New York Mets preview: It’s all about the future for the Amazins

New York Mets manager Terry Collins sits alone in the dugout.
New York Mets manager Terry Collins will need to be patient for another season or two. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Talk about an uphill climb. The New York Mets, coming off a 74-88 season and competing with the likes of the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves, will need a massive turnaround to make the playoffs in 2013. Manager Terry Collins and company will have to deal with injuries, distractions and their NL East rivals along the way.

Over the offseason, the Mets most notably traded Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas to Toronto in exchange for Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, Noah Syndergaard and Wuilmer Becerra. The trade had its fair share of detractors, but the Mets are clearly trying to build for the future. Buck’s experience will prove invaluable as New York develops d’Arnaud.

New York Mets position players

The Mets must face the very real possibility of starting the season without David Wright or Daniel Murphy. Wright, whose dominant performance in the World Baseball Classic earned him the moniker “Captain America,” aggravated a nagging rib injury in his final appearance of the tournament against Puerto Rico. Exactly when he will return is up in the air.

With injuries plaguing the infield, the Mets will test their depth, especially at second. With Murphy out for an uncertain amount of time, New York will probably look to Justin Turner to fill his role. Turner has suffered a recent injury of his own, but he should return to action this week. Collins holds Turner in high regard, so the skipper will expect a lot of the young man while he holds Murphy’s place.

Wright was the most significant contributor to the Mets’ offense last season, so he will be sorely missed for whatever amount of time he winds up missing. If New York is lucky, the star won’t be out too long. Anticipate a slow start from the offense while the Mets await their star’s return.

This season should also be the first major test for d’Arnaud, whose viability as a major-league starter has come under fire since the Dickey trade. He hasn’t seen much action in the majors, so doubts persist about his experience. Fortunately, d’Arnaud looks solid through 12 spring training games. The Mets hope the 24-year-old will prove to be a piece they can build around. This season will be the first step toward making their vision a reality.

New York Mets pitching

The biggest change in the rotation, of course, is the departure of Dickey. The rest of the New York Mets staff will have a tough time filling Dickey’s shoes, especially with Johan Santana struggling with an injury.

Santana is expected to miss opening day as well, and his antics aren’t helping matters, either. After failing to show up to camp in “game shape,” the Mets publicly expressed their disappointment with the former ace. Santana reportedly expressed his frustration with the club in retaliation.

While Santana may prove a detrimental distraction this season, the Mets can at least take solace in knowing this is the final year of his contract. The club will likely let him walk.

Elsewhere, the rest of the rotation will have to clear their heads and move forward. Jonathon Niese will likely take the top spot while Shaun Marcum takes second.

Closer Frank Francisco has been throwing with some nagging elbow pain and hopes to get back up to speed soon. The pressure is on to live up to his big contract, so the Mets hope he’ll bounce back from last season’s disappointing performance.

New York Mets projected lineup

  1. Jordany Valdespin, OF
  2. Daniel Murphy, 2B
  3. David Wright, 3B
  4. Ike Davis, 1B
  5. Lucas Duda, OF
  6. Marlon Byrd, OF
  7. John Buck, C
  8. Ruben Tejada, SS

New York Mets prospect watch

The Mets will probably protect their #1 prospect, right-hander Zack Wheeler, for as long as possible. Wheeler finished last season in triple-A, so the club may call him up this season if they absolutely need him.

Elsewhere, d’Arnaud will spend little (if any) time in triple-A, but with the Mets’ heavy need at catcher, expect the club to keep him handy. While d’Arnaud moves up to the majors, infielder Wilmer Torres will likely take his place as the top position player in the Mets farm system. Torres is a hungy player who will strive to impress.

New York Mets prediction

The New York Mets have made it abundantly clear they’re looking to the future. Mets fans will have to wait patiently while the club tries to figure things out, and this season will be no exception. New York’s rebuilding efforts, combined with distractions off the field and a competitive NL East, will see little improvement (if any) over last season’s underwhelming effort. If you sport the blue and orange, though, take heart — you’re bound to see flashes of brilliance along the way to give you hope for a bright future in Queens.

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