From the staff at MiracleMets.net
CW = Chris Wilcox
JD =Â Â Joeadig
How great will Johan Santana really be?
CW: Johan Santana will be the best pitcher in the National League in 2008 and will cruise to his third Cy Young Award.Â The impact he will bring to this Mets team will be enormous; last year’s team tended to run hot and cold a lot, with really bad months in June and (obviously) September.Â With a stopper like Santana, plus Pedro Martinez around more often than not to be the Robin to his Batman, long losing streaks will be fewer and far between for the 2008 Mets.
JD:Â Santana will be rockinâ€™.Â Heâ€™s got that Howard Johnson every-other-season greatness thing going for him and heâ€™s due in 2008.Â I think 20 wins will be a reasonable goal and I think that, as long as Billy Wagner doesnâ€™t blow it for him, he could get to 22 or 23 wins.
Will we see Fernando Martinez in the major leagues in 2008?
CW:Â Called up in September, not before.Â This is a big year for F-Mart, he needs a good year in Binghamton to keep his status as the Mets’ #1 prospect after a disappointing injury-plagued year last year.Â I think he’s going to do it, and will be rewarded with a major league promotion when rosters expand, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he started a few games to rest Moises Alou and/or Carlos Beltran before the playoffs.
JD:Â Personally, I hope that Martinez doesnâ€™t see the show at all in 2008.Â Think about it: if he does, that means that whatever combination of Church, Alou, Chavez, Fernando Tatis, Marlon Anderson, and Angel Pagan hasnâ€™t worked.Â And if those guys donâ€™t work out, that probably means that the team is not dominating like we all hope/expect. Martinez is young and hasnâ€™t spend much time in the minors yet, especially with that injury-plagued 2007.Â Letâ€™s not rush him at all.
Who will start more games in the 5 hole:Â Mike Pelfrey, Orlando Hernandez, Jorge Sosa, or somebody else?
CW:Â Orlando Hernandez will start the most games, but he will miss extended periods of time throughout the year.Â Sosa might start the year as the #5, but it won’t take the team long to remember why he was banished to the bullpen last year.Â Pelfrey will be called back up at some point, but he will spend most of his year in New Orleans as the team tries to figure out what’s wrong with him and how they can try to fix him to get him ready for a full-time shot at the roster in 2009.
JD:Â I have absolutely NO faith that Hernandez will be making the majority of the starts in the 5 hole; I just think that heâ€™s going to break apart or something.Â I believe whole-heartedly that Mike Pelfrey will grab the spot and run with it all year.Â I like the kid.Â I think what he did last year took a lot of guts: how many guys could start the season 0-7, go back and forth to the minors, and then end the year with three very strong performances?Â I like him and I really want him to succeed.Â Letâ€™s just hope the rumor of Claudio Vargas coming on stays a rumor.
Will Pedro Martinez stay healthy?
CW:Â Pedro Martinez will stay healthy for most of 2008; he might miss a start here and there or get pushed back in the rotation, and he won’t pitch more than 5-6 innings too often, but I don’t think he will spend any time on the disabled list.
JD:Â I believe that Pedro will be great this year.Â I think heâ€™s going to be very well-rested and fresh, heâ€™s going to be motivated since heâ€™s in the walk year of his contract, and heâ€™s going to be excited to prove that he can still be the top-dog in a rotation with the young stud Santana.Â I expect him to not only stay healthy, but to finish in the top 10 in Cy Young voting.Â
Will the bullpen take a step forward from last season?
CW:Â Yes – I like the moves the Mets made this year as opposed to last year.Â They were low risk moves like signing Matt Wise and avoiding long-term contracts, that more resemble the way the 2006 Mets bullpen was constructed than the 2007 Mets bullpen.Â Plus, Willie Randolph won’t be able to keep bringing Guillermo Mota in for big spots, which is always a plus.Â Overall, I think we will see an improvement this year, and while the 2008 bullpen won’t quite reach the heights of 2006, it won’t be nearly as bad as it was in 2007, either.
JD:Â God I hope so.Â I just had to chuckle when I read that espn.com named Billy Wagner as their â€œAll-NL Closer.â€Â Are they drunk?Â I know that the boys in Bristol all love their Mets and Red Sox, but Wagner is NOT the stud he used to be.Â I really hope that Iâ€™m wrong, but I think that Wags will be booed an awful lot at Shea this season.Â As for the rest of the pen, I donâ€™t think that Heilman will make it through another season as a Met.Â Heâ€™s just too valuable as trade bait for other teams who want him as a starter, and since heâ€™s made it clear (again) that he wants to start, I expect him to be traded for whatever type of help is needed come July.
Will the following Mets repeat or exceed their play of last year, or will they regress a little bit?
CW:Â I am excited for Reyes’ 2008, because I think this is going to be a huge year for him.Â Lost in all of the hype about his final two months is the fact that he’s still a player who is young and has made enormous strides since coming to the big leagues.Â I think he will have something to prove after last season ended so poorly for him, and with a renewed focus and a little more maturity, he’s going to have a big year for the Mets in the leadoff position.
