Yes. I know Jose Reyes is gone. I know Carlos Beltran has moved on to bigger and better things. I know the biggest off-season splash the team made was trading Angel pagan and signing a few un-heralded relievers. But unlike most people, I am very excited for this season to get underway. Instead of harping on who is gone and what the front office and ownership could have and should have done, lets talk about the intriguing storylines that will make the 2012 season a lot more interesting than most people think. Here are 5 storylines to follow:
1) Johan Santana – “He will never be the same.” “He cannot be counted on as the ace of the rotation anymore.” “25 starts max for Johan Santana.” “This injury takes a long time to bounce back from. Just look at Chien-Ming Wang.” The bottom line is that Chien-Ming Wang should never, ever be compared to Johan Santana. Johan Santana is one of the hardest working and fiercest competitors in the game. Him being healthy and on the mound not only makes the Mets a better team, but immediately gives us fans something to look forward to every 5 days. And by the way, here is a bold prediction for you folks: Santana will make 29 starts this year and win comeback player of the year. That’s right. You read that correctly.
2)Lucas Duda – This guy has the potential to be an offensive monster. In his first cup of coffee in the big leagues Duda proved that he belonged with 10 long balls and 50 RBI in only 301 AB’s. Imagine what he can do with 600 at-bats? Even current Mets veterans marvel at how the ball jumps off this kids bat. Granted it will always be an adventure watching him in the spacious RF at Citi Field; however, ball players do not get paid for their defense anymore. This is an offense first league and Duda has already proven that he can handle MLB pitching. Lets see if he can now take the next step.
3) Jon Niese – Still only 25 years of age, people question this kids ability to sustain success at the big league level. He definitely has the repertoire to develop into a top-flight starter. The question is will he harness it? If he does, the Mets will have another quality young arm to go with the trio of Harvey, Familia, and Wheeler. Can Niese take that step and become the leader? We shall see.
4) Ike Davis - Valley Fever or not, I expect Davis to be on the field for the majority of the 2012 season. In a great post by fellow metsfever.com blogger Rob Patterson (which you can see here), it is explained that despite being a dangerous condition, a 24 year old kid should have no problem overcoming this unusual ailment. Before injuring his ankle in 2011, Davis was on an absolute tear as he hit .302 with 7 HR and 25 RBI in just 129 at-bats. How can you not be excited to see what this kid has in store for 2012? He has unlimited power potential and should be the centerpiece that the Mets build around for the future.
5) Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia – Along with Zack Wheeler, the future of the Mets franchise will be determined by Harvey and Familia. Both are big kids who feature plus fastballs. Many predict that Harvey will be the first to appear in the majors, possibly by the middle of 2012. Whenever they make their MLB debuts, all eyes will be on their every move down on the farm. Many “experts” predict them both as top of the rotation starters; however, some feel that Familia will wind up a reliever. Whatever the case, the anticipation of their MLB debut is a big enough story for all Mets fans to pay close attention.