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Mets 2018 season preview: Out to prove last year was injury-riddled fluke

A disappointing 70-win season in 2017 followed a pair of playoff appearances with an impressive starting rotation.

Noah Syndergaard was limited to seven starts last

Noah Syndergaard was limited to seven starts last season, but he made the most of his appearances. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Rich Schultz

The sky is not falling at Citi Field.

Yes, the New York Mets tumbled from two consecutive postseason berths — one of which culminated in the franchise’s fifth World Series appearance — to a disappointing 70-92 finish in 2017. But, as dedicated fans can attest, rampant injuries stymied any chance at making a realistic playoff run.

From their Opening Day starter to their star outfielder, and throughout both the pitching staff and the lineup, 12 Mets spent time on the disabled list before the calendar reached June. By year’s end, 19 had been placed on the DL. Remember: They only carry 25 players until September.

Granted, a few key players are banged up entering Thursday’s season opener in Queens against the St. Louis Cardinals, but last year’s troubles need not carry over into 2018. Read on for more on the Mets’ season to come.

The ace is back

If you’re not up on things, Noah Syndergaard is the name that could be running the game in 2018 after missing the bulk of last year with a torn lat muscle in his pitching arm. Before suffering the injury, the righthander known at Thor had pitched to a 1.73 ERA in his first four starts of the season. That came on the heels of a scintillating sophomore season in 2016, in which he posted a 2.60 ERA with 218 strikeouts in 183 2⁄3 innings.

The Mets still have the luxury of two elite righties atop the rotation. Jacob deGrom is arguably the best No. 2 starter in baseball, sporting a 2.98 ERA over his first four years. Even in a down year for the ballclub, he managed to win 15 games and struck out 239 batters.

A healthy Steven Matz and/or Matt Harvey for much of the season would be a bonus. The lefty Matz has yet to make more than 22 starts in a season, and former ace Harvey hasn’t been the same since his 2016 thoracic outlet syndrome diagnosis.

A little relief

Without question, the Mets’ bullpen was dreadful last year. Their combined 4.82 ERA in relief was the worst in the league.

Cue new manager Mickey Callaway, a first-time skipper who coached the Cleveland Indians pitchers between 2013-17. Under his watch, Cleveland relievers ranked first or second in AL team ERA each of the last three years.

The hope is Jeurys Familia bounces back from a shortened season in which he struggled following an NL-best 51 saves in 2016. Former Miami Marlins closer A.J. Ramos, acquired in July, underperformed in Queens, too. Neither has pitched well this spring, but both are critical to potential postseason hopes.

The good news is Jerry Blevins is back. With a 2.72 ERA since joining the Mets in 2015, he’s their most consistent arm out of the pen. The front office also bet big on free agent singing Anthony Swarzak, whose 2.33 ERA for the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers was by far his best.

Queens Bombers?

Even with its top two hitters, Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto, missing significant time due to injury, no National League team hit more home runs than the Mets in 2017. They might repeat the feat again as both outfielders have 30-homer potential. The same can be said of Jay Bruce, who was traded midway through a lost season but returned in free agency, and offseason signing Todd Frazier.

However, Conforto isn’t expected to make his season debut until mid-April, so they’re already off to an auspicious start. Cespedes missed time in the spring, but he’s set to go for Opening Day.

They’ll be joined by Amed Rosario, the highly-touted young shortstop who is capable of hitting for average but struggled as a rookie call-up from August onward. With the possible exception of catcher, the Mets could find solid production at the plate from just about every position.

METS PREDICTIONS

Wins: 85

Yoenis Cespedes’ HRs: 31

Michael Conforto’s OBP: .377

Jay Bruce’s RBIs: 94

Amed Rosario’s BA: .289

Noah Syndergaard’s SOs: 246

Jacob deGrom’s ERA: 2.97

Steven Matz’s starts: 24

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