With Justin Verlander in the fold and their payroll the highest in MLB history, the New York Mets are set to begin the 2023 season Thursday in Miami against the Marlins. We’ll make five bold predictions for Verlander and the Mets ahead of Opening Day.
After winning 101 games last season, the Mets flamed out in the playoffs, losing in the Wild Card series to the San Diego Padres. They responded by spending exorbitant amounts of Steve Cohen’s money to return a roster that looks an awful lot like last year’s.
The payroll sits above $350 million, so the pressure to win their first World Series since 1986 is extreme. And that’s without stud closer Edwin Diaz, who’s expected to miss the entire season after tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee during the World Baseball Classic.
That said, let’s dive into our five predictions for the New York Mets ahead of Opening Day.
5. Drew Smith, John Curtiss emerge as key members of Mets bullpen
Losing Diaz for the season is a pretty massive blow for the Mets. And at some point, the Mets will likely trade for a late-inning relief pitcher to either replace David Robertson as closer or share duties with him.
However, two lower-profile pitchers will emerge to play significant roles in the Mets’ bullpen this season.
Drew Smith flashed signs of stardom in each of the past two seasons but struggled to stay healthy and to keep the ball in the ballpark. The 29-year-old will break out in 2023, just when the Mets need him to. The hard-throwing right-hander, who allowed one earned run and struck out 11 in six spring innings, will earn the trust of manager Buck Showalter to pitch in high-leverage situations, and then will succeed in that role.
Back-to-back strikeouts on a pair of nasty curveballs from Drew Smith pic.twitter.com/QeizOCqQag
— SNY (@SNYtv) March 15, 2023
John Curtiss looked terrific this spring after missing the 2022 season following Tommy John surgery. The righty was throwing hard with swing-and-miss stuff (11 strikeouts in 6.2 innings). He helped the Tampa Bay Rays reach the World Series in 2020 and pitched well for the Marlins the following season. He’s going to emerge and thrive as another 6th, 7th, and/or 8th inning option for the Mets.
4. David Peterson will win more games than Kodai Senga for Mets in 2023
It’s underrated what an important role David Peterson played stepping into the Mets rotation when needed last season. The 2017 first-round pick was 7-5 with a 3.83 ERA in 28 games (19 starts) filling in for the likes of Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer when they landed on the IL.
That’s the same kind of lift he gave the Mets in 2020, when, as a rookie, he picked up a depleted rotation with a 6-2 record and 3.44 ERA in 10 games (9 starts).
Another scoreless outing for @_David_Peterson! 💪 pic.twitter.com/FPmfLZG3E4
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 19, 2023
He’s back at it again this season, stepping into the rotation with Jose Quintana set to miss three months after rib surgery. Peterson beat out Tylor Megill to be the fifth starter with an outstanding spring (0 runs, 1 hit, 13 strikeouts in 12 innings). It says here that, if he can cut down on his walks and pitch deeper into games, Peterson will finish with at least 10 wins and likely more in 2023.
The worry with Kodai Senga is not his stuff nor make up. It’s more him adjusting to MLB after starring in Japan. He looked so-so in three spring starts and had a minor setback with tendonitis at the base of his right index finger, but reportedly looked very good in an intrasquad game Monday.
Though Senga was a major signing for the Mets this offseason and is a legit star back home, it feels like the unsung Peterson will win more games and make more starts than Senga in 2023.
3. Pete Alonso will finish Top-3 in NL MVP voting in 2023
Somehow Pete Alonso finished eighth in the National League MVP voting in 2022. That after leading the majors with 131 RBI and finishing second in the NL with 40 home runs.
Pete Alonso continues to be the engine that makes this Mets offense run. His 40th home run, a three-run shot, brings the Mets right back into this thing.
Marlins 4, Mets 3, bottom four. pic.twitter.com/5rvWGAy1kF
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) September 28, 2022
Alonso will earn more love in the vote this season. As he’s done throughout his four-year career, his 2020 sophomore season notwithstanding, Alonso will find ways to improve at the plate. His average, OBP and OPS have climbed each of the past two seasons and he’ll take another jump in 2023. The 28-year-old is seriously focused on improving as a hitter, and not simply as a power machine. It says here his numbers will be better across the board. Say, .285/.370/.890 with 45 home runs and 135 RBI.
His production will stand out even more as the Mets regress some from their terrific 2022 numbers.
2. Justin Verlander won’t win Cy Young, but will win 16 games for Mets
It’ll be hard for Justin Verlander to top his outrageous 2022 numbers, when he led the American League in wins (18), ERA (1.75), and WHIP (0.829) and won the Cy Young Award after returning from Tommy John surgery.
But he’s still going to be really good with the Mets.
Justin Verlander talks about the opportunity to pitch the home opener:
"It's an honor and something I'm looking forward to. I'm going to try and introduce myself to the Mets fans, and if anything I can promise the fans I'll always give everything I got when I'm out there." pic.twitter.com/VdZ3Q4Fu5I
— SNY (@SNYtv) March 26, 2023
Even at age 40, Verlander will have a laughably low WHIP (it hasn’t been above 0.902 since 2017) and be a big-game stud alongside Max Scherzer, his co-ace in New York. Look for Verlander to land his 10th All-Star Game invite, finish Top-5 in Cy Young voting and lead the National League with 16 wins.
1. The Mets win 96 games, reach NLCS in 2023
So, let’s cut to the chase. Will the Mets end their World Series drought in 2023?
In fact, they won’t reach the World Series.
The Mets will win 96 games and finish second in the National League East, two games behind the Atlanta Braves and four up on the Philadelphia Phillies. They will win two rounds in the playoffs before losing to, gulp, the San Diego Padres (again) in the NLCS.