By Elan-Paolo DeCarlo Staff Writer and Bryan Lambert Campus Correspondent
DeCarlo: With baseball season underway, it’s time we make some predictions. As the resident Mets fan, I’ve seen my fair share of heartbreak. This season has reason for optimism at Citi Field. After missing last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, ace Matt Harvey is back to lead one of the deepest pitching staffs in the majors. Look for Harvey to regain his top form to lead the Mets toward playoff contention for the first time since 2008.
Lambert: While Harvey’s return helps the cause at Citi Field, the best team in New York could still be playing in the Bronx. Harvey’s return is huge, but the loss of Zack Wheeler is just as big. There is a lot of talent in the rotation, but it remains to be seen if it will translate to wins. At best it will be hard to compensate for a subpar lineup. David Wright is declining and there isn’t a player with the offensive capabilities to pick up the slack. Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi has proven he can make the most out of what he’s given. Masahiro Tanaka’s return can be as big a boost as Harvey’s, and although the core of the Bronx Bombers isn’t getting any younger, prospects like Jose Pirela and Robert Refsnyder are poised to make their mark in pinstripes.
DeCarlo: The Yankees are old and beat up. Look at the guys they’re relying on. Carlos Beltran is 37 years old, Mark Teixeira 34, Brian McCann 31, Alex Rodriguez 39, Stephen Drew 32 and C.C. Sabathia 34. Derek Jeter is gone. This Yankee team is a shell of itself. They’d be the best team in New York, if it were 2009. As for the Mets, that team is young and on the rise. Even with the injury to Wheeler, they are stacked with live, explosive arms. Jacob de Grom is the reigning Rookie of the Year and will push Harvey as to who is the true “ace” of the staff. Jon Niese had a 3.4 ERA last year, Bartolo Colon won 15 games and Dillon Gee is a solid stopgap until Noah Syndegaard, Steven Matz and Rafael Montero are ready for the show. Pitching will lead this team to the best record in New York.
Lambert: Pitching can only carry a team so much. I don’t see the young talent anywhere in the batting order. David Wright, though still serviceable, is trending downward. No everyday position player hit over .300 last year and the front office did nothing to help the offense this year. Wait sorry, they paid Michael Cuddyer $21 million over two years to sit in the dugout and go on the disabled list 11 times a season. As a Red Sox fan it pains me to say this but the Yankees are being overlooked. If even half of the veterans regain some of the old form then this could be in contention late. A newly resurrected and well-rested Alex Rodriguez could hit .270 with 25 homers because the universe hates us. Even when they look like they’ve hit rock bottom there is no way you can ever doubt the Yankees.
DeCarlo: Hey, Michael Cuddyer can hit when he’s healthy. Over the last three years, he has a .301/.359/.512 slash line. Granted, that’s in just 231 games, but still. When he’s in the lineup – he produces. As for the young guys, look for Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares to break out offensively. He was one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball last year, which overshadowed a solid .281/.321/.382 line. He had a great spring in the leadoff spot, sporting a .359/.406/.641 line. Also, look for Travis d’Arnaud to build off his strong second half. The Mets don’t have a lot of proven bats, but if their young guys break out, playoffs are a real possibility.
Lambert: Cuddyer also played in Coors Field, where you could hit a wiffeball with a pool noodle and it could make it to the outfield. The Yankees are boom or bust. The rotation could very well fall apart but Sabathia, Tanaka and Pieneda could just as easily all have comeback seasons. If Carlos Beltran and Texeria can stay healthy, that’s a solid middle of the lineup. Even Ellsbury has shown flashes of MVP caliber play in the past. All signs might have the Mets as the best of the Big Apple in 2015 but if recent history is any indication, the Yankees will find a way to be in contention in August and September. Much to the displeasure of both you and I.