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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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Player News
Phillies' Ruf will be under the microscope in left field this spring
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:11 am ET) Phillies outfielder Darin Ruf will be competing with Grady Sizemore, Odubel Herrera and Jordan Danks for playing time -- and potentially the starting job -- in left field this spring. The Phillies hope Ruf will be up to the challenge and make the decision difficult as to who to keep on the roster, per The Philadelphia Daily News.

"It all depends on him," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said of Ruf, who has played parts of the last three seasons with the Phillies. "He's going to get opportunities to play. Sizemore looks very good. The decisions that we make will be based on performance here in spring, whether we think they can help us on a regular basis during the season. And once we break with the team, it's going to be about [manager Ryne Sandberg] trying to put the best team out there to win baseball games."

Ruf is a natural first baseman, but he has been learning to play in left field since 2012. Still, the Phillies have to see if they can trust him on a regular basis playing the position.

"I don't know," Amaro said. "He could. He could. We'll find out. We'll find out a little more about him. He's not an outfielder per se, but he seems to move fine out there and he doesn't seem to make mistakes. It's still a learning process for him . . . You can't lose sight of the defense. And we have to be aware of that. We have to win games playing all phases of the games. Defense and pitching are important. Guys have to be good enough defensively not to be liabilities out there, so they can help us win games."


Twins send five home due to illness before Monday workouts
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:07 am ET) Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe (illness) was back at workouts Monday, but the Twins sent five other players home due to illness before Monday workouts began, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Pitcher Trevor May and outfielders Byron Buxton and Jordan Schafer missed a second straight day of workouts, while catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Oswaldo Arcia also had to miss the Monday session.

The Twins begin exhibition season Wednesday with a game against the University of Minnesota.


Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia remains upbeat coming off wrist surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:57 am ET) Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who is coming off wrist surgery, said he is able to swing a bat with full confidence and hasn't had that feeling since the 2011 season, according to WEEI.com.

“I feel normal,” he said. “I can tell just picking up a bat my hand strength is back. That’s the most important part to me. When you grab a bat, how does it feel? Can you manipulate where you want to hit the ball? It’s all back.

“I knew before I got here. You could tell. Balls come off the bat different. It sounds different. If I’m fooled and I’m out in front I had the strength to flip it the other way or still turn on it. Those are the things I couldn’t do. My swing is normal. My follow through is normal. There’s finish.”

Pedroia has hit just 16 home runs the last two seasons while dealing with thumb and wrist injuries. However, Pedroia said he will gladly sacrifice power if that means another World Series win for Boston.

“I don’t care. Numbers are numbers,” he said. “We’re here to win the World Series. I don’t care about any of that. If people don’t know that by now. We won the World Series and I hit nine home runs and everyone said I lost my power. Well, I’ll lose my power if I win the World Series. What is everyone’s job here? Win. We don’t give a crap about anything else.”


McClendon: Paxton to long toss from 120 feet Mon., throw off mound Tues.
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:26 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said the tentative plan for starting pitcher James Paxton (forearm) is to long toss from 120 feet Monday and throw off a mound Tuesday.

Orioles' Janish not likely to make spring debut until late March
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:19 am ET) Orioles infielder Paul Janish, who underwent surgery in February to remove bone chips from his right elbow, will field grounders Tuesday for the first time since surgery and throw this weekend, per MASNsports.com.

Janish is aming to play in his first spring game either March 20 or March 21.

"Relatively speaking, it feels about as well as it can up to this point. Probably a little bit ahead of schedule, which is a difficult thing to kind of expedite on the training room side of it," Janish said. "I'm getting a little restless, but they are allowing me to start taking ground balls tomorrow. I don't start throwing until probably this weekend, so from then on it will be 10 days to two weeks of a throwing program, which will be abbreviated for me, not being a pitcher or anything of that nature. It's a completely different kind of program.

"Fortunately, I haven't had any problems at all. Everything up to this point has been really smooth, not having any residual soreness or pain or anything of that nature. It's all individual. Some people just don't react the same. Fortunately for me, it's been good up to this point, so hopefully we continue going down the right path."


Padres' Shields being held back following deep postseason run
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:11 am ET) Since Padres starting pitcher James Shields pitched deep into the postseason last year with the Royals, the coaching staff has him slightly behind the other starters in camp, per U-T San Diego.

"Fortunately, we don't have to start him until a little bit further -- he's not starting in the first three (spring-training) games -- but he'll be fine," pitching coach Darren Balsley said. "It's no big deal."


Nationals' Cole earns high praise from manager following BP session
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:08 am ET) The Nationals held their first live batting practice session of the spring Sunday, and starting pitcher prospect A.J. Cole earned high marks from manager Matt Williams, per MLB.com.

“He had a great live session today,” Williams said. “For me, he is growing into body. He is a young player. He is tall. He has great leverage and is getting stronger certainly by the year. This year he came into spring training looking great. Of course, we know about his fastball and curveball. Depending on the day, he can touch mid-to-high 90s with his fastball. He is a very promising prospects for us and still very young.  … I know he wants to pitch and loves taking the ball that for sure.”

Cole is considered the Nationals' second-best prospect by MLB.com.


Twins OF Oswaldo Arcia sent home Monday due to illness
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:57 am ET) Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia was sent home Monday due to an illness, per the Pioneer Press. Arcia said he began to feel lightheaded Sunday near the end of workouts.

Cardinals OF Randal Grichuk (back) cleared to resume workouts
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:52 am ET) Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk got the green light to resume workouts Monday after being sidelined a few days with a back injury, per St. Louis Baseball Weekly.

Tigers RP Joel Hanrahan (arm) to visit specialist Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:50 am ET) Tigers reliever Joel Hanrahan, who has not thrown since Feb. 22 due to arm soreness, will visit a specialist in Texas on Tuesday, manager Brad Ausmus announced Monday.

Hanrahan described the soreness as some days it feels like the bones are rubbing together and other days it feels like someone is pinching his bicep, per the Detroit Free Press. Hanrahan has not pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013.

“I’m past the frustration part. It’s been long enough. I’m just looking for answers," Hanrahan said.


 
 
 
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