Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: New York Mets

Potential sleepers and avoidable busts for the New York Mets.

With the off-season wrapping up for the New York Mets, we must look ahead to what is to come with their current and potential roster for the upcoming fantasy season. Adding some big name free agents like Justin Verlander and Kodai Senga while retaining Brandon Nimmo and Edwin Díaz, has kept the Mets in the forefront of the off-season conversations. And this isn’t even mentioning what happened with Carlos Correa.

Speaking of, as I’m typing this Jeff Passan has tweeted that Correa is back with the Twins pending his physical. As we all know, pending physical is no longer a throw away addition to the tweet. Of course, these evaluations will not include anything Correa related. Unless he somehow does still end up with the Mets before I do finish this, and then I would have deleted and rewritten this section once again (I had a different Correa paragraph here before the Passan tweet).

The rest of the squad has plenty of stories. Nimmo actually had a full healthy season. Francisco Lindor bounced back big time and so 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 roster with a sky high budget and sky high expectations.

Sleepers

 

David Peterson

 

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

Last year was David Peterson‘s third MLB season, and the first in which he surpassed 100 innings pitched despite being a starting pitcher. 2022 was both the most starts and relief appearances he has made in the majors. He stepped up in 2021 in his 15 starts with a solid 24% K rate but allowed far too many home runs to be effective.

2022 was a bit different. The K rate climbed to nearly 28% and kept the home runs closer to league average levels. I believe we can attribute this to a change in his repertoire. He emphasized his best two pitches above the other three, throwing his fastball 37% of the time (up 11 percentage points) while essentially ending his sinker usage. His velocity also increased over one MPH, and he peppered the top half of the zone with it, which he hadn’t done as well in years past. It became a solid primary pitch, especially with getting his ground ball rate to 47.7% and his fly ball rate to 30.6%. What really stands out, though, is the batting average (.280) and wOBA (.367) against 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% usage. This is really what makes me believe in Peterson. His O-Swing was 43.8%, first season about 40%, and he got a 25.9% swinging strike rate with this pitch. That was best for third in the entire league. Again, he dominated with his placement. This pitch was nearly always at the knees and in on righties (away to lefties). There was a clear difference in the effectiveness of this pitch compared to 2021. The ground ball rate was up 13 percentage points. The average against was cut from .309 to .173 and the HR/FB% down from 50% to 27.3%. Below is solid look at his slider’s improvements and a comparison to MLB average.

Where his sleeper tag really shines is that he doesn’t have a spot in the rotation to start the year. Scherzer, Verlander, and Senga have the top locked down, but Carrasco and Quintana are two older and not as reliable fourth and fifth starters that can easily make room for the 27 year old. Also Peterson is a lefty and the Mets barely have any. I can see Peterson getting plugged in nearly full time in May and riding that to a solid 150 innings.

 

Jeff McNeil

 

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

After a difficult 2021, dealing with various leg injuries, a slightly increased K rate, and a career low BABIP, Jeff McNeil had a major rebound in 2022. He took home the batting title with a .326 average, striking out only 10.4% of the time, putting up a 143 wRC+ despite only nine home runs. He added 39 doubles on top of that. His ISO was a low .128 and with only four steals, he’s pretty much a one trick pony.

But that is where I believe he is being undervalued. I do want to note I am mostly speaking to his sleeper status in average leagues. His OBP is great, but that is due to his high average. His 7% walk rate won’t push that too far. The one year his average was below .310, he had a .280 BABIP (every other year it is above .330), he hit more grounders, less line drives, and way more pop ups, all while dealing with leg issues. He is a .300 hitter and those are so few and far between these days. He’ll get plenty of at bats and deliver high average.

I also want to call out his second season where he slugged 23 home runs. And by slugged I mean SLGed. His SLG was .531 with a .214 ISO, both by far his highest totals. And those home runs weren’t necessarily a fluke. He hit the ball much harder and pulled the ball much more frequently. His swinging strike rate went up causing more strike outs too. But too me that all points to an intentional shift in his hitting. He made a decision to hit that way and he’s making a decision to hit in the manner he is now. Watching McNeil, he is that old school type hitter. Choking up massively with two strikes, fouling off pitches, just to get that seeing eye single, all of which was intentional. I won’t say he will adjust and hit more home runs but he has that ability. 15 or so home runs seems doable and in the middle of the Mets lineup again hitting .300, with position flexibility, there is a very high floor, and if you are already so high it’s easier to climb higher.

Busts

 

Francisco Lindor

 

2022 stats (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 the trade with Cleveland prior to the 2021 season. Despite a 4.2 fWAR season in 2021, Mets fans and fantasy players were concerned for Lindor’s future since he posted a .230/.322/412 slash with 20 home runs and 10 steals with only 146 combined runs and RBI, all by far his lowest totals in a full season (he did only play 125 games due to injury).

I feel like the first year as a Met is always difficult for big stars coming to New York. Edwin Díaz also had a rough first year and so did Carlos Beltrán. They both went on to put up legendary Mets’ seasons afterwards.

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 well worth the return for where Lindor went in fantasy drafts. However, 2022 was still no where close to what many think of and expect from a Lindor fantasy season. The days of 30/20 seasons are over. And much of his counting stats are still going to be driven by the power of the Mets offense.

Those counting stats still should be there, but I fear last year’s bounce back is a bit more smoke and mirrors. His K rate stayed consistently around 18% which it did in 2021. With the increase in strike outs, he’s been hitting less line drives and more fly balls, yet has not produced more power. He hit 16 doubles and 20 home runs in 2021 and 25 doubles and 26 home runs in 2022. His double and home run totals in Cleveland were 10 greater in both categories. His ISO was .179 last season which was even lower than 2021. Compare his Statcast numbers between 2021 and 2022. Remarkably similar.

