Although snow and cold may grip the north, it’s a different story across Florida and Arizona as spring training is in the process of getting underway. Pitchers and catchers have already reported for the Mets, full workouts for the players begin on February 19, and the first exhibition game is scheduled for the 25th. Spring training traditionally involves some experimentation, trying players at different positions or in different roles. Which experiments could be worthwhile for the Mets, and which ones might not be?
Do: Get plenty of reps at first base for Wilmer Flores. Flores has only played 27 games in the majors at first, and they all came in 2016. A platoon at first with Lucas Duda would make a lot of sense since the right-handed batting Flores crushes left handers and Duda does much better against right-handers. So some fielding work for Flores at first would be beneficial, with experience he could be decent fielding first baseman.
Do not: Play Jay Bruce at first very much during spring training, keep him in the outfield. The first base experiment has been talked about, but Bruce needs to focus on getting his hitting stroke back, and playing a new position at age 30 is questionable. Actually it’s not a totally new position, he did play three games at first for the Reds in 2014. He made two errors in those three games. Admittedly that is a small sample but those errors are not encouraging. First base is covered with the Duda/Flores platoon and with highly regarded prospect Dominick Smith waiting in the wings at Las Vegas.
Do: Get playing time against right hand pitchers for Juan Lagares. When healthy Lagares provides great defense at the premium position of center field, but he has not hit well against right-handers. If he could improve at the plate against righties, that would really help the team.
Do not: Put Jose Reyes in center field in spring training. This has been rumored, but would be a mistake in my opinion to give him much playing time there. Reyes already has a lot on his plate, with the depth charts showing him as the primary back up at second, short and third, behind players who are all the wrong side of 30, and who all lost playing time in 2016 due to injuries. Nobody will be surprised if Reyes plays more games at third than David Wright. The 34 year old Reyes has played exactly zero games in the outfield in his major league career. Instead of Reyes Michael Conforto would warrant some time in center, he is a natural outfielder who did reasonably well playing a few games in center last year.
Do: Use left-handed relief pitcher Jerry Blevins in more roles, specifically as the seventh or eighth inning set up man. Blevins did well against both left and right handed batters last year, and with a likely suspension for Jeurys Famila in the cards, it would be useful to see Blevins used in those roles this spring as opposed to his traditional use as a specialist against lefty hitting sluggers.
Spring is a time of hope, and hopefully some of the Mets’ spring training experiments will pan out this year.