While you can definitely find a few early sets of odds around the internet, it’s a little early for clear favorites to be established for the 2017 season. Once it comes time for predictions, there’s a pretty good chance that all we’ll really be hearing about is the Cubs’ chance to repeat. However, there’s reason for optimism for a second consecutive year when focusing on the Mets.
As most fans will recall, despite the disappointing finish in the NL East, the Mets were tabbed as divisional favorites at the outset of the season. And while it’s not productive to blame unfortunate circumstances, the team dealt with its share of bad luck over the course of the year. The same thing could always happen this year, but there are several reasons to believe the Mets will once again be expected to finish first—and that this year, they’ll make good on that expectation.
The Health Of The Rotation
There’s a strong chance that the Mets could roar into 2017 with the best starting rotation in baseball (though the Red Sox duo of Chris Sale and David Price is formidable). Noah Syndergaard will be among the Cy Young favorites, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz should be rock solid, Zack Wheeler will hopefully be further along in his bounce back from Tommy John surgery. But what could make this rotation great, instead of just strong, is a comeback year for Matt Harvey. And as we’ve noted previously, the Dark Knight could still rise.
The Return Of Cespedes
After the 2016 season, a lot of people seemed to expect Yoenis Cespedes to bolt town (or possibly just cross it to join the Yankees). Despite having jumped from team to team with unusual frequency, he was seen as a prize free agent with the potential to drastically alter a team’s offense. Needless to say, the Mets got him to come back, and some have said that this alone makes the Mets the team to beat in the NL East.
The Nationals Got Worse
Washington has lost a few key players without gaining any in return. Additionally, Bryce Harper is nearing the end of his contract, and if the Nats start to get the impression that he won’t be re-signing long-term, they could even open up trade talks for arguably the most talented player in baseball. That’s not to say he’ll definitely be on the move, but don’t be too surprised if the Yankees come calling with a package centered around Brett Gardner, prospects, and cash. Washington could decide it’s better to gain something than lose Harper for nothing. Even if Harper stays around, this team looks weaker, while the Mets should only get stronger.
Top Prospects Could Be Ready
The Mets don’t have a minor league stud on the verge of cracking the majors, but a few of the top prospects could be ready to help out as reinforcements in the second half of the season. Amed Rosario would need to have a very strong season to be in the mix, but he’s progressed nicely and could be a call-up to provide infield depth. The same goes for first baseman Dominic Smith, who tore up Double-A in 2016 and could conceivably be pressuring James Loney in the near future. There’s nothing to get too excited about just yet, but playoff contenders often benefit from an infusion of youth late in the season, and a few of the youngsters could fill that role.