In a curious twist of fate, the Royals and Mets will become the first World Series participants to open the following season against each other. It was just over five months ago when the Royals dispatched of the Mets in five closely-fought games that included an iconic dash home by Eric Hosmer in Game Five. This Sunday, the Royals will raise their championship flag in front of the Mets, who will no doubt be hungry for revenge.
While the Royals were a bit of a surprise contender last year, the Mets were perhaps an even bigger surprise to be playing in the Fall Classic. By the start of July, the team was hovering around .500 with a floundering offense. The team got healthier from that point out however, and the team received a huge boost when they acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in a mid-season trade from the Tigers. Cespedes was tremendous for the Mets down the stretch, and while he did commit a huge defensive gaffe in the World Series, he won his first Gold Glove. Cespedes returns to the Mets with a three-year, $75 million deal, and he is already making waves with his spring training arrivals.
Will Yoenis get flashbacks?
The Mets return much of the same team that won them 90 games and a surprise National League pennant, although they do lose National League Championship Series MVP Daniel Murphy. Also gone are role players Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, and Michael Cuddyer, who retired after losing his starting spot to Michael Conforto. The Mets also lose relievers Tyler Clippard to free agency and Jennry Mejia, who became the first player to be suspended for life for performance-enhancing drugs.
To replace Murph, the Mets traded for veteran Neil Walker from the Pirates. They had to give up left-handed pitcher Jon Niese, who came out of the bullpen in the World Series, but has been a serviceable starting pitcher. The Mets had concerns about infield defense, so they added free agent shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and released Ruben Tejada, who had to miss the World Series after breaking his leg in the NLDS on a slide by Chase Utley. Outfielder Alejandro de Aza and relief pitcher Antonio Bastardo add some nice depth to what looks like a solid core for the Mets.
|RF Curtis Granderson (L)||682||26||70||.259||.364||.457||11||132||5.1|
|DH David Wright||174||5||17||.289||.379||.434||2||133||0.9|
|CF Yoenis Cespedes||676||35||105||.291||.328||.542||7||135||6.7|
|1B Lucas Duda (L)||554||27||73||.244||.352||.486||0||133||3.1|
|C Travis D'Arnaud||268||12||41||.268||.340||.485||0||131||2.3|
|LF Michael Conforto (L)||194||9||26||.270||.335||.506||0||134||2.1|
|2B Neil Walker (S)||603||16||71||.269||.328||.427||4||108||2.4|
|SS Asdrubal Cabrera (S)||551||15||58||.265||.315||.430||6||104||2.2|
|3B Wilmer Flores||510||16||59||.263||.295||.408||0||95||1.9|
Alejandro de Aza could hit at designated hitter or Juan Lagares and his tremendous glove could take the field with Michael Conforto slotting to designated hitter. The Mets don't have a great bench, but the club had an average offense last year, finishing seventh in the league in runs scored, and they should be about the same this year. The Mets hit better away from CitiField last season, but they scored just five runs in two games at Kauffman Stadium in last year's World Series.
|C Kevin Plawecki||258||3||21||.219||.280||.280||0||60||0.2|
|IF Eric Campbell||206||3||19||.197||.312||.295||5||77||0.0|
|OF Juan Lagares||465||6||41||.259||.289||.358||7||80||1.0|
|OF Alejandro de Aza (L)||365||7||35||.262||.333||.422||7||104||1.2|
New York had the fewest steals in the National League with just 51 with a poor success rate of 67% on steal attempts. They are a conservative team on the bases, getting picked off just eight times, and finishing with the fewest outs on the basepaths in the National League. Their infield defense was exposed in last year's World Series, and the addition of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera up the middle won't likely improve the defense too much as both are slightly below-average defenders.
The strength of the Mets, of course, is the starting pitching. Matt Harvey was considered questionable for his Opening Night start due to blood clots in his bladder, but the team insists he will be good to go this weekend. Harvey finished strong last year with a 2.15 ERA in his last eleven starts, and was solid in the post-season, although he was best remembered for giving up the lead in Game 5 of the World Series.
Noah Syndergaard was the only Mets pitcher to win a game in the World Series last year, and was infamous for his brushback pitch to start the game. Syndergaard can bring the heat with a high-90s fastball that can reach triple-digits at times, but he also has a deep repertoire with a devastating slider to add to a curveball and change up.
|Sunday, April 3 - 7:37 CT||W||L||ERA||FIP||IP||K/9||BB/9||HR/9||BABIP||fWAR|
|RHP Matt Harvey||13||8||2.71||3.05||189.1||8.94||1.76||0.86||.272||4.4|
|RHP Edinson Volquez||13||9||3.55||3.82||200.1||6.96||3.23||0.72||.290||2.6|
|Tuesday, April 5 - 3:15 CT||W||L||ERA||FIP||IP||K/9||BB/9||HR/9||BABIP||fWAR|
|RHP Noah Syndergaard||9||7||3.24||3.25||150.0||9.96||1.86||1.14||.279||3.1|
|RHP Ian Kennedy||9||15||4.28||4.51||168.1||9.30||2.78||1.66||.301||0.8
The Mets bullpen had a 3.48 ERA last season, putting them in the middle of the National League. Closer Jeury Familia was solid in the regular season, converting 43-of-48 save opportunities, but he coughed up a lead in Game One on this home run by Alex Gordon. Addison Reed and Antonio Bastardo will likely set up Familia, but the pen looks a bit thin after that. Hansel Robles returns after a decent rookie season where he posted a 3.67 ERA and 10.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings. Veteran Jim Henderson will likely make the team to fill out the pen joining Logan Verrett from the right-side, and Jerry Blevins will help from the left-side.
The Royals bested the Mets in five games last year and will get the spoils of victory this weekend. However, 2016 is a new season, and everyone begins the year at 0-0. The Royals and Mets will both likely be contenders to return to the World Series this fall, but they will have to prove themselves all over again. Perhaps the best test will come this opening weekend, and who knows - maybe we will see these teams met again this October.