The way it stands, PECOTA (and most systems) project the Mets to be an 87-win team finishing second or third place in the NL East, while either winning a Wild Card spot or being right on the bubble.
However, in looking at the roster, I see these three players as having the potential to swing the above number in a significantly positive or negative direction based on what they provide in 2019.
The difference between Syndergaard and the other two players on this list is that we've seen him excel in New York over the course of an entire season. We know what he's capable of here in New York every five days for six months. This isn't his first time playing for the Mets, and this isn't a season we hope he takes it to the next level. He's been to that level.
Unfortunately, he missed most of 2017 with injury. And, while he was terrific when on the mound last season, he made pitched 151 innings in only 25 starts.The Mets don't necessarily need more from Syndergaard when he's on the mound. Instead, they need him to spend more time on the mound.
In a season when relief pitchers will be required to throw to three batters before being replaced, the difference between 25 and 32 starts from Syndergaard has the potential to be roughly 40 innings that Mickey Callaway doesn't need to use a spot starter or reliever.
The same can be said about getting full seasons out of Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. The difference, though, is that, while both Wheeler and Matz have had success, Syndergaard pitched a full season in 2016 and nearly won a Cy Young Award.
Together, based on what we've seen them do in the past, Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom have the ability to be on the mound for at least 30 percent of the season, while keeping the ball out of play close to 500 times and producing between 10-15 WAR. In a world where both of these things happen, the Mets will be able to weather any major injury, the occasional missed start, or bad stretch of games from the rest of the starting rotation.
That said, if Syndergaard is the pitcher missing starts and/or struggling, we will be looking to Matz, Wheeler and Vargas to exceed expectations (as opposed to just meeting them like Noah). That's always a vulnerable spot for a winning team.
Conforto is expected to hit at least 25 home runs (if not more). He's going to hit at least 20 doubles and bat no less than .240, which will again net him around 3-4 WAR.
However, when healthy and with productive hitters around him, Conforto has produced far more than the above totals. In stretches since 2015 with at least three or four other productive hitters around him, Conforto has resembled an MVP-caliber hitter.
Last season, during his final 150 at-bats and once fully recovered from shoulder surgery, he produced at a rate that would net close to 50 home runs, 100 extra base hits, 150 RBI and a .360 OBP.
Obviously, he almost certainly won't achieve those numbers during any full season during his career, though it would be awesome if he did. However, it does show what he's capable of doing when healthy and playing every day regardless of who is batting around him in the lineup.
This season, wedged in between Robinson Cano and Wilson Ramos, Conforto will find himself in a similar situation to when he frequently hit between Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera in 2016. But, in this scenario, Cano and Ramos carry more prominent reputations and the potential for more power.
Being able to watch from the on-deck circle as Cano battles that day's pitcher, who will need to consider how he pitches to Conforto knowing Ramos is on deck, should allow the 26-year-old lefty to be more patient and strategic in what he does with the bat this year.
"Cano is going to be standing on second a lot, so that's another plus for me," Conforto recently told reporters, while praising the chance to hit behind Cano.
In this sort of situation, based on what Conforto did late last season, I think it's fair to think he can exceed 30 home runs and 30 doubles and bat around .280, at which point he'd be a 5-6 WAR, MVP candidate.
In a world where Cano and Ramos are healthy, and Conforto is having a breakout season hitting cleanup, the Mets are scoring a lot of runs. And, with their pitching, if the Mets are scoring runs, they'll be winning. That said, if Conforto struggles or is injured, opposing pitchers will be able to cut around Cano and Ramos, and collapse at least one-third of the team's lineup each night.
In all likelihood, Ramos will hit .280, belt 10-15 home runs, and get 500 plate appearances (assuming he's healthy during most of the season). This, however, is not his greatest value to the Mets, and it's not why I listed him as a pivotal player in 2019.
The Mets are built on pitching. In the end, the better DeGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler, Matz, Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia do, the better the team is going to do in the standings. The essence of this post is to highlight three players capable of being the difference between, say, 86 wins and 92 wins...
In the case of Ramos, while his bat is important, what he does behind the plate and between the ears of his pitching staff is going to be the true fruit of his labor.
In the years since Paul Lo Duca was the team's every day catcher, the Mets have run through more than 25 backstops, including Travis d'Arnaud, Brian Schneider, Omir Santos, Rod Barajas, Josh Thole, John Buck and Kevin Plawecki.
This type of tumult doesn't necessarily weaken a pitching staff, but it without question adds an extra variable that must be factored in to their gameplan every night. To have a consistent, everyday presence behind home plate helps to reduce being concerned about what's going on after the ball is released in air.
That said, in addition to providing stability, Ramos brings to Callaway's staff a guy with a bat, a reputation, experience handling young pitchers, and someone creative that has game planned in the division against the same hitters that will be in the opposing dugout the next six months.
Even better, Ramos -- who has spent 8 of his 12 seasons in the National League East -- reportedly wanted to join the Mets because of his familiarity with the division, city, and promise of the potential of their pitching staff.
"I like to work with those kind of rotations because I feel like I can help with my experience," Ramos said last summer after being dealt by Tampa to Philadelphia. "Every time I am behind the plate, I try to help my guys on the mound. I love when we put zeroes on the scoreboard. That is my priority."
Ramos may hit, drive in runs, and provide enough protection in the lineup to elevate Conforto to an MVP-caliber hitter. But, if he can stay on field, develop a bond with the pitching staff, make them feel comfortable and more prepared than usual, and elevate their game as an overall staff, well, he'd be worth every penny paid to him and more.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!