Mets' health key for playoff run

Mets' health key for playoff run

NEW YORK -- It is worth noting that despite everything that went wrong for the Mets over the first half of the season, from injuries to underperformance up and down the lineup, they do still own the fifth-best record in the National League. If the season ended today, the Mets would be tied with the Marlins for the NL's second Wild Card spot.

So the Mets have no interest in calling this a lost season or in blowing up the core of what remains a talented team. A few breaks in the second half, particularly on the injury front, could give the Mets the opportunity they need to defend their NL pennant.

"Every season is challenging for the players, for the front office, for the fans," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "These first three months have certainly been challenging, or at least the last two. I would expect the challenges will continue. But I think we have the capacity within the 25-man roster at this point to improve over what we've done over the last couple of months."

Alderson went on to say that without significant trade chips residing in their farm system, the Mets are unlikely to swing a significant deal -- a la Yoenis Cespedes -- prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. What the Mets do hope is that they grow healthier and more productive, and in that way improve.

With that in mind, here is a look at what awaits the Mets in the second half:

TRADE SCENARIO
With their farm system now a shell of its former self, the Mets will be hesitant to part with any of the blue-chip prospects they have left -- most notably shortstop Amed Rosario. But they could entertain trading away a young piece such as outfielder Brandon Nimmo, particularly if recently demoted Michael Conforto proves he belongs back in the big leagues. That could net them a starting pitcher -- Matt Moore? Drew Pomeranz? -- to replace Matt Harvey.

Nimmo's first career homer

WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING FOR?
When asked this spring about their 2016 aspirations, the Mets shied away from grandiose "World Series or bust" proclamations. That doesn't mean missing the playoffs would be acceptable for a team that won the pennant last year, reloaded over the offseason and entered this year with one of the game's top young pitching staffs. The Mets still have every intention of playing into October.

THE ROAD AHEAD
Significant tests will come early in the second half for the Mets, who open up with a three-city road trip through Philadelphia, Chicago and Miami. Multiple series against the Cardinals also loom, with Wild Card implications written all over them. And if the Mets stay close to the Nationals in the NL East, they'll have a chance to play for that title with six games against their division rival in September.

KEY PLAYER
Given their pitching depth and ability to supplement it with a trade or two, the Mets can survive without Harvey. But they cannot survive without Noah Syndergaard. If injuries continue to sideline their best starting pitcher, the Mets simply won't have enough firepower left to recover. They need Syndergaard at his dominant best throughout the second half.

Syndergaard dominates Cubs

PROSPECTS TO WATCH
Though no longer a prospect, Conforto's emergence could become a key storyline in the second half. There isn't much else on the farm in the way of players who figure to help in August and September, though No. 13 prospect Gabriel Ynoa could draw some starts down the stretch. For the most part, the Mets will proceed with the players they already have in Flushing.

Top Prospects: Ynoa, NYM

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.