Bouncing back from a year that fell short
The Mets made the postseason for the second consecutive season last year, but not even a superb outing from Noah Syndergaard could get the Mets past the Giants in the Wild Card game, so it’s been a long offseason. Speaking of Noah Syndergaard, this happened:
I’ve been discounted?!?!? WHAT….THE….@%&$!https://t.co/ikx4fyb3hC
— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) February 21, 2017
We saw lots of Syndergaard in cardboard last year and will likely see a lot more this year. Beyond him though, the cardboard Mets didn’t have a whole lot of depth in 2016 and there could be less in store for 2017. The Mets have two stars shining brightly in Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes, which could make everyone else hard to see. Or maybe they’ll be a rising tide that lifts everyone else into prominence. Honestly, I have no clue what Topps (and especially Panini) is doing and I get the feeling that they don’t either.
Despite what Lucas Duda’s 2017 Topps Series 1 card might lead you to believe, Eric Campbell is not in Mets camp. He’s not even in affiliated ball anymore, having signed with the Hanshin Tigers after being dropped from the 40-man roster last year. But you can’t get rid of Eric Campbell that easily, so there he is… Also in 2017 Topps Series 1 and no longer with the Mets is 8th starter Gabriel Ynoa, who was dealt to the Orioles for cash in a real head-scratcher of a move that doesn’t do much to dispel the penny pinching Wilpons narrative. Given this team’s recent history with starting pitchers, losing Ynoa could come back to bite the Mets sooner rather than later. And this time, they don’t have Bartolo Colon to bail them out, as he signed with the Braves in the offseason along with fellow former Met R.A. Dickey.
Beyond those three, the Mets didn’t really lose much since last year. Alejandro De Aza isn’t coming back and Kelly Johnson hasn’t signed anywhere yet despite being an obvious fit for a Mets team without David Wright. Wright is still technically around, but he sure seems to be a long way from getting back in the game. Also not yet eligible for this section is Jay Bruce, who went from sure to be traded to the starting right fielder to maybe a first baseman in what feels like an afternoon. Where he didn’t go though was to another team, so we don’t get to say goodbye to him just yet. And then there’s the matter of Jeurys Familia, who is still waiting for MLB to decide his fate after a domestic violence incident. He is expected to miss at least a month or two once the powers that be quit dragging their collective asses.
The biggest acquisition in the last six months or so is no other than college football superstar and former NFL not-quite-superstar Tim Tebow! Tebow is the talk of Mets camp despite not getting so much as an NRI and having little chance of making it to the majors this, um, lifetime. But those merchandise sales… Even the Fisher Cats ticket rep is hoping to see Tebow in a, um, Rumble Ponies? uniform this year, but that is probably not going to happen. At least, not by the end of June, which is when Binghamton plays its last game of the season in Manchester.
Otherwise, the Mets signed a bunch of minor league pitchers and brought back just about everyone from the 2016 team, so it’s all familiar faces on the big league side. A lot can happen over the course of the season, but the Mets are picking up where they left off in 2016, a little bit older and (hopefully) a little bit healthier.
Oof, what a year for Mets prospect cards… I guess I was kind of right about Wuilmer Becerra, Luis Carpio, and Ali Sanchez getting cards, or at least one card each. But the lack of autographs was disturbing. 2017 is getting off to a better start with autographs from Amed Rosario, Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, and of course Tim Tebow in 2016 Leaf Trinity (released in March of 2017…). And P.J. Conlon has confirmed signing Bowman Chrome prospect autographs, which should be the first we’ve seen outside of Bowman Draft since 2015. Dominic Smith should continue his rise this year and Tomas Nido had a breakout season last year that should put him on the radar. But the real star prospect is ths guy:
Many consider Luis Guillorme the best defender in the Mets’ entire farm system. Need proof? He just. Did. This. pic.twitter.com/WLTKIAkdnH
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) March 2, 2017
That’s Luis Guillorme displaying the hot hands he’s known for in the field. Guillorme already has prospect cards in 2013 Bowman Draft and autographs in 2015 Bowman, but he could be due for more in 2017 as he enters the upper minors.
We started 2016 with Rookie Cards from Michael Conforto and Matt Reynolds and ended the year with a few from Brandon Nimmo, leaving seven RC-eligible players in the Mets system (plus Atlanta’s Dario Alvarez and Akeel Morris). That should give us a diverse crop of Rookies in 2017, which has already started with the first Rookie Cards from Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Gabriel Ynoa, and Gavin Cecchini. T.J. Rivera’s two Topps Now cards from last year should indicate that he’ll show up eventually, leaving just Ty Kelly and Josh Smoker as questionable. That’s some serious strength in numbers, but it’s a bit short on star power beyond Gsellman. Expect Topps to lean on him heavily throughout the year while the others take turns when additional Rookies are needed. That should give Panini an opening, which it has started to exploit with the first RC autographs from Gavin Cecchini in 2017 Donruss. They also supposedly have a few hundred Seth Lugo autograph stickers in play…
Topps has released three checklists so far this year and Noah Syndergaard has autographs in all of them. So expect a lot more of that. Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Michael Conforto are also in the mix, as they have been for the last 2 years or so. Beyond that, I’m not terribly hopeful for autographs in 2017. Yoenis Cespedes will pop up here and there, but I’m not really interested in seeing more of his short signature, which is all Topps seems to get. Panini has a few more Brandon Nimmo autograph stickers to burn through, starting with cards in 2017 Donruss. With so many premium autographs to work with, the next tier down might not get much attention in 2017.
