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Mets 2024 season preview: Projected lineup, rotation, MLB prediction

The leader of the front office and manager are new and the starting rotation looks vastly different from recent years, but the Mets are still largely defined by familiar names.

It’s Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil back for another season together, with Edwin Diaz in the bullpen, before the organization has to decide on potentially another course.

Alonso’s last season before free agency will certainly be a subplot to the spring and summer in Queens, as the fan base becomes acquainted with new president of baseball operations David Stearns and his handpicked manager, Carlos Mendoza.

Perhaps the Mets finally have the stability that team owner Steve Cohen has craved in key leadership positions.

But do the Mets have enough in the all-important “baseball players” category?

Mets essentials

Most important hitter: Pete Alonso hit 46 homers last season, but had career-lows in on-base percentage (.318) and batting average (.217). Alonso would like to be more disciplined at the plate so he’s more than a one-trick pony entering the walk year of his contract. Alonso led the National League in hit-by-pitches (21) last season to match the total from his rookie year. Alonso owns 192 career homers, placing him within shouting distance of Darryl Strawberry’s franchise record of 252.

Mets first baseman Pete Alonso is a free agent after the 2024 season. Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

Most important pitcher: Much of the oxygen was siphoned from the Mets’ season in spring training last year after Edwin Diaz tore the patellar tendon in his right knee during a celebration at the World Baseball Classic. The All-Star closer spent the season rehabbing from surgery and has returned to anchor a rebuilt bullpen. When last seen, Diaz was electrifying at a rate of nearly two strikeouts per inning. His 99 mph heat has returned, along with a wipeout slider. The sound of trumpets will again resonate through Citi Field.

Will have a bigger year than expected: The bar is low for Starling Marte, who struggled for most of last season at the plate and in the field before missing the final two months with groin discomfort. But Marte has returned appearing as athletic as ever and ready to contribute to a lineup that missed his presence last season. Even with all his time missed last season, Marte managed to steal 24 bases. He will likely receive occasional turns at DH to keep his legs fresh.

Most likely to disappoint: Brett Baty needs a solid start to the season after last year appearing overwhelmed by the major league experience. We’ll see. If Ronny Mauricio hadn’t torn his anterior cruciate ligament playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, there is a good chance he would have become the team’s starting third baseman this season. Baty is still only 24 years old and the Mets’ lack of other options at the position have presented him with another opportunity.

Key call-up: Christian Scott, the organization’s top pitching prospect, could get an opportunity in the rotation later in the season depending on the Mets’ need. Scott, 24, pitched to a 2.47 ERA in 12 starts for Double-A Binghamton. Overall he allowed only 63 hits in 87 ²/₃ innings. The right-hander projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues, but should get chances given the number of starting pitchers (Luis Severino, Jose Quintana, Sean Manaea and Adrian Houser among them) who can leave after this season.

Biggest managerial decision: Mendoza’s life got easier with the addition of J.D. Martinez to solidify the DH spot, but the rookie manager will still have to decide how to implement others into the role as needed. For instance, Marte as an older player coming off injuries could probably benefit from occasional turns at DH. If and when Mark Vientos is recalled, how will he receive at-bats?

Don’t be surprised if: Jeff McNeil gets traded during the season. The Mets have Jett Williams and Luisangel Acuña behind him in the minor leagues, with Joey Wendle on the roster as major league depth. If the Mets fall early from playoff contention, the time could be right to deal McNeil, who received a four-year contract worth $50 million before last season.

New Mets manager Carlos Mendoza (l.) with Francisco Lindor (r.) in spring training. Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

Sure to make fans grumble: The Mets didn’t sign a high-end starting pitcher in the offseason, instead turning to Severino, Manaea and Houser, all of whom profile as middle-to-back-end of the rotation starters. If that group doesn’t produce there will be plenty of questions about why the Mets didn’t sign Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery.

Will make the playoffs if: Baty emerges as a league average at third base, Harrison Bader remains healthy to play 130-plus games and Kodai Senga returns strong from the injured list to again spearhead the rotation. The bullpen will need at least four dependable arms behind Diaz.

