MLB 30 in 30: Can Syndergaard, Mets take next step in 2017?

Japan, Netherlands, Puerto Rico and the United States round out the final four teams of the World Baseball Classic.

After making an appearance in the 2015 fall classic, the Mets were plagued by injured last season. But New York still finished second in the NL East with a respectable 87-75 record before losing to the Giants in the wild card game. With a healthy roster, the Mets will look to reach October once again.

As we get closer to the 2017 season, we’re taking a look at each of the 30 MLB teams. The New York Mets are next:

Up-and-coming player to watch

Okay, look, you might assume that Noah Syndergaard has already arrived — and in many ways, you’d be correct. But the Norse-god hasn’t reached full Thor-mode yet. He is, after all, only 24-years-old. Last season the once-upon-a-time-Jays-prospect picked up 14 wins with a 2.60 ERA whilst averaging nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings. So yeah, Syndergaard is good and getting even better. He’s also hella fun to watch. So he’s the guy we’re going with here.

Otherwise, take a look at Michael Conforto. The 23-year-old outfielder had a great start to the 2016 season, but struggled against lefties and finished the season with a .220 average. Conforto has a lot to improve, but also has a lot of potential. So if you’re looking to and up-and-comer who isn’t also a Cy Young candidate, Conforto is your Met.

What a successful 2017 season would look like

The Mets are going to be a good team, but are they a team that can contend for a World Series? That’s a big question, and the answer may depend on health. Right now, they aren’t even the best team in the NL East, but the Mets boast a skilled, veteran roster and have a potentially lethal rotation.

The Mets were plagued with injuries last season, and they can’t afford a repeat of those DL stints in 2017. David Wright basically missed the entire season, Lucas Duda was also injured for much of the year, and Travis d’Arnaud played just 75 games. We haven’t even gotten to the rotation yet: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz all spent time on the DL, too. While the Mets have pieces to fill the gaps, a successful season for New York will require improved health.

Biggest remaining question

Aside from health, the Mets have to figure out who will step in as the team’s fifth starter absent Bartolo Colon, who left for Atlanta. Zack Wheeler will attempt to claim the spot, but he hasn’t really pitched since undergoing Tommy John two years ago. If Wheeler comes through and stays healthy, it would be a huge plus for the Mets. Wheeler will battle Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman for the role — and both showed promise last season.

On the back-end, the Mets could be without closer Jeurys Familia for a significant period of time as the league investigates his arrest for domestic violence in the off-season. Addison Reed will likely step into the closer’s role without Familia, who led the majors with 51 saves last season. So those are questions that need to be answered. But really, the Mets biggest concern is the health of their top players. As they go, so goes New York.

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