JD:Â I get the feeling that his ego is a very big part of his game, and heâ€™s had a number of things go against him lately: 1. Hanley Ramirez is seen as the best shortstop in the NL; 2. Reyes has said heâ€™ll â€œtone downâ€ the antics/handshakes because heâ€™s tired of being asked if theyâ€™re a distraction, and 3. heâ€™s constantly being reminded of the slump he had at the end of last season.Â All of this adds up to a big crash in 2008.Â I REALLY WANT TO BE WRONG.
CW:Â But Reyes won’t be the Mets’ best hitter, because that’s going to be David Wright.Â It’s scary that Wright keeps getting a little bit better every year, and he came into the league pretty damned good.Â Last year, he lost out on some hardware because the Mets’ pitching staff folded down the stretch.Â This year, with the rotation solidified with a true ace for the first time since Mike Hampton’s one-and-done season, and with some further small improvements, Wright won’t be denied his first MVP.
JD:Â He lost out to Jimmy Rollins for MVP last season, but I donâ€™t see any reason why he wonâ€™t put up even better numbers and be as much of a leader this year, and make an even-better case to be the 2008 MVP.Â
CW:Â I’m expecting a little decline from Beltran this year – his offseason knee surgery will sap him of some of his great range in center field, and perhaps some of his power as well.Â He will be moved to a corner sooner rather than later, and will evolve into something of an all-or-nothing power hitter – but not right away.Â He’ll be good, but he won’t be as good, and by the end of the season, he will be the Mets’ third-best hitter.
JD:Â Heâ€™s gotten better in each season as a Met and I think thatâ€™ll continue.Â Heâ€™s going to be a top five MVP finisher and lead the team in HRs and RBI.
CW:Â I am coming in with low expectations this year – something around a .260/.330/.480, which would be better than last year, but still not exactly what the Mets were hoping for when they traded for him.Â I’m also expecting at least one stint on the DL.Â I hope I am proven wrong.
JD:Â Delgado will be close to the Toronto Delgado this year.Â Huge RBI and HR numbers and a key leadership role will make him a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year in 2008.
CW:Â I am predicting that by the end of 2008, Omar Minaya may already regret signing Luis Castillo to a four year deal.Â He underwent double knee surgery over the offseason, and he’s a player primarily known for is speed – if he can’t beat out infield hits to keep his batting average up, he isn’t going to get on base, and it’s not like he’s going to hit for anything resembling power to make up for it.Â I believe this offseason, the Mets will once again be on the look out for a new second baseman.
JD:Â When the Yankees signed Jorge Posada to a 12-year, $8.4 billion extension back in November, I was convinced that that would be the worst long-term deal issued this off-season.Â And then the Mets went and gave an older-than-his-age, busted-knee speedster a four-year deal.Â I fully expect the badness of deal to materialize in front of us by mid-season.Â I predict that Fernando Tatis will be getting a lot of time at 2nd base.
CW:Â He will be similar to last year – he won’t hit .341 again, but he will give the Mets good production when he’s in the lineup, which unfortunately won’t be often enough.
JD:Â All Iâ€™m going to say is â€œthank god this was a one-year extension.â€Â I love the guy but I donâ€™t see this going well at all.Â He was magical last year, but so was Cliff Floyd right before he had to shut it down at the end of his Mets career.Â Thatâ€™s the thing about magic: itâ€™s great when you see it but it just doesnâ€™t last.
CW:Â Maine has a chance to be a real unsung hero for this team – he won’t be as flashy as Pedro or Santana, but he will be a solid, consistent #3.Â If he can avoid wearing down like he did last year (and I suspect that Peterson and Willie will more closely monitor his innings this year), he could be a sleeper Cy Young candidate.
JD:Â This year will only piss of Baltimore fans even more.Â I would like to point out to all Mets fans who are still bitter about losing Scott Kazmir for a barrel of crap that â€œweâ€ basically did the same thing to the Orioles when we stole John Maine.Â
CW:Â Can you really predict what Oliver Perez will do from week to week, much less season to season?Â Since the answer is no, I’ll just predict that he gives the team exactly what he gave them last year, and hope it comes to pass, because it’s sure better than him being worse.
JD:Â I think this is a make-or-break year for him.Â Heâ€™ll either step up and become a front of the rotation guy, or heâ€™ll forever be a back-end pitcher.Â I think heâ€™s going to do well.
CW:Â I feel an injury to Wagner coming – he’s been “unavailable” for games here and there the past two years, but he’s been lucky to avoid the DL, and he’s been a guy who has battled injuries in the past.Â He’s not getting any younger, and I feel as though we Mets fans may feel almost too “safe,” for lack of a better term, so I think he’ll miss around a month somewhere in the middle of the year.
JD:Â As mentioned above, I think Billy is going to tank this season.Â Again, I really hope Iâ€™m wrong.
CW:Â He’ll close for a little while when Wagner is out and will perform well – enough to where the Mets can add “potential closer” to the list of other things Heilman does well should they try to trade him this off-season.Â But he will stay with the Mets at least through this year.