Perhaps the best sign of things to come in 2017 wasn’t the 18 Mets with memorabilia in 2016 Topps Triple Threads but the bat and pinstripe jersey cards from Yoenis Cespedes in 2016 Topps Walmart Holiday. 15 Mets had pinstripe jersey cards in 2016, with Cespedes being the final one. We’ve already seen the first pinstripe jerseys from Curtis Granderson in 2017 plus more from Cespedes, Syndergaard, and deGrom, so things are definitely looking good on that front. Even better, the racing stripe jerseys should be getting into circulation soon. More bats would also be welcome.
But will we see more players? 2016 gave us the first Mets swatches from Cespedes and Granderson, Leaving Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker, and I guess Jay Bruce as the only non-rookie regulars without Mets memorabilia. Will Topps make the effort to fill in those gaps? Or will they just keep churning out more relic cards from the same players. One look at the 2016 Heritage High Number and 2017 Topps Heritage checklists seems to answer that one… But Museum Collection is right around the corner and could have some nice surprises.
Events could also deliver big in 2017 with Topps announcing that WBC memorabilia will be in 2017 Topps Allen & Ginter, 2017 Topps Museum Collection, and 2017 Topps Dynasty. Most teams are loaded with current and former Mets players and prospects, so there’s bound to be something fun to collect there (hopefully at least some Seth Lugo memorabilia). The remainder of the 2016 All-Star memorabilia is also a possibility to appear in 2017. With yellow and brown swatches, you’ll definitely know it when you see it. All of the Mets from the game except Jeurys Familia had relic cards in 2016 Topps Update, but Topps might want to keep Familia to a minimum in 2017. As for the corresponding Futures Game jerseys, don’t hold your breath.
Playing Pepper 2017: New York Mets
We’re back again with some questions from Daniel Shoptaw from C70 At The Bat that he wanted answers to, um, today? Which is probably yesterday by the time anyone sees this… So let’s see if we can get this cranked out while it’s still March 10.
1. Was it a good offseason for the team? Did they do what they needed to do? Is there any move you wished they had made that they didn’t?
The Mets basically brought back a team that made it to the postseason after a ton of injuries, so all they really need to do is get healthy. The jury’s still out on that one. Getting rid of Jay Bruce is the obvious move they didn’t make, but there were some little things they could have done to improve like bringing back Kelly Johnson (who will be on the team by August regardless…) and improving the bullpen. It’s a good starting point though, we’ll just have to wait and see how things go wrong from here.
2. What are the expectations for Matt Harvey, both in when he will return and how effective he’ll be when he does?
What did I say two years ago? That. We’ve been down this road before, move along…
3. What’s the biggest weakness for this team?
Development of young non-pitching talent at the major league level. We’ve seen it before with Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores, but Michael Conforto may be the most talented position player yet to be blocked from regular playing time with the Mets (most recently by “star” Jay Bruce). Everyone seems to agree that he needs to be playing just about every day, and yet that doesn’t seem to happen. This is especially troubling when you consider that the next two big prospects to debut will be position players. They’ve gotten helping pitchers make that last big step down to a science, hopefully they start to recognize a need for a similar approach with position players.
4. Is there an unheralded player that people should keep an eye on this season?
No. We’re at the point where we’re wondering whether most of these guys can return to form and/or realize their full potential. We know what they all could be, so it’s hard to call any of them unheralded. You would have to dig down into the minors to dredge up any names that would fit here, probably guys like Paul Sewald and Tomas Nido who will open the season in the upper minors and could be called on if there’s an opening for a backup role at some point down the road.
5. What’s your projection of the team’s record and/or where will they finish in the division?
Last year I said 89-73 and second place, so let’s go with that. Theoretically, they should be able to pad their record a bit with all those games against the non-Nationals segment of the division, but that didn’t work out so well last year.
6. Who is your all-time favorite Met and why?
There’s only about a thousand to choose from, so… There were lots of better and more popular players who spent time with the team, but every time I think about this I keep coming back to Ed Kranepool. Kranepool was a September call-up as a teenager in 1962 and played all of his 1853 games with the Mets. Though he played almost all of those games before my lifetime, he has been active in the Mets community throughout the decades since his retirement. I first met him in the early ’90s when he was doing signings at small card shows frequented by many of the ’69 Mets, back when I was a kid who knew next to nothing about that team or the pre-’80s Mets in general. More recently, I had the opportunity to chat with him for a few minutes and he still remembered the details of that show, right down to the location and the promoter’s name, more than 20 years later. He has been a great ambassador for the team, helping to link current fans to the team’s history in a much more personal way than the team’s afterthought of a museum at Citi Field ever could.