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Know your rivals: A look at the 2016 New York Mets

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The New York Mets shocked the baseball world by storming their way to a divisional title and a World Series berth. What should we expect from them as they head into 2016 as prohibitive favorites to retain the National League East crown?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

What's a phrase that sounds just about as weird as "2015 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals?" I'd say that "2015 National League Pennant Winners New York Mets" is almost on par with that statement. Indeed, the Mets have ripped off their label of laughingstock after deservedly running away with the 2015 NL East crown and taking that run all the way to the World Series. So, what should we expect from manager Terry Collins and his Mets this season?

New additions: P Antonio Bastardo, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, OF Alejandro De Aza, 2B Neil Walker

Lineup/Fielders

Projected lineup (from MLB Daily Dish):

RF Curtis Granderson
3B David Wright
CF Yoenis Cespedes
1B Lucas Duda
C Travis d'Arnaud
LF Michael Conforto
2B Neil Walker
SS Asdrubal Cabrera

It's always good news for your team -- and bad news for rivals and fans of those rivals -- when you can say that you've improved after making a trip to the World Series, and the Mets can definitely make that claim after the offseason that they had. The Mets' weakness came at the keystone combination, which is where they had to use a platoon at shortstop and soon-to-be Washington Nationals signee Daniel Murphy at second base. They decided that the solution to this issue was to sign an everyday shortstop in the form of Asdrubal Cabrera and a defensive upgrade at second base in the form of Neil Walker.

Meanwhile, they managed to bring back star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and while it's highly unlikely that he'll repeat the amazing performance that he delivered in 2015, he still figures to be an extremely important middle-of-the-order power supply for the Mets lineup this season. The lineup itself is pretty deep -- aside from the pitcher spot, there won't be any easy outs in this rotation, and it's got some decent power in it, to boot. Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, Michael Conforto, and Travis d'Arnaud will hit their fair share of dingers this year, and while they'll probably suffer a bit at times from having to rely on power to get them through instead of contact and speed, they'll figure to have one of the better offenses in the NL when everything is going as planned for them.

The only real question mark they have is on defense. David Wright's back is probably going to be an issue for him all season, so you probably shouldn't expect him to be making spectacular defensive plays and we'll also be seeing plenty of Wilmer Flores at third base. The Mets won't be the team you look at when it comes to putting on a defensive clinic, but considering how good their offense is and how excellent their pitching figures to be, this isn't exactly a huge concern for them, and they'll be just fine as long as the defense doesn't fall into a vortex of awfulness.

Pitching

Projected rotation (from MLB Daily Dish):

RHP Matt Harvey
RHP Jacob DeGrom
RHP Noah Syndergaard
LHP Steven Matz
RHP Bartolo Colon

This is what got them to the big time. The Mets have arguably the best rotation in baseball, and it's mostly due to the fact that their three best pitchers would be considered aces on nearly every other team in baseball. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard are all insanely talented and still relatively young, which means that as long as the Mets can find a way to keep this trio together, then they're probably going to be a problem for the rest of the division for a very long time. Also, if Zack Wheeler can return from injury and reach the potential that the Mets believe he has, then this rotation could become even scarier, and that ought to send a chill down the spine of most of the hitters in the NL East.

Even though this is clearly the best rotation in baseball right now, it's still not perfect. Harvey recently had to deal with blood clots in his bladder and although it's looking like he'll be ready for Opening Day, blood clots are no joke so that'll be a situation to monitor. Hopefully all goes well for him when it comes to that particular issue. While the top of the rotation is insanely talented, the last two guys in the rotation aren't exactly fearsome. Steven Matz is a solid pitcher, but he won't strike fear into the hearts of hitters like the three guys ahead of him. Bartolo Colon may be the most lovable big man in all of professional sports, but he's entering his age-43 season and is basically just an innings-eater (for lack of a better term) at this point for the Mets. Still, "solid" and "innings-eater" are nice compliments to "absolutely terrifying threesome," which means that the Mets have an extremely nice foundation to rely upon when it comes to their starting pitching.

The bullpen isn't as good as the rotation is -- it'd be an insanely difficult task for them to match that level of quality -- but it's obviously good enough to get the job done after the rotation gets finished sawing their way through the bats of their opposition. The star of the show here is their closer, Jeurys Familia. He was the set-up man for the Mets in 2014, but became the closer for the squad in 2015 and, like many of the Mets players, he just kept on getting better as the season progressed. He improved his K/9, decreased his BB/9, and added a deadly splitter to his arsenal that ended up making him one of the better closers in all of baseball by the end of last season.

Simply put, the Mets have some great pitching at their disposal, and New York will go as far as this staff can take them. If last season is any indication, then they can go pretty far.

Most likely player to randomly terrorize the Braves?

Bartolo Colon. For a hot second during the offseason, there was a rumor that linked Bartolo Colon to the Braves. I wanted so badly for this to happen, if only because I wanted the potential gifs of Colon being hilariously awesome to happen while he wore a tomahawk on his chest. Instead, he re-signed with the Mets, and now I'm sure that he'll probably end up having at least one, maybe two starts against the Braves where he goes eight-plus innings and absolutely mystifies our hitters.

Outlook

While the Mets may have snuck up on the baseball world last season, there will be no sneaking around this season. Everybody knows that the Mets are a very good team, and it looks like they've got what it takes to keep it up and stay on top of the National League. Their only real competition in the division appears to be the Nationals, and they'll definitely benefit from beating up on two teams in their division who figure to be fighting hard for the #1 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. As long as they don't magically transform into a tire fire, this team should definitely be in the conversation come October. The top of the NL is so good that they'll still have a tough road when it comes to defending the NL pennant, but the talent is there for the Mets to possibly return to the Fall Classic.

For further coverage of the Mets, be sure to visit our friends at Amazin' Avenue