-like potential. Even annoyed some of his faithful fans with the fuss about a personal catcher, and seemed to be in his own head much of the season worrying about external factors. Grade: C
- Seth Lugo: Breakout season as he saved the bullpen from disaster. Question is how to best use him in 2020. Grade: A
- Justin Wilson: Came on strong in the second half after missing time due to arm injuries. Looks like an important piece next season. Grade: B+
- Jeurys Familia: Not going anywhere due to two more years at $23 million, so can he be fixed? Stuff still good but his control problems have become a plague. Grade: F
- EDWIN DIAZ: What do the Mets do with him? They'd be selling low if they traded him, so they will probably be counting on his high-quality stuff and age (26 in March) to produce bounce-back year. But that's a huge risk if his struggles were more about internal pressure of pitching with high expectations on a big stage. I'd move on from him, but Van Wagenen probably feels he has too much invested in that trade. Grade: F
-Mickey Callaway: Can't buy into the narrative that players played hard for him to turn the season around. Sources close to players say there was plenty of second-guessing on his in-game managing, including some of the well-chronicled mistakes. And their second-half surge was more a tribute to the good vibes created by young core, with Alonso fast becoming the new David Wright. Simply put, this team needs a better manager if it's going to be a serious contender in 2020. Grade: D
- Brodie Van Wagenen: In the end, the bad moves (signing Familia, Jed Lowrie, trading for Cano and Diaz) significantly outweighed the good (trading for Davis, bringing up Alonso to start the season) or at least OK moves (signing Ramos). Jury is out on the Stroman trade, depending partly on whether former Mets' pitching prospects amount to anything. And if fast-rising prospect Jarred Kelenic blossoms into a star in Seattle, the Cano/Diaz trade could haunt BVW for years to come. Grade: D+