Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: New York Mets

As the off-season draws to a close for the New York Mets, we need to take a look at what’s to come with their current and potential roster for the upcoming fantasy season. The addition of some well-known free agents like Justin Verlander and Kodai Senga while retaining Brandon Nimmo and Edwin Díaz has kept the Mets at the forefront of offseason talks. And that doesn’t even mention what happened to Carlos Correa.

Speaking of as I write this Jeff Passan tweeted that Correa is back with the twins pending his investigation. As we all know, the pending physical message is no longer a throwaway accompaniment to the tweet. Of course, these reviews contain nothing related to Correa. Unless he somehow ends up with the Mets before I end this, and then I would have deleted and re-written that paragraph all over again (I had another Correa paragraph here before the Passan tweet).

The rest of the squad has many stories. Nimmo actually had a full healthy season. Francisco Lindor made a strong recovery, as did Jeff McNeil. Pete Alonso keeps crushing the ball. Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker and Chris Bassitt were replaced by Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga and José Quintana. The Mets have plenty of intrigue with some top-notch talent while filling the back of the roster with impressive role-players. This is a mega talented squad with a sky high budget and sky high expectations.

sleeper

David Petersen

Statistics 2022 (105.2 IP): 3.83 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 126K, 7W, 0SV

Last year was David Peterson’s third MLB season and the first in which he went 100 innings despite being a starting pitcher. 2022 was both the most starts and relief appearances he’s made in the majors. He improved with a solid 24% K-rate in his 15 starts in 2021, but hit far too many homers to be effective.

2022 was a bit different. The K-Rate rose to nearly 28%, keeping homers closer to the league average. I think we can attribute this to a change in his repertoire. He emphasized his two best pitches over the other three and threw his fastball 37% of the time (up 11 percentage points) while essentially completing his sinker bet. His speed also increased by over an MPH, and he peppered the top half of the zone with it, which he hadn’t done so well in years. It became a solid primary, especially after he brought his groundball rate to 47.7% and his flyball rate to 30.6%. What really stands out, however, is that the batting average (.280) and wOBA (.367), on the other hand, were drastically higher than the expected stats for both (.228 and .327, respectively).

He also threw his best pitch, his slider, more often, up to 29.4% utilization. That’s really what makes me believe in Peterson. His O-swing was 43.8%, around 40% in the first season, and he had a 25.9% swing strike rate with this court. That was the best for third in the entire league. Again he dominated with his placement. This pitch was almost always on the knees and in the right-handers (away to the left-handers). There was a clear difference in the effectiveness of this field compared to 2021. The groundball rate increased by 13 percentage points. The average equivalent was reduced from 0.309 to 0.173 and the HR/FB% from 50% to 27.3%. Below is a solid look at his slider’s improvements and how it compares to the MLB average.

Where his sleeper tag really shines is that he has no place in the rotation to start the year. Scherzer, Verlander and Senga have closed the lead, but Carrasco and Quintana are two older and not-so-reliable fourth and fifth starters who can easily make way for the 27-year-old. Peterson is also a lefty and the Mets hardly have any. I can see Peterson getting plugged almost all the time in May and riding that to a solid 150 innings.

Jeff McNeil

Statistics 2022 (589 PA): .326 AVG, 73 R, 9 HR, 62 RBI, 4 SB

After a difficult 2021 that included various leg injuries, a slightly elevated K-Rate and a career low at BABIP, Jeff McNeil had a big rebound in 2022, hitting a 143 wRC+ at the time despite only hitting nine homers. He added 39 doubles. His ISO was a low 0.128 and with just four steals he’s pretty much a one trick pony.

But that’s where I think he’s underrated. I’d like to note that I’m mostly speaking to his sleeper status in average leagues. His OBP is great, but that’s because of his high average. His 7% walk rate won’t push that too far. In the one year his average was under .310, he had a .280 BABIP (every other year he averages over .330), he hit more grounders, fewer line drives, and a lot more pop-ups while dealing with leg problems . He’s a .300 hitter and that’s so few and far between these days. He will get a lot at bats and will have a high average.

