I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but here we are. Pitchers and catchers reported today and…….. the Mets are officially kicking off their campaign to defend their NL crown.
It was a wild offseason for Mets fans. First of all, it didn’t even start until it was almost Thanksgiving, so things started happening fast, and they didn’t look good. We lost out on Ben Zobrist, lose Murphy, and to the Nats of all teams. Cuddyer retires, out of nowhere! And we spend the money on…..Alejandro De Aza. Scary, that seemed like it was going to be our big ticket acquisition. Big Yo was just sitting in the free agency pool, but Sandy kept insisting, the Mets were not in on Ces. Until they were. And at the end of the day we sorta have the Nationals to thank for that. I firmly believe that if the Nationals don’t make a 5-year offer, Cespedes winds up in Detroit or with the Angels or something. So when the news broke that Cespedes took less money to come back to play with the Mets, I think we all understood it was go time. There are no more low expectations. The Mets are re-loaded and ready to make this season legendary. It’s World Series or bust in Queens, and it feels so good.
There aren’t that many questions regarding the Mets 25-man opening day roster, but there are going to be a lot of battles for depth positions on the squad, looks at possible injury replacements, prospects trying to make a name for themselves, and well, you get to watch the Mets play. Here’s some of the things I’m going to be looking for this spring
David Wright’s back
Pitchers and catchers may have reported today, but the captain has been in Port St. Lucie since January 2nd, staying in shape and working on his back. When we last saw Wright, he was pretty much face-planting in the World Series. Was it his back? This isn’t just going to be a spring training storyline, but one we keep an eye on all season. Obviously the Mets are going to ease him into the spring, and all we can hope for is no setbacks. If David makes it through the spring healthy, it was a successful month.
The 6th/7th starter spot
It’s assumed that Zack Wheeler is going to be plugged into the 6th spot when he returns from Tommy John surgery, but it’s a pretty big leap to think the Mets are going to make it to mid-June without something going wrong. Plus on top of that, the Mets are keen on using a 6-man rotation again at times this year to preserve innings the same way they did last year. So who should we be looking at? Rafael Montero, came up with Jacob deGrom two years ago, but injuries and rumors questioning his desire to pitch have stalled his development. The Mets are hoping Montero can put it together and give the Mets the depth they’re looking for. Montero was a guy who was just as hyped up as these other young guns, so there’s definitely something there. Logan Verrett gave the Mets two very good starts at the end of last season, and gave them some good innings out of the bullpen. He’ll likely be on the roster at the beginning of the season to serve as the long-man out of the ‘pen, but he will also be counted on for a start here and there. Seth Lugo, tore up Double-A Binghamton last season and was promoted to triple-A Vegas for the last month of the season. Lugo was a 34th round pick by the Mets from a division III college, but he’s been defying the odds slowly rising through the minors for the last few seasons.
Juan Lagares/Alejandro de Aza batle for the 4th outfielder spot
The general assumption is that Lagares will face lefties and De Aza will go against righties, but we all know Terry Collins, and his philosophy is that if you hit, you play. So yea, the Mets won’t say that there’s a position battle going on, but if either Lagares or de Aza clearly separates themselves from the other in the spring, I’m positive that will be visible in Terry’s early season managerial moves. Lagares needs to show that he can be a consistent bat, but more importantly, he needs to get back to the gold-glove caliber play that got him his big ass contract. But most likely they’ll probably just platoon and do the lefty/righty thing.
Asdrubal Cabrera/Wilmer Flores/Ruben Tejada battle for shortstop
Asdrubal Cabrera was one of the “big-time acquisitions” that the Mets made when they were trying to convince their fans they were spending money without getting Cespedes. Honestly, I didn’t really get it at the time, but now that the Mets did get Ces, this move makes sense. Cabrera will probably get most of the split time at short, with Tejada and Flores playing more utility infield roles. So while Cabrera is included in this battle, he’s most likely not going to lose the majority of the playing time. This spring is about seeing who is going to be about who is the more reliable back-up, Flores or Tejada.
Prospects to watch:
Brandon Nimmo, OF: Sandy Alderson’s fist draft pick is almost ready to make it to the big leagues. This is a guy who didn’t even play high school baseball because he lived in Bumblefuck, Oregon. As raw as a raw prospect gets. He’s a big time contact hitter with good plate presence and a little pop.
Gavin Cecchini, SS/Amed Rosario, SS: The Mets haven’t had a decent shortstop since Jose Reyes, but these are two shortstop prospects that you can get excited about. Gavin Cecchini is further along, and has been knocking at the door for a while now. So this spring is important for him, because I’m really tired of having the most mediocre shortstops money can’t buy. Rosario is still a couple of years away, but he’s a highly touted young prospect and I think he’s going to open some eyes this spring the same way Michael Conforto announced his presence last spring.
Robert Gsellman, RHP: Gsellman put on a show in high-A ball last year, posting a 1.76 ERA, but plateaued a little and struggled after being promoted to Bringhamton. Gsellman has starter potential, but with the logjam of Cy Young caliber pitchers in front of him, Gsellman in a bullpen role will be something we might see this season if he has a strong spring and that expedites his minor league schedule. Or, we could always use more trade bait.