JD:Â I think heâ€™ll have a great season, but only a couple months as a Met.Â See above.
CW:Â He’ll give the Mets a solid year of relief – hopefully they’ll monitor his innings too, because he’s another guy who wore down in September.
JD:Â Heâ€™ll have another effective, under-the-radar year.
CW:Â He’ll split time between the rotation and bullpen without doing either particularly well.
JD:Â Heâ€™ll be in the minors before May is out.
CW:Â Scott Schoeneweis will not finish the year in a Mets uniform – he’ll get traded for something before the year is out.
JD:Â Heâ€™s going to do his best to make sure that Luis Castillo isnâ€™t the only player on the team with a laughable long-term contract.
Who will be the Mets’ best hitter and best pitcher in 2008?
CW:Â Pretty easy question for me:Â David Wright will not only be the Mets’ best hitter, but the best hitter in the National League, and Johan Santana will not only be the Mets’ best pitcher, but the best pitcher in the National League.
JD:Â Iâ€™m going to go with Beltran and Santana, with Wright and Martinez close on their respective heels.
THE REST OF BASEBALL*:
Home Run leaders
AL:Â Alex Rodriguez (45)
NL:Â Ryan Braun (50)
AL:Â Alex Rodriguez (59)
NL:Â Ryan Howard (49)
AL:Â Ichiro Suzuki (.340)
NL:Â Hanley Ramirez (.332)
AL:Â Jose Reyes (56)
NL:Â Bobby Abreu (40)
Teams that will surprise
AL:Â I like the Devil Rays to contend, but not make the playoffs.Â But they will be a hard team to play and none of the contenders will want to play them in September, and they have an outside shot at a Rockies-type season.
NL:Â They won’t be taking anybody by surprise after a .500 year last year, but I think the Brewers can make the playoffs in the NL Central.
AL:Â Chicago White Sox
NL:Â Houston Astros
Teams that will disappoint
AL:Â The Yankees may fail to make the playoffs (which by their definition, is a disappointment), but if they do, it will only be a one year aberration, and I can see them rolling off another title within five years.
NL:Â The Dodgers have the talent to win the NL West, but going with Juan Pierre in left field, among other roster goofs, will help them underachieve for a second straight season.
AL:Â Boston Red Sox
NL:Â Chicago Cubs
AL:Â Picking A-Rod is too easy given last year; I’ll go with Miguel Cabrera
NL:Â How can I not pick David Wright after I devoted 5,000 words to why he deserved it last year?
AL:Â Alex Rodriguez
NL:Â Carlos Lee
AL:Â This is a lot more open without Santana in the league.Â I’ll take Beckett over Sabathia, since I see the two of them being close, and voters may feel obligated to reward Beckett after giving Sabathia the award last year.
NL:Â Johan Santana might put up PlayStation numbers this year in the NL.
AL:Â B.J. Ryan
NL:Â Jose Valverde
Rookie of the Year
AL:Â I was going to pick Evan Longoria until he got sent down, so I’ll give it to Ellsbury over Longoria, but I do think Longoria could make a Ryan Braun-like run at this award if he gets called up soon enough.
NL:Â I don’t feel great about this pick, but I think Johnny Cueto could grab this.
AL:Â Jacoby Ellsbury
NL:Â Cameron Maybin
TEAM RECORDS AND PLAYOFF PICKS:
Mets – 93-69
Phillies – 85-77
Braves – 84-78
Nationals – 74-88
Marlins – 68-94
Brewers – 87-75
Cubs – 87-75*
Reds – 82-80
Cardinals – 78-84
Pirates – 74-88
Astros – 70-92
Diamondbacks – 88-74
Dodgers – 86-76
Rockies – 84-78
Padres – 80-82
Giants – 64-98
Red Sox – 98-64
Yankees – 90-72
Blue Jays – 83-79
Devil Rays – 82-80
Orioles – 64-98
Tigers – 93-69
Indians – 91-71*
Royals – 75-87
White Sox – 75-87
Twins – 74-88
Angels – 90-72
A’s – 80-82
Mariners – 79-83
Rangers – 72-90
* – Wild Card
Mets over Brewers in 3 games
Cubs over Diamondbacks in 5 games
Indians over Red Sox in 5 games
Tigers over Angels in 3 games
League Championship Series
Mets over Cubs in 7 games
Tigers over Indians in 7 games
Mets over Tigers in 6 games
St. Louis 72-90
San Diego 91-71
San Francisco 82-80
Los Angeles 75-87
New York Y 100-62
Tampa Bay 76-86
Chicago WS 90-72
Kansas City 64-98
Los Angeles AofA 91-71
Mets over Astros 3-1
Padres over Braves 3-0
Yankees over Mariners 3-1
Angels over White Sox 3-0
League Championship Series
Mets over Padres 4-1
Yankees over Angels 4-1
Mets over Yankees 4-1
* – NOTE FROM JOEADIG:Â Okay, I was having a real hard time with this.Â I couldn’t make myself believe in any of my own predictions.Â So I did something that I think is very scientific: I let MLB 2K8 decide for me.Â I simulated an entire season and wrote down all the results.