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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: New York Mets

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Though their fifth straight losing record was all but assured, the Mets' 2013 season ended in bitter disappointment when Matt Harvey, the poster boy of their latest reboot with his Cy Young-caliber numbers and All-Star game start, tore his UCL in late August, requiring Tommy John surgery.

A lost season for him doesn't exactly compromise the big picture, though, which is beginning to come into focus, most notably with the starting rotation.

2014 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Yes, the Mets signed 40-year-old strike-thrower Bartolo Colon to a two-year deal, hoping he'll bring stability to a unit still in flux, but of greater interest to Fantasy owners is the flux itself. Zack Wheeler, considered the superior prospect to Matt Harvey when both were climbing the ranks, arrived midway through last year. Noah Syndergaard, one of the key pieces in the R.A. Dickey deal last offseason, is next in line. Rafael Montero doesn't have the same pedigree, but with a 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings between two stops last year, he's capable of contributing in Fantasy. By season's end, all three could be in the big leagues.

The reason it's "could" and not "will" is because what the Mets already have is good enough to stick around. Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee won't ever carry a Fantasy staff, but both finished last season on a high note, making them worthy late-rounders on Draft Day. Even Jenrry Mejia, who'll have to hold off Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan for the fifth starter's job, was considered a decent prospect not too long ago and looked good in a five-start trial late last year.

The Mets lineup also has a chance to improve. Though free agent signings Curtis Granderson and Chris Young don't hit like they used to, Travis d'Arnaud should give the Mets an impact bat at the catcher position if he progresses as expected. And of course, David Wright is back to being a superstar, his OPS stabilizing with the team's decision to move in the fences at Citi Field prior to 2012. Daniel Murphy emerged as a must-start middle infielder in Fantasy with his uptick in stolen bases last year, and though Fantasy owners know better than to invest too heavily in Ike Davis or Lucas Duda, both are still young enough to deliver on their OPS potential if they can ever get comfortable with their surroundings. Right now, only one is projected to start, but if Juan Lagares doesn't hit this spring, the Mets might just be willing to shortchange their defense to get both in the lineup.

The team's biggest weakness is its bullpen, where Bobby Parnell is the closer by default. He's capable of handling the role, but in an era when more and more teams are turning closing duties over to their most talented relievers (instead of just the most experienced in the role), he doesn't exactly stand out.

Breakout ... Zack Wheeler, starting pitcher

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Chris Young RF
2. Daniel Murphy 2B
3. David Wright 3B
4. Curtis Granderson LF
5. Ike Davis 1B
6. Travis d'Arnaud C
7. Juan Lagares CF
8. Ruben Tejada SS
Bench Lucas Duda 1B/OF
Bench Eric Young OF
If Wheeler hadn't arrived at about the same time as Gerrit Cole and Michael Wacha last year, he'd be a bigger deal in Fantasy today. He wasn't them, but he was as good as you could reasonably expect a 23-year-old rookie to be, showcasing brilliant stuff in between bouts of wildness. He seemed to have things figured out during a five-start stretch in August, compiling a 2.51 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 8.6 strikeouts and 1.7 walks per nine innings, before entering unfamiliar territory in terms of innings in September. No one can say for sure how quickly he'll progress compared to Cole, Wacha or anyone else of similar ability, but if control is his biggest issue, he's in good company. Matt Harvey, who emerged as a Cy Young candidate as a sophomore, issued 3.9 walks per nine innings as a rookie compared to Wheeler's 4.1. He issued 3.9 walks per nine innings in his final minor-league season compared to Wheeler's 3.5. For the price of a middle-to-late-round pick, those are comparisons worth embracing.

Bust ... Curtis Granderson, outfield

Perhaps it's unfair to assess Granderson by what he did during an injury-plagued 2013 in which he didn't play extensively until August, but his performance over those final two months only continued what began in 2012, when his batting average plummeted by 30 points from the previous year. His behavior at the plate tells the whole story. He's chasing more pitches out of the zone and swinging and missing more in general -- a lot more. The same factors contributed to Josh Hamilton's downfall last year. It's a product of age. At 33, Granderon's bat is slowing down, and as a player who struggled to put bat on ball even in his prime, he's having a hard time compensating. He was still a 40-homer guy in a hitter's park in 2012, so he may be able to salvage a 30-homer season in a more neutral environment in 2013. But the days of him providing even a respectable batting average are gone, and with nothing else to fall back on, he can't afford to regress any more.

Buyer beware ... Daniel Murphy, second base

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Bartolo Colon RHP
2. Jonathon Niese LHP
3. Dillon Gee RHP
4. Zack Wheeler RHP
5. Jenrry Mejia RHP
ALT Daisuke Matsuzaka RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Bobby Parnell RHP
2. Vic Black RHP
3. Gonzalez Germen RHP
4. Scott Rice LHP
5. Carlos Torres RHP
Murphy ranked fourth at second base in Rotisserie leagues and fifth in Head-to-Head last season, more than doubling his home runs and stolen bases from 2012. The home runs are one thing. He hit a dozen back in 2009, so 13, while probably the full extent of his potential, are within the realm of possibility. But he wasn't a base-stealer in either the minors or majors until last year. Having beefed up the middle of their lineup this offseason, becoming more reliant on the long ball, stolen bases could represent unnecessary risk to the Mets. Just because they know Murphy can run, are they obligated to send him? And by that token, are they even obligated to play him? They've already suggested his aggressive approach doesn't fit their organizational philosophy, openly shopping him this winter, and have a couple of ready-made replacements in speedster Eric Young and prospect Wilmer Flores, who are only as limited as Murphy himself defensively. Knowing how perfectly the stars aligned for Murphy last season and how many alternatives are available at second base, I'd rather target Brian Dozier a couple rounds later or wait even longer for a high-upside Jurickson Profar or Anthony Rendon type.

Prospects Report

The Mets have made a tradition of promoting their top pitching prospect midseason, with Noah Syndergaard expected to follow in Matt Harvey's and Zack Wheeler's footsteps this summer. He wasn't quite on their level when the Mets acquired him in the R.A. Dickey deal last offseason, but with the improvements he made to his secondary arsenal last season, he now profiles as an ace. If you can afford to stash a minor-league pitcher on Draft Day and miss out on Archie Bradley, he's the next one you want. ... Rafael Montero might have a hard time breaking in this year but has seen his stock rise with his performance over the last two. If nothing else, NL-only owners will want to remember his name in case an opening develops midseason. ... Wilmer Flores' bat appears to be big-league ready, but the Mets can't seem to settle on a position for him to play. He won't be a big-time power hitter in the majors, but if he gets consistent at-bats at some point, he'll matter in NL-only leagues. ... Dominic Smith, the team's first-round pick in 2013, is a long way from the big leagues at age 18 but is a projectable enough talent for you to go ahead and stash him in long-term keeper leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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