2015 Mets Card Spring Preview

Still short a shortstop but plenty of pinstripes

This is it, the year all of our suffering has been leading to. 2015, the year the Mets will finally win! Or at least that was the plan. With some serious questions and a lot of the expected improvement coming in the form of returning or rebounding players, the 2015 Mets aren’t exactly inspiring confidence beyond maybe being in the hunt for a second Wild Card spot, or at least a winning record. 82 wins or bust!

Farewells

Daisuke Matsuzaka is back in Japan, Andrew Brown is in Korea via Oakland after getting bumped by our old friend Ike Davis, and Eric Young Jr. has a front row seat for whatever is going on as the Braves prepare to abandon downtown Atlanta. Josh Satin, Juan Centeno, and Logan Verrett are also gone and Bobby Abreu quietly faded into retirement. Chris Young (not the pitcher) returned to New York, but thankfully not to the Mets.

Hails

Um, about that… If you were expecting to see a shortstop here, you might want to just stop reading now. And stop following the Mets. Sorry. We’ll cover what the Mets did get a bit later, no sense spoiling the, um, surprise. For now, here are the first two players who have gotten their first Mets cards in 2015, Carlos Torres and Michael Cuddyer.

Autographs

2014 went out with a whimper when it comes to Mets prospect autographs, giving us only unlicensed autographs from Michael Conforto. So far in 2015, we’ve gotten some proper Confortos and a trio of newcomers from Elite Extra Edition: Milton Ramos, Eudor Garcia, and Josh Prevost. That gets us the Mets’ top four picks from 2014.
The first two 2015 products did one better with the first autographs from Juan Lagares in 2015 Topps Series 1 followed by autographs from Bill Wakefield, Choo Choo Coleman, Ernie Bowman, and Gordon Richardson in 2015 Topps Heritage. Not a bad way to start off the year. Let’s hope Archives can keep this momentum going.

Memorabilia

Pinstripes, pinstripes, pinstripes! After their return to prominence in 2014, pinstripes have been plentiful so far in 2015. With the Mets retiring the snow white home uniform, we should be seeing a lot more pinstripe swatches in the months to come, though it could be a while before we see the ivory swatches switch back to 2015’s pure white.

Rookies

Only three Mets are currently eligible for Rookie Cards: Dilson Herrera (2015 Topps Series 1, 2015 Topps Heritage), Erik Goeddel (2015 Topps Heritage), and Dario Alvarez (not expecting much there). Until Noah Syndergaard and/or Matt Reynolds make their debuts (+2 months), we’ll be seeing a lot of Dilson Herrera.

Playing Pepper 2015: New York Mets

Yet again, Daniel Shoptaw from C70 At The Bat seems to think I know what I’m talking about and asked me (and anyone else who will write back) some questions about the Mets.

1) What are your thoughts on the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do?

Oh boy… Barring a blockbuster trade, the Mets were in the market for a corner outfielder, a right-handed bench bat, a shortstop, and maybe a veteran lefty reliever in case they broke another one from overuse (about that…). They wasted no time, signing Michael Cuddyer for the outfield and John Mayberry Jr. for the bench and then picking up lefty Sean Gilmartin in the Rule 5 draft (so much for the “veteran” part…). As for shortstop, there was a lot of talk but no action and Wilmer Flores (if healthy) will be your Opening Day Mets shortstop. Try not to get too excited.

With Sandy Alderson cracking jokes about his shortstop search at jury duty, it’s a bit disappointing to see the Mets going with a guy they wouldn’t even play at that position at the end of last season when there was nothing on the line. Flores has yet to truly be tested defensively, so we don’t really know what to expect. Still, the alternatives weren’t very appealing. The free agent market had no clear upgrades over Flores and the trade market never really heated up. And so Flores it is.

As for what else the Mets didn’t do, there are a few issues remaining to be resolved. Dillon Gee looks to be headed for the bullpen, which isn’t really in anyone’s best interests. He should be starting somewhere, but that somewhere won’t be for the Mets in 2015 until the first injuries hit. The lefty reliever situation is looking worse every day and the Mets forgot to stockpile cheap options on minor league deals. Oops. And then there’s Cesar Puello, who is as out of options as the Mets’ outfield is out of available spots. If everyone ahead of him stays healthy, Puello will have to be exposed to waivers before Opening Day. He looked like he finally put it all together in 2013, but now his days with the Mets could be numbered.

One thing the Mets did do is increase payroll. They’re still projected to be under $100 million, but at least this year they don’t have to use creative accounting to claim to be spending more. They won’t be spending much on the draft this year though; the Cuddyer signing puts them dead last in draft bonus pools with their first pick at number 53. No draft day excitement for Mets fans this year.

2) What are the expectations for Matt Harvey this season?

Realistically, all we can expect is for Harvey to make his starts without his arm falling off. He’s far enough removed from Tommy John surgery that he should be able to put in 200 quality innings without much risk. 2015 should be about staying healthy.

But did you see his first spring training start? 96mph first pitch, fastball topping off at 99… I think we can safely throw reason out the window. The sky’s the limit for Harvey, at least where newspaper sales or blog hits are concerned.

3) Can David Wright rebound?

David Wright is finally coming to terms with an opponent he can’t play his way past – age. His 2014 season is a perfect example of what happens when you try to keep going when your body tells you to slow down. He seems to have learned his lesson though, so I don’t see any reason why 2015 won’t be better. It can’t get much worse…

“People keep asking if I’m back. Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back.”

4) What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?

After getting back on track last year, this should be a big year for Travis d’Arnaud. He still has some things to work on, but he finished 2014 strong and should be able to build on that moving forward. And with Kevin Plawecki breathing down his neck, he’ll probably have to if he wants to hang on to his current role in 2016.

5) What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
I always overestimate the record and underestimate the division placing, so I’ll say 84-78 and second place in the NL East, which means they’ll win the division with an 82-80 record if the pattern holds. With the Phillies in dumpster fire mode and the Braves killing time until their new stadium is ready, it’s down to just the Nationals, Marlins, and Mets. The Nationals have everything going for them, so they’ll either perform as expected or implode. The Marlins are on the verge of breaking out, but they just spent an awful lot of money on one player, so anything could happen there. And the Mets are getting slightly better and hoping that’s enough to add on a few wins and get closer to contention. It’s far from a sure thing.

6) What do you like best about being a Mets fan?

The fan community. The team might leave something to be desired and ownership is hard to tolerate, but the fans who have stuck around through it all have a diversity of opinions and a huge body of baseball knowledge, much of which has been on display at the Queens Baseball Convention the past two years. And while Citi Field may not be much more than half full on many days, you can expect to see a group of 1000+ Mets fans at several road games this year. No matter what your interest is, you can always find a great group of Mets fans to discuss it with.

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