The Mets have plenty going for them as they try to win the NL East for the first time since 2015.
A schedule comprised mostly of weak opponents once they get beyond the Dodgers in a few days will help, but the Mets have also received the kind of production from starting players (think Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Starling Marte and Mark Canha) they certainly would have signed up for before the season started. Most of the starting rotation has performed along the same lines, with concern lying in the bullpen depth.
Health will play a significant role in determining whether the Mets can hold off the Braves. But here are five key players that could have a say in the Mets’ attempt to reach the finish line in first place.
He’s been trending upward lately, but the bar for Nimmo is set higher than the .777 OPS he owns after finishing 2-for-3 with a homer and walk in the Mets’ 3-0 victory over the Rockies.
Nimmo endured a midsummer slump, but at least is reaching base again — as his .400 on-base percentage for August would suggest. Even so, he hasn’t driven the ball with consistency. Last season he had a .464 slugging percentage against fastballs, but that number has shrunk to .402 this year.
Who is going to emerge as a third dependable reliever, behind Adam Ottavino and Seth Lugo, capable of getting the ball to Edwin Diaz?
If May (who pitched a scoreless eighth inning Saturday with two strikeouts) is truly healthy after missing half of the season with a stress reaction in his right arm he probably has the best chance of emerging from a group that includes Mychal Givens, Tommy Hunter and Joely Rodriguez to provide steady work in the seventh and eighth innings. But it’s become increasingly clear that general manager Billy Eppler underestimated the bullpen need at the trade deadline.
May was respectable for the Mets last season after arriving on a two-year contract worth $15.5 million. He might have the highest upside of any of the relievers behind the big three. The Mets hope to have Tylor Megill and Drew Smith as potential right-handed relief options in September. For Megill it will be learning a new job, and Smith was slumping before he hit the injured list with a lat strain. Perhaps there was a correlation between the two.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of third base with Escobar returning from the IL and Brett Baty showing glimpses that he can help the team.
The most likely scenario will be Baty starting against right-handed pitchers and the switch-hitter Escobar mostly limited to opportunities against lefties. But the Mets will need Escobar to produce in that role, as well as taking the occasional turn at second base and backing up at shortstop. He’s got to bring something more than the .648 OPS he owns.
Luis Guillorme is expected back in September, and Escobar could easily get buried for the final weeks — not to mention excluded from postseason rosters — if he doesn’t show something soon. Baty, meanwhile, has shown plenty of poise for a 22-year-old thrust into a pennant race.
Why is a pitcher rehabbing from Tommy John surgery who hasn’t faced major league batters in 14 months on this list? Simply, Lucchesi is left-handed and can potentially fill a need from the bullpen over the last several weeks of the season.
The lefty Rodriguez was having a strong August until he got beat by the Yankees on Wednesday (with some help from Alonso muffing a pop-up), but Lucchesi at the very least could provide Buck Showalter with a second lefty option in the bullpen — something the Mets have largely lacked for most of the season. Lucchesi, for his career, has held left-handed batters to a .659 OPS. His “churve” — a combination changeup and curveball — could be a welcomed addition to the bullpen.
James McCann/Tomas Nido
We’ll lump these two together as one because they have essentially been the same player: solid defensive catchers who bring little to the party offensively.
One of them producing for this final stretch — and emerging as the primary catcher — would help a lineup that has a glaring hole at the bottom.