For much of the 2021 season’s first half, the New York Mets resembled a team of destiny. Regardless of who was injured or what hitter was struggling to make contact, the Amazins kept winning and held sole possession of first place in the National League East when the All-Star Break began.
Then, the Mets returned to being the Mets.
A plethora of injuries, including to ace pitcher and Cy Young front-runner Jacob deGrom, doomed the Mets to a 77-85 finish. Former manager Luis Rojas is out, and veteran big-league skipper Buck Showalter is in, as are the likes of future Hall of Fame pitcher Max Scherzer and speedy outfielder Starling Marte.
Expectations are rightfully high in Queens this year, and it will all start on April 7 against Juan Soto and the Washington Nationals. Ahead of the 61st season in franchise history, let’s look at how the 2022 Mets’ Opening Day lineup should shake out.
Will Francisco Lindor bounce back after a horrible 2021 season?
1. Brandon Nimmo (RF), 2. Starling Marte (CF), 3. Francisco Lindor (SS)
Nimmo should open the season as the Mets’ leadoff hitter after hitting .292 with eight home runs, 28 RBI, and 17 doubles in 92 games a year ago. Although injuries have held him back in two of the last three years, the 29-year-old is a steady bat when he’s in the lineup. Don’t be surprised if he’s an All-Star candidate — assuming he’s able to stay healthy, of course.
A 2016 All-Star selection with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Marte has quietly been an extremely reliable outfielder since making his MLB debut in 2012. The 33-year-old hit .310 with 12 home runs, 55 RBI, and a career-high 47 stolen bases across 120 games with the Miami Marlins and Oakland Athletics last season. Although he’s getting older, Marte’s speed and contact make him an imposing threat at the top of the order.
Few players in the majors had a more underwhelming 2021 season than Lindor, who hit .230 and infamously pointed his thumb down at Mets fans last summer. However, the veteran shortstop recently enjoyed a spectacular spring training, and the Blue and Orange won’t go far if he doesn’t return to All-Star form this summer. If his stellar preseason performance is a sign of things to come, the Mets will be in great shape.
The Pete Alonso show returns for Year 4, and Mets fans should be ecstatic
4. Pete Alonso (1B), 5. Eduardo Escobar (3B), 6. Mark Canha (LF)
Amid all the Mets’ issues in 2021, the franchise knew they could at least rely on Alonso. The Polar Bear hit .262 with 37 home runs, 94 RBI, and won his second consecutive Home Run Derby crown. The 27-year-old first baseman is the face of the franchise and should be considered a legitimate contender to win the NL MVP Award.
If Escobar builds off his last two complete seasons, he and the Mets will be in excellent shape. The 33-year-old hit .269 with 35 home runs, 118 RBI, and 10 triples for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019. After an ugly 2020 campaign, the veteran infielder earned All-Star honors last year and totaled 28 home runs and 90 RBI in 146 games split between the Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers.
Although Canha only hit .231 last season, he drew 77 walks and reached base another 27 times via hit by pitch. He’s a solid power bat, one who should give the Mets around 20 home runs in a full season, and he’ll get on base. That’s exactly what Showalter should want from his No. 6 hitter.
Will this be Robinson Canó’s last run?
7. Robinson Canó (DH), 8. Jeff McNeil (2B), 9. James McCann (C)
The early indication is Canó, who sat out the entire 2021 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, will open the season as the Mets’ designated hitter. The eight-time All-Star hit .316 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI across 49 games in 2020, which would have put him on pace for over 30 homers and 100 RBI in a 162-game campaign. The Mets should be more than happy if he can give them even half of that this season.
After hitting over .310 and tallying at least a .380 on-base percentage in each of his first three seasons, McNeil only mustered a .251 average and a .319 OBP in 120 games last year. Although he’ll open the season at the bottom of the lineup, we wouldn’t be surprised if he gradually moves up throughout the year.
Baseball-Reference valued McCann’s 2021 Wins Above Replacement score at -0.2, meaning he was worse than a replacement player. Ideally for the Mets, he’ll put a terrible first season in New York behind him and serve as a competent hitter this season. If not? Top prospect Francisco Álvarez might want to get ready to open the 2023 season on the 26-man roster.