Will miss the playoffs if: Francisco Alvarez regresses after a strong rookie season, Senga endures his own sophomore slump and Severino disappears into a black hole with a physical ailment. Uncertainty at third base would further complicate the equation for the Mets. 

Injury that would hurt the most: Diaz is the most irreplaceable part of the Mets’ pitching staff. The Mets are built to survive a hit to the starting rotation, but losing their electric closer for any kind of extensive stretch would again send the team scrambling to fill not only the ninth inning, but the setup roles that pitchers such as Adam Ottavino and Jorge Lopez would be vacating to fill that spot.

Edwin Diaz returns to anchor the Mets bullpen after missing all of last season. Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Playing the field

First base: Pete Alonso will have plenty of motivation for a big season as he prepares for free agency. Over his first five seasons Alonso has hit at least 40 homers three times, but the key now is improving his on-base percentage. Defensively, Alonso has continued to work hard and improve to the point he’s not considered a liability with the glove. Can Alonso buck the recent trend for first basemen and land a $200 million-plus contract? He’s going to need a huge season to have that chance.

Second base: After often shuffling to the outfield the last two seasons, Jeff McNeil will likely remain mostly tethered to second base. The Mets will need better production from him following a season in which he produced a .270/.333/.378 slash line with 10 homers and 55 RBIs. A late-season surge pushed McNeil’s numbers back toward respectability, but into early September his OPS was below .700. Joey Wendle will see occasional action at the position.

Shortstop: Francisco Lindor joined David Wright, Howard Johnson and Strawberry in the Mets’ 30/30 club last season. Overall he had a .254/.336/.470 slash line with 31 homers and 31 stolen bases — playing the entire season with a bone spur in his elbow that has since been removed. Defensively, he was a finalist for the Gold Glove at shortstop in the NL. Lindor’s durability at a demanding position (he’s appeared in 321 games out of a possible 324 the last two seasons) is another attribute that has endeared him to team officials.

Third base: The clamor from the fan base was strong to promote Brett Baty after his strong start at Triple-A Syracuse last season. Baty got the call in late-April and initially appeared comfortable with the Mets before beginning a deep regression. Baty struggled at the plate and took his troubles into the field. He returned to Syracuse in early August before the Mets recalled him for the final month. Baty finished the season with an anemic .212/.275/.323 slash line with nine homers and 34 RBIs.

Left field: Brandon Nimmo arrived to the major leagues as a corner outfielder and is now back after five seasons of playing primarily center field. Last season Nimmo displayed the best power of his career, reaching the 20-homer plateau for the first time in a season he produced a .274/.363/.466 slash line with 24 homers and 68 RBIs. For a second straight season he topped 150 games played and appears to have vanquished the injury woes that slowed him early in his career.

Center field: In search of improved outfield defense, the Mets turned to Harrison Bader on a one-year contract worth $10.5 million. Bader is an elite defender, but his biggest issue has been staying healthy in recent years. Last season he appeared in only 98 games for the Yankees and Reds before undergoing sports hernia surgery in the offseason. Bader brings further speed to the equation — he stole 20 bases last season — but his OPS was below .700 in each of the last two seasons. Last year he produced a .232/.274/.348 slash line with seven homers and 40 RBIs.

The Mets signed Harrison Bader to be their center fielder for 2024. Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

Right field: Starling Marte underwent double hernia surgery before last season and appeared unsteady from the start, particularly on defense. He never returned after hitting the injured list in early August, finishing with a .248/.301/.324 slash line with five homers, 28 RBIs and 24 stolen bases. This spring Marte returned strong, again showing the athleticism that endeared him to the previous regime, which signed him to a four-year contract worth $78 million after the 2021 season.

Catcher: Francisco Alvarez blasted 25 homers last season as a 21-year-old rookie, but also endured peaks and valleys — producing most of his numbers in May and July, scuffling in the other months. But Alvarez’s power is hardly his only tool. He spent the winter working on quickening his throws to second base and appeared vastly improved in that area this spring. Omar Narvaez gives the Mets a capable backup, albeit one without much of a bat.

DH: J.D. Martinez’s availability late into camp and the lowering of his asking price prompted the Mets to strike, adding the 36-year-old on a one-year deal worth $12 million. Martinez hit 33 homers last season with a .793 OPS for the Dodgers and is the consummate professional hitter. Martinez struck out 31.1 percent of the time last season — by far a career high — but his key metrics remained impressive, with his hard-hit ball rate, average exit velocity and barrel percentage all above the 90th percentile in MLB, according to Statcast.

