Mets need these 5 players to bounce back in 2023
Not many New York Mets underperformed last season. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some players who are looking to rebound from subpar performances. We’ll examine which Mets players need to bounce back in the 2023 MLB season.
The bigger concern for the Mets might be regression from some of their star players. Starling Marte, for example, was an All-Star in 2022, but had core muscle surgery in the offseason. Will that affect his play, especially at the start of the season? Francisco Lindor drove in 107 runs last season. Can he have similar success in 2023? Jeff McNeil was the NL batting champion but might he regress after a 75-point jump in his average from the previous season? Edwin Diaz put together one of the greatest seasons ever by an MLB reliever. Is that level sustainable in 2023?
The Mets have enough star power to weather small regression here and there. But it would be a big boost if several players took a step forward this season.
Let’s look at which Mets players need to bounce back in the 2023 MLB season.
No. 5 and 4: John Curtiss - RHP and Joey Lucchesi - LHP
So, we’re stretching the boundaries of the topic a bit here since neither Curtiss nor Lucchesi pitched last season. Each missed 2022 following Tommy John surgery.
But each could be a valuable pitcher for the Mets in 2023 if they can bounce back from surgery and after missing an entire season.
Curtiss had his two best MLB seasons in 2020 and 2021 before surgery and could be a valuable add to the Mets bullpen this season. The right-hander helped the Tampa Bay Rays reach the World Series in 2020, when they lost in six games to the Los Angeles Dodgers, delivering an MLB career-best 1.80 ERA and 0.960 WHIP over 25 innings in the COVID-shortened regular season. The following year with the Miami Marlins, Curtiss struck out 40 batters in 40 innings and had a 1.075 WHIP and 2.48 ERA.
He's throwing in the mid-90’s at Mets camp and has looked good, so far. Curtiss, who turns 30 in April, likely will build up his innings at Triple-A Syracuse to begin the season. If all goes well, expect him to be in Queens at some point in 2023.
The same plan likely holds true for Lucchesi. However, he’s got a better shot at starting the season on the 26-man roster because he’s further along than Curtiss in his recovery and almost returned to the Mets late last season.
Lucchesi has primarily been a starter in his big league career, but could be a nice fit as the swingman in the Mets bullpen, filling the role held by Trevor Williams in 2022. The 29-year-old could also be brought in to face left-handed hitters, though his career splits against righties and lefties are similar.
With his funky motion and unique “churve,” Lucchesi could be a quality addition if he can bounce back after surgery.
No. 3: Omar Narvaez - C
The Mets signed Narvaez to platoon with Tomas Nido at catcher this season, or at least until top prospect Francisco Alvarez is ready to play every day in the majors. They did so despite Narvaez slashing a woeful .206/.292/.305 with a .597 OPS last season with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Though the Mets value defense first at this position, they do need some offensive punch to keep the spot from being a black hole in the lineup. Nido’s track record as a hitter is not pretty but Narvaez could be a good candidate to bounce back in 2023.
Despite his struggles last season and hitting .176 with two home runs in 126 plate appearances in 2020, Narvaez has shown the ability to hit and hit with power in the bigs. He was an All-Star in 2021, when he had 11 home runs and 49 RBI to go with a .266/.342/.402 slash line. And in 2019 with the Seattle Mariners, Narvaez slugged 22 home runs, drove in 55 runs and had an .813 OPS.
The Mets need Narvaez to rebound in 2023 and there’s a good chance he will.
No. 2: Eduardo Escobar – 3B
Escobar’s 2022 stats were in line with his MLB career averages. But that’s because he had a monster month of September that elevated his final totals after a largely disappointing season.
Where Escobar could bounce back the most is with his consistency. He batted .321 with eight home runs and 25 RBI over his final 30 games last season. He had just 12 homers and 44 RBI in the first five months.
In the previous two full seasons (excluding the 2020 COVID-shortened campaign), Escobar averaged 32 home runs and 104 RBI. The Mets would love anything approaching those numbers.
Escobar said he’s put some personal issues, including a divorce last year, behind him and is ready to roll. That, and being pushed for the third-base job by top prospect Brett Baty, just might elevate Escobar’s consistency and totals, and fuel a bounce-back season.
No. 1: Darin Ruf – DH
You can’t imagine making a worse first impression than Ruf did last year with the Mets. Historically a hitter who mashes left-handed pitching, Ruf was acquired from the San Francisco Giants to be New York’s right-handed DH, platooning with lefty Daniel Vogelbach. And he failed miserably, slashing .152/.216/.197 with a .413 OPS and zero home runs in 74 plate appearances.
The 36-year-old is back this season, much to the chagrin of Mets fans. But team brass believes he can revert to being an effective right-handed hitting option, despite arriving in camp with a wrist injury.
The Mets cannot let this spot in the lineup be as unproductive as it was last season. That means Ruf is on a short leash with the Mets. Either he bounces back or he’ll be replaced by Tommy Pham, Mark Vientos or possibly Escobar, with Baty taking over at third.
Photo: Mark Rosenman