Washington Nationals Series Preview: A Look At The New York Mets With Amazin' Avenue

USA TODAY Sports

Talking New York Mets with Amazin' Avenue's Steve Schreiber to preview this weekend's three-game series against the Washington Nationals in New York. The Mets have gotten off to a .500 start at 7-7, and have their new ace Matt Harvey starting in the series opener. We talk present and future Mets as the series is about to get underway.

The New York Mets actually started the week ahead of the Washington Nationals in the NL East. How did they get off to their start? How is their rebuilding process going? We talked with Steve Schreiber of Amazin' Avenue about what we can expect from the Mets in this weekend series.

The Mets had been seen as a potential dark horse in the NL East - then they lost Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum got injured. But the Mets kept winning and are off to a good start. What needs to happen for the Mets to continue to surprise some people?

These last three abominations against the Rockies aside, the offense has looked pretty good, the starting pitching (mainly Jon Niese and Matt Harvey) has done a decent job of keeping the team in games, and the bullpen hasn't been an utter disaster (more like a small disaster but after these last few years, I'll take it). That's pretty much what the formula is going to have to be for this team. They're not going to play great defense all around and the back of the rotation is shaky, so they need David Wright to play like David Wright, they need Ike Davis and Lucas Duda to hit and for somebody in the outfield to not embarrass themselves. John Buck's torrid start has also helped a bit and the return of Marcum, coupled with the promotions of Zack Wheeler and (hopefully, ugh injuries) Travis d'Arnaud later this year could potentially give them a boost in the second half.

What are Mets fans expecting from this season? Is it a transition year? Or is that goal to be in third place?

Nobody from the team has ever come out and said it but yes, this is another transition year and hopefully the last one if all goes well. For the most part, Mets fans have been pretty on board with Sandy Alderson's plan and we're now just starting to see the fruits of that plan but realistically, we can see this isn't a great team. Lucas Duda has the range of a lawn gnome and Marlon Byrd is starting in right field for some reason! I think most folks think they end up around 75ish wins with a little leeway depending on what they get from the margins of the roster and if that gets them into 3rd place, then great. But the main goal is continuing to watch the young players develop, graduate to the big league level, and establish themselves. If Harvey, Wheeler, d'Arnaud, and some other young guys prove to be valuable Major League assets, and guys like Noah Syndergaard, Michael Fulmer, Rafael Montero, and Brandon Nimmo, among others continue to develop and progress through the system, it should be considered a relatively successful season.

Matt Harvey looks like a certain starting pitcher Nationals fans are used to seeing and has been lights out since making his Major League debut. How are Mets fans seeing Harvey? How good can he be?

It's early but I've seen comparisons to Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, and Dwight Gooden in the last week, so I think that'll give you an idea of what Mets fans think of Matt Harvey. He's only made 13 Major League starts but it's hard not to be really excited about what Harvey has done and especially how quickly he's broken out of the gates in three completely dominant starts this year. Assuming Harvey doesn't get hurt (which is certainly never a great assumption with pitchers), I think Harvey has a great shot to find himself right up there with the best pitchers in baseball, whether you want to name Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Stephen Strasburg, or whoever. With his dynamic repertoire, he's got the talent to do it and that's coupled with the makeup and drive for greatness. Personally, I'm really excited to see how he does against the playoff-caliber lineup of the Nationals and with being matched up against Strasburg tonight. This should prove to be his best test yet.

Ike Davis is struggling to start the year. Is he running out of time in New York? What needs to change for him to get back to a force in the middle of the order?

Because of how well he hit from June 1st through the end of 2012, I'm not ready to say that his time is running out with the Mets, but I do think the clock is starting tick a bit louder. As a Super Two player, he's starting to get more expensive and the Mets do have a potential young first base option at Triple-A in the positionless Wilmer Flores. With Ike, we know that when he gets locked in and his mechanics are alright, he can hit with the best of the league's first basemen. Stretched over a whole season, his .878 OPS over the last four months of 2012 would've ranked third among qualified big league first basemen behind Prince Fielder. Of course, the big question is why is Davis starting out ice cold for a second straight year and how long will it take for him to turn it around? People were willing to write off last year's struggles as a byproduct of him missing the majority of 2011 and the Valley Fever that plagued him in spring training of that year, but those issues aren't there now. The bottom line is that he's always been a very streaky hitter and it seems like when he gets into a cold funk, everything gets out of whack with his mechanics at the plate. As Keith Hernandez likes to point on the broadcasts repeatedly, his timing gets off and he starts striding too early. I'm sure he'll figure things out eventually like he did a year ago but hopefully this time, it doesn't take until June for him to get going.

More concerning start: Davis or Dillon Gee?

They're both concerning but for different reasons. Davis is more important to the team's future, as a guy who is the greatest power threat on the roster. At the same time, I think we have more evidence that Davis can be a valuable player and on both sides of the ball. As his 32 home runs a year ago show, his power plays in the majors and his glove at first is probably the best the Mets have had since John Olerud 15 years ago.

On the other side, since the Mets' minor league strength seems to lie in hard throwing pitching depth, Dillon Gee looks to be a bit less crucial to the team's future going forward. However, he took some nice strides a year ago before the blood clot in his shoulder sidelined him and he looked like he had the chance to establish himself as something more than a number five starter with his 3.71 FIP and improving strikeout, walk, and groundball rates over 110 innings. That would be a nice, cheap, under control asset for the Mets, whether as a competent starter in their rotation or potential trade bait down the road. Unfortunately, Gee hasn't been the same guy in his return. His fastball, which averaged a career best 90.1 MPH in 2012, has sat at 87.2 MPH in his first three starts and he was sitting more 85-86 MPH in his most recent start in Colorado. Further, his command has come and gone and as a result, he's been rocked in two of three starts. For me, the velocity is the big issue here and if that doesn't come back, Gee just may not be a big league pitcher. Hopefully as the weather warms and he builds strength throughout the season, it'll tick back up. For the balance of 2013, at least, he's pretty important to the rotation's success and it'd be nice to see him continue to establish himself like it looked like he was doing last year.

I always feel like David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman are linked in that they both came up at around the same time and play in the same division and have been the face of the franchise. Bryce Harper is slowly preparing for taking the role away from Zimmerman. Wright is still in the prime of his career, but who do you see as a potential sidekick coming up?

If I had to guess, I'd go with Matt Harvey. Certainly the "face of the franchise" tag comes with the expectation of being talented. For years, Wright was paired with Jose Reyes as the face of the Mets. Now, no offense to anybody else currently on the roster but the others probably don't have that combination of elite talent and makeup. From all I've heard, Wheeler and d'Arnaud, once they come up and establish themselves, could have the ability to establish themselves as sidekicks to Wright. But there's a reason why I'd give Harvey an edge and that's his makeup. Harvey is intense, he's fearless, he's ultra-competitive, and he wants to win and be the best doing it. Tom Seaver retired before I was born but a lot of the comparisons of Harvey to Seaver have been based around his makeup both on and off the mound. When he came up, Seaver almost singlehandedly changed the perception of the Mets from lovable losers to champions and I think a lot of people see that same trait in Harvey and have latched onto it. In New York, that combination of talent and attitude is how legends are made. I hate to pile these high expectations on Harvey but it seems like if anybody can do it, he can. If the Mets start winning in the near future and Matt Harvey is a big part of that, look out.

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