Intra-squad game helps define bench battles for Mets

The Mets are playing an intra-squad game today and MetsBlog posted the lineups for both sides. We are used to seeing stars not making road trips but apparently they do not play intra-squad games, either. No Wright, no Santana, no Tejada, no Duda. Not even a Buck to be found on either team. That’s okay, there are still a bunch of interesting things to be gleaned from this exhibition.

Team White features the DP combo of Omar Quintanilla (SS) and Jordany Valdespin (2B). The injury to Daniel Murphy allows Terry Collins the excuse/opportunity to see Valdespin more in the infield. My opinion is that one of these two guys will go north with the club and make the Opening Day roster. It will be curious to see which one gets off to the better start.

Qunitanilla played the best ball of his MLB career last year with the Mets while Valdespin proved to be an exciting player who did not shy from the big moment. Both are LHB and likely the only bench players to bat from the left side. Quintanilla has an edge in that he’s a better shortstop, while Valdespin offers additional flexibility with his ability to play in the OF. Also, Valedespin offers more power potential as a PH, something which should not be overlooked.

The White Team also features Brandon Hicks at first base. Hicks has combined to hit 36 HR in Triple-A the past two years but has been completely overmatched in cups of coffee in the majors. It’s at least a little reminiscent of Quintanilla, who had good looking minor league numbers yet never impressed in his shots in the majors until last year with the Mets. Because of his ability to play anywhere in the infield, Hicks has a good shot to be an infield reserve.

Collin McHugh gets the start for Team White. McHugh made four starts last year for the Mets, was outstanding in one and got knocked around in the others. Guess which one I missed. Regardless, McHugh has a very limited window to make his mark as a starter for the Mets. While he has pitched well in the upper minors, he is being pushed by Jenrry Mejia, Zack Wheeler and all of the impressive youngsters who flourished in A-ball last year. McHugh needs to impress whenever he’s given a chance to start this year.

Juan Lagares leads off for Team Grey. A RH-hitting outfielder with the ability to get on base and bat at the top of the order, Lagares is an under-the-radar option to make the Opening Day roster. While his 2012 season did not come close to matching his big 2011 campaign, Lagares did log a full season in Double-A last year and a big Spring could punch his ticket as a reserve outfielder.

Both of the club’s high strikeout CF will be on display in this game, with Matt Den Dekker batting second for the Greys. He’s operating with one hand tied behind his back since he’s not on the 40-man roster, but Den Dekker needs to take advantage of his opportunity this Spring to show that he can hold his own at the plate. Of course, a few highlight-reel defensive plays wouldn’t hurt, either.

The infield for Team Grey will never be confused as a pitcher’s best friend, yet it’s still interesting to see both who’s there and what positions they are playing. Josh Satin is at first base, Wilmer Flores at second, Zach Lutz is at third and Wilfredo Tovar rounds things out at short. Lutz has hit very well when he’s been healthy for the Mets – and hasn’t failed in the majors like Hicks. Yet he still faces an extreme uphill climb to make the majors. Satin faces even longer odds, not being on the 40-man like Lutz. But both players are interesting due to their ability to hit lefties. Flores and Tovar are destined to open the season in the minors but both could make their major league debuts later this season.

Gonzalez Germen gets the start for the Greys. The good news is the Mets added Germen to the 40-man roster this offseason. The bad news is he seems like an obvious choice to be cut should they need to open up a roster spot for somebody else. Gonzalez posted a 4.59 ERA in his first exposure to Double-A last year at age 24. The Mets obviously saw something they liked with Germen and today would be a good day to show others what exactly that was.

*****

The bench construction will be very interesting for the Mets and how one player works with the others on the bench may have as much to do with who makes the Opening Day rosters as how they perform in Grapefruit League play. If the Mets carry RHB for outfield reserves, along with righty-hitting backup catcher Anthony Recker, then it’s hard to imagine one of the backup infielders not being a lefty.

Everyone assumes Justin Turner will make the roster but he is likely in a battle with Hicks – and to a lesser extent Satin and Lutz – for a slot. Turner played some shortstop last year but you get the impression that Collins would prefer to have someone else as a backup SS. If Quintanilla is the LH batter off the bench, it’s easier to see Turner being the other backup infielder. But would Collins go north with a Turner-Valdespin backup infield combo, with neither player being a strong SS option?

Collin Cowgill seems like a lock to be one of the two reserve outfielders. But the other spot could be claimed by Andrew Brown, Marlon Byrd, Lagares are someone else completely. Does this other reserve outfielder offer the threat as a competent pinch-hitter? Or will Turner and his tendency to come up with a big hit make him the top hitter off the bench? If the Mets go for defense in the infield and bypass Turner, will that make a “proven vet” like Byrd more likely to make the club? And does Lagares have a better shot at sticking as a backup OF if Turner is around to handle primary PH duties?

We’ll get our first look at these answers in today’s intra-squad game.

4 comments for “Intra-squad game helps define bench battles for Mets

  1. February 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    According to Adam Rubin:

    The manager called the 25-year-old Germen, who allowed an RBI double to Brandon Hicks in the first inning, “lights out” with his changeup. Collins added that Germen mostly needs to work on command.

  2. Metsense
    February 22, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    The fact there is so much competion in camp indicates the instability of this team. Basaball Prospective projects 80 wins , about 10 more than I can account for. Enjoyed the enlightening read, Brian.

    • February 22, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      It’s glass half full time! The rotation’s set, seven of the eight starting slots are set and most of the bullpen roles are set. Besides, wouldn’t Spring Training be boring if every role was already filled?

      • Name
        February 22, 2013 at 10:33 pm

        Another very crude anaylsis.
        The Mets won 74 last year.

        OF will be better this year (+)
        Ike will be healthy (+)
        Catcher should be better(+)
        Rest of IF should be about the same or a little worse (-)
        Bullpen can’t possibly be worse than last year(++)
        Full year of Gee/Harvey and possibly some of Wheeler (+)
        Niese/Santana will be about the same or a bit worse (-)
        Marcum instead of Dickey (-)
        Bench most likely a little worse (-)

        More plusses than minuses so theoretically the team should be at least the same if not a bit better! 81 wins here we come!

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