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2012 Fantasy outlooks: New York Mets

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The Sandy Alderson regime officially closed the book on the Omar Minaya era with the deal that sent Carlos Beltran to the Giants for prospect Zack Wheeler last July, opting to cut bait rather than fish with the roster it had inherited.

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When homegrown mainstay Jose Reyes then departed via free agency this offseason, the team's next step became all too clear: Let the long and painful rebuilding process begin.

Fortunately for Fantasy owners, a bare cupboard means new opportunity for previous unknowns -- in other words, sleepers galore. Unfortunately for Fantasy owners, the Mets are still wading through so many bad contracts that the new blood might have to wait.

And so, we face another year of wondering whether 33-year-old Jason Bay will ever regain his All-Star form (fat chance) and hoping that 33-year-old Johan Santana can recapture his ace stuff in his return from 2010 shoulder surgery (don't hold your breath).

But if nothing else, Fantasy owners can count on continued steps forward for the up-and-comers already in place. Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy have each toyed with Fantasy greatness and should benefit from the team's decision to move in and lower the fences at the previously oversized Citi Field. So should David Wright -- the team's lone holdover from its former days of glory. In theory, everyone should, though Ruben Tejada and Josh Thole probably lack the wallop to take advantage.

The pitching staff obviously doesn't benefit, but it's not such a highlight anyway. A return to form for Santana would obviously change that, but with shoulder injuries, you have to assume the worst. For what they lack in upside, R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese are at least competent, but otherwise, Fantasy owners have little choice but to count down the days until prospects Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia arrive.

Breakout ... Ike Davis, 1B

Everything was going as planned for Davis in 2011. He followed up an encouraging rookie season with a killer April, hitting .337 with five homers and a 1.014 OPS to close in on elite status at the deepest position in Fantasy. But the breakout was never complete because his season lasted only two more weeks. On May 10, he suffered the slowest-healing ankle sprain in the history of modern medicine, missing the rest of the season because of it. That's both good news and bad news in Fantasy. On the one hand, it gives you another opportunity to draft the 24-year-old at a discounted rate, but on the other hand, it makes you leery of drafting him at all. But remember: His performance isn't in question, just his availability. He already delivered on his promise and now, a year closer to his prime and with a reduced right-field fence, he could do even more. If Davis is as healthy as he claims he is, you won't regret drafting him.

Bust ... David Wright, 3B

Wright still has the reputation of a five-category stud even though he has fallen short of those numbers twice in the last three seasons. Last year, his issue was a stress fracture in his lower back, but even when he returned, he hit only .272 with a .789 OPS in 243 at-bats. Over the last three seasons, he has a .284 batting average and .828 OPS, which are solid numbers but less than elite even for a third baseman. True, his struggles began the same year the Mets moved to spacious Citi Field, but that doesn't explain why his numbers have lagged on the road during that time. Thus, you can't assume the team's decision to move in the fences this year will be Wright's miracle cure. It'll help, but it won't eliminate the injuries, the perpetually rising strikeout rate and the curious home-road splits. With high-upside third basemen like Brett Lawrie and Emilio Bonifacio available later in the draft, you're better off passing on Wright in the second round.

Sleeper ... Lucas Duda, OF

Though the Mets' decision to move in the fences at Citi Field this season helps, Duda's success in the majors late last year should have made him a Fantasy sleeper already. But for some reason, a certain percentage of the Fantasy-playing population tunes out around the All-Star break, making any breakouts that happen beyond that point somehow less valid. Fortunately for us more attentive types, that means players like Duda get overlooked. From July 15 (about the time he took over for a departed Carlos Beltran) to the end of the season, Duda hit .322 with 10 homers and a .957 OPS -- numbers that jive with his minor-league track record. And that was at old Citi Field, complete with its big gaps, tall fences and ability to crush David Wright's spirit. Granted, Duda is no guarantee to continue those numbers over a full season, but if you don't see the potential for him to outperform the late-round pick you'd use to get him, don't ever get into real estate.

2012 New York Mets Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Andres Torres CF 1 Johan Santana LH
2 Daniel Murphy 2B 2 R.A. Dickey RH
3 David Wright 3B 3 Jonathon Niese LH
4 Ike Davis 1B 4 Mike Pelfrey RH
5 Lucas Duda RF 5 Dillon Gee RH
6 Jason Bay LF Alt Chris Schwinden RH
7 Josh Thole C
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Ruben Tejada SS CL Frank Francisco RH
Top bench options SU Jon Rauch RH
R Scott Hairston OF RP Ramon Ramirez RH
R Justin Turner IF RP Bobby Parnell RH
R Adam Loewen OF RP Tim Byrdak LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Zack Wheeler 21 SP Class A Double-A
The system's top prospect after coming over from the Giants in the Carlos Beltran deal, Wheeler is likely still a year away, but he's the Mets' best hope at a true ace.
2 Matt Harvey 23 SP Double-A Triple-A
Harvey still needs to work on his secondary pitches, but his upside is similar to Wheeler's. The problem is, at age 23, he doesn't have as much time to meet it.
3 Jeurys Familia 22 SP Double-A Triple-A
Familia is further along than Wheeler and Harvey, but his control problems make him less of a sure thing. The hard-thrower could make an impact this year, though.
4 Kirk Nieuwenhuis 24 OF Triple-A Triple-A
Some would prefer to see Nieuwenhuis starting over Torres, so perhaps a midseason switch is inevitable. The David Murphy clone could factor in deeper leagues.
5 Wilmer Flores 20 SS Class A Class A
The former elite prospect's star is fading after another down year. He's still a good contact hitter, but he needs to show power soon to justify his keeper slot.
Best of the rest: Chris Schwinden, SP; Reese Havens, 2B; Brandon Nimmo, OF; Cesar Puello, OF; Josh Satin, 1B; Josh Stinson, RP; Jordany Valdespin, 2B; Cory Vaughn, OF; Aderlin Rodriguez, 3B; Zach Lutz, 3B; Armando Rodriguez, SP; Sean Ratliff, OF; Matt den Dekker, OF; Darrell Ceciliani, OF; and Mike Nickeas, C.

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