Shortstop Amed Rosario, still only 24, has made significant and measurable year-to-year improvements, to the point that he was a league-average hitter in 2019. Another leap in that direction is key to his becoming the kind of speed/power dual threat the Mets have been waiting for. For Robinson Cano, 37, leg injuries and underperformance last season turn this season into a prove-it year. What does he have left? (Four years on his contract and an uncertain amount of productivity.) If either struggles or gets hurt, keep an eye on 21-year-old shortstop prospect Andres Gimenez, who impressed in camp.
With a pair of All-Stars under team control through 2024, the Mets are set up as well as anybody in the corner-infield spots. First baseman Pete Alonso will try to put together an encore to a 53-homer National League Rookie of the Year season in which he became a face of the franchise and a voice in the clubhouse. Jeff McNeil is slated to be the starting third baseman, but he still can move around and play second base or the corner outfield spots if needed. Last year, he had a .318/.384/.531 slash line and was in the running for the batting title before experiencing a late dip in average (which coincided with a power surge).
The Mets still lack what they have lacked for years: a true everyday centerfielder. Brandon Nimmo is passable there — especially if he gets on base 40% of the time, as he tends to do — but it means leftfield is poised to be some combination of J.D. Davis, Dominic Smith and a potentially ambulatory Yoenis Cespedes. That center/left combo leaves them prone to major defensive issues. Michael Conforto, though, should be a lineup anchor and mostly fine in rightfield.
Wilson Ramos is the bat-first starter, Tomas Nido the glove-first backup. Ramos was a solid hitter but poor defender — in both framing pitches and, in concert with the pitching staff, controlling the running game — in 2019, his first year with the Mets. He has worked on a different catching stance that he hopes will help him better receive low pitches, which would help his relationship with the pitchers, which was poor at times last season.
Being able to use a designated hitter is a potential game-changer for the Mets, who can slot Cespedes into that spot if he is healthy enough. Bench-wise, the Mets are loaded enough at first base and leftfield that fan favorite Smith — who would be a defensively strong starting first baseman on other teams — is relegated to the bench, where he’ll be the best pinch-hitting option. It is not clear where he will get his at-bats, but he can play those two positions. Backup outfielder Jake Marisnick is a younger, cheaper, better version of Juan Lagares. Nido has a strong rapport with the pitchers for his game-calling ability but offers little at the plate. In the infield, if Jed Lowrie’s mysterious leg issues keep him off the field, Luis Guillorme and Eduardo Nunez (in camp on a minor-league deal) are versatile options.
The outlook for the Mets’ relief corps, which was a disaster in 2019, is basically the same as the outlook for the team as a whole: It could be amazing, but there are so many unknowns that the range of outcomes is incredibly wide. A big part of their bullpen plan revolves around Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia, who were bad last year, being much better this year. They also are looking for Seth Lugo (2.70 ERA) and Justin Wilson (2.54 ERA) to repeat their successes. Dellin Betances, the main offseason addition, will try to return to his perennial All-Star form after injuries limited him to one game in 2019.