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Mets hope '15 is harbinger of things to come

Young pitching, offensive improvements could mean better '16
MLB.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It is difficult to ask a team that just won a pennant to get better. But that kind of request seems completely logical in the case of the 2016 Mets.

"I don't think there's any question that we're a better team now than we were last year, going into the season," third baseman David Wright said on Friday at Tradition Field.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It is difficult to ask a team that just won a pennant to get better. But that kind of request seems completely logical in the case of the 2016 Mets.

"I don't think there's any question that we're a better team now than we were last year, going into the season," third baseman David Wright said on Friday at Tradition Field.

The Spring Training complex was packed with fans for the Mets' first full-squad workout. They were appreciative, vocal and boisterous, and why not? They were applauding both recent achievements and high expectations.

Spring Training: Schedule | Tickets | Complete info 

The Mets finished 90-72 last season, before advancing to the World Series. They won the National League East by seven games over the Nationals. The Nats figure to be better in 2016, so improvement by the Mets may be not only possible, but necessary.

Why might the Mets be better this season? The magnificent young starting pitching holds an answer, because it is young. These arms still have room to grow in their chosen profession.

Noah Syndergaard, for instance, at 23, wowed observers with his performance during Thursday's live batting practice. The term "midseason form" was used to describe his work, as Syndergaard threw all his pitches, including a new one, a hybrid slider.

"He was on a new level today," catcher Kevin Plawecki said.

Added manager Terry Collins: "This kid's coming so fast, it's really remarkable what he's done."

Jacob deGrom is 27. Matt Harvey will be 27 in March. Steven Matz is 24. Zack Wheeler, expected back midseason from Tommy John surgery, will be 26 by then. There isn't anyone here on the career downslope.

OK, until Wheeler gets back, his spot in the rotation will be taken by Bartolo Colon, who is from an entirely different generation. He will be 43 in May, but based on the way he has pitched in recent seasons, that relatively advanced age is not a disqualifying factor.

Video: Wheeler, Matz discuss start of spring workouts

Harvey threw live batting practice on Friday, and, according to Collins, displayed more late life on his fastball than he did last season when he was returning from Tommy John surgery.

Collins gave a speech to the full squad that was well-received by the players for its upbeat, energetic content and delivery. The Mets were in an amped-up mood, anyway. They were in the World Series last year. They believe that they have the talent and the will to take that one last step in 2016.

"We're all excited," Harvey said. "If you're not excited, you aren't really human."

Video: Footer analyzes Mets' chances of winning '16 NL title

There is still room for improvement, Collins said of his young starters. Better command of their secondary pitches in some cases could make them even better.

"You can always keep improving," Collins said. "There's always ways to get better. They're hard to hit, anyway, but when you don't know what's coming in any particular count, that makes them really hard to hit."

On the offensive side, the Mets, assuming good health, will have slugger Yoenis Cespedes for an entire season instead of the 57 regular-season games he played for them in 2015 after arriving via trade. Cespedes' return gives the Mets a lineup with more depth, more power, and in total, many more possibilities.

The Mets also have reason to believe that they will get more than 38 games from Wright, because they will be able to take proactive measures to manage his spinal stenosis.

There are tangible reasons why the Mets could get better. But there are intangibles on their side, as well. Wright said that last year's success was built upon not only the obvious talent on hand, but also the fact that the Mets "came together as a team."

Video: Wright discusses his health and expectations for 2016

Collins was on the same page.

"We embrace each other, we like to be around each other and when we're on the field, we've got to root for each other," Collins said. "That was the big thing I saw last year with all the movement of all the pieces that were put in different places. The one thing I saw was guys cheering for each other, and I thought that was really key."

Nobody's suggesting that this is already an epic, historic powerhouse team. Collins said on Friday that improvement was needed on the basepaths: taking extra bases, along with moving runners. The bench appears to be on the young side. The setup roles in the bullpen are yet to be completely defined. And the Mets' pitchers need to do a better job of holding runners.

But the ability and the approach are in place. Everybody was encouraged by the outpouring of affection they received from the fans.

"They deserved the response they got today," Collins said of his players. "You walked out there and those people were cheering and yelling and clapping. Those guys needed that. They need to see our fanbase. It was fun. These guys have reignited our fanbase, and that's what we hoped would happen."

And there is reason to believe that 2015 was just the beginning for these Mets.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball and its clubs.

New York Mets, Yoenis Cespedes, Noah Syndergaard, David Wright