Back in the end of January, I wrote a piece detailing 10 things to watch for in Spring Training. Now that Grapefruit League play is just about over, it’s time to check in on those things, see what happened and what we can learn. Here they are in the order I presented them in January.
10. Who is going to be the team’s fifth outfielder?
Mike Baxter had a solid spring, as he batted .291 in 55 ABs and was a perfect 5-for-5 in SB attempts. His main competition was Adam Loewen, who got off to a fast start but was too easy to strike out. Loewen had 43 ABs and fanned in 20 of them. Baxter won the position.
9. How will the new shortstop handle replacing a fan favorite?
Just fine, thanks. Ruben Tejada showed surprising extra-base pop, as five of his 11 hits went for extra-bases, which led to a .787 OPS. If Tejada comes close to that number during the regular season, Mets fans should be thrilled.
8. How good defensively is the new center fielder?
Unfortunately the jury is still out on this one, as Andres Torres missed significant time.
7. Which rookie will get the most playing time?
If we use “prospect” instead of rookie (which I should have originally) then the answer is Jordany Valdespin, who logged 42 ABs and generally impressed everyone.
6. Will the Mets have a new poet laureate on the team?
Miguel Batista did make the Opening Day roster, as much by default as anything else. The most encouraging thing was that he kept his walks in check, as he allowed 4 BB in 13 IP.
5. Can the new closer get out LHB?
It was not a particularly good Spring for Frank Francisco and lefties smacked 11 hits and had a .355 AVG against the team’s new closer. This is definitely something to follow during the season.
4. Can the face of the franchise cut his whiffs?
David Wright was limited to just 16 ABs due to oblique issues but he did not strike out one time, which is an extremely encouraging thing. As detailed in January, Wright’s Spring Training K% is a good indicator of how he performs during the regular season. If Wright can keep his K% in the 15 percent range, look for him to have a giant bounceback season.
3. Is our first baseman healthy?
Spring did not start out good for Ike Davis, who had some type of Valley Fever. While this disease knocked out Connor Jackson a few years back for most of the season, Davis does not appear to have it quite so bad. Davis logged 57 ABs, had 3 HR and drew 8 BB, so his Spring should be considered a big success.
2. Can our new second baseman hang in on the DP?
Daniel Murphy played 19 games at second base and did not get hurt. He made a few errors but also participated in 11 double plays. Murphy also led the team with 20 hits. It’s hard to imagine a much better situation than what happened with Murphy this Spring.
1. Can our ace pitch on a regular rotation?
Johan Santana threw 18.1 IP, posted a 3.44 ERA and is on target to be the club’s Opening Day starter. Santana aced Spring Training with flying colors.
The Mets were hit by a ton of injuries early in Spring Training which helped keep their record poor. But most of the players appear healthy now, with one Spring game remaining. Davis and Santana appear ready to go, Wright is making contact and Murphy is holding his own at second base. The four biggest questions have been answered positively for the Mets. While Francisco’s troubles with LHB is definitely a concern, that pales to the good news the Mets have received elsewhere on the diamond.