This is year five of the reign of GM Sandy Alderson, and the Mets have yet to make the playoffs in his first four years. But there are high hopes going into this season. The Mets defied the expectations of many by winning 79 games last year, good for second place in the NL East. Although it looks like they’ll be playing for second place again because the Washington Nationals are prohibitive World Series favorites, the Mets could still make a playoff appearance as a Wild Card.
The Mets' biggest offseason acquisition was outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who brings a formidable bat to Queens from Colorado. The young talent that the Mets have been stockpiling, such as Dilson Herrera, will surely improve and play a bigger role in 2015. The future arrived last year, somewhat, in the form of Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud. Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell will be back after missing the 2014 season due to injuries, further enhancing the Mets’ already-solid run prevention squad.
But the Mets will also need to count on the contributions of the following three players if they want to have a shot at the postseason, and their Spring Training performances may give a good indication as to how their 2015 seasons will go:
Wilmer Flores – He has been anointed as the shortstop of the future, but there is a great deal of skepticism. Many writers and fans clamored for Alderson to acquire a shortstop via either free agency or trade, but the Mets stood pat. Then again, everyone wanted the Mets to sign Stephen Drew for 2014 and look how that turned out!
Flores hinted at some ability at the plate in 78 games last year; hitting .251 with six home runs and 29 RBIs. He is projected to put up similar stats this year; RotoChamp composite has Flores at .253 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs.
His defense was often critiqued last season but he had a .979 fielding percentage, which was right in line with the league average at the position last year (.975). Flores committed only four errors in 443.1 innings at shortstop in 2014. His range does leave a bit to be desired though; his Range Factor per 9 innings (RF/9) was only 3.84 at shortstop last year, considerably below the league average of 4.30.
In short, Flores is probably not going to amaze anyone this year but if he lives up to these projections he can be a solid hitter at the bottom of the lineup with league-average defensive skills. The pressure will be on Wilmer Flores to have a strong Spring Training in all aspects of the game if he wants to be the starting shortstop going into the season.
David Wright – He has had many good years with the Mets, but last year was not one of them. Wright hit just .269 in 2014 with only eight home runs, his lowest total ever. He was shut down in September with a nagging shoulder issue, which many speculated was the cause of his drop-off in production.
Wright is a seven-time All-Star and is only 32 but he still has to prove that his best days are not behind him and that he will be able to anchor the lineup, batting third. He will get his chance to do that in Port St. Lucie.
Sean Gilmartin – A Rule 5 Draft pick, he was a starter in the minors last season for the Minnesota Twins. Gilmartin went 9-7 with a 3.71 ERA in 26 total starts between AA and AAA last year. But more importantly, lefty batters hit just .201 against him (30-for-149), suggesting that this southpaw could be a candidate to make the Mets as a lefty-on-lefty specialist.
His expertise is in need as Josh Edgin, the incumbent lefty specialist, is going to be out for the season after deciding to undergo Tommy John surgery. Gilmartin could be his replacement, assuming all goes well in spring training. His main competition for this role will be Scott Rice, who had a horrible 2014 before being sent down to AAA early last season, Jack Leathersich, who has demonstrated control issues during his tenure in the Mets minor league system, and Dario Alvarez, who has thrown just six innings above A-ball in his career, and would be considered a longshot to make the club.