MLB Update: The Upstart New York Mets may be the team to dethrone the Nationals in the NL East
Despite the massive hype surrounding the world series favorite New York Yankees coming into the season, the city’s other baseball team, the New York Mets, have quietly taken their place as talk of the town. Although the Mets didn’t make sexy, headline-grabbing free agent signings during the offseason, they seem to have put last season’s woes behind them. On the back of a recent 10-game winning streak, they have secured the best record in their division, as well as the entire National League. This development may be seen as shocking to the casual baseball fan, but die hard Mets fans have seen this coming for years — it was all a matter of health. For years, the Mets have dealt with devastating injuries to their starting pitching rotation at one point or another, as well as extended stints on the disabled list for key players such as Michael Conforto. Finally, with the exception of their injuries at catcher, the team has been virtually injury- free. Meanwhile, in the Bronx, the Yankees are barely scratching .500 and are clinging to third place in the American League East. Although the season it is still in its infancy and the Yankees are still an excellent team, there is increasing room to be optimistic in Queens.
While the Mets have remained in the middle of the pack in terms of their team hitting statistics, their pitching has truly shined in the first few weeks of the season. Currently, the team is leading the National League in ERA as well as in saves. Not only are their pitchers keeping them in ball games, but their bullpen has proven to maintain leads — a quality that Mets fans understand the importance of after the late-inning horrors from their last World Series trip. Additionally, on the backs of flamethrowers such as Noah Syndergaard and Jacob DeGrom, the team is second in the National League in strikeouts. To add to the strikeout barrage, this past week, former phenom Zack Wheeler, showed flashes of brilliance versus the Marlins in his audition to rejoin the rotation. On top of this amazing pitching success, there will be added reinforcements in the near future with the eventual emergence of veterans Jason Vargas and Anthony Swarzak from the disabled list.
The final reason for confidence in Queens is their new youthful spark, led by Amed Rosario at shortstop, Brandon Nimmo in the outfield and Dominic Smith at first base. After being heralded as a top-five prospect coming into this season, Rosario is now an everyday player, with the other two surely making their own impact in the big leagues very soon. Rosario has had a slow start to his season, hitting only .223, but the season is still very young and there is still plenty of time for Rosario to come into his own as a producer in the Mets offense. This youthful spark, combined with the veteran leadership of Jose Reyes, Adrian Gonzalez, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier, will make the Mets a scary team to face down the line. And of course, no one can forget about the centerpiece of the Mets’ lineup: notorious slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
Although they are currently 12-2 with a commanding lead in the NL East, they will face some stiff competition as their season progresses. The Nationals have been a perennial world series contender for many years now, but they have always petered out in the playoffs. One has to wonder if their window is closing. With superstar Bryce Harper set to be a free agent after this season, the Nationals may have a greater sense of urgency when it comes to winning in the playoffs. Harper has been on fire thus far, slamming an MLB-leading eight home runs through just sixteen games. His most recent one came yesterday against Mets pitcher Jacob DeGrom, where, despite shattering his bat completely in two, he blasted a 406-foot bomb over the wall in right center field. If this resurgent Mets team is able to dethrone the Nationals in the NL East, they may send him to another division.