The general assumption that Matt Harvey + Zack Wheeler + Travis d’Arnaud = Playoff Contention in 2014 is a bit of a flawed one. Naturally, if all three can manage to reach the heights Harvey already has, the Mets will have a trio to build around, and at key positions: two frontline starting pitchers, and a top-flight catcher. Reasonable projections would keep all three from both staying healthy and starring, but let’s assume that all goes as well as hoped. Same for David Wright staving off decline, Ike Davis overcoming his early season slump, and Jonathon Niese pitching well.
Is that really a better talent base than the 2010 Colorado Rockies had? Ubaldo Jimenez with 221 innings of 161 ERA+ pitching? A 22-year-old Jhoulis Chacin pitching 137 1/3 innings of 142 ERA+ ball, striking out a hitter per inning? Franklin Morales, a Baseball America Top 100 prospect, hanging around? Troy Tulowitzki posting a 137 OPS+ at shortstop, Carlos Gonzalez putting up 143 OPS+ in the outfield, both 25 or younger? Top 100 BA prospects like Chris Iannetta at catcher, Ian Stewart at third base and Dexter Fowler in center field?
I don’t think it’s close. And while it is impossible to say how the Mets will turn out, it is worth pointing out that the Rockies had a pretty solid success rate with those young players.
Tulo and CarGo essentially maintained their levels of production. They sold high on Jimenez, but the prospects they received in return, highlighted by Drew Pomerantz, haven’t yet paid off. Chacin has regressed, while Stewart saw injuries sideline him, and Iannetta was eventually traded for a top-100 pitching prospect, Tyler Chatwood. Fowler has become a starter, while their replaceable Daniel Murphy/Ruben Tejada types like Seth Smith and Brad Hawpe have been… replaced.
Yes, the 2010 Rockies had just reached the playoffs- but it looked like their best days were ahead of them. They won 83 games in 2010. Then, in 2011, 73. Then, in 2012, 64.
Now maybe 2013 is their year. They are off to a 10-4 start after that doubleheader sweep last night. But few see them as a contender, myself included.
If the 2010 Rockies are these 2013 Mets, and I see a pretty substantial gap in talent between those two teams, even assuming all the best of the Mets’ projected players, that still means any contention by the 2013 Rockies would be roughly equivalent to it happening for the 2016 Mets.
Again, no guarantees that things work out as poorly for the Mets as they have for the Rockies. But there’s no guarantee it works out as well, either.