Mets' Brett Baty hits a single during the third inning...

Mets' Brett Baty hits a single during the third inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cincinnati. Credit: AP/Jeff Dean

ATLANTA — Through two weeks and a dozen games, the Mets look about how we thought they’d look: mediocre.

Sure, their path to such a level of play has come with unexpected twists. Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty have handily out-hit Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor. They struggled to five consecutive losses to begin the year but took a series from powerhouse Atlanta this week. Somehow, Julio Teheran got into a game.

Thus, the Mets own a 5-7 record as they return to New York for a six-game homestand against the Royals and Pirates beginning Friday. Not good, not atrocious. Just mediocre.

There has been plenty of bad and quite a bit of good so far. Here is a look at the most encouraging and most concerning developments, with all of the usual small-sample-size caveats understood.

The most encouraging

Baty looks like he belongs. That wasn’t the case last season. He leads the Mets with a .311 average to go with his .732 OPS, including more than handling his own against lefthanders, and has made all of the defensive plays you’d expect plus some you wouldn’t.

With that success has come joy. Baty clearly is enjoying himself on the field and has been happy and upbeat off of it, which also wasn’t the case last season.

He and Alvarez, who is batting .297 with an .819 OPS, have been the team’s steadiest and all-around best players.

 

“Baty and Alvarez have taken the next step,” hitting coach Eric Chavez said. “And I fully expect the end of the year to be much better than the beginning . . . We weren’t sure in spring [training]. There was some mixed things with Brett. He finished off really strong but started off kinda not too good. But the season started and he’s blossoming right in front of us.”

Edwin Diaz is back — and he has help. He has been practically perfect through five appearances, looking every bit like his 2022, pre-injury self: five innings, eight strikeouts, one hit, no earned runs.

Brooks Raley and Drew Smith also haven’t given up an earned run. And Adam Ottavino and Jorge Lopez have been fine. Heck, even Reed Garrett, who opened the season in the minors, has tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings (nine strikeouts), keying two unlikely wins and inspiring the Mets to keep him in the majors and dump others.

The upside rotation plays remain interesting. Luis Severino, who will start against the Royals on Friday, bounced back from a poor debut with a strong showing against the Reds (which would’ve been even better if not for some shoddy defense behind him). Sean Manaea had the most innings (11) and fewest runs (one) through two rotation turns.

The Mets signed both to medium-money, short-term contracts over the offseason. If the Mets are going to compete for a playoff spot like they said they intend to, they need both to be reliably effective.

The most concerning

Jeff McNeil still isn’t hitting much. Because he had such a down season last year, this registers as more than just a slow start. It’s a seventh month of struggling. Mendoza moved him to the bottom third of the order and it is hard to argue that he deserves to be higher.

After going 2-for-3 with a double and two walks Thursday, McNeil is hitting .200 with a .647 OPS.

Maybe he is coming around.

“I feel pretty good at the plate,” he said. “That first week was a little bit tough for me. Not where I wanted to be, but just been working on some small things in the cages. I’ve seen the results.”

Manager Carlos Mendoza said: “He’s a good hitter. Eventually, they’re going to come through. Now we’re seeing that guy.”

Alonso, Harrison Bader and especially Lindor also have significant room to improve offensively.

The starting pitchers aren’t going deep enough. Yes, part of this can be attributed to early-season pitch counts. But the Mets ranked 24th out of 30 teams with 4.91 innings per start entering play Thursday. Their average ticked up only slightly after Jose Quintana’s 5 1/3 innings (three runs) Thursday.

That isn’t good enough. Short starts take a toll on the bullpen. Already, the Mets have played multiple games with all of their best relievers deemed unavailable due to workload.

Smith and Lopez have pitched in half of the Mets’ games, an unsustainable rate. Diaz and Raley have appeared in more than one-third, which is asking a lot. Ottavino and Jake Diekman are at one-third.

J.D. Martinez has yet to debut. His latest delay was because of lower back tightness, which is a problem he has dealt with repeatedly in recent years. The Mets think after a few days off, he’ll be able to resume his ramp-up in Port St. Lucie, Florida. When he joins the Mets is anybody’s guess.

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