Assuming no more additions – which player or story line will you be watching most in Spring Training this year?
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Greg Prince – The opposite of Young Goodman Brown
Taking into account that Spring Training is a Potemkin Village and that we shouldn’t take overly seriously most of what comes out of it, particularly early, I’ll be crossing my fingers that Dillon Gee can use his right shoulder. If he’s in good shape, we’re in better shape.
John Coppinger – Has his nightmares narrated by Chris Carlin
First off, we’re talking about practice. Not a game, not a game … not a game. We’re talking about practice. There, now that that’s out of the way, I think the biggest thing I’ll be watching are the performances of Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud, and whether a strong spring will put them on the major league roster from jump this season. Wheeler will probably need to be lights out to make the club with the addition of Shaun Marcum giving the Mets five decent starters, but d’Arnaud has a real chance to make the club just by showing some sort of pulse, especially since the Mets will probably want to showcase their major return for R.A. Dickey as soon as possible.
James Preller – Is lining up an interview with Joey Beartran
It’s a strange Spring Training in many respects, since at this point there’s almost no competition for jobs outside of the bullpen. The infield is set and the outfield, well, lacks meaningful drama. Spring is about getting in baseball shape, and I’m most hopeful that Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum establish their health. If they are right, we are looking at a rotation that runs five-men deep. If their arms explode – which is a real possibility – sort of like the drummers in “Spinal Tap” – the air will leave the building very quickly. I believe the “Super 2” rules will keep d’Arnaud and Wheeler off the roster until early July, though in my view they are both ready to take the next step right now. It will be most exciting to watch those two guys. I want to look at that battery and imagine great things. Wheeler should be electrifying, and d’Arnaud could become the middle-of-the-order, right-handed bat this team needs. Let’s hope that in any case, what happens in Vegas . . . makes its way to Citi Field. And stays for a long, happy time.
Howard Megdal – Is researching if Jeremy Lin can play baseball
The outfield. The Mets have 3/8 of their lineup to fill, and no sure MLB-caliber performers to do so. Getting a look at how that puzzle fits together will be fascinating, and key.
I think the key guy to watch this spring will be Lucas Duda, who in my opinion needs to develop some confidence in his game in order to sustain some production when the bell rings. The possibility of not getting more help in the outfield between now and then will only magnify the need for him to be a productive bat. I am also hoping he can, you know, learn to catch the ball better. I guess the other thing I’ll watch is how the dynamics of the lineup change with Buck/D’Arnaud behind Duda/Ike as opposed to Thole. I’m kind of optimistic about that upgrade.
The player I’m most interested in, assuming no additional moves, is Matt den Dekker. How good is his fielding? Is he a good fielder or is he an elite defender? I know he stunk up the joint at Triple-A last year and he’s not even on the 40-man but if he’s truly a defensive whiz, he should be on the big league club. If he can catch every ball and pop the occasional HR – we can live with the strikeouts. It’s not like Kirk Nieuwenhuis isn’t going to strike out 150 times if he’s the full time CFer and den Dekker is likely to run circles around him defensively. And with a team depending on pitching so much, outfield defense should matter.
Thanks to Greg, John, JP, Howard and Jon for participating!