2018 Mets: Bruce, Vargas are Solid Offseason Additions

Mark Lathrop

Thursday, February 22, 2018 10:14 PM UTC

Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 10:14 PM UTC

The strongest "under" win-total call of the 2017 MLB season was the New York Mets. Handicapper Mark Lathrop looks at roster changes to see if anything will change for 2018.

MLB: New York Mets Preview

We will be breaking down each division team by team as we approach the 2018 MLB season to identify futures value and upcoming betting trends. Today we look at the New York Mets out of the NL East. The Mets were my strongest "under" call last year according to my sabermetrics-based win total model, and they fell under their 88.5-win total line by more than 18 games. The market has adjusted somewhat, but the Mets still have to clear an 81-win total to cash "over" futures wagers.

Pitching Staff

The Mets picked up a solid veteran over the winter with Jason Vargas. Vargas induces a lot of weak contact, which should play well in the home park of the Mets, or anywhere for that matter. He faded down the stretch last year, and I would not be surprised if he starts hot again in 2018 before falling off. It’s his M.O., apparently, and if you are wagering on the Mets, that is a need-to-know item. The bullpen is also a distinct strength, with four pitchers projected to put up FIP marks of less than 4.00 in 2018. Jeurys Familia will anchor as the closer, with a superb HR/FB ratio as he keeps the ball on the ground.

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.@Mattharvey33 preparing for the season with @AsOneFitness & @FinishLinePT. #NoOffseason pic.twitter.com/yHQQef3Iik

— New York Mets (@Mets) January 31, 2017
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Lineup

The Mets added a potentially nice piece to their lineup with the signing of free agent Jay Bruce to a three-year, $39-million contract. Bruce put up 2.7 WAR in 2017 and is focusing more on pulling the ball and hitting fly balls. He put up a career-high 36 home runs in 2017 and I would expect that trend to continue in 2018, maybe at the expense of his batting average, which wasn’t all that great to begin with. The Mets outfield is stacked with Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes taking up the spots alongside Bruce. Conforto is dealing with a shoulder injury but could be the Mets best overall hitter. He put up 4.4 WAR in 2017, while Cespedes put up 1.6 WAR in an injury-shortened campaign. Conforto and Cespedes have the talent to put up huge seasons should they stay healthy.

Wild Cards and Betting Trends

For the Mets to come close to keeping up with the Nationals in the NL East, or to compete for a wild-card spot, the back end of their rotation needs to perform. Matt Harvey had a disastrous 2017 campaign, putting up -0.8 WAR and a 6.37 FIP. If he doesn’t pull it together in the spring, I will be looking at the Mets to pull the plug on him. New York has to be willing to move on to 24-year-old Robert Gsellman to log those innings instead of Harvey. Their top three starters should be able to get the job done, but to get over .500 they will need their fourth and fifth starters to eat up quality innings.

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