I also want to highlight his second season, which included 23 home runs. And by beaten I mean SLGed. His SLG was .531 with an ISO of .214, both by far his highest overalls. And those home runs weren’t necessarily a fluke. He hit the ball a lot harder and pulled the ball a lot more often. His swinging strike rate increased, which also led to more strike outs. But for me, too, everything points to a deliberate postponement of his hitting. He made the decision to hit this way and he makes the decision to hit the way he is now. If you watch McNeil, he’s the old-school hitter. Two-hit massive choke, fouling pitches just to get that seeing eye one at a time, all of which was intentional. I’m not going to say he’s going to adapt and hit more home runs, but he has that ability. About 15 homers seems doable, and in the middle of the Mets lineup getting back to .300, with positional flexibility, there’s a very high floor and when you’re already that high it’s easier to climb higher.

busts

Francisco Lindor

Statistics 2022 (706 PA): .270 AVG, 98 R, 26 HR, 107 RBI, 16 SB

Francisco Lindor gave the Mets plenty of reasons to feel better about the $341 million contract they gave him after trading with Cleveland ahead of the 2021 season. Despite a 4.2 fWAR season in 2021, Mets fans and fantasy players worried about Lindor’s future as he recorded a .230/.322/412 slash with 20 homers and 10 steals with just 146 combined runs and RBI, all by far his lowest total in a full season (he only played 125 games due to injury).

I feel like the Met’s first year is always difficult for big stars coming to New York. Edwin Díaz also had a tough first year, as did Carlos Beltrán. Both then launched the seasons of the legendary Mets.

2022 was a great return to form for Lindor. A .270/.339/.449 slash with a 127 wRC+, great counting stats and 706 plate appearances were worth the return as Lindor went in fantasy drafts. However, 2022 was nowhere near what many think and expect of a Lindor Fantasy season. The days of the 30/20 season are over. And many of his scoring stats are still driven by the power of the Mets offense.

Those counting stats should still be there, but I’m afraid last year’s recovery is a bit more smoke and mirrors. His K-Rate has remained steady at around 18%, which has been the case in 2021. With the increase in strikeouts, he hit fewer line drives and more fly balls, but didn’t produce more power. He hit 16 doubles and 20 homers in 2021 and 25 doubles and 26 homers in 2022. His Cleveland doubles and homer totals were 10 higher in both categories. His ISO was 0.179 last season, which was even lower than 2021. Compare his statcast numbers between 2021 and 2022. Remarkably similar.

I think his 2022 was a lot more like his 2021 season than people give it credit for. He’s a good player on a good team and will have solid volume stats, but he won’t excel as a first-rounder.

Edwin Diaz

Statistics 2022 (62 IP): 1.31 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 118K, 3W, 32SV

I’m booing myself as I write this. He is currently the top relief pitcher on a team that has 100 wins on a team that uses him primarily as a classic closer. He’s got the big music gig and everything. But 2022 was a bit too spectacular to repeat. His K% was one of the all-time best K% for a pitcher at 50.2%. As a mead, it averages around 40%. And with that, his left base percentage was over 90%. A wild sum that he almost made in the shortened 2020 season.

He also came out of the 2022 season with just 32 saves, despite his stellar performance and 61 games in which he participated.

This is where I feel I need to explain this bust pick. Do I think he will do well this year? Yes. Should you still consider him one of the best relievers in the game? Naturally. But I can’t go out there and let you move him in, which is where most of the time he gets moved. You shouldn’t pay such a premium for relief pitching that can be such a fleeting part of the imagination. Even if it’s Edwin Díaz, that doesn’t make it any less volatile. Just look at his first season as the Met. He had a HR/FB ratio of 26.8%! His ERA was 5.59! The same pitcher had a 57-save sub-2 ERA the year before.

I’m confident he won’t be as good in 2023 as he was last year, and that the saves that make relief pitchers so valuable can be found at a much cheaper price.

Francisco Alvarez

2022 MLB Stats (14 PA): 0.167 AVG, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB

Statistics of minors 2022 (495 PA): .260, 74 R, 27 HR, 78 RBI, 0 SB

Francisco Álvarez got a taste of the big leagues at the end of last season after many fans clamored for his appeal. Many consider him the best prospect in baseball, and with James McCann and Tomás Nido behind the court, it was hard to see why not. However, he was still the youngest player in the league when he received the call, just 20 years old.

Given that he’s the top pick and has already been called up, Álvarez can be expected to play more with the Mets in 2023. James McCann was traded. Jacob deGrom used Nido exclusively, so Nido isn’t needed as much anymore since deGrom isn’t around anymore. A way is clear for more Álvarez. However, the Mets added Omar Narváez on a one-year contract plus a player option for 2024. Adding a veteran while Nido is still in the roster makes that path more difficult. Álvarez is so young and it can pay off not to rush a player of his caliber when the team doesn’t need his talents yet.

Of course, if there are injuries (or maybe later in the year) he can fit straight into the catcher’s role, or even the DH role if Darin’s reputation doesn’t cut it. Ultimately, I don’t see Álvarez getting enough playing time to even consider drafting him at this point. And if he’s seen a lot of time, there’s still a lot of risk in being so inexperienced in a high-demand position.

Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted from Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

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