Starting pitching: Kodai Senga will be sidelined into at least May after he was diagnosed with a shoulder strain early in camp. The Japanese right-hander emerged as the staff ace last season in the second half, but the Mets will protect him by building in extra rest between his starts. Luis Severino is looking to remain healthy — after twice hitting the injured list with the Yankees last season — and show he can still be a dependable pitcher. The fact Severino emerged from spring training without an injury is a positive development for a pitcher who has struggled to arrive at Opening Day healthy. Jose Quintana was solid for the Mets last season after missing four months following rib surgery. Quintana’s velocity is lacking, but he thrives pitching to soft contact. Like Severino he will be motivated by looming free agency after the season.

Luis Severino signed a one-year contract with the Mets and is trying to get through a full season healthy. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Sean Manaea, another left-hander, received the only multiyear contract the Mets distributed in the offseason (two years, $28 million), but the deal has an opt-out after the season. Manaea’s uptick in velocity last season with the Giants that led to a strong second half raised his stock this winter. Adrian Houser, who arrived in a trade with the Brewers, is the quintessential back-end starter who will be asked just to keep the Mets in the game with five or six innings pitched. Tylor Megill, Jose Butto and Joey Lucchesi represent the Mets’ first wave of depth. Megill developed new pitches in the offseason and has been tabbed to take Senga’s rotation spot. Butto had a strong camp and will be a consideration the first time the Mets need a sixth starter.

Bullpen: Edwin Diaz appears back at full strength after missing last season rehabbing his knee and that is the first step in the Mets building a respectable bullpen. Adam Ottavino opted out from his contract after the season and then decided to return, giving the Mets an accomplished veteran in the setup role. Ottavino focused on his move to first base in the offseason in an effort to keep would-be base stealers from running at will against him. Brooks Raley was a dependable lefty last season and will get help in that role from Jake Diekman, who emerged last season with the Rays. Drew Smith’s stuff has never been questioned, but the right-hander’s control issues have been frustrating to the Mets. Jorge Lopez is another veteran arm from the right side, and the team picked up Michael Tonkin and Yohan Ramirez in the offseason among pitchers who have reinvented themselves.

Bench: Stearns brought in another familiar face, Tyrone Taylor, in the trade with the Brewers that also yielded Houser. In Taylor the Mets have another outfielder who covers plenty of ground, and a right-handed bat off the bench. Wendle gives the Mets protection at three infield positions and Narvaez will serve as Alvarez’s backup at catcher. DJ Stewart’s left-handed power was on display in the second half of last season and again could be a factor. Zack Short brings another glove in the infield — one that could be utilized in the late innings as a defensive replacement at third base.

Mets projected lineup

Batting order

1.Brandon Nimmo, LF

2. Francisco Lindor, SS

3. Pete Alonso, 1B

4. Francisco Alvarez, C

5. Jeff McNeil, 2B

6. Starling Marte, RF

7. Brett Baty, 3B

8. Harrison Bader, CF

9. DJ Stewart, DH

Bench: Tyrone Taylor, OF; Omar Narvaez, C; Joey Wendle, IF; Zack Short, IF

On minor league assignment: J.D. Martinez, DH

Starting rotation

1.Jose Quintana, LHP

2. Luis Severino, RHP

3. Tylor Megill, RHP

4. Sean Manaea, LHP

5. Adrian Houser, RHP

Bullpen

Edwin Diaz, RHP

Adam Ottavino, RHP

Brooks Raley, LHP

Drew Smith, RHP

Jorge Lopez, RHP

Michael Tonkin, RHP

Jake Diekman, LHP

Yohan Ramirez, RHP

Projected on IL: Kodai Senga, RHP; David Peterson, LHP; Ronny Mauricio, IF

Mets Prediction

83-79 (third place NL East): The Mets’ depth at most positions appears respectable, but is the starting pitching good enough to propel the Mets into the playoffs? Expect the team to stay in the hunt all season, even if it ultimately ends just short of the postseason.

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