I believe his 2022 was much more similar to his 2021 season than people realize. He is a good player on a good team and will put up solid volume stats but he is not going to stand out as a first few round player.

 

Edwin Díaz

 

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

I’m booing myself writing this out. He’s the best relief pitcher right now on a team that can put up 100 wins on a team that uses him mostly like a classic closer. He’s got the big music entrance and everything. But 2022 was a bit too spectacular to replicate. His K% was one of the best K% of all time for a pitcher at 50.2%. As a Met he average about 40%. And with that his left on base percentage was over 90%. A wild total that he nearly did back in the shortened 2020 season.

He also only came out of the 2022 season with 32 saves, despite his excellent performance and 61 games he pitched in.

This is where I feel like I have 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? Of course. But I can’t go out there and let you draft him where he will mostly be getting drafted. You shouldn’t pay such a premium for relief pitching which can be such a volatile part of fantasy. Even if it is Edwin Díaz doesn’t make it less volatile. Just look at his first season as a Met. He had a 26.8% HR/FB ratio! His ERA was 5.59! That same pitcher had a sub 2 ERA with 57 saves the year prior.

I have confidence he will not be as good in 2023 as he was last year and finding the saves that make relief pitchers so precious can be found at a much cheaper price.

 

Francisco Álvarez

 

2022 MLB stats (14 PA): .167 AVG, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB

2022 Minors stats (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 were clamoring for his call up. Many consider him the top prospect in baseball and with James McCann and Tomás Nido behind the dish, it was hard to see why not. However, he was still the youngest player in the league once he got the call, just 20 years old.

Being the top prospect and being called up already there may be expectations that Álvarez will get the go ahead to play more often on the Mets in 2023. James McCann was traded. Jacob deGrom used Nido exclusively, so with deGrom gone, Nido’s not needed as often. A path has cleared for more Álvarez. However, the Mets added Omar Narváez with a one year deal plus a player option for 2024. Adding a veteran while still rostering Nido makes that path muddier. Álvarez is still so young, and it can pay to not rush a player of his caliber when the team doesn’t need his talents just yet.

Of course, if there are injuries (or maybe it’s just later in the year), he can fit right in to the catchers slot or even DH role if Darin Ruf isn’t cutting it. Ultimately, I don’t see Álvarez getting enough playing time to even consider drafting him at this point. And if he did see plenty of time, there is still plenty of risk being so inexperienced at a high demand position.

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

Jim Chatterton

Jim has written for Razzball and now is a part of the Pitcher List staff. He is a Villanova alum and an eternally optimistic Mets fan. He once struck out Rick Porcello in Little League.

2 responses to “Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: New York Mets”

  1. ML Montague says:

    what a terrific article! Gets me excited for the season…

  2. Idli Amin says:

    Nice writeup! I’d been digging into this too, and have come to many of the same conclusions you did.

    Peterson’s was sort of a tale of two seasons, and to your point, the story mainly seems to be a change in pitch usage (he also added a tick or so of velo across the board):
    – Thru 6/19 (40 IP): 20.5 K%, 11.7 BB%, 10.5 SwStr%, 3.60 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 4.46 xFIP, 4.49 SIERA
    – 6/20 onward (65.2 IP): 32.2 K% (!), 9.9 BB%, 15.2 SwStr% (!), 3.94 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 2.61 xFIP, 3.06 SIERA

    I completely agree that McNeil could see a power boost. Statcast thinks he got a little unlucky in that department as it was, and it’s worth noting that the Mets are moving a part of the right-center field fence in by about eight feet, to accommodate a high-end speakeasy/club. That area happens to be where McNeil and Nimmo—another sleeper candidate, IMO—tend to hit a lot of their barrels (but not Lindor—more on that in a sec). In addition to the slightly friendlier distance to the fence, it’s also possible that Citi’s tendency to knock down fly balls hit in that direction could be mitigated by the new structure, depending on its dimensions and exact location (we’ve seen similar effects from seemingly minor changes in other parks, notably Petco and Oracle). McNeil won’t get to poke singles through giant holes caused by having three fielders shifted to one side, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he traded a bit of batting average for more extra-base power, though probably not to the extent that he did in the second half of 2019.

    The difference between Lindor’s 2021 and 2022 basically seems to be just BABIP (.248 in 2021, .301 in 2022). As you noted, very little else changed—even his xBABIPs were nearly identical. Plug his 2022 BABIP into his 2021 numbers, or vice-versa, and the seasons look remarkably similar. The aforementioned changes in right-center seem unlikely to help him that much when batting left-handed, at least not directly, because he tends to hit his barrels farther over to the pull side. I suspect the increase in Lindor’s SwStr/K% is mostly because Citi is so much unfriendlier to hitters than Progressive Field, plus his move to the Mets coincided with the introduction of the juiced ball, so he’s had to sell out more for power, leading to more swing-and-miss. (There’s also the unfortunate possibility that his bat has simply slowed down. If so, the fact that he almost never takes a day off probably hasn’t helped.)

    Finally, I’d put Verlander in the potential bust category ahead of Díaz. His gaudy surface stats, accumulated against a weak schedule, with an elite defense behind him, and uncharacteristically good HR/FB luck all masked a significant decline in stuff. Also, he threw 195 innings coming off of TJS, including the postseason. Didn’t the Mets have another guy who threw a ton of innings coming off of TJS, including a World Series Game 5? Harvey Batman or something? How’d that work out? In all seriousness, I know Verlander’s a HoFer, and Harvey had some issues, but he was also just 26 years old at the time, whereas JV is 40. (Bold prediction: Jacob deGrom has a better year than any of the Mets’ starters.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login